Time for the review within the review within the review. Just kidding, but let’s just get this out of the way right now… We are now watching a show within a show within a show.
American Horror Story: Roanoke “Chapter 6” took us on a journey beyond My Roanoke Nightmare.Â With that series wrapped up, we then followed the show’s producer, Sidney, as he wanted to capitalize on the show’s massive success by creating a follow-up reality series calledÂ Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell.
Before we jump into the breakdown of the episode, I just wanted to talk about the element of surprise. There’s no solid reason why Ryan Murphy had to tell the audience, in numerous interviews, that a mind-blowing twist was going to happen in Episode 6. The entire purpose of a twist is to shock the audience by changing the narrative in a way they didn’t see coming.
When you tell your audience to look out for said twist, the element of shock is completely lost. Technically everything we saw in this episode changes the direction of the show, but we were expecting this since the beginning of the season.
I don’t know if Murphy just didn’t have faith the viewers would be on board with a mysterious season or if he thought they wouldn’t take to the docu-series format during the first half. I just wish I hadn’t known about the twist going into this episode. My viewing experience would have been completely different.
Anyway, let’s get into the new format as we head into the second half of the season. Sidney’s grand idea for the follow-up series,Â Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell, would include getting Shelby, Matt, and Lee back to the house (which he bought from them) during the time of the blood moon. However, they wouldn’t be alone. Sidney also wanted the actors who played them in the reenactments to stay in the house as well.
Getting everyone on board took some time. Shelby proved the most difficult to get to agree to come back. Sidney managed to get Shelby to sit down for an interview. It was then revealed she and Matt had split up after she was caught having a fling with Dominic, the actor who played her husband in the reenactments.
Shelby’s made some dumb decisions, but the dumbest of all was caving and agreeing to be on the follow-up series. I get that she wants to be in the same place as Matt where he will be forced to talk to her, but going back to the home where they almost died makes ZERO sense!
We also got to catch up with Lee, who agreed to come back in order to clear her name. After the docu-series aired, everyone demanded she be charged with Mason’s murder. We also got to know a little bit about the reenactment actors: Audrey (who played Shelby) is actually British and she ended up marrying Rory (who played Edward Mott) in a hilariously over the top wedding. Rory would also be joining the follow-up series. Then we caught up with Monet (who played Lee). She ended up developing a drinking problem when shooting wrapped.
Still, none of these people compared to Agnes. Agnes played The Butcher, but life started imitating art when she had a mental breakdown and walked through the streets of Hollywood wielding aÂ cleaver at tourists. In a sit down interview with Sidney, she claimed she got treatment and had moved past the incident.
However, Sidney and the crew discovered an arrangement of fetal pigs at the Roanoke house (that was not put there by the crew who was setting up boobytraps and fake scares). They accused Agnes of putting the dead pigs there, and she was presented with a restraining order to stay away from production. This set her off, and she began ranting like she was back in The Butcher character all over again.
It barely took 5 minutes of screen time for me to decide Sidney, played byÂ Cheyenne Jackson, was scum. HeÂ plays the role to perfection. Sidney is the typical reality show producer who only cares about the ratings Â and not if anyone gets hurt (or killed along the way). He could have easily sent Agnes the retraining order. Instead, he made her think she was going to be on the new show. He embarrassed and enraged her all in the hope that she would ignore the retraining order and show up to production.
Before official filming even began, horrible things started happening: a crew member was “accidentally” killed by a chainsaw, and Sidney’s associate, Diana, was killed after fleeing the set in her car. As she sped away and continued to talk to the camera on her phone, she ended up being attacked by Piggy Man, who popped out of the back seat and caused her to crash. How did no one else in the crew see this crash? Did the spirits cover it up?
Production started and night one did not go smoothly. The Millers did not have a pleasant reunion, and the relations between the actors and their real life counterparts were tense. Audrey and Rory swore they saw Agnes outside the window trying to scare them. Sidney said if she showed up again, he would call the police. Now that everyone was in the house, Sidney informed them they would be alone. Cameras were in every room and the group would also be carrying around disabled phones with only the cameras still working.
Then we were hit with the above title card. As the audience, we were informed that everyone involved with the production ofÂ Return to Roanoke: Three Days in HellÂ had died, except for one person. Everything we are now watching is the unaired series’ footage that was recovered. So this has now becomeÂ a “found-footage” show.
With Sidney and the crew gone from the premises, Monet and Lee had an uncomfortable conversation in the kitchen, Mason’s burnt corpse followed Lee around the halls, and Shelby went to try to talk to Matt. Matt explained he wasn’t sure they would be able to get out of this experience alive this time. Then, Dominic (who Shelby didn’t want there) made his entrance into the house, and then promptly got into a fight with Matt.
Finally we got our first murder of the group. After Audrey encountered Piggy Man in the bathroom, Rory went in to investigate so she would feel safe. Unfortunately, he ran into the two nurses (Bridget and Miranda) who then stabbed him repeatedly to death. This is when Matt saw the word “murder” finally completed on the wall. He knows it’s starting, and there’s not telling who will be the one to survive.
Aside from the obvious plot twist, there was a lot to love about this episode. The flow of this episode could have gone completely off the rails, but I never once got confused by the direction we were heading in. Since Rory is dead, that leaves the three actors with their real life counterparts. Having these characters interact opens up possibilities for reflection in each other and unexpected dynamics.
While I enjoyed the structure of the first half of the season, I’m curious to see more from Matt, Shelby, and Lee now that they are not confined to sitting in front of a camera telling a story. There were also some genuine scares including Piggy Man jumping out from behind the back seat.
I tend to hate it when there’s too much humor on the show (like AHS: Coven), but there were some fantastic moments that had me laughing out loud: Sidney’s spot on impression of Cricket, Audrey’s frantic 911 call about Agnes trying to steal her Satellite Award, and the wedding video between Audrey and Rory.
What’ll happen next remains to be seen, but we know only one person makes it out alive. We’ll also have to see if the remaining episodes can escape repetition. The last thing we need is the same chain of events that happened with the spirits during the first half to be exactly the same in the second.
Extra Thoughts, Observations, and Questions
- The imagery was spectacular in hinting at the coming dread: the woman standing off in the distance as Diana drove away, the mob with their torches walking toward the house behind Rory in the hot tub.
- Matt seemed unusually calm. We know Shelby’s and Lee’s reasons for returning to the house, but not Matt’s. Why would he agree to return to the place that almost killed him?
- Is it possible someone made a deal with The Butcher and that’s the person who will make it out alive?
- When will someone notice Rory is dead? When they do, will any of them be stupid and want to stay?
- I can’t tell if Sarah Paulson‘s British accent was supposed to sound cheesy or not.
- Having to cast all new people for the roles of the spirits is really interesting. The “real” nurses were a lot scarier looking than the reenactment nurses.
- When will the real forest witch show up, and will she have Matt’s babyÂ with her?
- Love that there’s a confessional set up in the house!
- Has Agnes been possessed by the real Butcher?
- How long before Sidney gets his comeuppance?
Check out a sneak peek of the next installment titled “Chapter 7.”
American Horror Story airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX.
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