It’s October again which of course means it’s horror season, and one of the shows I always look forward to the most is American Horror Story. Season 7, Cult, is currently airing new episodes but I want to take a look back at my all time favorite season, last year’s offering “Roanoke”. As with any anthology series the diverse seasons spark many opinions in the fan community, with nearly every fan enjoying season 1’s “Murder House” and with every season after that being polarizing among the community. For a few seasons this has left many wondering if they would ever produce anything as good as the very first installment was and I think they did this with season 6.
Roanoke caught my attention immediately with It’s true crime/docudrama format introducing us to the show within this show “My Roanoke Nightmare”. This style worked beautifully with the sometimes over the top writing and acting choices associated with AHS. I also thought it gained a lot by adding narrators. We follow the story of Matt (Andre Holland) and Shelby Miller (Lily Rabe) an interracial L.A. couple who want to leave California after an attack that injured Matt and caused Shelby to have a miscarriage. They move into an old creepy house in North Carolina and instantly begin getting harassed by what they believe is racist neighbors, but is in actuality (you guessed it) ghosts. Many people find the show frustrating sometimes because the stories have been known to get a bit muddy and confusing. Here the narrator leads us through it, allowing them to deliver their most coherent story line yet while also allowing us to hear the thoughts and emotions of the “real” people the “actors” in the documentary are portraying.
This season is a lovely slow burn with new ideas we have never seen before in the series making it very refreshing to watch and well worth the year long wait. Possibly my favorite part of this season was how it managed to be both cohesive and unpredictable. They also demonstrated a massive amount of restraint when compared to season 5’s decadent “Hotel”. My brother once referred to AHS as “shock value: the show” and with Roanoke they shocked us once again by not being that at all. This season felt well thought out with clever twists and turns which had me on the edge of my seat wondering where they story would take me next.
I am going to shy away from spoilers in hopes of convincing one or two of you to check it out (they very recently added it to Netflix btw) but what I will say is that the show really kicks into gear at episode 6 where they time jump and deliver us a follow up show “Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell” where they send both the “actors” and the people they portrayed back to the house during it’s most vulnerable time time the “Blood Moon”. Kathy Bates and Lady Gaga stand out in minor but memorable roles as “The Butcher” and Scathach (confirmed to be the original supreme, tying her into “Coven”)
I also was delighted at the ballsy minimal use of Evan Peters, a fan favorite. As a consolation prize we did the the long awaited return of an actor we hadn’t seen on the show since season 3. Another plot device I enjoyed was when they let us know that only one person survives at the end. This builds tons of tension and has you guessing who it is and rooting for your favorite. This may be the only season I like all the way through. The tonal shift when they moved into the second documentary really helps keep it well paced and interesting throughout. If you like true crime, or American Horror Story, or just a well written season that actually manages to deliver both “horror” and “story”, arguably for the first time since season 1, check out Roanoke. It delivers in nearly every way I am looking for in a show like this. From now on I won’t find myself wondering if the next season will be as good as season 1, I will wonder “will this be as good as Roanoke?”