"Three days in hell," indeed!
American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 6 set us off on a whole new nightmare, that will presumably take us through the entire second half of the season.
And this "real" version of the "Roanoke Nightmare" is already about 10 times scarier than the version we've already seen.
It appears that Ryan Murphy didn't fully trust his audience to understand the twist. So he went ahead and pretty much broke it down for us with his interview with E! Online earlier this week – he explained that part of the "twist" would constitute half of the characters (the re-enactment actors) getting brand new roles for the second half of the season.
To top that off, the writers also gave us a ton of expository dialogue and conversations in order to explain, very carefully, exactly what was going on with the mid-season switcheroo.
It's actually not all that complicated. I don't think the twist particularly warranted all of this explanation.
The gist: Cheyenne Jackson's character, whose voice was heard several times during the interview segments of "My Roanoke Nightmare," is Sidney James, the producer of that show. In the world of American Horror Story, "My Roanoke Nightmare" was a huge commercial and critical hit, making a ton of money for the network and winning tons of award nominations.
OK, that all pretty much makes sense, right? Easy enough to follow. Also easy to follow: Because TV execs love money, they were completely down for a follow-up from Sid. But here's where things got a little bit wonky.
Sid's idea for a follow-up was completely insane. He wanted to get most of the actors from the re-enactments to go back into the house, as themselves, along with Shelby, Matt and Lee. The goal was twofold: to create another ratings hit with all manner of spooky reality horrors and to "out" Lee as the real murderer of her ex, Mason.
In theory, I get why this followup – straightforwardly (but not very imaginatively) dubbed "Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell" – would be an enjoyable show to watch... But it's a pretty thinly contrived reason to get the Millers and all of the actors back into that house, so actual horror could go down.
I almost can't suspend my disbelief enough to believe that the Millers (or really anyone) would set foot anywhere in the house.
It makes a lot more sense for the actors to have been more willing to go back to the Roanoke house – when they filmed there, in the summer, nothing bad happened. They had a straight-up entire conversation about not believing the Millers' story about the hauntings, the story they'd acted out for "My Roanoke Nightmare."
I absolutely loved all of the "real life" actor roles that half of the cast was newly playing, particularly Sarah Paulson as Audrey (who played Shelby). Good lord, that woman is a dream. She was a perfectly ridiculous caricature of a proper British woman, and her romance with Evan Peters' character (Rory, who played Edward Mott) was both adorable and silly.
It was especially amusing to watch how prickly Audrey was about the fact that she, a "woman of a certain age" had snagged handsome younger Rory.
The writers played that up several times, like when she remarked on being an older woman during her confessional, when she tried to reassure herself that she trusted Rory to be away from her for six months, and during this hilarious rant at Shelby, when poor Shelbs made the mistake of saying it's "never too late" for love.
Shelby: It's never too late for love.
Audrey: Too late? What do you mean? When is it too late? When your heart ossifies? When your vagina exsiccates into an ancient artifact? Or is it just any woman over the age of 29? What do you mean?
Oh, Audrey. Girl. Chill.
Audrey also had two more of the greatest moments on "Chapter 6."
The first was her hilariously apt description of Shelby as a character:
Audrey [about Shelby]: Fiery and pathetic. It's exactly how I played her.
Rory: Nailed it.
"Fiery and pathetic" is EXACTLY the way to describe Shelby and that is exactly how Paulson/Audrey played her in the reenactment.
Also, this exchange with the 911 operator when Agnes attacked Audrey's house just made me laugh out loud for minutes at a time:
Audrey: She's outside my house with a large knife! She's come to take my Saturn!
911 Operator: Someone's trying to steal your vehicle ma'am?
Audrey: No, my Saturn Award! Bloody hell, it's Agnes! She's all spun up that I won. Hurry! She's quite mad!
Anyway, I'm a big Audrey fan so far, is what I'm getting at.
Tonally, this installment was a perfect mix of terrifying and funny. In fact, it was one of the funniest installments of American Horror Story ever, I'd say.
Kathy Bates' new character, Agnes, is a perfect example of that mix. It was humorous to see her audition reel alongside the other, terrible actresses'. I loved that we saw Agnes get so, so deep into the role. But, of course, the role broke her.
"Who but I am both the tree and the lightning that strikes it?" Should I do it again? I mean, I can make it grittier, more vulnerable. I just, I really love this part. It's a great part.Agnes
Agnes has schizoaffective disorder, so what at first seemed like quirky enthusiasm about her role is actually quite startling and depressing. That role was all Agnes had and she felt so strongly about it.
