American Horror Story

American Horror Story 6×01 – My Roanoke Nightmare (Chapter 1)

"My brother married one jumpy bitch."

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This season, the team behind American Horror Story tried something different: they opted not to reveal the theme behind the anthology show’s sixth season. The marketing campaign effectively went into overdrive with over two dozen random teasers to throw the public off guard and drive social media buzz. It remains to be seen if that move resulted in huge premiere numbers last night, but this was a pretty subdued and low-key season premiere.

AHS usually throws everything but the kitchen sink in its first episode of the season, so I found it especially intriguing when this premiere adopted a straightforward haunted house story. The unique twist here is the documentary gimmick, with one set of actors narrating the story, while the other set taking part in a dramatic reenactment. It’s an inspired twist, and it allows us to bask in the glory of Sarah Paulson/Lily Rabe, Angela Bassett / Adina Porter, and Andre Holland/ Cuba Gooding Jr. playing the same characters. In addition, it allowed the premiere to remain focused on one singular story (we didn’t even see Gaga and the rest of the announced cast). It’s no secret that AHS‘s biggest flaw is its haphazard subplots and unfocused narratives, so this definitely holds promise… for now.

Sadly, the focus of the season isn’t too thrilling, and that’s a definite drawback. “My Roanoke Nightmare” refers to the the late 16th century group of settlers who disappeared without a trace. There’s potential here, but the premiere employs predictable jump-scares and fake-outs. After six seasons, shouldn’t the show be exploring new avenues of terror? I know we’re supposed to suspend our disbelief regarding character behaviour, but I really can’t accept our star couple staying in the house after so many recurring disturbances. Even more idiotic and groanworthy was Shelby running into the forest in the episode’s final sequence culminating in a dull cliffhanger. That’s just not acceptable in this day and age.

Frightful Bits

– Raining teeth – can’t say I’ve ever seen that one before!

– The moment I realized that Sarah Paulson was playing the character that Lily Rabe was narrating: EPIC!

– In Ryan Murphy’s newest show, American Crime Story, Cuba Gooding and Sarah Paulson played sworn enemies (O.J. Simpson and Marcia Clarke). Here they’re soulmates. Love it!

– God I adore Angela Bassett. She’s been so underutilized on the show since season three and it’s time for her to take center-stage. I hope they don’t just kill her off next week. Plus her playing a tough-as-nails cop/former junkie is perfect.

– It’s kind of funny how the dramatic reenactment is all Hollywoodized with pretty actors while the narrators are all average looking. Brilliant meta touch.

– I din’t even notice until I read later on that the woman that Shelby ran over was none other than Kathy Bates. Also, that was Wes Bentley at the end there.

– The fact that our characters are narrating the story (meaning they survived) definitely robs the show of a sense of urgency.

– Why were the trees and the ground moving? Kind of ridiculous and surely not scary!

– Lots of callbacks to season one: the pig man, and this speech referencing our theme.

Spooky Slurs

Lee: Yoga is not a job. I used to play volleyball in high school. Back then, yoga was called “stretching,” and it was something you did before, not as exercise.

Shelby: I wish you still had your badge and your gun.
Lee: Well, I may not have my badge, but Mama’s still packin’.

Conclusion
Although I appreciate the simple premise, AHS is going to have to be a whole lot more creative and unpredictable to keep me intrigued after all the goodwill it lost with Freak Show and Hotel

Nad Rating
B

4 comments

  1. I was confused when I started watching the episode because I had no idea what to expect due to the strict lack of information on what Season 6 was going to be about and its characters. The documentary format took me by surprise. It is an original spin for the show to try out. But I haven't decided yet whether I like it or not.

  2. You wrote about killing off Angela Bassett's character when we know already – as you also mentioned about how the documentary format deducts the survival of the three main characters – that she survives! Just wanted to point that out haha
    And I agree, first episode looked great in my opinion, but they are going to have to put a lot of effort into keeping it interesting. I just hope they don't make the same mistakes as in Freakshow and Hotel of making us feel bad/pity the murderers. In horror, I'm looking to get scared and not sympathize THAT MUCH with the killer/attacker.

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