Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Out Of Every Plot Twist On American Horror Story, This One Stands Above The Rest

With the 2011 premiere of "Murder House," the introductory season of "American Horror Story," FX audiences got their first taste of the Ryan Murphy horror recipe. It's a dish filled with rule-breaking exceptions, devastating reveals, uncomfortable insights, and heaping handfuls of humor, irony, kitsch, and homage. Based on the first full trailer for "American Horror Story: Double Feature," Season 10 promises to find even more ways to present this less-than-delicate delicacy. If there's one distinctly Murphyian ingredient audiences are anticipating, it's the plot twist. What better time to look back on plot points viewers never saw coming?

Since "American Horror Story" runs on reveals, it's important to determine what distinguishes something as a plot twist. For starters, a winning plot twist must directly and immediately alter the plot. Second, it must come as a complete surprise to the majority of viewers. Finally, it must elicit a massive emotional response from the audience. Whether that response is straightforward shock, lingering betrayal, or utter infuriation doesn't necessarily matter as long as it finds its way into the discussion. In other words, did it nearly break the "American Horror Story" internet? If not, it's not in the running. 

With these parameters in mind, it's easier to set aside a litany of surprising reveals in order to focus on which bona fide plot twist is truly the twistiest. (No clown puns intended.)

American Horror Story's pinnacle plot twist is an oldie but a goodie

If there's one "American Horror Story" plot twist that not only meets but exceeds the criteria, it's Season 2's downright devastating reveal that ostensible hero Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) is, in fact, the Bloody Face killer. It's not simply that audiences didn't see it coming (although most didn't); it's also the pacing and context the episode uses to inform viewers of his devious intentions.

Just before being thrown mercilessly into a (literal) pit of despair, it seems as though long-suffering protagonist Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) is finally about to escape her torture at the hands of Briarcliff Manor. Then, immediately after the "good doctor Thredson" helps her escape, you begin (slowly, and then far too suddenly) to understand that Lana has simply jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Viewers catch a glimpse of the Ed Gein-inspired skin lampshade in Thredson's living room just a moment before Lana realizes what's going on — in that moment, everything you thought you knew about the hero's narrative comes crashing down. It's no accident Bloody Face captures Lana by opening a trap door beneath her feet; Murphy is giving audiences a visual of what they're going through emotionally.

The Bloody Face twist helped make AHS: Asylum a hit

On the AHS subreddit, u/tommyc2696 posed the question, "What's the one twist that when it happened left you snatched bald?" A full 25% of the responses mention Bloody Face. "You could see it coming just before the reveal," wrote u/thetiniestpickle, "but that made it even more terrifying." The user's reaction was shared by many. "Never have I been so tense [about] a protagonist escaping a serial killer," added u/linuen — "Thredson was a work of art." 

The realization that the one person in the show who seemed to have the agency and will to act as Lana and Kit's savior is, actually, the source of their demise shook viewers to their core. "That moment when he tells Lana his lamps are made out of human skin," wrote u/eifos: "chills." 

To be fair, viewers' relationship with Dr. Thredson stopped being one of love and trust the minute he subjected Lana to "aversion conversion therapy," but considering the tragic ubiquity of the practice in that time period, it wasn't enough to stop folks from believing in his genuine desire to do right by his patients. 

One final AHS twist as audiences gear up for Double Feature

Fans' love of Season 2 isn't lost on creator Ryan Murphy. In a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said of "Asylum," "This is the fandom's favorite for sure I think, and I know it is Sarah Paulson and Lady Lange's favorite season." Since the entire plot of the acclaimed season pivots on the turning point that is the Bloody Face twist, it's hard not to attribute the success of "Asylum" to this particularly gutting reveal. 

Both Vox and Gay Times place "Asylum" at the top of their season rankings, and three of the top five episodes of all time according to IMDb rankings come from the horrifying halls of Briarcliff Manor.

Nearly a decade has passed since audiences noticed there was "something not right" about Dr. Thredson's candy bowl and lampshade, and the episode that boasts the bone-chilling revelation ("I Am Anne Frank: Part 2") is still tied for third place amidst 116 episodes. The season itself was nominated for 89 awards, a whopping 28 of which it took home. As one IMDb member wrote, "If there is a single episode in this series that personifies what this show is about, this is it." 

Now, with Season 10 finally on the horizon, it's hard not to wonder if it has what it takes to finally usurp Bloody Face's terrifying crown.