Kathy Bates tore me up during that scene with Sid. It all encapsulated everything we know so far about the producer – he is not a good man.
Agnes is mentally ill and he completely manipulated her, trying essentially to goad her into crashing the set (all in the name of reality TV drama). That was horrifying! He was so cruel to her, dangling the opportunity of a second season in front of Agnes and then ripping it away. And apparently it worked, because she showed up outside the house in full Butcher mode.
Sid is a stereotype of every reality producer who has no moral qualms and only cares about money and ratings. His only concern with Lee being a murderer was whether he and his production were legally liable if she decided to kill some people after returning to the house.
To his credit, Cheyenne Jackson plays that role phenomenally well. He was a believably pompous, selfish ass. I totally bought it.
Angela Bassett's new role is easily the least interesting of the bunch. She was revealed to be an alcoholic, which she blamed on having gotten into alcoholic, murderer Lee's head. Lee, for her part, was insistent that she didn't kill Mason.
Lee blamed two people for the current prevailing idea that she was a murderer: Shelby, for turning her into the police, and the actress who played Lee, for choosing to play her as a murderer.
As expected, it didn't take long for things to go totally off the wall at the Roanoke house.
On set, a crew member died in a horrific non-accident with a chainsaw. Diana Cross, Sid's colleague, was attacked by the Pig Man (who popped out the backseat of her car in the most terrifying sequence of the installment). The crew also found a circle of pig fetuses.
Basically, there were all kinds of omens that the show should've been called off. But Sidney being Sidney, it was on with the show.
Unfortunately, that choice apparently cost Rory his life. RIP, Evan Peters AGAIN. This is like the third time we've bid farewell to Evan's characters this season. This time, his death was at the hands of the "real" Murder-Nurse ghosts, who used his name to finally finish spelling out their favorite word "MURDER." R for Rory.
I can't imagine that we won't see Rory again all season. As callous and cruel as Sid is, how could he possibly force the cast to stay in the house after an actual murder is discovered? Rory's murder will either somehow be covered up so that the rest of the cast doesn't realize he was killed, or he'll stick around as a ghost or something.
There is seriously NO WAY that Evan Peters, who is always a major cast member, will have effectively only appeared in about 25 minutes of screentime across two hours.
Finally, the Millers. The big news out of "Chapter 6," for them, was that Shelby and Matt had separated, after she'd cheated on him with the actor who played him, Dominic. This separation was the catalyst that led Shelby to agree to return to the house.
But I don't buy it at all. No matter how much you love someone, or no matter how many cameras are around the house to theoretically keep you "safe," why on earth would you return to the place where you narrowly escaped death?
That leads to my big theory for this second half of the season (which, to be totally transparent, I first spotted on the American Horror Story subreddit): The Millers are now in cahoots with the Butcher, having made an agreement with her as the Polks did in order to spare their lives. That would be the only reasonable explanation for why they'd agree to go back.
Luring the innocent actors to the house would provide ample blood for the Butcher to consecrate her land with – especially since the "Return to Roanoke" title cards have revealed that the show never actually aired in its intended form because all but one of the people in the house died.
ALL BUT ONE. This is gearing up to be the deadliest season of American Horror Story yet.
- We caught a glimpse of "real" Mason in the Roanoke house, as Lee walked down the hallway. He didn't seem real pleased to see her there, which leads me to believe we'll be finding out whether she killed him soon enough.
- I love that Chaz Bono, who played one of the "hillbilly" Polks in the re-enactment, reappeared to officiate Audrey and Rory's wedding. Great touch!
- Why is Matt acting like such a weirdo? Is Matt possessed? I think he's possessed.
- This was the first installment of American Horror Story ever directed by a woman, and that woman was Angela Bassett. High-five for Angela! (Edited to add: As a commenter pointed out, Jennifer Chambers Lynch actually directed American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 3 earlier this season, despite the fact that multiple media outlets are reporting that Bassett is the series' first female director.)
- I can't wait to see who will be playing all of the "real" versions of the various ghosts. If Jessica Lange shows up as either the Butcher or Scathach, I'll have a complete conniption.
- Already every single "real" ghost is scarier than the re-enactment version of the same. The Pig Man, the Ghost-Nurses, the creepy lady on the side of the road, burned Mason – all horrifying.
What did you think of "Chapter 6"? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts and watch American Horror Story online anytime here at TV Fanatic!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.