American Horror Story: Roanoke finally revealed its big, midseason twist, and as promised, it changed everything. For the better. (We think.) While this season’s turn of events wasn’t completely shocking — especially to the astute viewers who predicted this type of twist after “Chapter One” — it was satisfying. More importantly, it felt earned.
In the opening scene of the episode, it’s revealed that My Roanoke Nightmare (a.k.a. the first five episodes of the season) was a huge hit, scoring an average of 23 million viewers per episode and even beating The Walking Dead and Empire in the ratings. In an effort to capitalize on the show’s success, smarmy producer Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson) pitched the network a follow-up series: Return to Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell. Think Big Brother meets Roanoke Nightmare, where the real-life Shelby (Lily Rabe), Matt (André Holland), and Lee (Adina Porter), and the actors who portrayed them in the show, are forced to live together in the mansion during the Blood Moon.
What could possibly go wrong?
Apparently, everything went wrong, as it’s revealed in a title card that “over the next three days during the Blood Moon, every participant in this series died under mysterious circumstances — except for one.” (If co-creator Ryan Murphy’s favorite Final Girl, Sarah Paulson, is the last woman standing, I will scream.) Furthermore, Sidney’s Return to Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell never happened; what we’re watching is the assembled found footage from the doomed production.
Again, nothing about this reveal is surprising, but as a viewer, it’s incredibly exciting. AHS has never ventured into the found-footage genre before, so this makes for a stylistically compelling twist. Not to mention, the scares are even more terrifying in “real life.” If The Blair Witch Project taught us anything, it’s that creepy sound effects, shaky cameras, and running through the woods screaming go a long way.
It’s also fun to see AHS vets Paulson, Evan Peters, and Kathy Bates play entirely different characters. Paulson (fake Shelby) is actually a British actress named Audrey Tindall, who’s IRL married (!) to dimwitted actor Rory Monahan (Peters). For the first time in AHS’s six-season run, we finally get the Paulson-Evans make-out sesh we deserve. Sadly, that was quickly followed by Rory’s gruesome death at the hands of the real murder nurses, thus completing their M-U-R-D-E-R wall. (Murphy giveth and Murphy taketh away.)
Meanwhile, Bates is back to her Misery roots as Agnes Mary Winstead, an actress most known for her role as The Butcher in My Roanoke Nightmare. Thanks to the show, she became a huge star but then had a massive public breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It seems like she was never able to let The Butcher go.
Honestly, it’s a shame that most of these characters will die, but at least we’re finally watching something with real stakes. As Roanoke races to the finish line, the final four episodes of the season will unravel what happened to these ill-fated participants, while exposing what’s real and what’s fake about Matt and Shelby’s original story. Is Peters really gone for good, or was that one of the production’s gimmicks? Is Agnes still tormenting Audrey as The Butcher, or does The Butcher really exist? Did Lee really murder her husband? Who’s the last one standing and, more importantly, why?
Like everything else in the AHS-verse, we’ll have to wait and see — but at least this time, the answers will be final. We hope.