Ryan Murphy promised that this season of “American Horror Story” would be like no other, in both narrative style and surprises. So far, he’s kept to that promise. This season, “American Horror Story: Roanoke” has been told from the perspective of a paranormal style documentary, flipping back and forth between present tense and dramatic reenactments. It’s also been a faster-paced season, probably with good reason. Murphy also promised that episode six of this season would completely change the game and take the story in a direction of which no could guess. It’s very possible that he’ll live up to that promise as well.
One minor complaint I’ve had of the new format is that it’s obvious that the main players of the family get out alive, as they’re giving the interviews for the show. The reenactments try to maintain the tension by instead asking the question “But how did they get out of this?” Let’s take a look at “Chapter Five” and how it connects some threads but cuts others.
****SPOILERS AHEAD FOR “AHS ROANOKE – CHAPTER FIVE*****
“Chapter Five” opens with the triumphant return of Evan Peters and the origin of the infamous house on Sappony Road, as told by real life (as in really real life) historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. The house was built by Edward Philippe Mott, in order to get away from people, and house the massive art collection he obsessed over. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it before. Mott is the ancestor of Gloria and Dandy Mott from season four’s “Freak Show”.
When Edward succumbs to the forces in the woods, he’s covered by a blanket, in which he has to rip through and crawl out of the bed, a great visual that is reminiscent of a scene from season five. Afterward we learn that the house and land were kept in a trust until the family line ended in disgrace in South Florida in 1952, another reference to season four. I love it when things are tied together in this show! We also get a look at the cellar, which eventually becomes Elias’ bunker much, much later.
We also get a sense that things may be coming to a head as we pick up with Matt, Flora, and Shelby where we left them last week, with the village mob outside of their window. Their escape scene is like something out of The Grudge with a creepy kid spirit dragging Flora around. Edward Mott comes to the rescue a second time, helping them escape the woods, though they end up right at the feet of the Polks.
Like a scene out of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, we discover the nature of the Polks, as they’ve been keeping poor Elias alive, at least until Momma Polk discovers he tastes horrible. Speaking of Momma Polk, it was fantastic to see Frances Conroy return. Interestingly enough, she played Gloria Mott in season four. It’s already been mentioned that the Mott family was tainted with inbreeding, so is it possible that the Polks are an offshoot? That’s probably a stretch, but imagine what if?
We get a few intense visuals in the middle of the episode, with a smashed face, blown up head, and a pulverized ankle that would make Annie Wilkes proud.
As the Millers faced The Butcher for the last time, Ambrose’s betrayal kind of came out of nowhere. While he initially disagreed with her in Roanoke, there was little evidence that this annual “consecration” was against his moral fiber enough to turn on his mother. Speaking of betrayal, it appeared that local law enforcement must know about the land’s original inhabitants as much as the Polks, or else the cop looked at the mob and fires and said “NOPE” before leaving Lee in the dust.
As the Millers found their way to a hotel, much like the ending of POLTERGEIST, we come to realize that this could very well be the end of the story for the family. Since Ryan Murphy was touting a change in chapter six, some had wondered if we were heading in a new direction from the Millers. In another change in the narrative for the show, it appears one full act has ended, and another will begin.
In the very short teaser for next week’s episode, we finally get to see the “My Roanoke Nightmare” interviewer Cheyenne Jackson in front of the camera as it appears the interview team is about to spring on someone. Jackson’s character instructs the crew, “The camera never stops, no matter what anybody says, even I tell you to stop you keep rolling, got it?”
How do you feel about how the first act of this season played out? How do you feel about the format the show has taken this far? And where do you think the next act is taking us? What rabbit hole is the paranormal show taking us down next? Tell us your theories on where we’re headed in this truly different season.
Found out next week as “American Horror Story: Roanoke” airs on FX Wednesday at 10pm.
Jason Stollery has horror films encoded into his DNA, going so far as to name his sons Michael and Fred. He can be found on Twitter @smegghed, and on his genre film blog and podcast at filmguild.net.