American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare S06E02 “Chapter 2” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on FOX, Fridays, 10pm
Writer: Tim Minnear
Director: Michael Goi
Essential Plot Points:
- We’re straight back to it with a screaming scalped man and a suspiciously Gaga-esque looking witch behind him holding the top of his head. We see Kathy Bates reciting an incantation of sorts and driving a nail into… well… it sure looks like someone’s bottom.=
- Entirely reasonably, Shelby runs like hell. And then watches from a distance as a man is laid out across a fire and a bloody pig’s head put over his own. He screams, the sounds mingling with the pig vocal chords and OH THAT’S WHAT THAT WAS.
- Shelby’s spotted and she runs straight back to the road where Lee finds her and takes her to hospital. We see real world Matt explain Shelby was given drug tests and found to be clean, even though nothing was found when the police went looking for what she saw.
- She wakes up and tells Matt that they aren’t going to leave. Real world Shelby says, “If it was a fight they wanted, it was a fight they were going to get.”
- Real world Lee talks about understanding why her ex-husband Mason got full custody and we see Flora arrive at the house.
- Lee tries to bond with her but as the voiceover admits, it didn’t go well.
- They play for a while and Lee goes to get Flora a snack. When she comes back, she finds her daughter gone. She finds her talking to Priscilla, her “friend”…
- …who is at the bottom of the terrifying stairs to the basement where Lee was last week.
- Flora tells her that Priscilla is going to make her a bonnet to make it stop and, “she’s tired of all the blood”. When a vase breaks outside, Lee goes to look and finds… a bonnet.
- In bed at night, Matt and Shelby wake up as they hear someone outside. Shelby, bat in hand, goes out to war. Matt is much less up for it.
- Outside, they can hear people running in circles around them and strange guttural cries but nothing else. Shelby takes off deeper into the woods as Real World Shelby says she just wants it to stop.
- They’re separated and Matt sees a pig run past. Maybe that’s what was making the noise, right?
- Orrrrr… maybe it was the burning altar covered in pig viscera.
- Yeah… Maybe… it was… that.
- They call the police who, again, aren’t super enthusiastic. The sherriff agrees to give them protection and to bring in the mountain men who Matt and Shelby clashed with at the auction. So it’s all fine, right?
- Except for the phone call in the middle of the night. The one that Matt picks up and is from a woman saying, “Please… they’re HURTING ME!” and is coming on a disconnected phone.
- Oh and the nurses force-feeding an increasingly frightened old lady.
- WHO THEY THEN EXECUTE.
- Real World Matt talks about how desperately he wanted to be dreaming as the two nurses collapse in fits of laughter and spray paint a red M on the wall.
- Matt freaks ALL the way out.
- Lee wakes up to see Matt dragging the cop in from outside. They check it out and, of course, find nothing.
- Real World Matt talks about how he was worried he’d suffered some neurological damage in the attack. He admits he wished he had as that would explain things.
- Lee talks about how she could tell they were starting to get a reputation as kooks and the cops would be less quick to react next time.
- Mason arrives to pick up Flora but she’s playing hide and seek. They search the house and find her talking to someone in one of the upstairs passageways. She’s angry because they made Priscilla go away. Especially as she was trading her doll away so the ghosts didn’t kill them all.
- Mason takes Flora away and vows to never let her come back.
- Lee starts drinking again. When the others find her she’s almost passed out and there are an array of carving knives driven into the ceiling. Lee claims she didn’t do it.
- Matt puts his sister to bed and reassures her. But when Shelby calls him downstairs, the evil nurses arrive…
- Lee awakes with a start,briefly sees the nurses and then staggers up. She hears something and sees pig guts, nailed to the wall and squirming. She staggers away, horrified and when she looks again they’re gone…
- But the pig hybrid in the mirror isn’t. She screams, turns and…
- …Matt and Shelby see a little girl dressed in puritan clothes outside but when they go out to see who she is, she’s disappeared. However, they find a mysterious-looking cellar and explore.
- Real World Shelby says it was like someone was living down there. And someone was.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Dennis O’Hare! With a frankly magnificent beard!
- We see him rant about being shown terrible things by the malevolent force in the house and what seems to a brand on his neck. He rants, explaining that while he sounds crazy he’s an academic, AN AUTHOR!
- His name is Doctor Elias Cunningham, who arrived at the house two months ago to research his latest true crime book based on the crimes of Miranda and Bridget Jane, two nurses who were sisters and suspected of being behind the deaths of two elderly patients.
- Matt’s face when he says that is one of the best “Oh SHIT!” moments this show has ever had.
- Doctor Cunningham explains that the two nurses moved to the house and set up their own assisted living facility despite the previous residents of the house seemingly disappearing. He explains they specifically targeted families who just wanted to be rid of their ageing relatives. Worse still, they targeted people whose names spelt out their favourite word:
- The two sisters became convinced that every victim they killed would add a lifetime to them. When the police were finally called, the house was full of victims but the nurses were nowhere to be seen. The incomplete word MURDE was spray-painted on the wall.
