The Evolution Of The 7 Recurring 'AHS' Characters In Honor Of The Show's 5 Year Anniversary

Tuning into American Horror Story for the show's pilot episode in 2011, I remember thinking that this series felt wholly original. Sure, Ryan Murphy's snappy, irreverent dialogue was reminiscent of Nip/Tuck (and, at times, even his musical dramedy Glee) and the surreal sequences seemed borrowed from David Lynch's Twin Peaks, but despite those reminders, the show was so unique, so weird, so creepily special that I simply needed to see more. The reason laid mostly with the show's collection of characters: living or dead, human or something else, American Horror Story never failed to create characters so compelling that we would watch them throughout any craziness. Though the series revealed at the end of Season 1's Murder House that it was going the anthology route, American Horror Story has kept a thread of recurring characters that the cast could hold on to.

Though we still have no real idea how just yet, Murphy has stated that the AHS universes are connected — perhaps in big ways that Season 6 has yet to reveal. One thing we do know is that there are certain characters who have existed across multiple seasons, tying the AHS seasons into one big universe. But what happened to these characters over their seasons? Here is how each character has evolved from one season to the next:

Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe)

Backstory

Seen during a flashback in Coven, the show's third season, "human voodoo doll" Queenie was a checkout girl at a fast food restaurant who got a little frustrated with a customer and decided to put her hands in fry oil — thus burning the customer who ticked her off. She was then sent to Miss Robichaux's Academy in order to harness her powers — definitely a step up from torturing people at a fried chicken joint.

Coven

The Precious actress first portrayed "human voodoo doll" Queenie on American Horror Story: Coven. Queenie was wonderful in that she gave literally zero effs about what anyone thought — particularly challenging because she was forced to interact with the recently resurrected Delphine LaLaurie, a racist who routinely tortured and murdered her slaves. Queenie was able to get through to Delphine (err, kind of?) by forcing her to watch Roots. Though she would have been my personal pick for the Supreme witch, Queenie's potential title was actually meant for Cordelia Fox. However, Queenie did serve as a Council member at Miss Robichaux's Academy.

Hotel

Queenie made an ill-fated visit to the Hotel Cortez during the show's fifth season, Hotel. (She received an enchanted ticket for The Price Is Right and booked a plane to Los Angeles.) Tragically, Ramona, a vampire, decides to make a meal out of Queenie, who puts up a fantastic fight before the ghost of James March stabs Queenie to death. Ramona then continues to consume poor, surprised Queenie.

Evolution

Queenie went from being an outcast without prospects to one of the most powerful and famous people on the planet (Liz Taylor couldn't stop gushing over the witch when she arrived at the Hotel Cortez). It was rewarding seeing Queenie come into her own... and devastating when we saw her death. Should Season 6 revisit the Cortez, however, there's a possibility that Queenie's soul will still lurk there — so it's not too devastating.

Pepper (Naomi Grossman)

Giphy

Backstory

Pepper has one of the more tragic tales of any American Horror Story character. Constantly misjudged and ostracized due to her appearance, Pepper was taken from an orphanage to live with Elsa Mars at her freak show, where she was doted on and cared for by her fellow "freaks." She even had a romance with Salty, a fellow member of the freak show. However, when Salty died, Elsa realized that Pepper needed to be with her real family, and so she sent her to live with her cruel, unaffectionate sister. When Pepper's sister had a baby she did not want, her sister's husband murdered the baby and blamed Pepper for the crime. Pepper was then sent to live at the Briarcliff Asylum.

Freak Show

Prior to being sent to the asylum, Pepper's life is quite happy — she performs in the show, hangs out with Salty, and is beloved by Elsa. However, it quickly turns tragic, as we jump across time to reveal parts of Pepper's story we haven't yet seen. Though we already received a little bit of backstory about Pepper in Season 2's Asylum through Sister Mary Eunice and then later Pepper herself, Freak Show takes place before these events happen. When we finally see the truth about Pepper — how she loved her sister's baby and was his primary caregiver before his murder — it makes her story all the more sad. It's a reminder that, for people who seem "different," justice is rarely served.

