the friend group in American Horror Stories s2 ep: Bloody Mary

Every ‘American Horror Stories’ Episode, Ranked

The excitement that was felt when news dropped that we’d be getting American Horror Stories was real. Fans (such as myself)of the OG anthology series were curious about what we’d be getting. After all, every season of American Horror Story offers us different flavors. Not everything is appealing to everyone and some things land better than others. Has that stopped the overall success of the franchise? No. And, in some ways, that’s part of the charm. The seasons are so varied and touch on so many different types of horror, that fans of different horror genres gravitate toward different seasons.

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But, unfortunately, swallowing down the first season of this spin-off was…a challenge. It’s not news that people didn’t care for the season overall. And it was hard to pinpoint exactly why it was lackluster. I mean, a slasher ep with a villain dressed like Santa (who is played by Danny Trejo, no less) who is killing shitty YouTube stars? That plot is pure magic for those of us who love slashers. And yet, it was one of the worst episodes. But I’ll get into that soon.

However, to my (and many other fans) delight, American Horror Stories season 2 was a tremendous improvement. Almost every episode popped off and several were simply *chef’s kiss.* They fixed many of the bugs and issues in the first season, and now, it’s truly living up to its promise. So, let’s rank all of the episodes of the first two seasons. For this list, going for a classic ranking, worst episodes to the very best.

“Game Over” (Season 1, Episode 7)

ruby hanging out in the window in American Horror Stories season 1 ep: Game Over

Out of all the episodes in season 1, this is by far the worst. Trying to milk Murder House with yet another episode (especially one that’s ineffective) was a poor choice. Some parts of the plot could’ve been somewhat interesting—but the writing in this was just a mess. The focus is on a mother who is trying to make a successful horror game based on the real-life events in Murder House. Essentially, the episode is a bit of a mindfuck, because it turns out the events (we saw in the first two episodes of Stories) aren’t actually playing out in canon? Could have been cool, but was executed in a way that was overly confusing and ridiculous (even for American Horror Story standards, which is saying something).

“The Naughty List” (Season 1, Episode 4)

the influencers in American Horror Stories ep: The Naughty List

Like I said above, I wanted this episode to succeed so badly. Having a slasher episode about shitty influencers getting killed off is excellent in concept. But this installment of Stories fumbles due to horrible pacing. It’s too short for what it’s trying to achieve. And yet, takes way too long to get to the good stuff. Look, slashers don’t always have to be top-tier horror. Sometimes it’s fun to watch someone in a costume take out shitty people. And Danny Trejo was in this episode! But, ultimately, this earns a spot at the bottom, primarily, because of the poor execution. Otherwise, the characters are right on the money. It almost hurts more when a concept had so much potential, doesn’t it?

“Lake” (Season 2, Episode 8)

decaying jake in the lake in American Horror Stories season 2 ep: Lake

There were some themes in this episode that worked well—like, the commentary surrounding familial lineage and how it ties into the present, was good. Otherwise, though? This episode is a slog to get through, and not even Alicia Silverstone can save it. Lake focuses on Finn (Olivia Rouyre) and her family’s grief surrounding her brother’s death. He died under mysterious circumstances and eventually they’re revealed. Fine. But then the episode decided to go a more supernatural/zombie(?) route, and damn, was the ending so lackluster. It felt like everything was leading to a bonkers fight, only to fizzle out entirely. There’s not a whole lot else to say about this season 2 finale. It’s literally that stale.

“Drive In” (Season 1, Episode 3)

chad and kelley walking away from the RV in American Horror Stories season 1 ep: Drive In

Another ep that’s great in concept, but ended up very boring. The episode focuses on a couple who go to a drive-in and watch a movie—except the problem is, that movie makes people super violent and causes them to lose their shit. Does Madison Bailey radiate final girl energy? Damn right, she does. And John Caroll Lynch’s brief appearance does help elevate the episode somewhat. But the main couple have zero chemistry, and while it sounds super fun and packed with gore, it’s somehow not fun at all. And bogged down with a lot of unnecessary scenes. Ultimately, this episode fell flatter than a pancake.

“Milkmaids” (Season 2, Episode 4)

celeste & delilah being cute in American Horror Stories s2 ep: Milkmaids

When I really think about it, the queerness is the best part of this episode. But when you set aside the 18th-century sapphic romance that’s clearly doomed (my sigh can be heard all the way to California), it’s not the greatest. There’s just so much going on, the episode has no clear focus—from corrupt pastors eating hearts from corpses to smallpox and body horror that’s more gross than fascinating—it’s a bit of a jumbled mess. If the focus had been more on body horror and less on horrible religious people, it might’ve been slightly better. But at least, the chemistry between Celeste (Julia Schlaepfer) and Delilah (Addison Timlin) makes it worth watching. For the most part.

“Feral” (Season 1 Episode 6)

stan using binoculars in American Horror Stories s1 ep: Feral

“Bonkers beyond belief,” is the best way to describe this episode. Therefore, if a very bonkers story isn’t your jam, it might be a lot. But if you want cannibals and creepy woods dialed to a ten—have I got an episode for you. The plot focuses on a couple whose child goes missing and their relationship falls apart. That’s nothing we haven’t seen before. But then while searching for him, we stumble upon a horde of (somewhat organized) cannibals living in the woods who are absolutely horrifying. Wrong Turn inspired for sure. Once the twist is revealed, it’s actually scary. Maybe the most truly frightening of the series so far. It’s not a perfect episode, but as a standalone, creepy tale that leaves you feeling disturbed, it works.

