This post contains major spoilers for the eighth episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke.
The sixth season of American Horror Story is haunted... by the spirit of reality television. And we can't stop watching.
Emulating unscripted/documentary television is risky. A series or movie either mocks the genre entirely (The Office, Best of Show) or it plays the faux-vérité feel so close to the chest you can't tell what's real and what's not (see 17 years of The Blair Witch Project phenomenon), but attempt to pen the spontaneous and it comes off rigid. With AHS: Roanoke, creator Ryan Murphy has it both ways, aping the format while sucking us into the actual drama of the feuding characters. Roanoke started off lampooning talking-head true crime shows, dipped a toe into found-footage mayhem, swung back to a riff that could stand up to UnREAL, and now is dangling mystery in front of us, killing each player off in slow, bloody succession. Without spending a second in the real world, Murphy's turned AHS into the murder-heavy version of Survivor. Every character from the show is in one house, and a title card at the end of "Chapter 6" teased the conclusion: only one will make it to the end. Instead of elimination ceremonies, we get sharp objects stabbed through chest cavities.
So who makes it?
Last week's "Chapter 6" kicked off the killings by impaling Evan Peters's Rory (and completed the Evil Nurses' "Murder" sign). "Chapter 7" sliced the head of the Butcher-obsessed actress Tomasyn (Kathy Bates) in two. "Chapter 8" upped the tension with shoddier video, oversaturated color, and disgusting act after disgusting act. First a recovered Shelby -- Tomasyn planted a cleaver in her back last episode, but all was well a few hours later -- catches Matt fornicating in the basement with Scathach, the OG Supreme. Not taking kindly to his romantic obsession, Shelby bashed his head in with a crowbar, oh, nine or 10 times.
Murphy takes his time to tease who could go next. Lee, Monet (Reenactment Lee), and Audrey (Reenactment Shelby) find themselves the hostages of the Polks, who live off weed money and human flesh jerky. They season and filet Lee first, but eventually she gets the upper hand, seducing the youngest Polk inbred into a headlock. So close to death, Lee prevails -- but not before confessing to the murder of her husband all those years before. Then Mama Polk gets her head bashed in. Everything about this episode makes the skin crawl.
Lee has a strong chance of survival. While she felt compelled to crucify her husband to reconnect with her daughter, she's struggled with addiction and Internet-shaming, which makes her one of the more sympathetic and potentially redeemable characters on the show (this is Murphy we're talking about). Plus, she survives American Horror Story's deep dive into torture-porn horror. That counts for something in the long run.
Not making it out alive -- at least not without a humungous twist in the next two hours -- is Shelby. Distraught from taking the life of her loved one, she slices her own neck in front of Dominic (Reenactment Matt). Why won't Sidney come to his aid when he's left alone in a house full of dead bodies and demons? Oh right, because Sidney, his assistant, and the handheld-camera man are dead, too. Will the blood moon have no mercy?! No. As far as we know, Dominic was finished off by the Piggy Man in this episode. Cuba Gooding Jr. already got off this year in The People vs. O.J., so naturally, he had to bite the dust before the end.
That leaves Lee; Audrey, who has a high chance of averting death, thanks to her breathing-on-camera, snot-soaked British accent, which makes Roanoke 100 times funnier; and Monet, who wiggles out of the tooth-removal chair and runs into the darkness of the woods. Based on the police involvement in the preview for "Chapter 9," it's a safe bet that Monet at least makes it to the authorities. Which also means she could be a late-in-the-game victim of Murphy's sadistic behavior. That leaves Audrey or Lee, and it's a total toss-up: we can't forget Flora is still out there in the world, but we also can't forget Audrey's near-cockney twang. Lee made a point this episode to film everything on her own product-placement cell phone. She wants to tell her story one day. If there's a point to any of this madness, it might be to beam a little truth out of this "reality" television nightmare. She also wants to go back to the Polks' place to destroy her confession. My bet's on her -- hilarious accent be damned.
After the episode, American Horror Story fans lit up with shock and confusion. Murphy eliminated three-quarters of the cast in two episodes and the "last survivor" question still feels like a mystery. Theories?
Let's not forget: it is the harvest moon, and the real Butcher is looking for fresh-faced recruits.
Knowing Murphy, this is probably the theme of Season 9.
American Horror Story: Roanoke is the closest to full-blown Scream Queens-style parody any season's come. This isn't out of the question.
Murphy confirmed on Halloween that Sara Paulson's Asylum character Lana Winters would return for Roanoke. If he also wanted to throw back to her days on Freak Show as a two-headed circus performer, this move would be genius.
Sorry, this needs to be American Horror Story Season 9.
1. Ha! 2. Can we get another Cricket Marlowe appearance before the season wraps up?
"Chapter 8" ends with Piggy Man... or Dylan the Actor (Wes Bentley) arriving to the house as Piggy Man. A late-in-the-game returning contestant ready to sweep in and be the last man standing? Fresh blood for Murphy to slaughter in ironic fashion? Another person Dominic hooked up with in the off season? Or someone who can convince either Lee or Audrey to put down the damn camera and run? It's impossible to tell who's going to make it out alive on Roanoke because, like most of Murphy's mad creations, you just start expecting everyone to suffer at a certain point. Just like in real reality TV.
Finally, here's the teaser for "Chapter 9," adding more fuel (and bodies) to the fire:
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