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Is American Horror Story “Radically Reinventing” Itself So Jessica Lange Will Return?

The one thing we can consistently rely on when it comes to American Horror Story is change. Each season the show changes everything from cast members to location to time period. So just how big must next season’s changes be to inspire FX president John Landgraf to call them “unusually large?” We’re guessing pretty big.

Landgraf was pretty careful to maintain an air of mystery around next year’s theme. (Something creator Ryan Murphy insists on.) But he did tease the following:

I know what it is, but I can’t [say]. I have to let Ryan do his thing on that. But it’s very different. . . One of the things I love so much about that is that it can be radically, radically reinvented in terms of tone, setting, period, characters, cast. I think there’s going to be an unusually large reinvention in between Book 4 and Book 5 relative to, say, between Book 3 [Coven] and 4 [Freak Show].

The only problem being that what we think we know about Season (or are we calling them “Books” now?) 5 doesn’t seem all that different. Murphy already dismissed certain fan theories that next year will take place in space (that would be an unusually large reinvention) due to all the planetary references in Freak Show (e.g. Elsa Mars, “Life on Mars,” Jupiter, FL, etc.). Murphy insisted:

No. We’re not doing space. Because space is not in America. It’s American Horror Story not Intergalactic Horror Story. But I thought the clues about people thinking it was space were clever. I always love it when people come up with these theories but it is 100 percent not space. It is land-bound and it takes place in the United States.

Murphy has explained that the big clue has to do with the visual Top Hat motif that popped up on Freak Show’s coffee cups and diner menus. Murphy called the Top Hat “a big season five clue! It’s an arcane clue, but it’s very purposeful, and it illuminates something that you’ll be like, ‘Oh! You dirty b**!’”


Fans have theorized that this is a reference to 1953’s Operation Top Hat, where the United States Army Chemical Corps tested biological and chemical weapons, mustard gas, and nerve gas for decontamination. Physical deformities as a result of experimentation? A 1950s setting? Sounds like well-worn American Horror Story territory to me.

However, most fans have noticed that American Horror Story likes to alternate between the past (Books 2 and 4) and the present (Books 1 and 3). In other words, we’re due to return to the modern era next year. Landgraf hesitantly confirmed the modern setting by saying, “That’s my hope, yeah.”

So since Murphy prefers to flirt with history rather than recreate it, is it possible that Season 5 is an Operation Top Hat-esque project set in the modern day? In other words, is Ryan Murphy dipping his toes into political waters and taking on the horror of modern warfare? That would be a creative change.

Fingers crossed that’s the unusually large reinvention Landgraf is referencing and not, as I fear, the absence (for the first time in the show’s history) of Jessica Lange. The actress who originally said she was leaving the series after Season 4 has since changed her tune to “maybe.” Could a promise of radical reinvention be enough to convince her to stay? I hope so.


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