AHS: Hotel (Season 5)

Now AHS has finally hit its stride and is in that sweet spot of horror and drama.

Overall this is the best season so far that I have seen. The stories all wrap around a hotel, a countess, things that are similar to vampires, spirits and serial killers. The base idea is wrapped around a similar serial killer H.H. Holmes who owned a hotel that was sometimes called the Murder Castle in Chicago.

The real serial killer claimed at least 27 people were killed in various rooms when they checked into his hotel. Of course in traditional American Horror Story style the body count is upped by tenfold, using chutes to hide bodies, ghosts to kill guests and visits from other serial killers.

Even though the story focuses on a possible serial killer, my favorite character is Liz Taylor, played by Dennis O’hare. He as fantastic, and I found his story definitely interesting and touching.

My favorite character!

Lady |Gaga made her AHS debut here, and she did well, along with Kathy Bates and the returning cast. I really didn’t have anything negative to say about this season at all.

Pros: The show finds its groove, the cast are at their best and Lady Gaga does fairly well in my first exposure to her acting.

Cons: I wish they had focused on Liz more.

The show keeps putting out good content, it doesn’t feel like they have exhausted the theme of the show yet.

Helix (up to Ep. 10)

Don’t even bother, you have seen this a thousand times.

I wasn’t sure about the tv series. It sat on my Netflix queue for awhile, waiting for me to decide. Finally I pulled the trigger and started watching, and at first I was pleasantly surprised. Sadly, this surprise only lasted two episodes and then it began to bog down.

I wasn’t sure how the pretext of CDC investigating a disease would work or how long the premise would last. I thought maybe it was about a legitimate CDC team and we would see them go to fight Ebola, Bubonic Plague, something man-made. I thought even if they made each season about a specific outbreak I would be good with that as well. So when the first episode revealed zombie like disease I was interested, but more wary.

Sadly, the actual show seems to be about a group of “immortals” (approximately 500) who control a corporation and they want to either control or cleanse the world. Honestly the show never made it clear what exactly the consequences of those 500 immortals was, and by episode 10 I didn’t care to know anymore. This would explain why it only had a two season run. I have seen this in many many incarnations whether it was aliens, vampires, demons, or some super secret cabal of non-humans. Totally not worth it.

The acting was good, I didn’t have a problem with the cast at all. I found some of the characters interesting and if they had kept with the CDC investigating worldwide outbreaks I would have been ok with that, at the very least I would have finished watching both seasons.

Pros: The acting and the characters were interesting.

Cons: The show itself is something we have seen in different incarnations a thousand times already. A small group of aliens/immortals/vampires and those struggling against them to stop their control.

Just move on, don’t do it.

AHS: Freakshow (Season 4)

Now we are getting back into the wheelhouse of horror. Some scary things, some bizarre things, and some good acting by everyone means this is a definitely better season.

This story about a freak show run by Elsa Mars, a German woman who leads the group in Jupiter Florida in the 1950s.

The story is about the Freakshow itself, the new people they meet and the subsequent background stories, a murdering clown, a possible second clown, a summoned creature and references to two other seasons of American Horror Story.

The acting is very good, there are several main characters of people who are unique, and there is Michael Chiklis (from the Shield and the Commish). There is some scary parts, and a lot of trying to figure out where a person fits in.

My only part I didn’t like was Sarah Paulson’s role. She was an excellent actress, but trying to play both twins of a Siamese twin, just didn’t work for me. However, it wasn’t Ms. Paulson’s fault, she did well, I just couldn’t buy her character for some reason.

Pros: Even better then the first three seasons, the story is fairly unique, the characters are very entertaining and Jessica Lange can sing really well.

Cons: The Siamese Sister bit didn’t work for me.

I am looking forward to Season 5, where we get to meet Lady Gaga in a role.

Narcos (Season 1& 2)

A remarkable telling of the life of Pablo Escobar by a great actor named Wagner Moura.

Originally I thought the show as only about Pablo Escobar. Since Mr. Escobar died in the 90s I didn’t think the show itself would go more than two seasons so I would review at the end of the series, like I did Hand of God. Then he died and Netflix is moving on with the Cartels, so here is probably a good stopping point to review.

Like all TV shows, it glamorized and filtered through the lens of Hollywood, even with that, I thought it was a decent three-dimensional view of Pablo Escobar. Of course, I don’t know him personally, but I have read about him and it felt like a fairer view, even with the glossy candy coating it got.