Asylum

Pepper is first introduced as a side character, but later develops into a major one. Pepper is introduced as a murderer by Sister Mary Eunice, and, being unable to communicate with the other asylum residents, is unable to defend herself. During a movie, Pepper is abducted by the aliens who circle the asylum, and given super-human intelligence that allows her to tell her truth: she didn't really kill the baby she was accused of murdering. She is instructed by the extraterrestrial life to keep pregnant woman Grace safe from the evil in the asylum. She dies in 1966, after the events of the season are over.

Evolution

Pepper's story is disturbing because it holds a mirror up to the painfully unfair ways we treat people who are different or unable to communicate to defend themselves. Even when Pepper is given a voice, it's one that isn't listened to (she's eventually put away by the evil doctor Thredson, a.k.a. Bloody Face.) Yet Pepper's vindicating moment — being able to tell and share her truth — is a reminder that sometimes the "monsters" in the world are ones who are physically beautiful, a theme American Horror Story inserts time and time again. (Hmm... seems like Murphy borrowed another theme from Nip/Tuck .)

Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson)

Backstory

Not much is known about this medium's life prior to her stint on Murder House, though she did reveal to Violet that she first learned of her gift when she saw her murdered maid standing in her bathroom in her early 20s. Though she's the real deal, Billie Dean is definitely in the medium game to cash out — she brags that she's making a TV pilot in Murder House.

Murder House

Billie Dean is brought to the house by Constance, who wants to use her to communicate with her dead daughter Addy. She then talks to Violet via telepathy and becomes the only living person who knows that Violet is truly dead. Billie Dean is the one who tells Violet about the "Croatoan" spirit-cleansing spell, the one used by the colonists in Roanoke who disappeared. When spoilers for Season 6 of American Horror Story stated that the word Croatoan was carved into a tree on the set, people speculated it was connected back to the story Billie Dean told way back in Season 1.

Hotel

It was certainly surprising seeing Billie Dean return to American Horror Story, especially in a season in which another one of Paulson's characters was featured so prominently. Still, it made sense for Billie Dean to hang out in the ever-haunted Hotel Cortez — though, unfortunately, her invitation to the serial killer's soiree on Halloween night ended with death threats from some of America's most evil human beings. After Billie Dean annoyed the haunting dead by featuring them on her paranormal investigation TV series, she was driven out of the hotel by the permanent residents of the Cortez.

Evolution

Billie Dean may have had a real gift, but her exploitation of it finally caught up to her. For a season set against the backdrop of Hollywood, it felt right for the price of fame to catch up to Billie Dean.

Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross)

Backstory

Charles, a prominent surgeon, was a part of the origin story of the Murder House, which he built for his wife Nora, a socialite, in 1922. However, as revealed on Murder House, Charles soon became addicted to drugs and unable to keep up the lifestyle that Nora was accustomed to. When he could no longer work at the hospital, he began performing illegal abortions on desperate women, which Nora helped organize. Around the same time, Nora gave birth to their son Thaddeus. One day, an angry boyfriend of one of Charles' "patients" kidnapped and murdered Thaddeus as revenge for his girlfriend's abortion. Charles decided to use his surgical skills to put Thaddeus "back together," creating a monster called the Infantata who fed on blood. The Infantata remained in the Murder House, either unable to die, or trapped forever like the many lost souls that resided there. As a ghost, it was revealed that Charles was also the one who gave the Black Dahlia her "signature smile" after the dentist who took over the Murder House inadvertently killed her.

Murder House

Charles was one of the many spirits who appeared in present-day Murder House. When Constance's actor boyfriend is found murdered, it's Charles who decides to make him famous by giving him the Black Dahlia smile — and boom, he's soon coined "The Boy Dahlia" by the press. His most notable role in Murder House, is, of course, delivering Vivien's twins — including one who is the potential Anti-Christ.

Hotel

Charles has a brief appearance in Hotel, as does the Murder House itself. The Countess learns that she is pregnant with her husband James March's baby, and goes to Charles' makeshift clinic to have an abortion. However, the abortion is botched, and the baby lives as a blood-sucking monster that never ages past infancy.

Evolution

Has Charles learned much of anything in his time as an undead surgeon? Given his time in present-day Murder House, I think the answer is a hard no.

Marcy (Christine Estabrook)

Backstory

Not much is known about realtor Marcy, save for the fact that she's had to sell the same house due to "unfortunate circumstances" several times over. You'd think she would give the listing away, but not Marcy: she's devoted.

