American Horror Story: Roanoke “Chapter 8” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- And we’re straight back to it with Agnes not only being killed but being hacked to pieces. Dominic loses it but Shelby has the peace and calm demeanour of a woman who knows she’s already dead. Outside, the pilgrims finish with Agnes’s corpse and prepare to come in. Shelby remembers the tunnel and makes a run for it with Dominic in tow.
- Of course to get to the tunnel, they have to go past Matt’s corpse.
- Dominic walks her through it and they head out. They’re barely in before the Chens, crawling on every surface, attack them.
- Oh hurray. It’s the Rednecks again.
- So the good news is that Lee hasn’t had a leg cut off. The bad news is they’re basically treating her like a steak filet. Mama explains that the Polks turned cannibal during the Great Depression, murdering and eating the Hobos who’d stolen their last food. Lee threatens them with arrest and Mama retorts that the police have been in their pockets for years. Mama cauterises Lee’s thigh as Jether starts in hacking at her leg and she screams and screams and screams….
- Later, Lee wakes up to find Jether has cut her ear off. He explains it’s being pickled to be saved for Christmas. He explains that they all get the same things every year including a pickled ear and more ammo. “Cuddles with Mama…” well… let’s not think too much about that.
- Lee finds a way to bind with Jether, ironically, through fame. Her notoriety being on the show, she discovers, has sparked his jealousy at not being on TV. Jether, it seems, wants to be famous. Jether gives her the true origin of the original Piggyman, a Polk inspired by what he saw the Butcher do. But ultimately he doesn’t fall for Lee’s shtick, convinced he’ll never be anything more than he is.
- Later, Jether offers her cocaine to take the edge off when Mama comes back. At first she turns him down but when he explains what’s going to be done to her, she relents.
- Back at the house, the Chens are breaking in. They get out of the cellar but Dominic’s hand is badly injured in the door. Shelby goes catatonic. Dominic tries to keep her together, promising her a yoga studio and him his spin-off if they can just get out. Shelby agrees and… Piggyman stabs Dominic. Shelby fights him off but the Chens surround them, the nurses appear and the Pilgrims make it into the house. The chandelier falls and Shelby’s leg breaks as she’s pinned beneath it. Somehow, Dominic gets the pair of them to an upstairs bedroom and locks them in. Exhausted, bloody and terrified, Shelby starts laughing. Then, calmly, says “There’s no place left for me,” and cuts her own throat.
- Back at the Polks, Lee calls Jether, begging him to show her the picture of Flora in her pocket. He takes it, looks at the picture, filming Lee the whole time. She asks him to let her speak to Flora and, reluctantly, he agrees.
- She tells Flora that she loves her and that she deserves the truth; she did kill Mason. She tells her daughter to rise up, tears streaming down her face and Jether cuts the tape.
- Later, he tells her Mama’s told her it’s his turn and Lee will be killed by him when the time is right. Jether admits he doesn’t want to, and that he likes her. Lee says she feels the same way and Jether, aroused, undoes her. Lee instantly chokes him out and then stabs him in the head, fleeing.
- Back at the house, Shelby’s dead. Dominic is pleading with Sidney for his life, unaware everyone else is dead. He comes apart at the seams, sobbing and begging for help.
- Elsewhere, Audrey and Monet are being tormented by the other Polks. One of them is preparing a necklace of teeth, Mama having taught them that teeth are the only things that don’t burn and necklaces of teeth will protect them. One of them holds Monet down and tries to remove her teeth but the pliers and the chair both break. Monet knocks him down and flees, leaving Audrey to die. Mama sends them out after Monet and rips a tooth from Audrey’s face.
- We see Mama’s sons pursue Monet outside
- Lee knocks Mama out and frees a near hysterical Audrey. She beats Mama, still conscious, and laughing, to death with a hammer.
- Lee and Audrey make it back through he tunnel to the house and find Matt’s corpse. Lee collapses, weeping at the sight of her dead brother and Audrey gets her up and moving. They head upstairs to Audrey’s bedroom, where she has painkillers. The two women put each other back together as best they can, until Audrey finds Shelby and Dominic.
