This is the one we’ve been waiting for, folks! The big ‘twist’ is here. Last week’s episode seemingly wrapped up My Roanoke Nightmare and this week revealed we’re onto the sequel: Return to Roanoke: Three Days In Hell.
The re-enacted first half of the series was a self-contained miniseries that blew up, made a ton of money and won awards for its actors, and now the producers are ready to make a bigger, better sequel: the real life Matt, Shelby and Lee are headed back to the farmhouse with the actors who played their counterparts in the series to stay in the house during the Blood Moon. The producers are rigging the house with traps and scares and lots of booze, hoping they all freak out, fight and finally expose the truth about Mason’s murder, an “unresolved plot point” from the first season that’s heavy on everyone’s minds. Sign me up.
Let’s meet the new-ish cast of characters: the head producer Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson) is the brains behind the operation. He’s calculating and manipulative and will do anything for a good show. His assistant is Diana, who has more trepidation and moral obligation and will probably never make it in Hollywood. The real life Shelby and Matt have split up after Shelby had an affair with Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr.), the actor who played Matt on the show. Scandalous! She’s only agreeing to return to the haunted farmhouse where she was almost murdered by cannibals and ghosts because she wants a chance at reconciliation, and makes Sidney promise Dominic won’t be there. Dominic will obviously be there.
Agnes (Kathy Bates) played the Butcher. She’s overeager, called it the role of a lifetime, and thinks the Butcher wasn’t a villain. She also had public, violent episodes where she dressed at the Butcher and attacked people on Hollywood Boulevard and was institutionalized. She’s excited to be on the show, but Sidney tells her she’s dangerous and they have a restraining order. She starts screaming in character as the Butcher as Sidney leaves. She might still show up at the house, which Sidney honestly would love.
Audrey (Sarah Paulson) played Shelby, and she’s British! She is also married to Rory (Evan Peters), who played the ghost of Mott. They met and fell in love on set and married quickly after. They’re also the first to arrive and move back into the farmhouse, shortly after members of the production crew died mysteriously during the set-up (Sidney insisted they keep going after all) and Diana quit (and then drove away and was killed by the Roanoke ghosts in her car).
The next biggest change to this season is that we’ve switched formats from re-enactment to found footage. Sidney has cameras installed in every room of the house, has equipped everyone with camera phones to record their POV and even has a crew constantly filming him and the crew as they set up.
Everyone slowly trickles into the house, with the actors all immediately bonding and making fun of their real life counterparts, who they think are crazy and invented all the ghost nonsense. The real versions aren’t much better off: Shelby and Matt are at odds, Lee still hates Shelby for cheating on Matt and accusing her of murder (which ruined her life, and now she’s here to clear her name). Lee’s actor, Monet (Angela Basset) is now an alcoholic, which she blames on channelling Lee, while Lee blames Money for portraying her as a murderer. Basically, no one here is getting along and Matt would rather sleep in the creepy basement than deal with the rest of them.
Night sets in and everyone splits up. Audrey and Rory head outside for a quick romp in the hot tub while Shelby tries to reason with Matt in the basement. Audrey heads back upstairs for a shower and there’s a knock at the door. It’s Dominic, much to the surprise of the (honestly naive) Shelby and Matt. Matt takes a swing and the two start fighting, only to be broken up by Rory and Lee.
Now that everyone is here, we get another info card: everyone involved in the show dies mysteriously over the next three days, except one. The show never airs and this is the pieced together footage of what happens.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Audrey hears a door open and sees a silhouette of the Pig Man in her bathroom. She starts screaming and runs down the stairs, saying Sidney sent in an actor to scare her (a reasonable, rational thought!). Rory runs up to find the assailant while Dominic consoles Audrey. Everyone moves to the kitchen to calm down and regain order.
Rory can’t find anyone in the bathroom, so he moves to the bedroom and starts going through the closet and looking under the bed. He is ambushed by the ghosts of the two nurses who stab him repeatedly, and he slumps down to his death. Matt is in the living room with his camera, recording the blood red dripping word MURDER in the hall. “R is for Rory.”
All in all, I am here for this season. The first half traded camp for genuine scares and played the horror straight while still utilizing a style and a concept. This half is switching formats but still keeping the scares real (the Pig Man appeared in the car behind Diana was great) and upping the body count. We’ve got three kills in one episode, some of which violent (the crew member gets sliced up by a rogue chainsaw) and the promise of many, many more to come. There’s still an element of mystery (is the Butcher real? Has she possessed Agnes? And who is going to be the sole survivor?) and also an element of fun: watching the actors switch from their super serious re-enactment roles to the outlandish ‘counterparts’ is fantastic. Sarah Paulson goes from the drab and sometimes annoying Shelby (leaving that thankless part for Lily Rabe) to the try-hard, pretentious Audrey, constantly making out with the loud and obnoxious Rory. Cuba didn’t have much to do this week as Dominic, but he’s already been set up as the ‘bad boy’ actor which I am sure will be a riot.
It took six seasons, but American Horror Story has finally figured out how to be scary, fun, engaging and straight up good. This might be my favourite season yet. Long live Roanoke!