While not as shocking and exciting as the last installment by any stretch, American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 8 certainly served up a few incredible moments and kept the Roanoke nightmare chugging right along to its impending conclusion.
Much like American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 7, "Chapter 8" whittled down the survivors, as both Roanoke antagonists and Roanoke houseguests were slaughtered one by one.
This time around, we lost Shelby, Dominic, Mama Polk, and Jether Polk.
As we've seen on the last several installments, the survivors remained in several separate groups throughout the hour, reuniting only at the very end.
By far the most nerve-wracking and engrossing plot involved Lee's face-off with Mama Polk and, more prominently, with Jether.
I've gotta hand it to Lee – she's a survivor. Lucky for her, the Polks are literal connoisseurs of human meat. In a genius, subtle detail, the real Polks actually know how to harvest meat from humans. Unlike the reenactment Polks, who indiscriminately hacked off Elias' limbs, Mama and Jether were actually very careful to keep Lee in relatively good condition – even as they were removing "fillets" of her leg. Gag.
The Lee/Jether/Mama Polk scenes revealed several key points of information.
Most notably, Lee admitted to killing Mason. This was a huge reveal, but not all that surprising. She'd insisted so fervently that she hadn't killed him – in my mind, there was a solid 50-50 chance she had killed him, or that she'd been doing something equally sketchy/nefarious during the four hours she was mysteriously gone from the house.
Importantly, Lee's admission was ON CAMERA. In what was, in retrospect, a terrible move, Lee convinced Jether to record a goodbye message to Flora, in which Lee came clean about the murder in order to absolve her little girl of the uncertainty of not knowing. It made sense, at the time – Lee really did think she would die down there.
Of course, now that she's escaped the Polks/killed a few of them, the confession tape is a big problem. On top of worrying about escaping this incredibly effed up land with her life intact, now Lee is worried about being outed as a murderer.
Given that Lee and Audrey wound up escaping, I have a theory – they'll make it out alive and retrieve the tape, as per Lee's insistence on going back to the Polk farm against Audrey's wishes. But during the course of recovering the tape, Audrey will find out that Lee killed Mason.
At that point, Lee will kill Audrey (and Monet, if she's still alive), leaving Lee the sole survivor.
Now, of course, that seems like the obvious way the story will go. So, given this season, it likely won't actually go there. That's just one theory about how the season will pan out.
Lee's conversations with Mama and Jether also revealed how the Polks became cannibals and who the Piggy Man really was – sort of.
Lee: Please don't do this. People don't eat people!
Mama Polk: If you ain't Polk...
Jether: ...you ain't people.
Predictably, the Polks resorted to cannibalism during the Great Depression, after their last pig was stolen. They feasted on the thieves who feasted on their pig, continuing on the horrifying tradition in some kind of super disturbing take on Scarlett O'Hara's "I'll never go hungry again!" anthem. Even when cannibalism was no longer strictly necessary, it had just become the Polk way.
Also the Polk way – incest. Boy oh boy, did I miss that fun theme from American Horror Story Season 3. Not. Not at all.
The incest elements weren't addressed directly, but there were enough hints (overt and implicit) that it was all but confirmed. "The babies cuddle Mama"? Mama running her hand up Jether's thigh? Ick.
Jether also revealed the Piggy Man's origin. He was once Kincaid Polk, the most famous of the Polk ancestors, who, at some point in the 1800's while in Chicago at the World's Fair began killing people while dressed up with a pig head. According to Jether, Kincaid took his inspiration from seeing the Butcher roast a man alive after putting a pig head on him.
Though not explicit, this backstory did appear to decisively link this season's Piggy Man to the Piggy Man of American Horror Story Season 1. That Murder House Piggy Man was also said to have originated in Chicago in 1893 – which was the year of the World's Fair there. Murder House - Roanoke connection confirmed!
Finn Wittrock was unrecognizable as Jether and did a phenomenally disturbing job in the role. Ryan Murphy did preview that Wittrock would be playing his "most fucked up character of all time."
