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American Horror Story: Double Feature — 9 Best Characters From Red Tide, Ranked

The American Horror Story franchise continues to shock with each new season, but the biggest twist for Season 10 might just be that it's split up into two separate storylines (featuring members of the same ensemble in different roles). Double Feature: Red Tide takes place in the seaside resort of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where screenwriter Harry Gardner has whisked his family away to recapture his muse.  Where he finds inspiration puts him in contact with a variety of colorful characters, from the lovable to the lecherous, who perfectly represent the rich tableau of talent inherent to the series.

RELATED: Every Finn Wittrock Character Ranked In American Horror Story

Where Murder House dived into the deeply unsettling psychological issues lurking beneath the All-American family, and Hotel went all out with the over-the-top theatrics of Hollywood misfits, Red Tide finds a happy medium. For alum Finn Wittrock, Harry Gardner is one of his least eccentric characters (and incidentally, one of his most engrossing), and Frances Conroy feasts on the part of literary matriarch Belle Noir. For newcomer Macaulay Culkin, playing a wily screenwriter moonlighting as a sex worker, he showcases better than anyone that caught in the current between camp and reality, these characters are the best of the latest season.

9 Ursula

Though she evokes many of the stereotypes of typical Hollywood agents with her superficial, pretentious, aggressive attitude, Ursula isn't just a collection of tropes — she gets things done. After tracking her client Henry Gardner to Provincetown, she learns the truth behind the black pills and instantly brokers a distribution deal with The Chemist.

Ursula would be incredibly unlikable if it weren't for the self-assured performance by Leslie Grossman. If a character must be distasteful, let them go all in and chew the scenery with their abrasiveness. The most effective villains are beloved because they actually make people hate them, and in just a few scenes Ursula more than accomplishes her job.

8 Holden Vaughn

The cool, breezy, contemporary interiors found in all the homes in the seaside town are due to Holden Vaughn, Provincetown's resident interior designer, who watches the visitors ebb and flow like the tide. With his penchant for finely tailored suits, cravats, and pithy commentary, Holden is a character Denis O'Hare could play in his sleep, but aside from being a sophisticated local classing up the beach resort he also knows everything that happens in it.

Holden may come across as a caricature at first, but he also lends the series most of its expository dialogue, acting like an oracular figure whom all the other characters must consult in order to progress in their development. He also acts as a stand-in for viewers' perspectives with his immediate and visceral reactions ("Ewwww!").

7 Lark

With her acid-tongued barbs and sharp sense of style, it's not surprising that Lark is the one sharpening clients' teeth. Aside from moonlighting as a dentist, she's also a tattoo artist and owns the local vintage shop, supplying the darker denizens of Provincetown with all their accouterments.

Lark's character might become overbearing if she was overplayed by Billie Lourd, but her appearances are like a breath of fresh sea air — quick and cutting amidst the more violent or extreme scenes. Whenever she's around, the series sharply refocuses, and like Holden, she's a stylish person with a functional purpose in shaping the narrative.

6 The Chemist

As The Chemist, Angelica Ross cuts a dashing silhouette as she weaves in and around the community, initially performing preliminary investigations into suitable subjects for the black pill, and later becoming an enigmatic recluse in her spacious colonial mansion.

RELATED: 10 Of The Best Female Characters In American Horror Story, Ranked

The Chemist may come across as an astute drug dealer, but she's first and foremost a scientist. Taking her cues from classical figures like Dr. Frankenstein, her curiosity drives her to meddle with madness in the pursuit of knowledge. But make no mistake, she won't be overpowered by the monsters she creates — her wits are as sharp as her sense of style.

5 Austin Sommers

With his long silk kimonos and affinity for karaoke, Austin Sommers may seem like the ultimate playwright pastiche, but beneath his theatrical presentation, there's a real artist struggling with self-doubt. Given his pitiful life prior to taking the black pill, he's at peace with the lack of morality required to nurture his talent, and there's nothing he won't do to maintain the effects.

There are clever ways that Austin leans into his foundation in the theater, including snapping his fingers à la West Side Story whenever he's about to "rumble" with a new victim. These idiosyncrasies are congruous with most of the over-the-top American Horror Story characters Evan Peters has played, but in this case, his bold personality quirks make sense for his backstory, so he never feels like a caricature.

4 Doris Gardner

Doris Gardner could have been a thankless role, filled with the tired cliches inherent to the nagging wife archetype, bereft of complexity and any semblance of real personhood. But instead, Lily Rabe shows her as a woman struggling with her own identity since becoming a mother, often overwhelmed by the loss of her sense of self. And it's not all doom and gloom because Doris gets some of the best bits of ironic humor with lines like, "the clients didn't understand minimalism at all!"

RELATED: The Most Sympathetic Character From Every American Horror Story Season, Ranked

While her husband's talent seems to meteorically rise, Doris is left with an empty feeling that their marriage is in danger through her stark mediocrity, where before the threat lay with his inability to produce anything worth buying. Some viewers may relate to a character struggling with self-preservation and personal transformation while catering to someone else's whims.

3 Harry Gardner

Finn Wittrock has played some phenomenal supporting characters throughout the American Horror Story franchise, but Double Feature allows him to be front and center with a leading part that makes fine use of his talent. As Harry Gardner, a struggling writer who's always just on the cusp of greatness, Wittrock's ability to vacillate between carnal and tender is well-suited.

Like fellow writer Jack Torrance in The Shining, Harry is a man whose own ambition begins to usurp his familial responsibilities, placing him on a trajectory that hurtles him towards inevitable self-destruction. Unlike Jack, however, he tries to remain a good father, and it's that wholesome streak that makes him a tragic hero worthy of viewer sympathy. He's done horrible things, but fans can't help but root for him.

2 Belle Noir

In the hands of a less competent actress than longtime American Horror Story alum Frances Conroy, the character of Belle Noir might have been a collection of superfluous attributes wrapped up in couture. But thanks to a heartbreaking backstory, not only is Conroy given the plum position of being able to showcase her considerable range, but she also becomes more than a haughty villainess holding court in Provincetown's only restaurant.

In Double Feature, artists either have talent or they don't, and Belle Noir represents not just a supremely talented individual who flourishes on the black pill, but an added component The Chemist doesn't discuss: drive. Many talented artists toil in obscurity because they lack ambition, and Belle Noir's bloodthirsty character development is a manifestation of the missing ingredient to their success — wanting it bad enough.

1 Mickey

Provincetown's friendliest sex worker plays double duty as both the kicked dog to the pill consumers and tragic hero. He shows the most restraint when being offered the black pill, partially because he doubts his talent, and partially because unlike the others, he actually has a moral problem with killing people in cold blood (even with promises of a Speedracer script). Mickey is lovable, hilarious, but above all empathetic, and very possibly an allegory for talent not being enough without the drive for success.

Mickey often represents "The Fool" archetype, but like in Shakespeare's plays, The Fool's seemingly irreverent antics often reveal a great deal about the characters around them. Consequently, they are often exposed as the wisest of all by the tale's end. As a sex worker addicted to meth, Mickey is the sort of person "no one would miss," a perfect feast for those more driven than himself — but his absence in the series would be felt most of all.

NEXT: The 10 Smartest Characters In American Horror Story Hotel

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