- Dominic tells them everything and, heartbreakingly, they don’t believe him. Piggyman murders Dominic as Lee closes the door. Audrey gives a tearful, and charmingly self-centred, self eulogy to her fans and…
- Lee and Audrey make it through the night. Lee tells them they need to go back and get the footage, claiming they need to control their story. Of course, we know what Audrey doesn’t: Lee confessed on film. The two women limp downstairs and head for the front door. Piggyman appears, they brain him with the crowbar and he takes the head off to reveal… Dylan! The actor who played Ambrose!
So the bad news is this is a Polk-heavy episode. The good news is it again uses the restrictions of found footage to do some really smart, nasty things with horror. The bad news (again) is that other things this episode don’t quite work.
First off, Shelby’s suicide seems a little… flat? It makes sense given the horrific injuries she’s sustained and what she did to Matt. But at the same time it feels curiously arbitrary. We’re not saying this is a magic box inside a magic box of a plot but if anything this season feels curiously staged it’s that.
Secondly, the relationship between Lee and Jether seems rushed. It’s pretty standard stuff sure, and God knows we’re happy to spend as little time at Redneck Torture Party Farm as possible but still it feels like it could use slightly more breathing room.
Then there’s the locked off cameras at the Polk farm really are starting to bother us. Why are they there? And how have the Polks, who’ve murdered so many people for so long and are so few in number escaped justice this long? If AHS has had a bum note this season it is assuredly them and we’re hoping we’ve almost seen the last of them. Where the rest of the show has been clever and measured and unpredictable, both versions of the Polks have seemed a touch off-the-shelf.
That being said this is yet another very strong episode of a very strong season. It’s hugely nasty in places but when you think about it surprisingly little is actually explicit. Plus Adina Porter and Sarah Paulson in particular do spectacular work throughout the episode. Both Lee and Audrey are badly injured, in shock and barely keeping it together. But they’re not idiots either and the choices they make, even the dumb ones, have reasoning behind them. That means the show has a core of intelligence as well as viscera and it marks this season of AHS in particular out as a superior piece of horror TV. One more episode and then the second sting of the year in the finale. We can’t wait.
- “What time is it? I can’t believe this phone is still working.” The things this season continues to do to both gently parody and celebrate found footage horror are just amazing. This wink to camera may be my favourite one so far.
- “I played Shelby for six months I know her better than I know myself!” I really hope Audrey ends up being the survivor because Paulson is so much fun as this weirdly nice, completely self-obsessed luvvie.
- Dominic slowly realising he’s doomed is great. Top class work from Cuba Gooding Jr.
- Audrey’s constant on-brand yet sincere approach is hilarious. We loved her sign-off message to her fans in particular.
- The show is very careful, here especially, to not assume the characters have read the script. Lee not buying that Dominic was innocent in Shelby’s death is very smart. Lee not telling Audrey the truth about why she wants to go back to the farm is even better.
- We also loved Lee shooting down Audrey’s, “Just wait here alone in the HOUSE OF DEATH while I pop upstairs and get the drugs,” plan.
- As other reviewers have said, why have the Chens gone full-Sadako? We’re not saying that’s racist but we are saying it’s odd given how the other ghosts are mostly unchanged from life.
- So the Pilgrims just kind of wander off after they congregate for the Agnes-hacking party?
- The Pols are awful. We’re glad they’re dead. We hope the other half of the family follow suit quickly.
- OH GOD NO TEETH STUFF NO NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
- That ending is whiplash-inducing. We THINK the actor who played Ambrose has been mentioned a couple of times before but it’s still a “Piggyman! Crowbar! Dylan!’ series of polaroids that leave you going “…huh?” instead of, “WHAT?!!!!”
- Seriously, though, why do the Polks have cameras up in their farm?
And The Random:
- Gwyneth Horder-Payton continues this season’s run of extraordinarily good directors. We especially loved her Alien-like fondness for shooting open doors in the back of the frame, meaning your eye is constantly drawn there waiting for something awful…
- You can see her work elsewhere on shows like Blue Bloods, The Walking Dead and Hawaii Five-O. She was also an assistant director on Pacific Heights, The Doors and Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco amongst others.
- Todd Kubrak has been with AHS for a while now and worked with Ryan Murphy on several projects prior to its creation. This is his first script and, hopefully, just the start of his writing career on the show.
Review by Alasdair Stuart