The sixth season of American Horror Story recently wrapped up and it was by far the most unique installment of the anthology series we have seen thus far. If you’ve been following my weekly recaps, you know I had mixed feelings on the season. There were some really good episodes, and then there were some that not only fell flat but were outright unnecessary. To recap the season, I’ll look at three different categories – the plot, characters, and visuals – and then give my favorite episode and overall thoughts. I’ll warn you now, though, there will generally be a disappointed tone to my thoughts on the season. Ok, let’s begin.
Initially, I was excited about American Horror Story: Roanoke. Not only was it something different, but it looked to add some “history” to the story as well. I consider myself a bit of a history buff and I was interested in seeing how AHS would interpret the events surrounding the Lost Colony. Obviously, we weren’t going to get a factual rendition, but this season really had nothing to do with the Roanoke Colony. The writers could have easily passed this theme off as an original idea instead of tying it to a historical event. If they did this, my expectations might not have been as high and the season wouldn’t have been as much of a letdown. The season started out with Matt and Shelby moving to old farmhouse on the land of the old Roanoke Colony which set up the story. Aside from one episode, though, the writers never told us why this was significant. This season just felt like another haunted house story instead of a “historical-horror” story.
The theme of season six wasn’t the only unique thing about this year’s AHS too. It was also a mock reality show, which was arguably the main theme, not the Roanoke story. I actually enjoyed this part of the season because it was something truly different and they kept us in suspense about it until midway through. From the beginning, we knew something was different because there were two versions of the main characters, but It wasn’t until Chapter 6 that we figured out what was going on. This was the episode where things turned weird because we were no longer watching a “reality show”, but its sequel. Everything culminated in the final episode that featured a true-crime story, a ghost hunting show, a Barbra Walters style interview, and a fake news report. It’s safe to say that the writers took some creative liberties with the season and gave us something unexpected.
I applaud Ryan Murphy and the other AHS creators for going out on a limb and giving us something different. It was fun to experience at the time but it isn’t the type of season that will have longevity and be watchable several times. This year’s story was a little to bizarre and I was hoping for more “horror-history” and less reality-drama.
Even worse than the story, were the characters playing it out. They were fine the first five episodes, but once the reality show took hold, every character became insufferable. For some reason, I find Cuba Gooding Jr. unbearable so I was never able to take him seriously, but even Audrey/Shelby, played by the great Sarah Paulson, became annoying. After a while every character lost any sympathy they had and I found myself rooting against them. It also didn’t help that these had to be some of the most self-centered and stupid characters ever. Who would ever decide to go back to that house to film a sequel after knowing what the real Matt and Shelby went through? I know a certain level of stupidity comes with the genre, but these characters were too much and it made it impossible to feel bad for them.
It also didn’t help that is was hard to connect with any of them. There were so many characters and they were all constantly dying that there was no point in getting invested in their stories. Sydney came and went, the three teenagers towards the end were only introduced kill off, and even Elias, who looked to be a promising role, was quickly slaughtered. Realistically, Lady Gaga’s characters didn’t offer anything to the show, and even Lee, the one who lasted the longest, ended up dying to save a character we barely knew. Sure, it showed us her motherly intuitions, but I still would have liked to see her get a happy ending over a character barely seen (and don’t tell me she did because I seriously doubt protecting a ghost girl till the end of days was her idea of happy).
You know it’s bad when the best characters were the ones rarely seen. The pigman, nurses, and the Polk family were much more compelling and likeable than any of the main characters, and they were the ones we were supposed to be rooting against. It’s a shame that so many good actors didn’t have the writing to back their roles. A bad story can be saved if there are interesting characters to hide it, but when the both the plot and characters are poor, there’s nothing good acting can do to save it.
One area American Horror Story: Roanoke didn’t disappoint was visually. Like always, AHS gave us some of the most elaborate and gruesome horror scenes on televisions. The costumes were great and the sets looked real. The episode that focused on the past colonists was immersive and by far the most “historical” thing about the season. The Butcher was one of the best things about the season, not just for how she was dressed, but the way she slaughtered and tortured people was haunting. One of the best parts was in Chapter 9 when we saw her rip out the intestines of someone and then burn everyone alive. You can’t have a great horror series without gruesome deaths and grotesque characters. This has been something AHS has always been good at and this season was no different.
If there was anything to complain about, it was the overused handycam effect the second part of the season. It was fun at first and a convincing effect, but got tiring after a while. The constant switching between cell phones, GoPros, night vision cameras, and thermal cameras went from interesting to gimmicky very fast. It eventually felt like a six-hour long version of The Blair Witch Project, a no one wants to watch that.
Out of the 10 Chapters in American Horror Story: Roanoke, there were very few that stood out above the rest. They were all kind of the same (especially early on), but If I must choose my favorite episode it would be Chapter 7. This was the first episode everyone was back at the house together and it became a giant slaughter fest. At this point I had lost interest in all the characters and just wanted to see some entertaining and bloody scenes and Chapter 7 didn’t disappoint. Chapter 10 was good because it was creative and unexpected, but people watch AHS for the blood and horror and Chapter 7 encompassed this perfectly.
This wasn’t even close to being the best season of American Horror Story and in general it was disappointing. I liked that the creators went in a different direction with the show and I give them credit for the creativity, but it just wasn’t executed in the best way. Unlike past seasons, this isn’t one I see being rewatchable. It was fun while it lasted, but the cons definitely overshadowed the pros.
Season Score: 7/10