This was the best installment of the season yet.
American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 3 was a great, suspenseful hour of the series. It also managed to introduce a delightful new character – betting Cricket will go down in AHS history as a fan favorite – and clarified a huge amount of backstory regarding the "principal" ghost, the Butcher.
One criticism to address right off the bat: "Chapter 3" was a major info dump. Like, it was so noticeably obvious that a character just went ahead and called it as it was.
The spirits downloaded to me like a paranormal zip drive.Cricket
Zip file, indeed.
Cricket was literally traipsing through the woods when the ghosts took it upon themselves to telepathically transpose the 411 about their history, motives, and plans? Uh-huh. Right. Gotcha.
Despite how unimaginatively the exposition was laid out, I appreciated how straightforward this installment was, after the premiere and American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 2 remained incredibly vague and didn't connect many dots at all.
If anything, "Chapter 3" connected all the dots. Well, nearly all of them.
When we left off with "Chapter 2," Flora had just vanished. The following installment picked up shortly after where we left off – the police were called after Flora's yellow sweatshirt was discovered at the top of the tree. Predictably, the asinine local PD were incredibly unhelpful. Their dislike of the Miller family is all too apparent by now.
One cop basically said as much to Lee, very unkindly, when he pointed out that "these things" kept happening to this family. Dude, it's not their fault they're being plagued by a gaggle of ghosts. Don't be a jerk.
Finding Flora was a no go, but Shelby, Matt, and Lee did stumble upon a few other things worthy of note. The first was Flora's doll, all cut up and with yet another pig's head where the doll's head should have been. The second was an abandoned farmhouse and barn, inside of which they discovered two feral boys suckling at a deceased pig.
We've seen some many, viscerally disgusting things throughout the past five seasons of American Horror Story – and I am really, truly not at all a squeamish person. Somehow, though – and I don't quite understand why – the sight of those two boys sucking at the dead pig was one of the worst.
Maybe it's because of the close-up angles of the suckling. The fact that the pig was DEAD. The sounds. The overall visual. It was just a whole lot of yuck. I had to pause to take a breather, personally.
Shelby, Lee, and Matt were as creeped out as I was, immediately calling the police. The police informed them that the barn and farmhouse belonged to the Polk family, who had apparently up and left. The police also believed, at this point, that the Polks had kidnapped Flora, fleeing with her when the search party began looking for her, and leaving the two feral boys to fend for themselves. Awful.
Somehow, I don't think that's quite what went down with the Polks. More likely, they're under the same kind of spell that led Matt to his creepy encounter with the Gaga Woodland Witch near the end. It would certainly explain why they were so dead-set on out-bidding the Millers for the house and perturbed when they lost it.
Where the feral boys come in and why they have a tendency to suckle at pigs – that I don't know. From the looks of it, the boys were used to suckling at a living pig, and just continued to do so when they were abandoned at the barn, even after the pig had died. Gross. So, so gross.
But the inclusion of the feral boys wasn't just for gross-out value. They appear to be connected to the Roanoke settlers, because they repeatedly said "Croatoan" – apparently the only word they knew.
At the time, none of us understood what [Croatoan] meant. But we'd later come to understand that it was a warning.Matt
"Croatoan" was referenced way back in American Horror Story Season 1, when Roanoke was first mentioned by Billie Dean to Violet and Constance. It was the word used by the chief elder to banish the Roanoke colonist spirits who had died and were haunting the native tribe.
This is a really intriguing connection. Why do the boys know this word? Were they trained to use it because their family, the Polks, have long been plagued by the colonists and taught to use that word to ward off the spirits? So many questions.
Shortly after the discovery of the boys, Mason, Flora's father and Lee's ex, showed up. And he was pissed (I mean, understandably – his ex kidnapped their daughter, who then went missing).
Mason stuck around long enough to accuse Lee of having hidden Flora away, faking the kidnapping in order to run away with the young girl. Only a few hours later, he was dead, gruesomely burned to death. Even more horrifying: There's a chance that Lee was actually the one to kill him, because Shelby and Matt saw security footage of Lee leaving the house shortly after Mason and returning four hours later.
Did Lee actually kill him? I have no idea. I wouldn't put it past the ghosts to be able to manipulate camera footage, but Lee has also proven herself to be fairly unstable. We'll just have to wait and see.
The reason this installment was so great was because the reveals just kept coming, building off of one another. The feral boys led to Mason, Mason's death led to the appearance of Cricket.
Cricket was a great addition for several reasons. One, he's a real character. Some legitimately great one liners were had, and his overall persona is just amusing. I love him already.
Two, he paved the way for a lot of backstory. In that way, he's a plot device, but I'll forgive the inelegance of the reveal because the actual history of the colonists is pretty interesting.
