Lily Rabe Is Often the Unsung MVP of 'American Horror Story'
A Versatile Performer Who Is One of the Show's Greats Returns This Season
Much deserved media attention was brought to the show after it was announced that Jessica Lange was departing as a series regular after co-leading the series in the show's early years. However, amidst this fan outcry little was said about the under-utilization of Rabe in her briefest appearance yet on the show as she reprised her Asylum role of Sister Mary Eunice in Freak Show to formulate some connection of a thought out AHS universe the full power of which is supposed to be shown in the show's upcoming eighth season—Apocalypse. This marks the highly anticipated return of Lange as well as many series mainstays but after viewing my least favourite season so far in the form of Cult which marked the absence of many of the show's reappearing actors I believe the show needs a fresh palette cleanser. Bringing in some of its most talented performers back into the mix will surely help this, as well as new faces such as "The Assassination of Gianni Versace's Cody Fern," and although I am excited for Lange to return after seeing her wonderful gifts as an actress on display in "Feud: Bette and Joan," I am most excited to see how the show will use Rabe's evident versatility in this upcoming season- hopefully in a larger capacity than in recent years.
Rabe's tenure of the show is a lot more mixed and vibrant than many of her co-stars as none of her roles appear to have any linking character traits as do many other AHS actors. With a couple of notable exceptions Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters are often victimized protagonists and last moral surviving characters due to their earned strength they have gained through their suffering. Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange have portrayed wicked matriarchs throughout their time on the show and are matched in their bitter rage by another AHS veteran Angela Bassett. While each of their characters is well-acted I think that Rabe best fits the anthology format of the show and this is shown in each of her characters. She made her debut in the first season with the guilty and paranoid mother of Nora Montgomery who is a mainstay in the haunted "Murder House" where the Harmons end up living to their own misfortune. Her second role is much larger and truly showed her stepping up in a much larger role that needed her to present herself as both entirely wholesome and then entirely evil as she constantly manipulating the lines between good and evil shifting consistently from victim to perpetrator.
In the polarizing third season Rabe remained a bright spark as the innocent Stevie-Nicks obsessed Misty Day whose tragic ending felt all the more unearned due to the purity Rabe gave her. I've already spoken of Rabe's guest spot in Freak Show and she transitioned back into Sister Mary Eunice's innocent side with ease before completely and literally reshaping her image in Hotel in her guest spot as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos which saw her again delve into yet another incredibly different character. The sixth season of the show saw a great challenge for each performer with two separate halves of the season allowing some of the actors to completely abandon the character they were portraying in the first half.
Although this was not Rabe's task, she was presented with a different challenge as she had to compete with Paulson's portrayal of her character in the documentary format of the first half whilst being subtle enough as to not give away any of her character's revelations that come in the second half. Shelby Miller is a tough character to sympathize with as she carries a pretentious and pathetic attitude that irritates everyone around yet in her final moments Rabe catches her genuine regret and emotion at all she's done wrong and never lets us forget how great a performer she is and this is why I cannot wait to see what performance she gives us in Apocalypse.