American Horror Story has never been good at endings. Usually, they’ve got far too bloody much else going on to come up with a finale that actually satisfies and ties up all threads present in the season; even season two (which, fight me, is the best one) struggles to stick the landing after a marginally cohesive series. I guess, then, that’s where My Roanoke Nightmare differs from it’s predecessors- this week’s episode, the last of the season, is actually pretty good.
Well, of course it helps that they’re not trying to tie up too many threads and characters in the finale- most of the cast are long dead at this point, leaving only Adina Porter’s tale to bring to a close. One of the great strengths of this season has been Adina Porter’s Lee- she took a season that started out the story of Shelby and Matt, and turned it into a twisted, moving tale of one woman’s fight to keep her daughter alive-and beyond that, in her life.
After the end of Three Days in Hell, Lee is tried twice and found not guilty of he murder of the rest of the cast of the show as well as that of her husband- and, of course, this attracts the attention of AHS’s foremost journalist, Lana Winters. Sarah Paulson picks up her finest role (again, fight me) to interview Lee, and, for once, bringing back a character from a previous season doesn’t feel like blatant, boring pandering- Lee and Lana’s stories run parallel to each other, Lana having murdered her son to protect herself while Lee offers herself for death to let her daughter live. They’re both great characters, played by superb actresses, and slot neatly into this messy last episode.
Is it perfect? No, far from it, obviously- we jolt between the courtroom, a live TV interview, another found footage ghosthunting sequence, and finally a tense set of scenes as Lee tries to convince her daughter to leave the Roanoke house for good. It’s messy, but, like AHS at it’s peak, it’s held together by a scintillating lead performance from Adina Porter- there aren’t enough good things to say about her, honestly, and I will be genuinely shocked, considering Kathy Bates got an Emmy for playing a sentient head, if Adina Porter doesn’t scoop an armful of awards for this. AHS is at it’s most moving and strident when it writes stories about motherhood (I have an essay in the works about this that I’ll have out next week, if you’re interested), and Roanoke made a wise choice to close out on this historically strong aspect of the show.
So, what of the season of a whole? Well, I’ll give it this: it proved that AHS isn’t afraid of trying something a bit new. This is the first season not to revolve around a haughty femme fatale, for instance, and the messing around with the stories within stories within stories was interesting even when it really, really didn’t fucking work. It’s also the most cohesive the show’s been in- well, perhaps ever, now I think about it, with each story wrapping up relatively nicely and staying well-focused in their five-episode blocks. They ended much stronger than they started, and make no mistake that I’m not forgetting how shitty the first half of the season really was. But by relying on new and/or underused actors (Andre Holland, Lily Rabe, Adina Porter), and forcing themselves out of their usual sexy-bloody-sexy horror mould, they came up with something…different. And for a show that deals with a genre as sprawling and brilliant as horror, that’s the least I can ask for.
Thanks for following me along on this adventure- I think I picked the best season I could have to recap, and I had loads of fun doing it. I hope you enjoyed it too! You can read all the recaps under the AHS recaps tag, and find more of my TV reviews in the blog directory if you just can’t get enough.