The American Horror Story folks have been teasing for weeks that Season Six, Episode Six was the episode that was going to blow our minds. Cuba Gooding Jr. swore audiences will have their “brains all over the wall,” Sarah Paulson called it “nutty bobo nut town,” and Showrunner Ryan Murphy cautioned us that “the thing that you think you’re watching is not what you’re watching.”
Did the much-hyped and eagerly anticipated episode Six cut the mustard? Did it fuck!
The first five episodes of Season Six of American Horror Story comprised a docu-series entitled My Roanoke Nightmare and featured three main characters, Shelby and Matt Miller and his sister, Lee giving talking heads to camera, while three actors re-enacted their nightmare.
The last we saw of those actors was making their grand escape from original Roanoke colony’s ghosts – Kathy Bates’ “The Butcher” and Lady Gaga’s scary yet sexy Witch of the Woods – and a bunch of murderous North Caroline rednecks. And some nurses. And a Pigman.
Episode Six begins one year later – My Roanoke Nightmare – the series we’ve just watched (i.e. episodes 1-5) was last year’s ratings success, so the director of the docu-series has re-assembled the cast (that’s the original homeowners Shelby, Matt and his sister Lee) with the actors who played them (Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr and Angela Bassett) for a Big Brother-style reality show called Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell.
Back in the haunted house they’d just escaped with their lives from. During the Blood Moon.
The homeowners and actors enter the house and in an intimate diary room confessional, actress Sarah Paulson introduces herself as English actress Audrey Tindall and that she’s now married to My Roanoke Nightmare co-star Rory.
While real-life Shelby has split from Matt because she slept with Dominic, the actor playing him (played by Cuba Gooding Jr) who promptly arrives…
Confused? Shit – the writers were, so you sure as hell should be…
Did the big twist work?
No. While an audience should (within reason) accept some minor plot holes regarding why the hell the owners would step back into the haunted house, all the twist did was add another level of meta. A sequel to a docu-series show-within-a-show is hardly visionary storytelling.
Besides, turning the series into a found footage show makes no sense – I’ve worked on dozens of reality TV shows; there would have been dozens if not hundreds of crew watching their every move.
The way the producers and cast were talking, I was expecting something new, something that changed storytelling techniques forever like Lost’s Season Three finale Through the Looking Glass. Instead, we just got another lake-within-an-island.
The story-within-a-story is nothing new – The Simpsons and South Park have Itchy and Scratchy and Terence and Philip.
Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet both feature plays-within-plays and almost the entirety of The Taming of the Shrew uses the same plot device… though Shakespeare possibly borrowed the idea from Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (which, ironically was written in 1587, the same year that the real Roanoke colonists were busy losing themselves.)
Ancient Indian Epics The Mahabharata and Ramayana, Homer’s Odyssey and One Thousand and One Nights all also feature the story-within-a-story.
If you want to blow our minds with your meta plot devices you’re going to have to do a lot better than that. Yet, despite the show’s cheesiness, I have a feeling Ryan Murphy et al are going to pull a bigger rabbit out of their hat-within-a-hat-within-a-hat.
The funny thing is, I haven’t even mentioned the most batshit insane thing about this Episode Six which is Kathy Bates… because… because I just don’t have the words! You’re just going to have to watch it to find out. Sarah Paulson’s English accent was a delight to behold, though.
American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare: Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell continues on Wednesdays on FX.