On this week's episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke (yes, that's this season's title), the show delivered an exceptional installment to the series as a whole. We begin where we left off with Shelby coming across a scalped man in the woods, and the woman responsible is none other than Lady Gaga hissing with a very ragged colonial wardrobe. Normally, I would stay just to see Gaga, but Shelby is understandably frightened at the sight and runs into an area where a human sacrifice is going on at the hands of Kathy Bates. A pig head is forced on to the victim -- while being told to squeal (semi explaining the pig-man occurrences) -- before they are killed over a fire. Shelby is spotted and runs far enough to find a car (driven by Lee) and passes out, only to be taken to a hospital. No one is particularly believing her tales, but she concludes that it must be the men who tried to outbid them on the home -- yeah, I'd still be thinking something spookier is involved but perhaps that's just me ... In a surprising turn of events, Shelby tells her husband she is absolutely positive she wants to stay and fight to prove they aren't leaving.
Lee's daughter is finally allowed to visit, and Lee insists that she can keep her daughter safe from whatever unexplainable events were going on. After only one day, her daughter is found speaking to her "friend" Priscilla with the door to the basement open and only darkness in sight. Later on in the evening, Shelby hears the squeals of a pig and rushes outside to assert herself (not so bright, Shelby!), so her husband follows soon after. They discover a large Blair Witch voodoo doll-looking structure with a pig head and fire -- realizing it wasn't your average prank or attack. The police agree they will have 24-hour protection, making them feel safe until, late into the night, their phone rings. As Matt answers, a staticky voice is heard asking for help and that they're hurting her. The phone disconnects, and Matt walks through his living room where an old woman (the voice over the phone) lies in a hospital bed with two mentally unstable nurses murdering the woman. Matt is in shock at what he's watching while the "real" Matt says he kept telling himself he was dreaming before we see one nurse spray an 'M' in red and says with a laugh that "M is for Margret."
Matt rushes to the police, and his family is awoken by his screams that someone was killed inside the house. By the time they make it downstairs and the police check the spot, nothing is see so, once again, they're perceived as insane. Sometime the next day, Lee's ex-husband comes to pick up their daughter, but she is found in a small crawl space telling them that Priscilla (the "little girl in funny clothes") is coming to kill them all. When someone starts throwing around death threats, it's probably time to leave -- I know that much! Lee realizes she won't have a chance at seeing her daughter and falls back into her alcohol addiction, so her brother helps her up to bed after she polishes off a bottle of liquor. Shelby and Matt see multiple knives thrown into their ceiling that they initially think was Lee -- but, moments later, they both can vaguely see a woman standing at a distance shrouded in dark clothing. They check the area they noticed her, finding an outdoor cellar-type entrance, and, at the same time, Lee is awoken by the two nurses from earlier at the end of her bed. She manages to get out of bed and stumbles down the hall, discovering the squealing pig man (seriously one of their more unsettling killers) that nearly gives her a heart attack -- but vanishes by the time she turns back around.
Shelby and Matt make the choice to crawl down the ladder to this mysterious cellar where it appears that someone had been living under the property. They can't figure out why a young girl was showing them this cellar, but a videotape is found that shows a man (Dennis O'Hare) explaining his reasons for seeking out the home. The former professor and author seems nearly driven mad, but shares that he was writing something on two sister nurses who opened their own hospice nursing home. An odd piece of their selection process was the first letters of their names: attempting to spell out 'murder' when they finished killing six of the elderly patients. The home that Matt and Shelby lived in was used as a place of death, but the two were never found -- the police discovered the property with deceased patients and the word they were spelling incomplete as 'MURDE.' Matt realizes he had just seen it play out in front of him earlier, so he tears off the wallpaper to reveal the letters are legible like the man in the tape had claimed. They return to the tape, now acknowledging he was right, and the man says that he doesn't think they fled -- that the sisters were actually stopped by something evil in connection to the home/property. He says in the recording that he needs to see it for himself, so he enters the house and shouts that it must show itself, which we partially see as a woman lunging at him. Matt and Shelby are alarmed by a noise behind them during the clip, and we see a large butcher knife lodged into a door as a warning from whatever is attached to the area.
The interview aspect of the episode shows that Matt and Shelby attempted their best to sell the house back but with no success, of course. When they thought they couldn't have more trouble, Lee arrives with her daughter (clearly having taken her), so Shelby persuades Lee's ex-husband to pick her up without involving the police. Lee prepares to spend a few minutes with her before being picked up but isn't found (we see her being summoned outside by Priscilla). Eventually, Lee is heard screaming, and we see that her daughter's jacket is hanging at the top of a massive tree with no explanation of where she is or how her coat made it up that high in the first place.
Overall Grade: 9/10
AHS Roanoke confused me slightly in the first episode, leaving me puzzled on where it could go -- but this episode trumped the premiere with excellent storytelling through the house's history and the three characters within the present-day storyline. The grisly killings of the sister nurses added a grim plot line to the property and helped push Matt and Shelby into facing the otherworldly issues threatening their lives. This was an American Horror Story standout episode among all six seasons, giving major promise to the future of the season.
Aedan's Final Thoughts:
- The mythology of AHS is bound to come together this season some way or another, with similarities between Murder House, Asylum, and Coven so far.
- I've actually found some of the scenes in this episode highly suspenseful and nerve-wracking, which isn't easy with today's horror genre films/television.
- I would love a Gaga-centric episode for a backstory on the twisted wig snatching woodland woman. (Please Ryan Murphy?)