Now that "American Horror Story: Freak Show" has finally come to a close -- and we're still trying to wrap our heads around it (pun intended) -- it's time to start thinking ahead to what's next for Ryan Murphy's creepy anthology.
Here's what we know so far: the fifth installment will be "very different" from "Freak Show." And when asked if "AHS" would return to the present day, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf told TVLine, "That’s my hope."
Murphy has been keeping mum on the overall theme for season five, but he did reveal one major hint back at the beginning of the series: a top hat on Maggie's coffee cup in Episode 4 of "Freak Show" was an "arcane," but "purposeful" clue.
We also know that "Freak Show" might have been Jessica Lange's final bow in the "AHS" universe. Lange originally said she was leaving the series after season four but that she might return for the right character. It's hard to imagine "AHS" without Lange, who's been with the series from season one and has turned out scene-stealing performances in every installment since. But that's an unfortunately reality we might have to face.
So was Elsa Mars really Jessica Lange's swan song performance? And will certain cast members' commitments to Murphy's other TV projects -- FX's "American Crime Story" and Fox's "Scream Queens" -- cut their screen time from the next "AHS" installment. We speculate below:
Status: "Maybe" returning for season five but not likely.
This seems like a long-shot because Lange seems set on leaving the "AHS" franchise after "Freak Show," but Murphy might try and temp her with the right character. However, Murphy's latest tweet doesn't bode well for Lange's return. In fact, it seems like he's saying goodbye.
We fear the absence of Lange would be a huge blow for the series, and honestly, it just won't have the same sparkle.
Status: Likely returning for season five but perhaps in a limited role.
Without Lange, "AHS" needs Paulson. We're not okay with "American Horror Story: Bro-Fest." Murphy has already said Paulson “really loves” her character for season five, but that was before it was announced that Paulson would star in "American Crime Story." (Paulson will be portraying prosecutor Marcia Clark in the role that she was undoubtedly born to play.) So if Paulson is taking on double duty, we have to wonder if that will affect her role in "AHS."
Status: Most likely returning for season five.
With Lange out and Paulson seemingly in a limited role, season five could be the season we finally get to see Evan Peters shine (because we're still not over making him a mute zombie in "Coven"). We can't say the same for his real-life fiancee...
Status: : Most likely not returning for season five.
Roberts joined the "AHS" fam in season three for "Coven." Her character, though memorable for going head to head with Lange's Fiona Goode, was relatively flat. In "Freak Show," her character Maggie had one of the more gruesome demises -- getting sawed in half by NPH looks scary AF -- but was still met with an overwhelmingly "meh" response. We hope she finds a character she can really sink her perfect teeth into in Murphy's network comedy "Scream Queens." Roberts has joined the series as a regular, along with Lea Michele, Jamie Lee Curtis, Keke Palmer and Abigail Breslin. Fox has already ordered a 15-episode season, which means Roberts will be pretty tied up -- hopefully, figuratively and literally -- with "Scream Queens," making it hard to commit to more "AHS."
Status: Hopefully returning for season five.
Farmiga's subtlety was greatly missed on "Freak Show," but our girl seems to favor odd-numbered seasons, having appeared both in "Murder House" and "Coven." So we're hopeful Farmiga will return for season five, which might also take place in present day.
Status: Likely returning for season five
A character actress with an impeccable sense of comedic timing, Conroy has been a constant staple on "American Horror Story." And we can't imagine Murphy wouldn't bring her back for more fun next season.
Status: Hopefully returning for season five.
We pray to our Lord and Savior Ryan Murphy that Rabe will have a prominent role in the fifth installment. She appeared in "Freak Show" briefly to reprise her stirring role as "Asylum's" Sister Mary Eunice, and in "Coven," she shined as free-spirited witch Misty Day, but we think it's time Rabe got a season all to herself.
Status: Not confirmed for season five.
Though Bassett hasn't confirmed her return, she did say that the excitement of playing a new character every season is "thrilling." And since "AHS" has always celebrated powerful women, we think Bassett likely has an open invitation for season five.
Status: Has been approached by Murphy to return for season five.
Bates has already been asked by Murphy to return next season, and according to the actress, "It's getting hard to refuse."
Status: Has to return for season five, right? RIGHT?!
Arguably "Freak Show's" breakout star -- and Murphy's new favorite -- the charismatic Wittrock has to be a shoo-in for next season.
Who would you like to see in the next installment of "American Horror Story?" Let us know in the comments.