God fucking dammit, American Horror Story.
Yeah, that big twist that Ryan Murphy promised we would never see coming- I think we all pretty much did, but that doesn’t undermine the fact that episode six of My Roanoke Nightmare is by far the best the season has offered up so far. Manic, goofy, and engaging, Chapter Six is a welcome fucking relief from the uninspired plots and bad accents we had to put up with only a week ago.
Okay, so what actually was that twist? The episode opens with the reveal that My Roanoke Nightmare was actually the surprise smash hit of last season, and now producer Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson, showing his face at last) is following it up with a second season entitled Three Days in Hell where both the cast of MRN and the real-life Shelby, Matt and Lee return to the house over the blood moon. We’re launched into the story as Sidney puts the finishing touches on the show’s production, and bad omens begin to haunt the set.
I think one of the best parts of any season of AHS is getting to see who the actors are playing this time around; meeting Sarah Paulson’s pretentious and catty Audrey Tindall and Evan Peter’s fratty, flirty Rory Monahan as the actors who played the characters we’ve been watching for five episodes is an interesting conceit, and the actors all look like they’re having a ball pulling it off. Kathy Bates is magnificent as ever as she unwillingly reveals the Jared-Leto’s-Joker depths of method acting she went to in order to get into character as the Butcher; the shot of her howling malevolently after Cheyenne Jackson and his co-producer as they flee her house after delivering her a restraining order is just delicious stuff. Obviously, though, the star of this episode is Cheyenne Jackson himself, criminally underused in the previous season but here served with a script that allows him to revel in the gleeful callousness that he insists on bringing to his role as producer. He’s great, and an encouraging addition to a show that often gives the most interesting roles to it’s old-faithful cast.
And yeah, this episode is just an enormous amount of fun. Kathy Bates has a little collectable bobble-head figure of the Butcher sitting on her shelf; Sarah Paulson sneers “pathetic and fiery-just how I played her” after Lily Rabe winds up arguing with her now ex-husband Matt. This is the kind of camp I want to see from this show, not the kind that revolves around weird serial-killer dinner parties. It’s shallow (which I’ll get to later), but it’s crazy-entertaining, a front on which the show has been failing on for a while. As the (far grungier and more unsettling) ghosts begin to emerge from the shadows and the cameras start rolling, I’m happy to settle in for a gory trot through all the found footage genre (one of my personal favourites) has to offer. It’s not new, necessarily-both The Grudge and Grave Encounters franchises (not to mention Ghostwatch) have pulled off similair twists- but hey, I’ll allow it.
So, yes, this is a good episode. Really good, in fact (and directed with great panache by Angela Basset, for what it’s worth). But I’m the queen of pissing on everybody else’s good time, and that isn’t going to stop just because they made Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters kiss
just like I do when I mash my Tate and Lana dolls together when no-one else is around. And, while this episode is good…it doesn’t make up for the utter shite we’ve put up with for the last few weeks.
Yes, the plot holes and obvious stylistic choices made in the first five episodes were there to hint at the trashy origins of My Roanoke Nightmare, but that doesn’t make chapters one through five any better in retrospect. If I recommend this season to someone (and that’s a big if, as there have only really been two honestly great episodes so far), it’s going to be a bit awkward when I have to tell them to just sit tight through the entire first half of the season because the twist is pretty solid. I threw my hands in the air at the end of that episode with a disgruntled “Fine“, not because it wasn’t good but because the first five episodes are nothing but pretty bad set-up for this. I get it, I get it, I do- but just because this twist is moderately interesting and well-executed doesn’t mean that everything before it becomes so in retrospect. You know?
And while we’re looking at this season as a whole, let’s look at My Roanoke Nightmare in the context of the show. I don’t mind horror being nothing more than silly, goofy fun, I really don’t. In fact, that’s when I think it’s often at its best- see Nightmare on Elm Street and it’s ilk. But…do you remember when this show used to mean something? Yes, AHS has often been hamfisted with its themes, but even in the drecky mess that was Coven they had that brilliant scene where Jessica Lange brings a baby back from the dead (Oh God, I’m tearing up just thinking about that). Season one and two took on hefty themes- mental health, motherhood, guilt, religion, sexuality- whearas the show seems content to settle for just throwing in a pile of fun lines, overblown performances, and silly little horror homages. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but I wouldn’t mind if the show took on something a little more…meaningful? I’m not asking for Proust here, just for the show to remember it’s more thoughtful roots once in a while.
Wow, this review is pretty fucking negative for an episode I enjoyed as much as I did. Well, let’s tie it up with Fan Theory Corner to lighten the mood!
Lou’s Poorly Articulated Fan Theory Corner
- Matt will be the only person to survive the three days in the house, because he’s protected by the wood witch creature who really wants his dick/his baby/his soul (delete as appropriate).
- Finn Wittrock is turning up in this season; surely, SURELY, he’ll be playing Edward Mott (as he played Dandy Mott in season four). Taissa Farmiga will also return, and I reckon she’ll be stepping into Lady Gaga’s shoes.
- Evan Peters character isn’t really dead; he intimated that he wanted to leave the house early, and this gives Sidney a way to stir up some genuine panic amongst those who remain. Or maybe I just really want ginger Evan Peters to stick around, I’m not really sure.