I appreciated that it showed he was a human, not just a monster. Maybe this is because I came from a family (both blood and not blood) that was involved illegal activity when I was a child, but there is no “bad” only person. Society may not agree with a person, but it doesn’t mean that the dealer/killer/arsonist/etc. doesn’t love other people, want to help other people and that they don’t make human mistakes. I always hate the idea of an “all bad” villain, because it isn’t true. Like a show I used to watch said a lot, “Everyone is the hero of their own story”. No one thinks of themselves as evil.

The part of the show I didn’t like was how his wife was handled. I don’t know personally of his relationship, but having grown up in a similar scene I don’t believe there is any way that his wife wasn’t fully aware and complicit, or at the very least aware and tolerant of it. Personal experience says there is no way that remains a secret, and in fact my experience most spouses work together.

Other than that, I enjoyed the series, I liked how it showed both sides and I would recommend seeing it.

Pros: The acting was great, the story tight and interesting the whole time.

Cons: I was just sad to see Wagner Moura no longer in the show.

I will definitely follow up with Season 3, I look forward to more stories.

AHS: Coven (Season 3)

We are back for more of a return to the style of original American Horror Story: Murder House (Season 1)

I really love the anthology setup for tv series like this. It allows a complete story to be told in a season, so there is no annoying cliff hangers that are never answered. It allows a good story to be told because there is a start, middle and end, and it is especially good because if you have an idea that doesn’t work for everyone as a story, then they can come back the next season and may find something they do like.

We have gotten away from the even vague suggestions of aliens and abduction in this season. Here we are in New Orleans and the story is about a power struggle in a witch coven, while there is a war with a voudon priestess and her support with a mixing of witch hunters involved.

Almost all of the cast is back, but they have added Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. The acting has gone up several notches, even though there are some teen witch angst (but in a AHS style) and when you have Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates all in the same room the acting just soars.

Pros: The biggest pro is the changing stories between seasons, followed by a more supernatural/witch feeling in this.

Cons: Probably a little too much focus on teen witches, I understand why they did it but I am getting close to 50 and teen witch stories don’t do it for me.

I will definitely follow up with Season 4 “Freakshow”.

AHS: Asylum (Season 2)

Not as good as season 1, but worth it if you can power through the first couple of episodes.

I don’t want to have anything too spoilerific, but the thing that hurts this season is the alien abduction subplot (and it is only a subplot and it isn’t too spoilery to mention it I promise). That is why I originally started watching this when Season 2 started years ago, but stopped after an episode. I don’t like to mix aliens and horror myself.

Instead of modern day setting with flashbacks, this season is set in the 1960s in an insane asylum (hence why they involved alien abduction at some point) with flash forwards to modern day. The timing is well paced and there are some very interesting leads. However, it was way too distracting for me with the insanity plot that I mostly endured this season.

The actors are great, almost everyone makes a comeback as a different character this season and they swapped up their roles of what they are doing. I really do like the anthology setup. There is less “horror” on a supernatural level here then cruelty and spite by those in charge (don’t worry though, it still exists) so this was a less scary story and more of a dark drama.

By the end I didn’t regret watching it. The cast acted well, the set was nice, but overall I am glad season 3 should go back to the normal “horror” story mode that this series should stick with.

Pros: The acting was great, and the storytelling in an anthology setting where each season is a different story is outstanding.

Cons: Whether or not there were alien abductions, I don’t like mixing that possibility with my horror.

The acting was good enough I will definitely follow up with Season 3.

AHS: Murder House (Season 1)

I have to admit it was better than I expected from an American television series.

Originally the show didn’t have a name for each season, and was known only as “American Horror Story” however the name has been updated to “Murder House” to distinguish it from the seasons that follow (each named differently).

I watched this show originally when it came out for several episodes. I remembered liking it, but I don’t remember why I stopped watching.

The story itself was pretty good, they layered on many stories in the house and intertwined them. Most of the story is in current day, with flashbacks, so in that sense it is a traditional horror story. The didn’t shrink back from the season finale like I was worried.

However, the best part I think is the way the series itself is set up. Each season is a different story, but uses a lot of the same actors in different roles. I am currently finishing season 2, a fully different story, most of the same actors and the whole idea of doing the show like this actually exceeds the content of the season itself.

Pros: There are enough different substories combined with enough good actors you should be able to find something interesting.

Cons: The Murder House story itself isn’t the most unique storyline, enjoyable but not unique.

It has me bought into the show enough I will continue with the next season.