Murder House

Marcy sells the Murder House to the Harmons, and is upfront about the murder that happened several years ago on the property. However, she's not quite so open about all of the other murders that went down in the house. After Vivien tells her that she'll sue if Marcy does not resell their home, Marcy assists Vivien in the sale. When the Harmon's home becomes once again "available" after their deaths, Marcy is still the on-call real estate agent, and adopts Hallie, the Harmon's dog.

Hotel

Marcy went commercial to sell the Hotel Cortez to Will Drake. Later, while staying at the hotel, The Countess' former lovers attack Marcy in her hotel room in order to consume her blood. It's a particularly bad day for Marcy, as she had to put down the Harmon's dog Hallie that day.

Evolution

Like Charles, Marcy didn't learn much in her time encountering the undead. Ever the bigot, Marcy wasn't exactly missed when she met her maker. Hallie, however, got a tear or two.

Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe)

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Backstory

Poor earnest, sweet Mary Eunice was the victim of bullying due to her kind nature, which was part of the reason her body was able to be used as a host for the demon living in the asylum. Prior to the possession, she deeply believed that the work in the asylum was noble, even helping Dr. Arden feed the zombie-like creatures in the woods. Though she didn't like the caning and other physical punishments that Sister Jude inflicted on the residents of Briarcliff, she understood it was necessary.

Freak Show

Sister Mary Eunice briefly appears in Freak Show during events that happen prior to the beginning of Asylum. She helps usher Pepper into Briarcliff, and tells her that they will help her get better and atone for the sins Sister Mary Eunice wrongly believes Pepper has committed.

Asylum

Sister Mary Eunice was possessed by a demon during the exorcism of asylum patient Jed, causing a total personality change. She pursued Dr. Arden, the doctor who had a crush on the innocent Mary Eunice, got rid of Sister Jude by causing her to be committed to the asylum herself, and took over Briarcliff as the head nun. Of course, it wasn't actually Mary Eunice doing any of these things, but the demon who took hold of her. At the end of Asylum, Mary Eunice is "set free" when the Monsignor, whom the demon wanted to use to help her take control of the Vatican, pushed her body off a flight of stairs, killing Mary Eunice, but releasing the demon in the process.

Evolution

Mary Eunice saw the good in the world, and when confronted with evil, she still chose the righteous path. Though the demon was able to prey on her weaknesses, it never destroyed the nun's morality in the way evil had destroyed many other American Horror Story characters'.

Dr. Arthur Arden/Hans Gruper (James Cromwell/John Cromwell)

Giphy

Backstory

Dr. Arden is one of the most realistic forms of evil that American Horror Story has ever shown. He participated in snuff films — including one with Elsa Mars, from Freak Show — before becoming a Nazi officer, living as Dr. Hans Gruper before immigrating to the United States and changing his name to escape his war crimes.

Asylum

Dr. Arden worked in a lab within the Briarcliff asylum working on "experiments" that were kept secret from the rest of the workers. However, the doctor had no regard for his human subjects: his many attempts to create an immortal human only resulted in zombie-like creatures. Dr. Arden became obsessed with Sister Mary Eunice for her "innocence," as he loathed and punished women who were overtly sexual, even cutting off "nymphomaniac" Shelley's legs. When the possessed Sister Mary Eunice is killed, Dr. Arden throws himself on her body to be cremated alongside his love.

Freak Show

Flashbacks to Elsa Mars' past in Germany reveals that she acted in what were supposed to be fake snuff films. However, one film she signed on called for a surgeon — Hans Gruper — to cut off her legs at the kneecaps, causing Elsa to wear wooden legs for the rest of her life. When Elsa's lover Massimo Dolcefino found out Dr. Arden was behind the crime, he attempted to get revenge on the Nazi. However, the flashback revealed that Dr. Arden got the upper hand and tortured Massimo for years.

Evolution

American Horror Story has shown evil in many forms, but few characters were as equal parts human and evil as Dr. Arden. Though Dr. Arden never redeems himself of his crimes (really, how could he?!?) his love of Mary Eunice proves that he is capable of being both unforgivably evil and having very human emotions. It's a classic example of American Horror Story showing us that not all monsters look like monsters — some can wear the mask of humanity so well their evil can be hidden completely.

American Horror Story's characters remain the reason to watch — and only time will tell who we'll see pop up on the next season.

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