American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare S06E05 “Chapter 5” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Previously! On Neighbours From Hell!
- Oh hey a historian! Doris Kearns Goodwin fills us in on Big Shaker Mansion, built by the original Mott and giving Matt and Shelby’s house a name.
- FLASHBACK!!! We get an auction at the house and EVAN PETERS IS IN THE HOUSE Y’ALL! He (and his magnificent British accent) as Edward Mott walks into the house, buys everything and then throws everyone else out. Doctor Goodwin talks to us about his love for art and how he suffered from social anxiety, wanting nothing more than to be alone.
- We see an accident befall a worker, his leg shattered. Something screams in the woods.
- We see another worker carried out on a stretcher after seeing a young girl.
- We see Mott order his staff around and then kiss Guinness, his right-hand man, and lover, passionately.
- Later, they’re in the bath when Mott toys with the idea of throwing the other workers out for how they judge him. They make love and then…
- He wakes up in the middle of the night at the sound of breaking glass. When he gets downstairs he recoils in horror on finding every single one of his paintings, which he admitted he was in love with, ruined.
- He drags the entire staff in and demands to know which one destroyed his collection. A terrified maid claims she saw an old woman and a young man in the woods just before he screamed. He refuses to believe them, strips his staff naked and locks them in the root cellar until they confess.
- His lover is disgusted by this and Edward screams at the man, vowing that blood will spill if he sees him again that night.
- It is, of course, the Blood Moon.
- We see Edward in bed and the pilgrims suddenly appear and drop the bedsheet on him. He screams, tears free of it and sees people outside. He goes to investigate.
- HEY. DIDN’T THAT HAPPEN IN HOTEL? THEORY CONFIRMED!
- He’s dragged out to a sacrificial bonfire where the Butcher, Ambrose and their fellow terrible accent enthusiasts run him through and use his blood to consecrate the land. Then he’s burnt alive while still impaled.
- Doctor Kearns reveals that Guinnesss, Edward’s lover, rode away and was later tried for the murder of his master. No one ever told anyone about the servants in the root cellar and they starved to death down there.
- Doctor Kearns signs off this remarkably jaunty info dump by joking about how much easier her job would be if the dead did come to life and…
- We’re back with Matt and Shelby.
- We see a transcript of their 911 call and watch as the Butcher, Ambrose and his terrible accent call them out. Matt sends Shelby out to the truck and reassures Flora and is generally awesome and together. Shelby hugs Flora, tells her not to let go and the three make their run.
- Almost straight away, Flora is grabbed by a very Sadako-esque version of the Chen’s daughter, who drags her away. Matt and Shelby race after them. Downstairs, the pilgrims set the cars on fire and Matt and Shelby find Flora alone, and mostly unharmed.
- Then Piggy Man appears.
- And the three dead hunters.
- And the door is chopped down by Ambrose.
- Real Matt talks about how the Butcher used the fear of her victims to weaponised them and in the re-enactment they flee into the cellar. Where Edward Mott appears and offers to help! Yay! Maybe! He shows them one of the passages he built to allow his art to be rescued and leads them out. He explains that he’s rescuing them because he wants to be alone and can’t suffer three more souls trapped in a house that should have been his refuge.
- Finally, he leads them out into the woods and disappears. They start walking and Real Shelby mentions that she should have known that in that forest they were nothing more than prey. Flora sees lights and almost immediately Matt and Shelby are knocked out and bags put on their heads.
- They are taken back to the farm where they found the feral children. The rednecks have saved Elias but at the expense of an arm and a leg. Elias pleads with them to run and to kill him, explaining that the rednecks’ “Mama” took his leg.
- We see Real Shelby, weeping with terror.
- Mama arrives and offers them fresh jerky. It is very clearly Elias jerky. Mama tastes the jerky, spits it out and rants about it being rancid meat. She tells them there’s no reason to keep Elias alive and one of her children beats him to death with a hammer. Mama explains that the family keep the house safe for the Butcher and help with sacrifices in years when the pickings are thin.
- Shelby and Matt beg for their lives but Mama tells them she has a deal with the Butcher and she’s going to give them back to her.
- And we’re back with Lee. Who tells us about how Shelby threw her to the wolves with the cops. We see her being interviewed and pleading with the cops to let her go. She’s finally released and finds 20 messages from Matt, all increasingly frantic.
- We see Matt, Shelby and Flora being driven at gunpoint to the Butcher. We see Real Shelby talk about how she was terrified the gun would go off and Real Matt talk about how all he needed was a moment.
- He gets it. He wrestles the gun away from one of the rednecks, killing the driver in the process, and they run off into the woods to hide.
- Lee tries to ring them and inadvertently alerts the other redneck.
- We see Real Lee explain that she knew it was bad if Matt had ignored her call and beg for a ride from one of the police officers.
- We see Mama hold Matt and Shelby and rant about how she should kill them. Mama takes a sledgehammer to Shelby’s ankle to ensure Matt won’t try anything else and throws them back in the truck. In agony, a delirious Shelby begs Matt to save Flora and the pair embrace, sobbing with terror.
- They arrive back at the house to find the Butcher waiting. She consoles Mama, in a really amazingly dour way, about the death of her son. The rednecks leave and Matt, Shelby and Flora are alone with the pilgrims.
