‘American Horror Story’ and The Big Reveal

American Horror Story

American Horror Story shakes things up with ‘Roanoke’ Chapter 6… Spoilers ahead…

Proceed no further ye readers lest ye be spoiled of last eve’s American Horror Story: Roanoke revelations. Complain and ye blood be split to consecrate this land!


So, this season of American Horror Story differed significantly from previous seasons. It offered a toned-down, unplugged feeling. It offered a darker season that focused on real scares over scarily great costumes and set design. As a result to non-cynics, it’s felt like a complete breath of fresh air in a potentially stagnating series.

The one nagging question for many viewers was “What’s the point of the reality show structure?” At least one ADTV team member (Megan) felt the structure undercut the scares. If Lily Rabe and Andre Holland shared their story, then clearly they survived the events documented in “My Roanoke Nightmare,” the show within a show. But last night’s episode, “Chapter 6,” made clear the intent of the entire season, and now Roanoke becomes something completely different and potentially even more thrilling.

The action begins with reality producer Sidney James (Cheyenne Jackson in a role seemingly better suited to Veep‘s Reid Scott) proposing a sequel series to what was a huge hit in “My Roanoke Nightmare.” The new twist is that he proposes to ship the “real” players in the story plus their actor counterparts back to North Carolina to live in the same house during the blood moon. Cameras placed throughout the house would document their experience, jolted by a few purposefully placed fright triggers in case nothing happened. Seems that, when “My Roanoke Nightmare” filmed, nothing happened. Effectively, their guard is down.

This being American Horror Story, that is a foolish assumption. Carnage ensues. Think of it as a murderous Big Brother.

This twist, while somewhat predictable, does feel fresh and exciting. It gives the actors the opportunity to play their characters in a completely different light a la Vertigo or Lost Highway. The biggest beneficiary of this turn is undoubtedly Kathy Bates who layers a heavy degree of mental instability over her character who played the Butcher in “My Roanoke Nightmare.” But the entire cast feels jazzed by the shift, and it shows in their now more energetic performances. It does set up something of a high-wire act to balance scares with the logistics of having the entire house apparently wired and monitored by the unseen crew. Unless they’re all dead. 

But best of all, it’s really pretty scary. After a while, the scares of the first five episodes started to trend toward the hokey, particularly when Lady Gaga started running around the forest in that wild “woman of the woods” getup. Looking back, though, it all makes sense. I’d forgotten they were filming a hokey reality show. Now that the series approaches a linear timeline, the scares feel darker and more aligned with the best of American Horror Story.

Time will tell, but is Roanoke shaping up to be the best season yet? Early signs point to yes.

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