- Cunningham explains that the word would constantly reappear on the wall however many times it was painted over. Matt stops the tape, peels the paper off the wall where he saw the vision and…
- or perhaps more accurately
- Back at the tape Cunningham is still talking. He’s convinced that something truly evil stopped them before they could complete the word. He explains that the house is evil, the landscape around it is evil and that he’s going back into the house, one last time to see what it is.
- It cuts to night vision as we see him make his way through the house. Cunningham challenges the evil in the house to show itself and hears a door unlock. They see someone appear behind him into he frame, there’s a crash and…
- …their front door opens. With a cleaver buried in it.
- A bloody one.
- They want out and they want their money back. The bank is having none of it. They’re trapped.
- Real world Matt says. “I didn’t think it could get any worse. Then it did.”
- And that’s when Lee shows up with Flora.
- Matt lays it out on the line for his sister: she’s committed a crime. There may be a yellow alert out on her right now.
- Shelby talks to Mason on the phone, reasoning with him and convincing him not to involve the police. She talks him down and Lee is as annoyed at Shelby saving her as she is at herself.
- Flora is playing in the house and sees “Prisiclla” gesture to her from outside.
- Lee goes to say goodbye to Flora before Mason comes to pick her up and… the front door is open.
- Flora’s gone.
- They search outside and Matt and Shelby hear screaming. They run to where Lee is and find Flora’s hoodie on top of an impossibly high tree with the little girl nowhere in sight.
Another good week for AHS, as the horror builds and we get some surprisingly early reveals. Tim Minear’s script does an excellent job of taking the usual elements of this kind of story and sprinting through them. It’s fun stuff too, and with one exception, it not only works but maybe gives us an early clue as to what’s really going on.
First off, the good stuff. Matt and Shelby are reacting in a manner which is, well… sensible. They want to stand and fight, then when they get some serious, undeniable paranormal experiences they are DONE. That’s a really nice change, seeing characters in a situation like this with actual IQ and the show locks them into the house in a really smart way. They’ve done everything right. They’re still in trouble. There’s no faster way to make you care about characters.
Then there’s the exposition. We are always there for Dennis O’Hare and Dennis O’Hare as Doctor Exposition? You are spoiling us, AHS. But are you spoiling yourself? We’ve got 10 episodes this season and two episodes in we’ve got a really good idea of what’s going on; a group of possibly dead puritans are using the house as a focus for sacrifices. They may have bred a pig/human hybrid and they’ve killed before. Whether they’re opposing the evil dead nurses or are simply working around them we don’t know yet. We also know Matt, Shelby and Lee get out alive and, given the fact Flora and Mason haven’t been interviewed in the “real world” yet we assume they don’t.
That’s a lot of information and as you’ll see below, it may be a careful piece of misdirection. There are certainly hints that what we’re seeing isn’t all we’re going to get, especially with the near subliminal shots of Wes Bentley and Lady Gaga we’ve had so far.
If so, and the rumours about some major twists coming are true, then Minear is the perfect person to carry out this misdirection. If it’s not true, then this is still a pleasingly fast sprint through what would normally take a few more episodes.
That being said there is a major problem: Lee and Flora. Lee’s actions make almost no sense – even given what we know about her. She’s a smart, switched-on law enforcement professional. Kidnapping her daughter is understandable given what she’s been through. Kidnapping her daughter to a haunted house is straight-up idiotic to a level that can’t be excused.
Flora’s the bigger issue though. The show presses the “scary little girl tells people they’re going to die” button a LOT in this episode and every time it shows up it works less well. It’s early days yet but the payoff to this plot either needs to be huge or terribly, tragically simple. The end seems to suggest we’re getting the latter and it certainly raises the stakes of the story. Whether that gamble pays off, we don’t know, yet. But we’re definitely coming back next week to find out.
- “That’s the day I fell off the wagon.” The best writing is like the best cooking; it uses the barest possible amount of ingredients perfectly. That line, and Bassett’s delivery of it, is perfect.
- Also the fact that Shelby is the one that talks Mason down and Lee is both grateful and HATES THAT. For a show that sometimes goes way, way broad that’s really smartly handled.
- DENNIS O’HARE IN THE HOUSE, EVERYONE! The MVP of last season isn’t just back, he’s playing an almost certainly dead scientist explaining the plot. HELL TO THE YES!
- So less than two days after she saw possibly cannibalistic mountain men invade her home, Lee brings her daughter there. Seriously? SERIOUSLY?
- “They’re going to kill us all.” It’s a great idea but it’s oversold. One line makes it scary. Repeated twice more makes it dull.
- Sure looks like the pig hybrid is actually a pig hybrid as well as a dude being burnt alive with a pig head on his head doesn’t it? Oh well, let’s see if they can make it work.
And The Random:
- The producers have made it very clear that something MASSIVE is coming. It’s also been mentioned that the season is almost three different stories; episodes one to six; seven to nine; and 10. There’s a lot of great fan theories going around about this. Our favourite is that a LOT more facts have been changed in the “re-enactment” than it first seems. After all, go back and watch season one “Murder House” and compare it to this. There are a LOT of similarities. And after last season’s brilliant tie-ins of previous years, the time is rife for a return to the show’s original, blood-stained, home.
Review by Alasdair Stuart