One of the most enjoyable things about being an “American Horror Story” fan is wildly speculating about the next season’s theme — basically the second that credits begin to roll from the previous season. As each season shifts dramatically in not only theme, but setting and tone, it’s a lot of fun to watch the episodes leading up to each finale and search for clues that creator Ryan Murphy eventually explained he had intentionally left hiding in plain sight for the viewer.
Because of this, you can rewatch Season One (Murder House) and catch a lot of subtle hints towards being “crazy,” “locked away,” questionable old medical treatments, and even the term “asylum” thrown around quite a bit. This lead us to Season Two (Asylum,) which contains a ton of nudges towards African heritage (via decor,) many French influences (which combine to make the Creole culture,) and direct references towards witches, which ushered us into the world of witchcraft and voodoo in Season Three (Coven.)
Anyway, I could go on and on, but as we check out from Season Five (Hotel,) the clues don’t seem to be quite as abundant as they were in previous years. On top of that, we have typically received not only the next season’s theme by Paleyfest — which was last March — we know the starring cast, most of their characters, and the general plot of the whole thing.
As we sit in summer of 2016, we know next to nothing. Here are currently the only confirmed facts I have been able to gather:
• The theme is NOT Orphanage or Prison. These were determined via now-deleted tweets from show director Michael Goi.
• The theme is NOT Slenderman, as was once widely believed. A source shared this with EW, and while it could be Ryan Murphy throwing us off the trail, I believe Slenderman is actually intellectual property of someone from the Something Awful forums, and I don’t believe AHS would spend money on an idea they could easily just tweak themselves.
• The theme will be very different from Hotel, darker but less opulent.
• Ryan Murphy did reveal some returning actors at Paleyfest, including Finn Wittrock, Cheyenne Jackson, Wes Bentley, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Denis O’Hare, and Matt Bomer.
• While she hasn’t been officially confirmed, series darling Sarah Paulson was mentioned as working closely with Angela Bassett’s character this season.
• Lady Gaga will be returning, though we don’t know in what sense or capacity.
• There are rumors that the next theme will be Apocalypse, which seems far-fetched to me, but has not been officially confirmed/debunked.
• The theme was officially set to be announced Monday evening at the TV Academy FYC Emmy Event but was canceled out of respect for the victims of the Orlando shooting.
• Ryan Murphy confirmed there will be “an element of children.”
• Leslie Jordan has confirmed his return.
• Jessica Lange is officially not returning to the series, likely ever. :’(
• All of AHS’s social media accounts — Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — have been blacked out.
So there you have it. We are no closer to an answer on the theme, but as shooting began on June 7th, I would imagine we’d hear something soon… whether it’s from Ryan Murphy himself or something leaks via social media (which typically happens at some point anyway.) Until then, here are the most talked-about themes that I (personally) don’t find completely ridiculous:
• Summer Camp
• Area 51
• Boarding School
What do you think? Are there any important details I missed? Any themes that seem to stick out after a second watch of Hotel? Let me know in the comments!