A Tribute to Jessica Lange’s Last AHS Roles

After much speculation, it has finally been announced that Jessica Lange will not be returning for the fifth installment of the American Horror Story franchise, “Hotel.”

Lange is often regarded as being the most essential role in each season of this chilling FX series—so it’s hard for many viewers to imagine the show without her.

First appearing in the premiere season of the series, “Murder House,” Lange played the role of Constance Langdon, a narcissistic mother who often neglected her children.  In this season, Langdon was often shown plotting against everyone around her, despite her empathetic façade, and she was frequently shown with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of liquor in the other.

Perhaps the most controversial moment of the season was Langdon’s uncomfortably hostile attitude towards her down-syndrome daughter, Adelaide.  At one point, Langdon goes so far as to lock her daughter, who dreams of being a “pretty girl,” in a room full of mirrors.

Interestingly, Lange played a supporting role in this season—unlike her major roles in the three seasons that followed.

In her next appearance during the second season of the series, “Asylum,” Lange played the role of Sister Jude, a strict nun at Briarcliff Manor.  Sister Jude is often depicted administering discipline to the (often innocent) patients at the asylum.  The irony of this character is her severely unholy past, as her post-nun professional life revolved around alcohol and singing at a local nightclub.

Brought to the doorsteps of the Catholic Church due to a drunk driving accident, Sister Jude lives a life of hypocrisy, secrecy and hostility—until her characters unfortunate deterioration and enrollment into the asylum.

Just when viewers thought Lange’s roles could not take a more dramatic turn, Lange appeared on season three, “Coven,” as the “Supreme” leader in a band of witches.  Set in New Orleans, this season featured a coven of young witches being trained to tune their often dangerous powers.

Lange’s character, Fiona Goode, is a power-crazed tyrant who constantly fears being overpowered by the witches in the clan.  In light of this fear, Goode takes it upon herself to murder a number of the witches.  Also, Goode spends the entire season obsessing over her slowly diminishing youth, and makes a number of irreconcilable deals to maintain her vivacity.

Season four, “Freak Show,” greeted Lange with the role of Elsa Mars, an aspiring singer and ex-prostitute who owns a local freak show.  Overall, this seems to be Lange’s most compassionate character, as she makes close bonds with a number of the “freaks” living under her care.  Disabled, and forced to use wooden legs, Mars is determined to find stardom.  However, her singing talent is often underappreciated and unrecognized.  Thus, while she might care about those she looks after, her self-interested nature can create issues of disloyalty and betrayal.

It is undeniable that Lange has proven her skills as an actress over the past four seasons, from neglectful mother to thriving singer, Lange has done a little bit of everything.  It is worth noting that her American Horror Story efforts have even landed her with two Emmy Awards as “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.”

Although it will be hard for many American Horror Story fans to say goodbye to Lange, there is a lot to look forward to in the fifth season, “Hotel.”  It was recently announced that singer Lady Gaga, as well as actors Matt Bommer and Cheyenne Jackson, will join the cast.  Also, “Hotel” is set to air this coming October—so there is still time for fans to accept Lange’s departure from the show.

Liam McGurl, staff writer

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