- This is at 31:17 seconds of the episode and we honestly have no idea how the Hell the show goes forward from here.
- Despite Priscila’s protests, Flora is dragged to the stake. And the show then cuts away to Shelby, in tears, referring to how Flora was “just a little girl’.
- OH CRAP!
- Lee arrives, and her ride immediately runs like Hell.
- As the Butcher begins the ceremony, Ambrose cracks, beans his mother in the face with an axe and drags them both into the fire. Edward releases Matt and Shelby and the Piggy Man makes a run for Flora only for Lee to run him over.
- YAAAAAY! IT’LL ALL BE FINE!
- Until the Butcher, blazing and somehow still alive, drags herself from the fire and pursues them and the film burns out and…
- Real Matt and Real Shelby talk about how they can’t believe it’s over. Given that we’re five episodes into a ten-episode season I’m pretty sure they are going to be disappointed.
- We see Matt, Shelby, Lee and Flora stop in a motel. Real Shelby talks about how they would be homeless when they got back to LA but that didn’t matter. They relax, Shelby heads to the shower and that’s when she sees smoke rising from under the shower door. She opens it, the Butcher cleaves her in the head and…
- She wakes up.
- Real Shelby talks about how she’s not sure she’ll ever get over what happened and the episode ends.
- WE’RE SURE NOTHING ELSE BAD WILL EVER HAPPEN TO THESE PEOPLE!
Well that got resolved quicker than usual.
We all know a lot of deeply weird stuff is heading our way next week so it makes sense that this week ties up the Matt and Shelby plot. It’s an incident-heavy script too, with lots of running and fighting, a last-minute rescue and a neat shout out or two to last season.
And the thing is, we don’t believe a word of it.
Lee’s entirely too convenient rescue at the end, the Poltergeist-esque hotel ending, Shelby’s reference to Flora in the past tense. We don’t know if what we’ve been shown is a fabrication or an actual lie but something very bad happened and this is just one version of the story. Next week, judging by the trailers, we’ll see things from the other side of the camera and, we suspect, get some more answers.
Right now, though, what we have are questions and the first is how to view this episode. There’s a lot of really good stuff in here, especially the magnificent Evan Peters as Edward and the welcome re-focus on Matt and Shelby. All four actors do some of their best work here, especially Lilly Rabe. Rabe’s always been one of the most valuable members of the AHS cast but her work here really is phenomenal. She and Sarah Paulson both do a great job of showing Shelby at the end of her tolerances with Rabe in particular doing really impressive work.
But here’s the thing; Matt and Shelby as we see them in the re-enactment get very Hollywood this week. There’s a last-minute escape, a fight, heroic tearful expressions of love and it’s all dreadfully neat. This doesn’t feel like the same story. Or rather, it feels like the version of the story they want to be true.
Outside the main four members of the cast, the episode’s weaknesses seem to further point to this. The rednecks are straight out of central casting, Ambrose’s sudden change of heart is incredibly convenient and Lee’s rescue is, if anything, even more so. Then there’s the Flora mystery, the way the film melts, even the ending. Viewed as the end of the story, these things feel weird and, frankly, bad. Viewed as episode five they’re really interesting and weird. We genuinely have no clue where this is going or how much we know is true and we cannot WAIT to find out what’s going on. So while elements of this episode are bad, we think that’s on purpose.
Is episode six out yet?!!!
- EVAN PETERS! WITH AN ACCENT! HOORAY!
- He also looks uncannily like a young Malcolm MacDowell with this wig. Bless.
- “The living cling to life most of all. But the trophy most prized is to die… in peace.” We love that the original Mott, at least as presented here, is actually (servant-stripping and imprisoning aside) quite sweet.
- Also, Evan Peters’s accent is ON POINT. Take notes every other cast member.
- Some great direction this week. The opening info dump, the way Edward’s face blurs as he turns in place and the closing burn are all great.
- The Butcher hammering Shelby’s ankle has got to be a Misery shout out.
- Having to dig for Guinness’s name isn’t cool.
- The Chen’s daughter going Sadako is a touch on-the-nose.
- The Rednecks are actually slightly more awful than they seemed the first time they appeared. Also, we know we have five episodes left but what exactly was the point of them? Good thing they won’t be back. OR WILL THEY?
- Where does Lee get the car from at the end? It’s not the cop car as there isn’t a police officer in it and weren’t the other cars burnt?
- Lee’s Mark Twain quote, delivered almost to camera, is a particularly interesting moment. Especially given the amount of things in this episode that really don’t quite add up. The characters are clearly lying about something. But what? And how much?
- Does something terrible happen to Flora that we don’t see? Shelby refers to her in the past tense and she’s the only survivor we haven’t seen in the “real” world.
- Mama delivers those lines about the Butcher’s sacrifices to camera. Is the show part of the ritual?
- Nelson Cragg is an extraordinarily good cinematographer who has worked on Confession, Elementary, Tracers and others. This is Nelson’s first directorial work and it’s really, really good. We especially liked touches like the effects on Edward’s ghost and the opening transcript.
- Akela Cooper is a producer and writer on the excellent Luke Cage and a supervising producer on AHS as well as writing for the show. She’s also written for The 100 and Witches Of East End on which she also worked as a co-producer.
- Review by Alasdair Stuart