'American Horror Story: Roanoke' recap: Big twist finally revealed
By Lacy Baugher
For The Baltimore Sun|
Oct 20, 2016 | 1:14 PM
It's time for Chapter 6 of "American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare." And much like the season's first episode, we're all pretty much coming into this installment blind.
Last week's episode ostensibly wrapped up the story of the Millers, showing the family successfully escaping the bloodthirsty Butcher and her crew — with a little conveniently timed help from some Thomasin's son, of course. But with four episodes still to go in the season, we've all been left wondering where the show would go next.
The answer is back to Big Shaker Mansion, of course.
The big twist of the sixth episode is that the docudrama "My Roanoke Nightmare" was a smashing ratings success. So much so that the production company is getting everyone back together to do a follow-up series. Which, in all honesty, is a brilliantly simple way to restart the season without having to jettison the emotional weight of what's already happened. (I have to admit; my own internal speculation was getting kind of crazy. Was it ever really that likely that everyone involved with this season was dead already? Probably not.)
The premise of sequel series "Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell" is simple. Take everyone who was involved with the original, and go back where it all started. This includes both the real Miller family and the actors who played them on TV. And everyone has to stay in the house, "Big Brother" style, during the Blood Moon. Smarmy producer Sid (Cheyenne Jackson, who is already 550 percent more interesting than during Hotel) thinks audiences will eat this up, and promises the TV execs "football money" for ad spots. He's convinced that he can add in some low-grade fake scares to keep everyone jumpy, and it'll make for even better TV.
Unfortunately for Sid, the on-screen talent is having their fair share of issues. And here's where the real fun of this episode starts because let's be real: These people are crazy.
A quick rundown:
The real Shelby Miller doesn't want to have anything to do with Sid's sequel. She's only willing to go back to Roanoke because she thinks it means Matt will have to talk to her again. (They've split up, and she hooked up with Dominic Banks, the actor who played him.)
Agnes Mary Winstead, who played The Butcher, stole props and costumes from the original Roanoke Nightmare set. She got charged with assault for going on a rampage through Hollywood in full costume. And she even up and moved to North Carolina, near where they shot the show. So it probably shouldn't be too surprising that she gets a little too Thomasin-style upset when Sid tells her she won't be included in the sequel.
The real Lee Harris announces that she'll be taking part in "Return to Roanoke," primarily so that she can attempt to disprove the rumors that she's really responsible for her ex Mason's murder. (Sid, for what it's worth, totally thinks she did it and is trying to catch her out.) The actress who played Lee — a woman named Monet — developed a hardcore drinking problem between seasons.
Audrey, the actress who played Shelby, is actually a very posh British woman. And she's newly married to Rory, the actor who played Edward Phillippe Mott. They're very happy — and handsy — and Evan Peters suddenly has ginger hair. This is just all kind of a lot to take in.
Before "Return to Roanoke" even really starts filming, creepy stuff starts happening on set. Dead fetal pigs appear in the house's yard. A crew member manages to kill himself with a chainsaw. And Sid's right-hand assistant Diana tries to walk off the set, only to be brutally murdered when Mr. Piggy jumps out of the backseat of her car.
And as soon as the cast arrives at the house, things get even crazier. Rory and Audrey start seeing visions of The Butcher — or Agnes, we can't really be sure — outside the windows. Matt refuses to sleep in the same room as Shelby, and the two of them and Lee loudly fight about why the Millers' marriage didn't work. It's strange – almost nothing of any significance has happened during this episode, plot-wise. (Or at least, not significant in general "AHS" terms.) It's all about setting pieces in place for the rest of the season. But it's riveting. The sudden character switch-ups and realignments are fascinating. All in all, the changes power us past the typical "AHS" mid-season slump — and the show feels exciting again.
The real twist of the episode, however, is the announcement that during the filming of this sequel, every single participant in the production died. Except for one. The show "Return to Roanoke" never even aired. What we're watching is supposedly "found footage" that was assembled later. This news immediately makes up for the lack of tension so omnipresent in the season's first half, as now we're all curious about who survives and how exactly the other cast members met their ends.
The first night for the "Roanoke" house guests goes about as well as can be expected. Monet starts drinking. A burned husk that we probably are supposed to assume is Mason stalks Lee through the hallways. Shelby tries once again to get Matt to talk to her, but he's doubtful that they'll manage to survive the house again. Actor Dominic Banks arrives just in time for Matt to assault him in the foyer. As the two of them scuffle, Audrey gets attacked by Mr. Piggy while she's in the shower.
Displaying more sense as herself than she ever did while playing Shelby, Audrey immediately screams and runs away. She tells everyone downstairs what happened, and says she believes Sid has sent people to try to scare them. Audrey's crying, everyone's shocked, and Rory heads off upstairs to investigate. Because Rory is real dumb.
Luckily for him, he doesn't find Mr. Piggy in the bathroom or any of the closets. Unfortunately, what he does find are Bridget and Miranda, the two ghost nurses who used to own the house and kill old people in it. They slit his throat, stab him and, creepily enough, finally get the last letter to spell M-U-R-D-E-R in the living room. R is for Rory, indeed.
Odds and Ends:
We all knew there was no way we weren’t going back to that house, yeah?
I still miss the real "American Horror Story" credits and theme music, though.
I legitimately love this reality show redux twist. Admittedly, I wasn’t entirely confident that "AHS" could pull off this sort of mid-stream switch-up. But this episode was so much fun to watch. I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Can’t wait to see how Denis O’Hare and Wes Bentley show up again.
On a shallow note, can I say how nice it’s been to have "American Horror Story" actually end a couple of minutes early every week this season? Those supersized, hour-plus episodes during "Freak Show" and "Hotel" were exhausting.
Thoughts, comments, or elaborate theories to share? Hit me up on Twitter: @LacyMB.