After 5 rather uneven seasons, Ryan Murphy has decided to tackle one of the most famous myths of American folklore: the colony of Roanoke. Presented in the form of a documentary called “My Roanoke Nightmare”, the story follows a couple, Shelby and Matt Miller, living in Los Angeles, who, after Matt’s attack nearly caused his death and the miscarriage of Shelby, decides to move to North Carolina. They buy there an old farm built in 1790without knowing that much darker events await them there. Back on American Horror Story Roanoke.
Attention, the article will obviously be full of spoilers!
For those who sleep at the back of the room, Roanoke was a British colony settled on the island of Roanoke (unsurprisingly) in North Carolina. In short, a colony settled in 1587 on the island: 110 settlers including 18 women. No sooner had they arrived than the first child from a colony was born: Virginia Dare. And shortly after, the leader of the colony, John White is obliged to return to England to bring back provisions. Unfortunately, he is held back by the war against Spain and its Invincible Armada. He only returns 3 years later. And amazement on his return, the camp is empty! In the center of the camp, we find the word Croatian engraved on a tree. Even today, we don’t know what happened to the settlers.
The season is freely inspired by this legend to immerse its protagonists in horror. Of course, we find all our favorite actors: Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Evan Peters, Lady Gaga and so on.
A darker but more original season
The series adopts a particular narrative form: the story is told to us through TV shows and is divided into three parts.
Episodes 1-5 : My Roanoke Nightmare. Shelby and Matt are a young couple from California. Following an attack, they decide to move. And as long as they can, they decide to go to the other side of the country, to North Carolina, where they buy a haunted property. Their misadventures are presented through their testimony and a reconstruction. Actors play the roles of people who lived in Roanoke who themselves appear in testimonies in front of the camera.
Episodes 6–9 : Return to Roanoke: 3 Days in Hell. After the unexpected success of My Roanoke Nightmare, Sidney the producer of the series decides to send the whole team back to the house: those who have really lived the story and those who have played their roles in the reconstruction. They are filmed throughout the duration of the stay. Stay which begins with: “only one of them will be alive after the 3 days”. Great atmosphere !
Episode 10. There are 3 shows during this last episode, Crack’d, which traces the legal journey of Lee Harris. Lee is the sister of Matt, the sole survivor of Roanoke, charged with the murders that took place during Return to Roanoke. The episode concludes with an episode of Spirit Chaser, or a group of young enthusiasts come to film the spirits present on the property. Which will turn out to be more deadly than expected… You will have noticed that one of the programs present in this final episode is missing here. Don’t panic, I’ll come back to it later, just to keep some suspense.
The season of too much?
This season spares us nothing: the protagonists die impaled, disemboweled, burned alive, their throats slit, eaten alive, riddled with arrows, their skulls exploded, and so on. The scenes are raw, extremely violent, even shocking. The murder of the young fans of the series My Roanoke Nightmare in Episode 9 is particularly awful and above all, free. We are faced with a dilemma: does the series have to become unhealthy to be horrifying?
All episodes are spooky thanks to the impressive ghost gallery: the piggy man (who has many surprises in store for us), Edward Mott the first owner (very successful effects, he is very disturbing while remaining the friendliest ghost), the Chens (special mentions for them, their scenes are terrifying), the nurses, the butcher and her followers. Add to that a goddess witch, a red moon, a rain of teeth, cannibal natives and you have a complete, scary and very well-stocked folklore. Was it necessary to show such disturbing deaths so precisely? Suggesting them offscreen wouldn’t have been enough for the horror?
American Horror Story tend here towards the escalation of gore (while he was criticized in some other seasons for being too soft). The story is nonetheless interesting, we really worry about the characters who touch us with their weaknesses, we wonder who will be the next to go through it, especially given the appalling rate of deaths.
In its form, the season offers a very pleasing criticism of the culture of voyeurism which is growing more and more through reality TV shows. Each of the programs presented uses popular concepts in the United States: criminal and supernatural chronicles, reality shows, legal programs, talk shows, morning shows, paranormal programs. In episode 9, even social networks and influencers are criticized. ryan murphy knew very well how to present the audio-visual landscape and its failings.
The links between the seasons
We remember the appearance of Pepper and Ssister Mary Eunice in freak show and of Queenie in Hotel. Roanoke does not escape this tradition and we find even more links than in the other seasons.
A fan theory, later confirmed by Ryan Murphy himself concerned Scathach, the witch played by Lady Gaga in the reconstruction. This woman was persecuted upon her arrival in the new world and she discovered impressive supernatural powers. Does this remind you of anything? Scáthach is the first supreme, spiritual leader of the witches that we find in season 3: Coven. There’s a bit of a problem with this reveal: Only one Supreme is supposed to exist at a time. Out, Scáthach is immortal. So we don’t really understand how she was able to transmit her powers. Maybe we can figure it out in a future crossover season ?
Croatian ! The mysterious word found in Roanoke is also mentioned in several seasons: 1 and 6. In both seasons, this word is represented as full of power, it serves to repel dark forces (with more or less efficiency, RIP Ashley).
A wink more than a real link: the piggy man. Inspired by an American urban legend, we saw it in the first season. One of Doctor Harmon’s patients was terrified of this pig-headed human. And we find it much more terrifying among the followers of the butcher.
In the final season, we find an emblematic character ofAsylium : Lana Winters. The famous journalist comes out of her retirement (which she took after shooting her son, the psychopath Bloody Face) to interview Lee Harris, the survivor of Roanoke. The two protagonists are close because they have lived the same traumatic experience: kill to survive. We are delighted to goodbye sarah paulson in one of his strongest roles.
Overall, we have had a fairly uneven season. It is very disturbing, creepy, shocking (sometimes too much), in short, what one would expect fromAmerican Horror Story. The beginning is slow despite the surprise of the format, then everything accelerates, sinks into darkness. Episode 6 is really surprising, 10 leaves us perplexed… And above all, we always have a billion questions! Why did Lee become a ghost but not the other participants in Return to Roanoke ? Why didn’t Shelby run after the rain of teeth? Why do Lee and Shelby return to Roanoke (we understand that one wants to clean up her honor and the other to find Matt, but… it’s not enough to die!)? What happened to the witch?