American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare S06E03 “Chapter 3” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- And we’re back. Lee talks about the volunteers looking for her daughter and how bitter she is that the police didn’t seem to care. More importantly, she senses that something is wrong with the local police,
- We see the real Lee explain that you have 72 hours to find a missing child or the chances of her being found at all drop to 30%.
- We see Lee, Shelby and Matt all searching and helping the volunteers. Real Shelby and Real Matt talk about how terrified they were and how uneasy the forest made them feel.
- We see Lee stumble on something horrific and call for the others. They find one of Flora’s dolls, dismembered and with the head and limbs replaced with pig parts.
- They discover another dismembered pig/doll hybrid near an abandoned farm and go inside. The place is rancid and filled with decayed food and buckets of urine. They hear noises from the nearby farm and investigate, discovering even more dismembered pigs.
- In the barn, they find two feral children suckling at the teats of a chained-up sow.
- The police are called and clean the boys up, taking them into care. The boys were members of the Polk family, the hillbillies that Matt and Shelby clashed with. The others fled, abandoning their child and taking Flora with them.
- The boys are interviewed but know nothing, only able to shriek a single word: “CROATOAN!” Real Matt talks about how later they’d realise the word was a warning as we see him persuade Mason not to go in and talk to them.
- The search continues through the night. The 72 hour mark is reached and Flora is still missing, Real Lee breaks down, remembering how they had to accept the real possibility they were looking for a body.
- Real Matt talks about how they needed a break and the four of them go back to the house. Mason, enraged, accuses Lee of kidnapping Flora. When Lee claims she’s innocent Mason retorts that she already kidnapped Flora once. They argue, Mason shoves Lee over and storms out. The others go to bed.
- Later that night, Matt’s phone goes off. The cops found a body.
- A full-grown body. Burnt. And tied to a wooden pentacle.
- It’s Mason.
- Matt’s cameras trigger. They show Lee leaving the house just after Mason and coming back four hours later. It does not look good.
- Shelby goes there; pointing out that Lee had motive and opportunity at the very least. Lee confronts her. Matt suggests they leave and suddenly, a small white-haired man appears behind them saying he’s been “called”.
- He explains that he’s a medium who was called by spirits to help find Flora. They’re dubious until he names a case that he worked with an FBI agent and they verify it. The odd little man proceeds to wander the house, taking psychic reading by bouncing his cane off the floor. He stops on the upper landing, hearing children’s laughter, and heads for the cupboard Flora hid in just before she disappeared. They open the cupboard and find… another bonnet. He picks it up and says:
“Flora is not dead. And she wasn’t taken by the living.”
- He explains that she was taken by Priscilla, a child who died in the late 1500s. Real Shelby gives us his name, Cricket. He asks permission to hold a séance and while Matt is sceptical, Shelby is fully on board.
- The séance begins and Cricket asks Priscilla to come forth. Someone else does instead, a “horrible woman”. Cricket demands she show her face and we hear Kathy Bates introduce herself as Butcher. She steps forward out of the shadows and Cricket faces her down.
- She cuts the candle in the middle of the table in two.
- Real Lee and Real Matt freak OUT.
- The Butcher explains that the house belongs to her and she will stop at nothing to defend. She says she hasn’t taken Flora and Priscilla has her. Cricket gets a very very odd look on his face and tells the Butcher that she is the trespasser. The windows shatter and Cricket begins screaming, “CROATOAN!” over and over. The same word the feral boys were yelling.
- Cricket tells everyone that he can take them to Flora.
- For $25,000.
- Matt cooks off, disgusted at how Cricket is taking advantage of his sister. Cricket pleads with them to let him help (and to be paid).
- And then Lee pulls her gun on him.
- Matt puts himself between his sister and the psychic and talks her down. Matt throws him out and Cricket storms out, whispering something to Lee as he goes. Something that terrifies her.
- We see Real Shelby asked what he’d said to Lee and she says she can’t tell.
- Real Lee is asked what he whispered to her and she lies and she lies and says she can’t remember. Then, the interviewer asks if he’d said something about her first daughter, Emily.
- We hear what Cricket said: “Emily says hello. She wonders why you quit looking for her all those years ago.”
- Lee freaks out, wants the cameras off and isn’t satisfied that Emily came up as a result of a background check.
- We see her get a drink of water and collect herself. She explains she was 17 when she had Emily. She was four when she was taken; Lee had left her in the car while running errands. Lee never saw her again but is painfully aware of what it looks like.
- We see her visit Cricket the next day. She demands to know where Priscilla is. Cricket explains that the only way to save Flora is to find out as much as possible about “the enemy”.
- We get the secret origin of The Butcher: Thomasin White, the wife of the governor of the Roanoke colony. He left his wife in church in his stead and we see her feed people increasingly thin gruel and minimal rations.
- Lee talks about how the Roanoke colony vanished; 116 settlers disappeared without a trace.
- We see Lee point out that Roanoke is nowhere near the house but Cricket tells her the truth; that the Butcher was put in irons and banished by those desperate for food. Her son pleads for her life but the new leaders of the colony banish her.
- They force her son to padlock a spiked iron cowl on her head and, at cleaver-point, he has no choice but to obey.
- The Butcher was lost in the forest, shackled and dying of hunger and thirst. We see her half passed out, pursued by something monstrous. She repents, surrendering her soul to God. At the last second, someone hacks the beast attacking her apart and it’s… Gaga!
- And she’s holding the still-beating heart of the beast. The shackle falls, Gaga hisses, “EAT… SURRENDER THY SOUL TO ME!” and… well… we’re pretty sure someone other than God heard the Butcher’s prayers. She consumes the heart and Gaga smiles…
- Back at the colony, the Butcher hands out some swift cleaver-y vengeance. She tells her son, Ambrose never to defy her again. The Butcher moved the colony inland and that’s why she and the family are on a collision course. They’re on the land she claimed as her own, centuries before.
