Finally after months of speculation it is official – the American Horror Story kingpin Jessica Lange is riding of into the sunset for ventures new. Sure she played a big part in the show’s successes over the past four seasons, but personally I’m ready for AHS to take the leap into new territories.
Here’s what Lange had to say recently at Paleyfest:
“We’ve had a great run. I have absolutely loved doing these four characters, and in all the madness, I loved the writers, actors, Ryan, the whole insanity of it, the stories, shooting here, shooting in New Orleans, everything. To cut to the chase, yes, I’m done.”
Whilst she began her time on American Horror Story as just a smaller piece of the ensemble, she quickly took centre stage, becoming the focal point more and more as the seasons rolled on. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Jessica Lange as much as the next AHS fan, but for me her exit is in the best interests of the show’s future. What was once a dark, creepy, and genuinely scary show has over the past couple of seasons transitioned into a campy, and at times overly theatrical melting pot of all things horror, and there was a clear point where tonally the show made this shift for me – in Asylum’s tenth episode The Name Game:
This was a fun moment in a dark, dark season, and worked well in portraying Lange’s character Sister Jude’s descent into madness. But what should have been simply a fun moment did something much more to the show. The fan reaction was huge, and almost certainly as a result of this musical numbers have now become a mainstay of the show, with Coven featuring a terrible Stevie Nicks singalong, and Freak Show being littered with an endless series of shoehorned in songs, with Lange taking centre stage on numerous occasions. Rather than these moments servicing the actual story, it felt as though they were more of an excuse to try and recapture the success of The Name Game.
Naturally, a show chock full of musical numbers is likely to be a lighter fare than one focussing solely on the horror, and so American Horror Story’s third and fourth seasons lost their way in my opinion. For a show that is all about the horror, it became less American Horror Story, more American Sometimes Scary But Mostly Not So Much Story, and Lange’s characters were increasingly at the forefront of the theatrics and musical numbers.
My hope is that Lange’s exit will force a rethink of the strategy moving into season five’s Hotel. It’s time to bring back the darkness, to shake up the show’s structure, and to crank up the horror. And it’s time for another actor/actress to take the lead, if only to freshen the show up a touch. With Lady Gaga joining the cast for Hotel, it would seem likely that there will still be the odd musical number, but so long as these moments serve the story I can live with that – just bring back the horror and I will be happy…../…..terrified. And to Jessica Lange, thank you for Sister Jude, one of American Horror Story’s most twisted and complex characters.