Sunday, October 22

Second Take: Weak plot, excessive obscenity fail to deliver for ‘American Horror Story’


Lady Gaga (left) and Matt Bomer (right) star in season five of "American Horror Story." The show has foregone it's previous artful horror and character development in favor of excessive obscene material and a nonsensical plot. (FX)

Lady Gaga (left) and Matt Bomer (right) star in season five of "American Horror Story." The show has foregone it's previous artful horror and character development in favor of excessive obscene material and a nonsensical plot. (FX)


This week, Daily Bruin A&E is counting down to the new year by looking back at the best and worst events in the arts and entertainment world of 2015.

Today, A&E contributor Nate Nickolai dissects the lack of plot in 2015′s fifth season of “American Horror Story.”

I knew I was in for a wild ride this season of “American Horror Story” within the first 20 minutes of episode one. Following several brutal assaults on random characters, a faceless worm demon takes center stage and rapes an unassuming heroin addict with a whirring metal drill-bit sex toy, creating a scene which I will never forget (no matter how hard I try).

“American Horror Story” has drawn fans to its tasteful darkness since its inception in 2011. As the show evolved, it embraced a myriad of disturbing storylines involving witchcraft, insane asylums and circus freaks, while maintaining complex character development.

However, 2015′s fifth season of “American Horror Story” has left behind the artful horrors of previous years in exchange for redundant obscene material and a nonsensical plot. The first episode’s rape scene sets a precedent for the season’s over-the-top sex and gore that act as its main driving force rather than a cohesive storyline.

“American Horror Story: Hotel” takes place within the tacky walls of Hotel Cortez, an old Los Angeles hotel run by a mysterious woman called the Countess (Lady Gaga). As a serial killer wreaks havoc on the greater L.A. area, a detective (Wes Bentley) is drawn to Hotel Cortez in search of clues. The show then descends into a flurry of random pornographic sex scenes and unnecessary bloody murders, as the vampiric Countess runs around slicing people’s throats and taking care of her small vampire children.

As the show continues, the body count grows alongside the number of times Lady Gaga participates in group sex. Disgusting scenes like the Countess’ constant throat-slitting with her fingernail become boring, barely allowing the viewer to recover from the last murder. After watching Lady Gaga’s third lesbian sex scene, I found myself even struggling to remember what the story of the whole show was supposed to be.

Past seasons maintained large overarching conflicts that drove the show forward and tied together all the dark and disturbing storylines. Whether it was a hunt for the next supreme witch leader or a fight to escape a corrupt mental asylum, the chilling plots disturbed me but also kept me coming back for more.

In its past, “American Horror Story” also successfully used many disturbing scenes, including unorthodox surgeries on unwilling mental asylum patients and psychotic clown serial killers, to add to the unique creepiness of the show that made it so great. However, this season’s ridiculous use of bloodshed and naked bodies adds nothing due to the absence of any substantial plot.

The characters of “American Horror Story: Hotel,” have poorly developed storylines that are isolated from each other or connected by the thinnest of threads. I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen the two main characters, Lady Gaga and Wes Bentley, interact when they happen to run into each other at the hotel bar.

The show does have one saving grace: the surprising acting skill of Lady Gaga herself. Her dramatic flare allows the Countess to stand out from the other hotel residents by feeding into her a complex background. The Countess appears to be a stone cold killer on the outside; however, her lust for love is just as strong as her desire to drink blood.

Despite the terrible plot and annoying characters, season five of “American Horror Story” still garners millions of viewers every episode. Perhaps the shock from the many gory scenes does mask the lack of plot for some viewers. As a result, the show’s creator Ryan Murphy announced that “American Horror Story” would be renewed for a sixth season.

As the fifth season comes to a disappointing close, I can only hope the show’s creators will return to the powerful story telling of past seasons that both terrified and entertained me, in season six.

– Nate Nickolai

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A&E editor

Nickolai is the A&E editor. He was previously the assistant A&E editor for the Lifestyle beat and an A&E reporter.


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  • Hp B

    Well then, whatever you do, DO NOT watch “Tetsuo: The Iron Man”

  • Colin Sewell

    Lady Gaga’s acting I found underwhelming to say the least. And her only epression seems to be a perpetual smirk.

  • TheBigGuy

    This season is a love it or hate it. I didn’t like it at first, but once I rewatched, I liked it a lot. Evan Peters is great as James March. The only bad thing I don’t like is the season is 12 episodes (not 13 as intended). To go on a break and come back for 2 episodes is a big letdown, in my opinion.

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