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A new 'Horror Story'

October 4, 2013


A new 'Horror Story'

We survived the "murder house" and escaped Briarcliff Manor. Now class is in session at witch school.

"Glee" creator Ryan Murphy's twisted anthology series, "American Horror Story," returns 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, to FX with a new season-long story that will flash between the days of the Salem witch trials and a current-day struggle between witches and those who wish to destroy them.

In series star Jessica Lange plays Fiona, a "Supreme" witch who leads a New Orleans school for her own kind. Among the pupils is Zoe, a new arrival with a secret, played by Season 1 alum Taissa Farmiga.

Also returning to the cast are Emmy nominee Sarah Paulson; two- season veterans Evan Peters, Lily Rabe and Frances Conroy; and Season 1's creepy burn victim -- and "True Blood's" dearly departed Vampire King of Mississippi -- Denis O'Hare.

But I'm most looking forward to Lange sparring with two of her new castmates, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. ("American Horror Story" is truly a great actresses' showcase.) A show this grand and over-the-top demands commanding, indelible performances, and these three actresses are certainly up to the task.

They're also actresses who can transcend and elevate the show itself, which often pushes the boundaries of good taste for the sake of a good scare -- just check out this season's at .

Back to the asylum

It will be tough for "Coven" to

top last year's "American Horror Story: Asylum," . Briarcliff Manor wasn't just home to the criminally insane; it was a virtual hellmouth that spewed forth every nightmare imaginable. Serial killers, alien abductions, demonic possession, Nazi experiments gone wrong, evil Santas ... "Asylum" had it all, including an Emmy- winning performance from perennial nice guy James Cromwell as a doctor with, shall we say, questionable ethics.

Cromwell and Lange were, as always, wonderful, but Paulson, Rabe and erstwhile Trekkie Zachary Quinto are even better. It's partly inspiring and partly depressing to see what great actors will put themselves through for the sake of performance, and that high-wire act is the main reason why I consider "American Horror Story" to be the most exciting show on television, if not necessarily the best.

The aftermeth

The best show on television was "Breaking Bad," which ended its run last Sunday with a note-perfect finale. A series-record watched as creator Vince Gilligan delivered a concrete, satisfying finish to his crime epic.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the meth king of New Mexico, made all the right decisions in the finale, and they all appeared to have worked. A show that constantly ran the risk of making a hero out of a monster earned that monster's final moments of triumph by ensuring everyone got what they deserved: Lydia, Todd and Uncle Jack's crew paid for their crimes. Skyler, Flynn and Holly will move on and move up. Gretchen and Elliott got their comeuppance, but retain their standing. Jesse is finally free of Walt's grip. And Walt was able to make things right and go out on his own terms.

"Felina" feels like the best possible finale for "Breaking Bad," and may be the best finale among all shows with similar levels of hype and fanaticism. (That being said, it didn't give me ugly, heaving, painful crying fits for 30 minutes after it ended. That distinction belongs to the emotionally devastating finale of "Lost.") I have a feeling "Breaking Bad" is a show I'll revisit in its entirety every year or two, like a great novel. ; might I find a barrel full of blood, meth and tears under the Christmas tree?

* Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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