The season is off to a very creepy, very surreal start.
Luckily, American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 2 is beginning to lift the veil a bit and offer some amount of explanation into what the heck is going on in and around Shelby and Matt's North Carolina home.
While I'm still not particularly crazy about the documentary-style format, I'm beginning to mind it less and less. The present-day "real life" versions of Matt, Shelby, and Lee are pretty unobtrusive when they chime in with their commentary and observations.
Honestly, we could probably do without the present-day interjections entirely, which leads me to believe that this format will have some greater bearing on the overall story.
The voice-overs are just way too boring and too uneventful to be included just for the hell of it, you know? There has to be some grander reason they're formatting the season this way. I'll wait until the end of the season to render judgment about that aspect.
The parallels between this season and American Horror Story Season 1's "Murder House" are becoming more and more apparent as the season progresses.
There appears to be some kind of ghostly malevolence going on within the house and on the land itself. While Shelby saw what appeared to be very corporeal figures doing that ritual sacrifice ("cleansing") in the woods during that terrifying opening, Flora's imaginary friend "Priscilla" definitely seems to be a ghost of some sort, as do the murderous nurses who appeared to Matt.
Of course, we also saw ghost nurses in the first season. The nurses that haunted Murder House, though, were innocents that had actually been murdered, whereas Roanoke's nurses, Miranda and Bridget, were actually murderers themselves.
We got a pretty substantial "plot exposition dump" via Dr. Elias Cunningham's last video testament.
Welcome back, Denis O'Hare! I really hope his role isn't this limited; he's one of AHS' best actors, and I'd hate to exclusively see him through grainy video footage all season long.
While Lee was sleeping off her alcohol binge, Shelby and Matt were lured out to a cellar by a ghostly girl (possibly the same Priscilla who was communicating with Lee's daughter Flora). In the cellar, they found Elias' tape.
Made my skin crawl. That girl didn't lead us there as a trap. Mm-mm. She wanted us to find that camera. What we didn't know was why. What was on that tape that she wanted us to see?Matt
Apparently, according to Elias, he had moved to the house before the time of taping (October 11, 1997) in order to research the book he was writing on the murderous nurses. While there, he encountered malevolence – likely the same malevolence that is currently after the Millers.
Elias was positively frantic and talking about a mile a minute, so it was tough to catch everything he was saying. The gist of it seemed to be that the sinister presence in the house forced him out, eventually turning physical and actually choking him. He moved into the cellar, where I guess he continued his research, because he knew an awful lot about those nurses.
Those horrifying nurses are serious nightmare fuel. We first glimpsed them during the American Horror Story Season 6 Premiere (they walked past Shelby when she was in the house alone), but "Chapter 2" focused heavily on their backstory.
The two women were sisters and nurses who had a yen for murdering the elderly and helpless. They killed two patients at their old gig before quitting and opening up their own facility – in what is now Shelby and Matt's house.
They proceeded to murder their patients just for funsies, methodically killing based on the first letter of each victim's first name – they wanted to spell out "Murder," spray painting each victim's initial on the wall, and one of the two believed that each life taken would bring them some kind of power. Basically, they were kooks. They vanished before killing their final "R" victim.
Elias' theory was that, despite the police's belief that the women had fled the country, the two had actually been stopped by the sinister presence in the house.
We have no concrete proof of that so far, but I'm inclined to believe it. Why else would the ghosts of Nurse Miranda and Nurse Bridget be trapped in that house, able to torment poor Matt with a terrible, graphic reenactment of their killing of a patient named Margaret?
M is for Margaret!Nurse [laughing maniacally]
That was a seriously tough scene to watch. I mean, I know AHS is super dark and I'm not really squeamish about violence at this point, but there was something relentlessly depressing about watching those two maniacs brutally murder a group of totally helpless enfeebled old people.
It gave me a serious case of the sads, to put it lightly. Very, very disturbing.
As for Elias himself, we don't exactly know what his fate was. During the premiere, we saw another video of his (the one that Shelby and Lee watched while lured into the basement), when he confronted the creepy pig-head man creature.
It seemed like Elias died during the course of that video, but who knows? At this rate, he'll be popping up as a spirit in the house sometime soon.
