“Yes, I’m done,” confirmed Jessica Lange on Sunday, putting to rest months and months of speculation about whether she was going to continue with the show into its fifth season, or bow out like some people think she probably should have done a few seasons ago. Which means that Lange is leaving an almost bursting cast of – maybe – regulars as well as new additions like Cheyenne Jackson, Matt Bomer and Lady Gaga to fend for themselves against the haunted hotel. Incidentally does anyone else picture Lady Gaga in a bedsheet, creeping around the corridors of a Travel Inn in Prestatyn?
Lange is undoubtedly one of the finest actors to appear in the show, and has clawed herself from obscurity to be a pretty big deal, just like Elsa Mars from Freak Show. Perhaps not as great as how people will credit her, but still one of the most commendable things to come from the show. Is she as good as Zachary Quinto and his brief yet significant role as Bloody Face in Coven? Probably not. Or is she better than Connie Britton? Although Britton was only in one series, back when American Horror Story was new and exciting and not a partially woven together mish mash mess, she was still well remembered.
Is this the key to why Jessica Lange in AHS has become a bit of a tired concept? Have we seen everything that she can do, and the writers can create for her? She’s consistently portrayed as a massive bitch who does whatever she wants to whoever she pleases and finally gets her comeuppance by the end of the series, via some catchy musical numbers. It’s the generic megabitch trope that we’ve seen in everyone from Joan Collins to Joan Crawford. Although gays absolutely love bitches, in a world of instant gifs, Tumbr reposts and the desire for everything to go viral, it’s lazy and pandering. And it’s this pandering which has probably lessened Lange’s impact. If we’re not going to be shown something new and innovative, like American Horror Story was at the beginning, then why bother? Lange can absolutely portray more than just that one character, so why not just let us see that?
Sarah Paulson, another one of AHS’ regulars has played characters as varied as a siamese twin, a blind witch and a career focused lesbian who got herself sectioned to expose Lange’s mistreatment of her wards. She hasn’t been typecast as one type of character or resorted to being a bit of titillation like Evan Peters’ characters, and more importantly Evan Peters’ character’s butts. She’s had expansive and cohesive character arcs from beginning to end. Admittedly a lot of them came from a reused mother/daughter situation, but still explored different sides of the relationship.
Maybe a series of AHS without Lange would be a good thing and not an excuse for everyone to drop to their keyboards and start extolling why this is going to be the worst episode of American Horror Story yet. Imagine it, a series where Lange doesn’t pout and murder her way through it, and instead, we see a series where unexpected character interactions rule the day. Imagine seeing Evan Peters kicking back with Cheyenne Jackson without the terror that Lange might just be out of eye sight, plotting her revenge. Or worse, attempting another German accent.