AHS’s most recent season, which just ended, shows that its quality is continuing to slowly but obviously decline. The season is titled NYC and takes place in New York City during the 1980s. Like the majority of Ryan Murphy’s works, the theme is heavily gay-focused. This time around, the story stays predominantly grounded on real life situations minus the supernatural presence of ghouls and goblins. The main plot involves a brutal serial killer who hunts homosexual men and leaves corpses with missing body parts. Due to the pervasive anti-gay attitudes of the time, the crimes go mostly uninvestigated by the authorities. References to the AIDS epidemic, which plagued the LGBT community at the time, are also woven into the storyline. All this makes Season 11 feel very grim and depressing, made even more so by the absence of the usual campiness and carefree humour that AHS often injects to their script.
What is left to enjoy are the consistently superb performances by the stellar cast. As the gay police officer who must contend with the prejudices of his coworkers, Russell Tovey excels. Joe Mantello is on par as his boyfriend, a reporter for a homosexual newspaper who wants to make the world aware of the unfairness experienced by the community. Patti LuPone and Leslie Grossman, who are regulars on AHS, may have supporting roles, but they never fail to leave an impression. Finally, there’s Zachary Quinto who is always such a great actor and can act just with his deadly looks and energy.
What ultimately let the series down is the plot that seems to run off tangent ever so often. There are some really tense and gripping moments involving the capture of the serial killer but there are also many confusing scenes that seem to have no connection to the rest of the story. In fact, the whole thing seems to fall apart after episode 7 when the so called “Mai Tao Killer” was caught, as the remaining episodes just drifted aimlessly. Maybe this was an attempt by the filmmakers to demonstrate their artistic freedom by some truly original inventiveness. One episode was entirely made up of what appears to a series of hallucinations of some of the key characters, while another episode featured what felt like a very long music video sequence with no dialogue that never seem to end!
Nevertheless, in spite of its shortcomings, Season 11 is still watchable thanks to the performances. Leslie Grossman’s performance was outstanding in my opinion. He always brings his own special personality and a deadly humour that he delivers well, whether he is playing a vampire (as he did in True Blood) or an aging gay man here. Patti LuPone’s character has little to do with the main story and quite frankly could have easily been edited out of the entire show, but yet, she steals every scene she is in. Here she plays Kathy, a cabaret style singer who performs in a gay bathhouse. Her singing talent is showcased here as she is featured singing a few times to a less than appreciative audience of naked and half naked gay men dipped in the bathhouse’s hot water pools.
With the poorer ratings and noticeable dip in appeal, we may see the demise of the AHS series sooner rather than later. I am a fan and would be more than happy to revisit and give the series a chance to regain its former glory in future seasons.