While the nurses' backstory was a sufficiently horrific storyline for this hour, it's clear that they aren't the "Big Bad" of the season.
The real horror has to do with those strange, ritual-sacrificing colonists.
That opening scene was just a treasure trove of oddities. There was so much to see and examine (and over-analyze). My closed captioning called Kathy Bates' character "the Butcher," and she seems to be the one in charge.
At the very least, she led the group in their "cleansing" of the pig-head man. They roasted him like a literal pig on a stick, as punishment for having stolen provisions from their storehouse.
I absolutely loved whatever weird accent Bates was affecting during this scene, and her little speech was also strangely beautiful and poetic. And creepy, obviously.
I am the queen of every hive. I am the fire on every hill. I am the shield over every head. I am the spear of battle. Who but I am both the tree and the lightning that strikes it?The Butcher
I feel like all of these descriptors are meaningful and plot-significant, but I don't want to fall head-first down the fan theory rabbit hole quite yet. Give it a few more weeks.
We also spotted several other characters during the opening scene, as Shelby spied on the colonists while they performed their ritual. I believe that the one antler-hat-wearing woman may have been Lady Gaga, but it also just might have been someone who looked like her.
I did some quick Google sleuthing – the rest of the internet seems convinced that it is her, but there's no confirmation as of yet.
Wes Bentley is present as well. Is it just me or does he look distinctly uncomfortable with the ritual every time the camera flashes to him? Maybe he's not down with whatever sacrificial weirdness Kathy Bates' character is into.
There's also Man With Top Of Head Cut Off. That's about all we know about him so far. He looks like he's not having too grand of a time.
My preliminary guess is that these folks are the OG Roanoke colonists who vanished hundreds of years ago.
The way Shelby got lost in the woods during the premiere and then found the group after the forest and ground did that weird shifty topsy-turvy thing indicates that the colonists may have somehow gotten trapped in an alternate dimension of some kind. I'm not sure why being stuck in an alternate dimension necessitates ritual sacrifice, but I'm sure we'll find out. In any case, I don't think the colonists are innocents in all this.
Again, these are all total guesses. It'll be weeks before anything more concrete is revealed (if at all).
Finally, the last big twist of this installment – Lee's daughter Flora vanished.
Creepy Little Kid is such a classic (read: overused) horror trope at this point, but little Flora is doing her very best with that stock character. She was contacted by Priscilla, who, based on Flora's descriptions, seems to be a little girl Roanoke colonist. Unfortunately for Flora, Priscilla doesn't want to be BFFs – she's going to kill them all.
Flora: Where'd she go?
Mason: Where'd who go?
Flora: Priscilla! The little girl with the funny clothes. I was offering her Mandy.
Lee: Your doll? Why would you do that?
Flora: As a trade. So she wouldn't kill us. They're going to kill us all. And save me for last.
Now, it's totally possible that this was a slight misinterpretation on Flora's part. Maybe Priscilla was actually warning her that someone was going to kill them? That seems like an adequately twisty AHS type of twist.
The other request Priscilla made was to help to "make it stop" because she was tired of all the blood. So whatever is going on with these colonists, Priscilla seems to be pretty over it too.
Priscilla lured Flora outside, at which point Lee's little girl up and disappeared. Except for her little yellow jacket, which wound up in a very tall tree. Spooky.
- Another Murder House parallel – much like the Harmons of the first season, the Millers sunk all of their savings into their extremely haunted house. Also like the Harmons, they tried (and failed) to get out of the house by selling it. I've gotta give the writers props for keeping that much realistic. Selling a house is pretty rough, even when it's not haunted by malevolent entities.
- I'm not sure why but that yellow jacket up in the tree image was, like, next-level creepy. Such a chilling visual.
- I'm a little suspicious of Shelby. She saw those horrible things in the forest and immediately after decided that, no, they wouldn't be run out of their home. What on earth? No, lady, that's when you run, fast and far. Is she possessed or something?
- When are we going to meet Ishmael Polk and his sons? This is like the fourth time the cops have mentioned them as potential suspects in the Millers' harassment, but the cops have yet to track them down.
What did you think of "Chapter 2"? Leave me a comment with your thoughts and watch American Horror Story online here at TV Fanatic to relive the madness!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.