It’s the TV success story of 2015. It topped Empire, The Walking Dead, and the Sunday night football. It’s My Roanoke Nightmare, and it’s not just a show anymore. It’s a show within the show, within the show, within the… Honestly, I don’t even know at this point. But it’s the big twist of this season of American Horror Story, and — in short — it’s just damn brilliant. Let’s break it down.
Meet Cheyenne Jackson’s Sidney, a visionary reality TV producer who brought a hit to The Network with My Roanoke Nightmare. He’s so visionary, in fact, he’s already selling the corporate suits on his next project: Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell. It’s so sick, it’s genius: He’ll unite everyone who lived in the house with the actors who played them, together again in Roanoke, living in the haunted mansion during the blood moon, a.k.a. “when all of the bad sh-t happens.”
As a non-believer in The Butcher and her ilk, Sidney also declares he’ll supplement the scares with his own ghostly fabrications. “Reality is what we make of it,” says the character who is absolutely going to die first when this plan backfires. For optimum Network greenlighting, Sidney’s also tied up some loose ends: He bought the Roanoke house from Matt, and he has a plan in motion to convince the group to relive it all. Plus, given the whole true-crime spree we’re on lately, he also reveals an ulterior motive beyond just making good TV: “I’m gonna be the guy who gets Lee Harris to admit what she did.”
So, the Network greenlights Return to Roanoke a few weeks before the blood moon, and Sidney heads up to Ojai with his producer, Diana, to land their first reprising recruit: Shelby! Count that as another surprise twist — the fact that beleaguered, almost-drowned, ankle-smashed Shelby voluntarily opted to head back to Miss Roanoke’s Home for Peculiar Pigs.
But there’s a reason she’ll return, and it’s also a doozy: Not only have Matt and Shelby separated, but she’s also been spotted having an affair with Dominic Banks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) — the actor who played Matt on the show! So, naturally, RealMatt is offended by her relationship with his cheap imitation and hasn’t spoken to Shelby since. That’s why she’s willing to head back to Roanoke, if that’s what it takes to hash things out with her husband again. Yes, if you ever thought Matt and Shelby staying in the house was dumb, get ready to comprehend their inexplicable decision to RETURN to it.
Shockingly, they’re not the only ones.
NEXT: Inside the actors’ hellhole
So, RealShelby agrees to revisit Roanoke, as do RealMatt (for reasons we don’t quite learn) and RealLee, who’s used her post-Nightmare fame to do copious tabloid press and land seven-figure book deals, despite America believing she almost definitely murdered her husband Mason and got away with it by blaming ghosts (classic!). She returns to Roanoke in an effort to clear her name and stop it from being dragged through the mud. Because blood, apparently, is much more enticing to be dragged through.
RealLee’s counterpart, actress Monet (Angela Bassett), is also headed back, and she’s now turned into a full-blown alcoholic thanks to her eight weeks spent channeling Lee on the show. The second she and Lee find themselves alone in a room, it’s instant antagonism of one boozehound blaming her begetting on another.
Then there’s proper English lady Audrey Tindall (Sarah Paulson) and hunky boy-toy Rory Monaghan (Evan Peters, doing his best Lucky Charms cosplay). They’re a downright hilarious couple: A pair of actors who met on set shooting My Roanoke Nightmare and went on to not only get engaged, but convince The Network to shoot their own wedding special (officiated by whoever Chaz Bono’s character is). The best way I can describe Rory and Audrey is like if Dax Shepard fell in love with, I don’t know, British Cynthia Nixon. They head to Roanoke to basically screw around on the network’s dime, although Rory plans to fly back to Los Angeles to screen test (likely for Bones).
And then there’s Agnes Mary Winstead. She’s Kathy Bates, playing actress Kathy Bates, playing what actress Kathy Bates calls “the role of a lifetime” in Agnes. But it turns out Agnes is actually Bates-shit crazy, falling so deep into the rabbit hole of playing The Butcher that she had a mental, violent, in-character breakdown on Hollywood Boulevard and, as such, has been banned from Return to Roanoke. At her peek obsession, she moved to North Carolina, so let’s do some math: Crazy woman who dresses as The Butcher + restraining order from the house = meta drama on meta drama that’s too meta to even appropriately meta. (Plus, Agnes also attacked Audrey before, when she’s convinced Audrey undeservedly won a Saturn Award.)
The last cast holdout is Dominic, whose late arrival comes as a surprise to RealShelby (for some reason?) and causes RealMatt to start a straight-up brawl with Dominic the second he gets through the foyer.
With that, all the players are in the house, but things start to go off the rails far earlier, right when Sidney and friends get down to the set in North Carolina. Sidney’s crew has already set up hidden cameras, and an idiot technician named Mac has already rigged the house with fake scares like a shaky sink, pyrotechnic pizza oven, and explosive cabinets. Mac, in truth, will also almost certainly die. And yet, despite the planned pranks, a surprise arrives on day 1 when a circle of fetal pigs shows up near the house.
Day 2: A freak chainsaw accident, which all but convinces Diana there may have been legitimacy to the Millers’ on-show claims. Sidney tries to silence her, as any douche producer would, so Diana flees — and what happens to a sensible woman on her way to blow the whistle about a cursed farmland? She dies, naturally! Or, unnaturally, since the very real Butcher appears, as does a Pig Man who materializes inside her car and straight-up murders her. Just like someone binge-ing NCIS, her body won’t be found for three months.
NEXT: And (eventually) then there was one
By the way, did I mention the one big important Impact-font 72-pt detail we need to discuss? Over the three days of the blood moon, every participant in the production died — except one. And all this footage is simply found footage, unreleased by producers.
Yep. Lighthearted, casual, and the kind of game-changer that offers yet another insane twist to an already vomit-inducing (in a good way!) season. If this season of American Horror Story wasn’t already relishing your dropped jaw, it’s going to do everything in its power now to fully unhinge that mandible by killing off these characters one by one.
There’s plenty of in-house drama to keep things interesting while this Agatha Christie nightmare progresses: There’s Monet and Lee, feuding alcoholics; there’s Lee and Shelby, where there’s still bad blood about the false accusation of murder; there’s Lee and Mason’s ghost, who pops up just ‘cause; there’s all three actors and Shelby, whose jumpy demeanor they make fun of within earshot; and then there’s Matt and Shelby, who are still awkwardly aloof but, I predict, will reunite just out of sheer necessity of being so damn scared.
Alas, one must die, and a few false alarms raise red flags, both of which happen to Audrey. First, the Butcher — or is it Agnes? — attacks the house, but nothing comes of it. Then, Audrey’s taking a shower when she’s surprised by the Pig Man, whom she believes to be Sidney.
She’s thoroughly shaken, and Rory heads upstairs to investigate…only to be brutally stabbed by the Sistah Nurses. Simultaneously, downstairs, Matt sees the bloody letters materialize that now, finally, spell MURDER — and he goes to tell the rest of the house the somber news that the word has been completed. R is for Rory.
Boom. Episode 6, done. I’m still in some form of shock about this genius move of television, reinventing a show that’s already reinvented on a show that’s reinvented itself. I can’t even really wrap my head around it, but by all means, debate in the comments: Did Roanoke’s big twist pay off?!