When first hearing that, I assumed it meant that Wittrock's character would be an ultimate evil. Now, it seems that Murphy meant "fucked up" in a more pitiable, pathetic kind of way. Indeed, poor reluctant-murderer Jether – who just wanted to be on TV, after all! – was pretty tragic, right up until he was killed by Lee. Although, of course, still a cannibal and would-be murderer.
He also got this gem of a line, which is basically the slogan of American Horror Story: Roanoke.
We're part of the United States! We get TV!Jethro
Lee got to be a total badass, in spite of her status as a murderess. She smartly tricked Jether, seducing him in order to escape, rescuing Audrey after Monet bounced without her.
In an interesting parallel, Audrey based Mama Polk's head in viciously, much like Sheby bashed Matt's head in, before Audrey and Lee made their way back to the house.
Unfortunately, nothing good was awaiting them there. Adina Porter gave a stellar, season-best performance as Lee discovered Matt's brutalized body in the basement. Audrey was hilariously daft and self-centered, as per usual, in her reactions to discovering Shelby's dead body in the bathroom.
Poor Shelby! I feel like a part of me has died with her! Oh my god.Audrey
And bonus points:
Shelby would never kill herself! She's way too self-centered to commit suicide. I played her for six months! I know her better than I know myself.Audrey
Ah, Audrey. She's truly the gift that keeps on giving, and easily one of the funniest characters this show has ever had.
On the note of Shelby's suicide – unlike Shelby's murder of Matt, which was totally out of left field in the best way – I did see her death coming in that particular manner. All Shelby had, at that point, was Matt.
With Matt gone, and apparently no hope of escape, it was realistic that she'd decide to get it over with and go out on her own terms, at the very least. I'm not saying it was a good or smart choice, but it made sense for her character. I don't think any AHS fans were particularly sad to see her go, either.
Far more disturbingly, Lee straight-up sacrificed Dominic, allowing him to be butchered by the Piggy Man after she locked him out of the bedroom because she was sure he'd caused the deaths of Matt and Shelby.
So, my theory last time was totally wrong – Dominic didn't secretly kill Matt and frame Shelby. Instead, his inability to prove his innocence led to his shocking death. That moment also led me to believe that they're setting Lee up to be both the final survivor and the one who will kill whoever's left at the end herself – Lee is a BAMF, but not exactly a good person by any stretch.
On the way out of the house, Lee and Audrey bumped into a random dude in a Piggy Man costume, who Audrey quickly recognized as Dylan. I can't be 100% certain, but it appeared that Dylan was played by Wes Bentley, who played Ambrose White (the Butcher's flip-floppy son) during the re-enactments.
Dylan's sudden appearance begs so many question. What is he doing in the pig outfit? Why is he just showing up now? How did he get past all of the Roanoke ghosts? Where even are the Roanoke ghosts? Taking a coffee break? It seems most likely that Sid paid Dylan to spook the houseguests while dressed as the Piggy Man, but we'll just need to wait and see what he says next time.
- There are really no heroes this season. Everyone falls somewhere on the scale between good and evil, but importantly, literally every major character has done something terrible. Monet, I think, is the closest we've got to an innocent. It was an interesting and particular storytelling choice to do this.
- Where did Scathach go? Isn't she supposed to be "the bitch with the real power"? Is she just off in the woods, mourning Matt? Giving birth to Matt's demon baby? Taking a bath? All of the above?
- This Mama Polk was creepy, but I actually would have preferred to see Frances Conroy as real Mama Polk. Conroy is just wonderful.
- Was that Taissa Farmiga in the preview for American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 9, as the female backpacker in the woods? That appeared to be a female with Farmiga's approximate build and hair color/length. I hope it's her!
- It's interesting that the killed Roanoke houseguests don't reappear immediately as ghosts a la Murder House. I guess they have some sort of downtime between being killed and reappearing in the house? Unless it's only direct victims of the Butcher that get to haunt the house / be her minions for eternity. If that's the case, we should at least have seen Agnes as a ghost.
- That freakin' Chen family – still the post nightmare inducing visual that this season has introduced.
- Monet is MIA – is she alive or dead? I'm guessing she'll pop up, alive, at some inopportune moment.
What did you think of "Chapter 8"? Leave me a comment below and watch American Horror Story online here at TV Fanatic anytime!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.