The Butcher (aka, hatchet-wielding ghost Kathy Bates) was once Thomasin White, the wife of John White (governor of the colony). John left Thomasin in charge when he returned to England for supplies, but she was betrayed and left to die in the woods by a group of men (including her very own wet-blanket son, Ambrose) when she refused their suggestion to move the colony inland.
We've caught glimpses of Lady Gaga earlier in the season, but "Chapter 3" shed a bit more light into who (or what) exactly she is.
Serve. Eat. Surrender thy soul to me.Gaga Witch
Namely: some kind of demon-ghost-witch-monster. I'm inclined to think she's a demon, since she convinced Thomasin to give up her soul, which is a pretty demon-y thing to do.
Lady Gaga has been stellar in this small role so far. The way she speaks and moves is absolutely perfect – utterly horrifying.
When Thomasin returned to her colony, she executed all of the men who had betrayed her (save Ambrose) and decided that they would move the colony inland. That's how Thomasin came to hold "dominion" over the Millers' house's land – they moved from the cost to that area inland in what is now North Carolina.
The Butcher's motives – to protect her land and her colony from "intruders" at all costs – was revealed during the terrifically menacing seance scene, when Cricket tried to communicate with Priscilla but dialed the wrong ghost-number and got Thomasin instead.
I can't even begin to say how much legitimately scarier Thomasin is than Kathy Bates' previous old-timey murderer, American Horror Story Season 3's Madame Delphine.
Despite having theoretically pure motives (protecting her people), the Butcher is unambiguously a force of evil. She is willing to – nay, wants to – kill anyone who "trespasses" on her land.
Interestingly, she didn't take Flora and doesn't appear to like Priscilla.
The Butcher: Had I that child, she would have been flayed and roasted by now. Priscilla, the bastard seed, has hidden her away, somewhere beyond our hallowed ground. I shall not step one foot off my land. Never again. I must protect it from trespassers such as thee.
Cricket: Oh, honey. This land does not belong to the dead. Croatoan! Croatoan!
I feel that this all but confirms that Priscilla took Flora away in order to protect her from the Butcher's wrath, right? They could still pull a fast one on us, but that definitely seems like the direction they're going in.
After swindling $25K out of Lee, Cricket led the charge in brokering a deal with the Butcher. In exchange for the Millers leaving the land and never returning (and Lee's offer to burn the house down), the Butcher would get Priscilla to return Flora. Supposedly – according to Cricket, at least – the Butcher agreed, though that happened offscreen.
From then on, things fell apart hard and fast for Shelby. She was upset that Lee offered to burn the house down and that Matt had apparently agreed. I had exactly 0 sympathy for Shelby in that moment. Girl, y'all are bargaining for a child's life with ghosts. Why would you get all uppity about burning down this stupid (and very, very haunted) house?
Then, Matt vanished. When Shelby left to find him, he was in the midst of vigorous forest sex with the Gaga Forest Demon Witch, while the hillbillies looked on and masturbated.
In a word: Ew. In two words: Very ew.
As I already mentioned, Matt was probably possessed. When he found Shelby back at the house later, he claimed to have no idea what she was talking about. Ever Ms. Sassy Pants, Shelby echoed that line back to him when Lee was arrested by the police and Matt suspected Shelby had called them on Lee.
We covered a ton of story ground, and we're only on "Chapter 3" (of at least ten). Where can the story go from here? Ryan Murphy confirmed a "big twist" around the sixth installment, so clearly we will not exclusively be dealing with the Roanoke colonists this season.
- The cinematography has been more simplistic and to-the-point this season (not a bad thing by any mean!). But one shot particularly stood out to me: the view of Lady Gaga's demon-witch character, through Thomasin's head cage. That was a super cool, distinctive angle.
- Fun fact: "Chapter 3" was directed by Jennifer Lynch, daughter of famous surrealist director David Lynch. Guess that explains why this installment was so deliciously strange and unnerving! She did an excellent job.
- Yet another twist (apparently unrelated to the larger Roanoke story) – Lee had another daughter named Emily. Emily, like Flora, vanished when she was young. Lee left Emily outside of a grocery store and the girl had vanished when she returned. We learned this when psychic Cricket whispered to Lee that Emily said hello and wondered why she'd stopped looking for her. Spooky.
- Speaking of Emily: does her disappearance strike anyone else as SUPER similar to Holden's disappearance in American Horror Story Season 5? Might we be seeing some children-stealing vampires thrown into the mix?
- Where, oh where, is Evan Peters? This is the longest he's gone without appearing in a given season.
What did you think of "Chapter 3"? Leave me a comment with your thoughts below and remember that you can watch American Horror Story online here at TV Fanatic anytime, to relive all of the spookiness!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.