When I heard that American Horror Story was coming to FX, I was thrilled. Even just from the title alone, it seemed a little edgier than most of the other genre shows currently gracing TV screens. When I found out it was by the creators of Glee, my enthuasm was tempered just a little. Glee is a pretty good show, but it can be extremely uneven. I worried that American Horror Story might suffer from that same creative affliction.
However, based on the first 6 episodes,
"uneven" is not the word for American Horror Story. A better word is "unrelenting", which works both for and against the show. From the pilot on, the show constently pulls out all the stops to try and scare us. We never have to wait long for some manner of terrifying event, or for a bloody payoff to a plot thread that has only just begun to unravel.This is edge of your seat stuff, to be sure, and the cast does a marvelous job of upping the tenon even further with their frazzled performances. Dylan McDermott is a ticking time bomb as Ben Harmon, a husband who can't seem to do right despite his best intentions. Connie Britton is excellent as his battle scarred and beleagured wife, Vivien, who tries her best to stay calm in the face of revelation after revelation about her husband and her house. And Taissa Farmiga displays a potent blend of fragility and steel as their troubled daughter, Violet. They are surrounded by a host of other fine actors, both regular cast and guest stars, including Jesca Lange, Francis Conroy, Evan Peters, Zachary Quinto, Eric
Stonestreet, Kate Mara and others. The show is like a revolving door of good performances and interesting characters.The problem the show faces (with varying degrees of success so far) is that it can sometimes seem too cluttered with interesting ades and violent backstories. So much is thrown at us so quickly, it can be hard to keep track of all the subplots constantly being introduced and seemingly wrapped up. Some characters seem to be shortchanged in this swarm of family members, ghosts and psychos. Every once in a while, a plot thread seems to be obviously rushed to a concluon. This is certainly the case with Eric Stonestreet's character, who seems to have been dispatched in a pretty inexplicable way at the end of his guest appearance in episode 6. Now, perhaps his character will be followed up on, and we'll learn more about why, exactly, things unfolded for him as they did. But perhaps we will never see him again at all. Whether each individual viewer is more frustrated or thrilled by such instances of vague resolution will likely depend on how much they trust the show's writers. If you think they have the show well-planned and are just torturing us by making us wonder about as much as posble, you will likely be willing to go along for the ride. If you get the sense that the writers are just throwing in everything they can dream up and making a lot of it up on the fly, you might find yourself too distracted by lingering questions to become a true fan of the show. In my opinion, American Horror Story has thus far done a good job of overcoming its own tendency to go over the top. With every episode, it gets better and better at teetering right on the edge of taking its premise too far without going over. Anytime I think the show might be about to lose me due to its own excesses, it redeems itself in one way or another and makes me extremely glad I stuck it out. Parts of the show could definitely be more polished. Although they were all used to great effect in the Halloween 2-parter, there are so many ghosts in the Harmon house that they're practically tripping over each other, and that could become problematic later on. A couple characters show up too infrequently and end up having to explain what they've been up to, such as Violet's sometime-friend, sometime-nemes, Leah, who seems to be undergoing a dramatic personality shift that we, sadly, do not actually get to see much of. This is also somewhat of a plot hole, nce Leah is still somehow being tormented by the evil in the Harmon house, even though she never goes there anymore. This can certainly be explained, but it's best done sooner rather than later.Imperfections ade, American Horror Story is an entertaining, scary, and action-packed bit of horror escapism that has so far managed to artfully avoid going off the tracks, even when the risk of that seems to be looming. The formula seems to be working a little better with each pasng episode, although the Halloween episodes have been the definite creative pinnacle to date. I give American Horror Story
4 out of 5 stars for now, and I look forward to doing a follow up review at the end of season 1.