- Cricket takes the family out into the forest and tries to summon Priscilla. Instead, the Butcher and some of the other colonists arrive. Cricket tries to negotiate with her; give Flora back and they’ll leave. Lee offers to burn the house down and when Shelby argues she tells him that Matt agreed to burn the house down.
- And that’s when they notice Matt is missing.
- We see real Matt explain he has no memory of slipping away or doing what Shelby saw him doing. We see Shelby find another burned pig corpse, a pair of hillbillies masturbating and, nearby, Matt having sex with Lady Gaga.
- We see Real Lee explain Shelby went back to the house alone and Matt arrived with no memory of what happened. He tries to explain he has no memory of what happened but she won’t believe him. Lee is arrested and when Matt asks Shelby what she did, she sneers, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
More menace, more gore, more characters and a ton of exposition this week as AHS season six continues to accelerate. It’s all good to great too, and the show benefits hugely from this total change in subject, characters and pacing. Don’t get us wrong, we loved Hotel, but this is a very different beast and, judging by this week, not one you want to lose eye contact with.
More good stuff from the core trio this week but it’s Angela Bassett and Adina Porter as both versions of Lee that hold your attention. Bassett’s “in-show” version is driven and just a little unhinged. When she pulls a gun on Cricket it feels very, very dangerous. Miller’s is calmer but there’s more of a sense of bluster to her. Lee really does seem to be hiding something and the moment where you find out about her first daughter is chilling. Especially given how she finds out herself.
Elsewhere in the cast, Kathy Bates has good fun as the monotone, clearly blisteringly angry, Butcher. Leslie Jordan steals the show though as Cricket. There’s just enough folksy charm for you to buy into him but real hints that Cricket may be much older, and odder than we think.
And that brings us to Gaga. Covered in muck and blood, barely on screen and utterly bloody terrifying. This is not her immaculate character from last season and there’s much more to her than we’re being shown. Our theory? She’s Croatoan and Cricket is something else, equally old, sent to fight her.
That’s all great and the flashback is super fun but the episode isn’t without its problems. The accents on the colonists are, Bates aside, pretty lousy but… is that the point? Is it a deliberately bad re-enactment? How did the show know about Emily? What’s a fault now may be an asset later.
Right now we can’t say. What we can say is that this is a season with no time to waste and not a moment of wasted screen time. This episode it gets a little too visceral for our tastes, but My Roanoke Nightmare is continuing to be one of the strongest seasons of the show to date.
- The pacing – the show is breaking into a sprint now and it’s fantastic. We’ve got a ton of backstory, know what the stakes are, Matt and Shelby are fractured and Lee’s in deep trouble. AND IT’S ONLY EPISODE THREE. This is clearly not a season which is hanging around and it’s so much fun as a result.
- Cricket! The tiny quite possibly evil or not human medium is a delight. Folksy and charming and with incredible natural gravitas he shakes the dynamic up at the exact point it’s needed.
- Thomasin! Kathy Bates does good minimalist glower and here she gets to do that a whole lot.
- Gaga! The scene where Thomasin repents is chilling because of Gaga and she’s barely in it. What is she?! Is she Croatoan? What power does she have over the settlers? WHAT IS SHE?! Also top marks to the show for very deliberately casting Gaga in a role as far removed from her turn last season as possible.
- It’s picky but we had no earthly clue what the feral kids were yelling.
- Speaking of them, they seem a touch throwaway – the show’s equivalent of a jump scare. Hopefully something else dealing with them is on the way.
- The accents! Dear God the ACCENTS! Kathy Bates’s is surprisingly good but bless him, Wes Bentley’s is awful.
- We know it’s a horror show and anything can happen and all that but if we don’t see possibly dead/possibly mutated evil hillbillies masturbating while two people have sex again this season, we’ll still have seen that one time too many.
And The Random:
- We say goodbye (or do we? Anything is possible here) to Mason this week. That’s a shame as it means no more Charles Malik Whitfield on the show. Whitfield has a string of appearances to his name but odds are you’ve seen him as Agent Henriksen in Supernatural or as Dennis in Far Cry 3.
- Leslie Jordan makes his My Roanoke Nightmare debut this week as the wonderfully odd Cricket. He’s an actor and playwright whose first appearance, brilliantly, was in The Fall Guy. He’s best known for his recurring role as Beverly Leslie in Will & Grace.
- John Pyper-Ferguson, who gets very cleaved as Mr Cage this week, is a frequent genre flyer. He’s been in Highlander, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X-Files and multiple flavours of CSI. We know and love him best as Tomas Vergis in Caprica and Tex in The Last Ship.
- Jennifer Lynch, this week’s director, wrote The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer for Twin Peaks. She’s the director of several movies including Hiss, Boxing Helena and Surveillance as well as episodes of shows like Finding Carter, Psych, Quantico, Teen Wolf, The Walking Dead, The Last Ship and Wayward Pines. She’s also David Lynch’s daughter.
- James Wong! We are always pleased to see James Wong! The X-Files, Millennium and Final Destination alumni’s work is always fun and frequently brilliant.
- Our current favourite fan theory is this (minor language warning; it is Reddit). There’s some evidence to back it up too; the similarities to Murder House in episode one, the nurses evoking season two’s Asylum in episode two and the iron mask that Thomasin is put in this week evoking season three’s Coven. So next week if we get some circus freaks and the week after some vampires? We’ll know something big really is coming in episode six…
Review by Alasdair Stuart