“Facelift” (Season 2, Episode 6)

fay and virgina talking in American Horror Stories s2 ep 6

There’s never not a time to call out the plastic surgery industry. The ways in which they prey on people who may be insecure and fragile about their appearance is terrible. And Facelift hones in on youthfulness and ageism beautifully. Judith Light plays a widowed older woman, struggling with herself and her appearance, who undergoes sketchy plastic surgery to get a man to like her. It sounds so juvenile but it doesn’t comes across as that pathetic—Light fills her character with such vulnerability and pain that it really works. And then, the horror works well, as the episode builds tension surrounding what’s going on underneath her bandages. Which is one of this episode’s biggest strengths. The reveal comes super late (something that I personally disliked) and holy shit. You must see it for yourself and be in awe of how real it looks! The body horror is disturbing and this episode has an emotional undercurrent that makes it sadder than many other Stories offerings.

“The Rubber (wo)Man Part One + Two” (Season One, Two-Part Premiere)

ruby holding a knife in American Horror Stories s1

Chaotic queers in the murder house, anybody? When a gay couple moves into the murder house with their teen daughter, Scarlett, madness ensues. People start getting killed, Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) embraces the darkness (and gains a ghost girlfriend in the process), the ghosts get aggressive with each other, etc. It’s a lot, but in a really entertaining way. This two-part premiere wasn’t loved by everyone, but I thought it was a lot of fun—it’s very campy and the characters are deliberately silly. Of course, there are flaws, but both episodes do exactly what you’d expect. Nothing more, nothing less. And sometimes that’s good enough.

“Drive” (Season 2, Episode 3)

marci in American Horror Stories s2 ep 3

Set aside any disdain you may hold for Bela Thorne and hold on for the ride that is this episode. The plot focuses primarily on Marci (Bela Thorne) and her hookups with various men and women. As well as her strained open marriage with her husband. While that may not sound all that exciting, there are enough twists to help bring everything together. And while I won’t spoil them, I will say it gets pretty bloody and freaky. It’s one of the most fun episodes of the 2nd season. And it’s higher up on the list because of its creativity, performances, and some stellar twists.

“Bloody Mary” (Season 2, Episode 5)

bloody mary in American Horror Stories s2 ep: Bloody Mary

There’s not much to dislike about this episode. The focus is cool, the Bloody Mary legend is actually scary, and there’s heavy inspiration drawn from Candyman as an entity. Plus, having it be a group of Black girls this time around is different than what we’d normally get. And for the most part, the girls are likable (some more than others)—and the spin on Bloody Mary is unique—with some solid twists. Plus, having Quvenzhané Wallis be the primary focus, character-wise, was perfect. She’s grown quite a bit in terms of her acting and having her be in horror is a little treat.

“Necro” (Season 2, Episode 7)

sam looking distraught in American Horror Stories s2 ep: Necro

The synopsis of this episode doesn’t do it justice whatsoever. It’s twisted, and there are some taboo concepts introduced that’ll make your eyes widen. Madison Iseman is terrific—she just has energy that’s perfect for horror. No matter what type of character she’s playing. Look, it’s better to go in without expectations than for me to lay out the plot. It’s simply one of those episodes you have to watch to really believe it happened. And that’s not that say it’s the nuttiest the AHS universe has ever gotten. We know it can get dark, but this certainly straddles the line of shock, and that ending will blow your mind.

“Aura” (Season 2, Episode 2)

jaslyn in American Horror Stories s2 episode: Aura

This is one of the top episodes of the whole spin-off. The scares are great, the doorbell device is wild, and what’s revealed near the end is shocking. The plot follows Jaslyn (Gabourey Sidibe), and her husband, who move to a new neighborhood—only to have their newly installed doorbell video device cause ghostly happenings. I personally didn’t expect what I got from this episode. Though, it’s not hard to believe that AHS alum, Gabourey Sidibe, would deliver such a believable performance. She’s amazing. And having this come off the heels of the fantastic premiere episode, let us know that we were in for a scary and fun season.

“BA’AL” (Season 1, Episode 5)

liv holding the totem in American Horror Stories s1 ep: BA'AL

The scariest aspect of this episode is how insidious gaslighting truly is. Something we’ve seen time and time again in horror. A classic example is Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and this episode was most certainly inspired by it. The episode follows Liv (Billie Lourd), as a new mother who believes an entity is visiting her baby. All of the twists and turns this episode offers are phenomenal. It’s one of the best episodes in season 1 (plus spin-off in general) and it seems to be a highlight for a lot of folks.

“Dollhouse” (Season 2, Episode 1)

coby dressed up in American Horror Stories s2 ep: Dollhouse

This episode is absolutely stellar. Not only is it somewhat an origin story for a character we already know, it’s all around disturbing as hell. The plot focuses on Coby (Kristine Froseth), and several other women, who a creepy ass toymaker is holding hostage to play a sick, deadly game (with the prize becoming his wife and mother to his son). The episode is a whirlwind and included an AHS universe crossover, none of us were expecting! Everything about the episode works and Kristine Froseth is fantastic as a lead character. All in all, the praise this episode has received is well deserved.

(featured image: FX)

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Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.