Five murders, one axe in the back, and what better be Kathy Bates' Emmy submission episode
This just in: American Horror Story is actually just about YouTube stars.
Everyone’s got their camera pointed in their own direction this week, as the folks at the Roanoke mansion — and the one literal crazy woman who’s still cosplaying — are all intent on filming themselves, just in case death and destruction come knocking.
Now, listen. I love recapping this show, and I’m going in deep on what happened to all these terrified characters this week, but no amount of analysis or recap scripture is going to do justice to this episode. “Chapter 7” is, so far, the best installment of the season, and the season itself is the best since Asylum, bearing genuine stakes for its characters’ deaths (unlike the fun, campy, resurrection-happy Coven) and legitimately scary moments. So read on, but if you really haven’t watched the episode and are hoping to fake it at the water cooler thanks to this recap, I honestly encourage you to change course and go watch it for yourself.
It’s tense. It’s taut. It’s genuinely scary and frightening. I gasped, like, four times.
So, here’s where we stand with all the characters in this nightmare. They’re fading, and fast.
Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson)
Admittedly, Sidney the producer lasted far longer than I expected — that is to say, he wasn’t the first to die. Congrats on a stunning achievement. He’s only the third to die, in fact, after poor Rory (the criminally killed Evan Peters) and a poor young production assistant named Alyssa, whose only crime was delivering dinner and bearing a childhood dream to enter the cutthroat industry of Hollywood. Turns out they also cut throats in North Carolina, as she’s sliced and diced outside the production office before she can even get staffed on The Middle. So, it’s understandable that when Sidney discovers her rapidly oozing body, his first instinct (“Get the camera!”) solidifies why nobody is upset when he and a cameraman are themselves quickly killed by The Butcher — or, the truly insane woman whom they cast as The Butcher, which in hindsight was a casting choice that should beget a big promotion for whoever saw the light during that audition.
Agnes Mary Winstead (Kathy Bates)
Playing The Butcher, then faded character actress Agnes, then faded character actress Agnes schizophrenically masquerading as The Butcher should garner Kathy Bates some kind of award, as it’s legitimately her best work on American Horror Story thus far. This week, she shines during what’s essentially her psychological breakdown after she’s excluded from Return to Roanoke. Setting up a de facto production office in Elias’s underground lair, Agnes goes full Real World confessional as she returns to her tripod camera for period interviews between killings.
First, there’s the murder of the production team. Soon afterwards, she makes a bold stride into the house and cleaves Shelby in the back (which, insanely, is only like the third-most shocking thing that happened this episode). Dominic shoves her into a window, but she quickly disappears again and retreats. Then, to prove even more how unsinkable this Molly Brown is, she comes after Lee, Monet, and Audrey in the forest. Even though Lee shoots her, Agnes won’t stay down: She cauterizes the wound with pliers and takes out the bullet with the elementary finesse of a Sesame Street tutorial from Liam Neeson.
But it’s all for naught when this devoted thespian finally meets her end — and her idol. As Agnes prepares to douse the mansion in kerosene and light it on fire, she’s greeted by the entire Roanoke ghost colony and the big lady herself, The Real Butcher (who, frankly, I was honestly expecting to look like Kathy Bates, but she instead opted for more of a Bette Midler-in-Hocus-Pocus vibe). Despite Agnes’ cries of adulation and her vulnerable final words “I just wanted to be on TV,” The Real Butcher bears no sympathy and slices Agnes in half. Actors, take warning: Never, ever, ever, ever sign on for a biopic of someone who’s alive. Or a ghost. Either or.
NEXT: Three ladies in a wood
Lee (Adina Porter)
Status: Alive, Currently Being Tenderized
It’s Lee who gets the wise idea to start filming everything they do, although initially it’s just for plausible deniability — not, as it would turn out, for the purposes of recording last words. Despite Rory’s disappearance and the sudden presence of a giant pool of so-girthy-it-has-to-be-human blood, the house doesn’t take anything as more than a prank until Agnes attacks Shelby. Then, it’s all real: The phone lines are down, ambulances aren’t arriving, and after an hour of Shelby bleeding out, Lee decides to head outside with Audrey and Monet to get help at Sidney’s production office.
They take the spooky catacombs as a shortcut (great idea, all things considered) and encounter what seems to be the real ghost of Edward Mott. Lee shoots him four times, but he still chases after them until they’re out in the woods, and the supernatural run-in is enough to officially turn all the women on edge. Bearing their phones like YouTube stars on a nature hike, they resume their search for the production office and finally find it — along with the dead bodies of Sidney, Alyssa, and the cameraman.
Audrey screams. Agnes runs at them. Lee shoots her. Colonists materialize. They all run. Audrey finds Rory’s dead, bloody, disemboweled body hanging from a tree. And then they’re TASED, out of the blue, by those good mortal cannibals, the Polks. The Polks take all three back to their marijuana-farm-cum-studio-apartment but take particular notice of Lee, tying her to a chair and proceeding to SEASON HER THIGH and TENDERIZE HER.
Audrey (Sarah Paulson)
Status: Alive, British, Currently Being Force-Fed
Monet (Angela Bassett)
Status: Alive, Back on the Bottle, Currently Watching Audrey Be Force-Fed
Monet and Audrey, meanwhile, get looped in together and ostensibly saved for a later meal, perhaps some sort of blood-moon feast or cannibalistic holiday I’m not privy to. They’re tied up in the Polk shed and forced to fatten themselves up by eating… Honestly, I don’t even know. You turn away from your TV for one damn second and suddenly Sarah Paulson’s eating tape worm beef jerky. Whatever it was they DID have to eat, just know the items were 1) disgusting; 2) horrible; and 3) probably some sort of North Carolinian backwoods delicacy, in all likelihood. [MORNING-AFTER EDIT: I’ve since been angrily informed that Audrey was, in fact, being made to eat Lee’s leg, which apparently was cooked and plated with shocking Chopped-level speed.]
NEXT: To Shelb and back
Shelby (Lily Rabe)
Status: Alive, Despite Being Axed in the Back
Look, I’m not even going to dance around this: Lily Rabe ALSO had one of the best episodes of her American Horror Story career this week, and that’s absolutely including the criminally underlooked work she did on Asylum. This week, Shelby hit all the bases in both trying to reconnect with her estranged husband and killing him in a jealous rage.
After an initially uneasy confrontation when Dominic arrived in the house — and a second awkward encounter when she, he, and Matt were alone in a room together — it looked like Shelby and Matt had no reconciliation ahead. Only after Shelby got half-butchered by Agnes (and, in her dying moments, took a Snapchat video) did she and Matt finally share some tenderness. They’re both in the same situation: distraught, terrified, and unsure why they even came back here in the first place. Except, Matt knows exactly why he came back here.
Matt (Andre Holland)
In the middle of the night, Matt wanders downstairs to the basement, either called by the hypnotic pull of a trance or by his own carnal asphyxia. It’s there he finally comes face-to-face again with Real Lady Gaga’s Seductive Swampy Horny Terra Firma Wood Witch (whom Ryan Murphy recently revealed is actually the first Supreme!).
As anyone would in this situation, Matt begins having ravenous sex with her, until Dominic gets wise and wakes up Shelby to watch the situation unfold with her own eyes. When she sees Matt A-YOing her Joanne, she attacks the witch with a crowbar, until Matt stops her and reveals the real reason he came back to Roanoke: TO F—K THE WOOD NYMPH. “I am in love with her, Shelby! She’s the reason I came back,” he screams. So Shelby does quite literally the most shocking thing this season: She kills him. And kills him. And kills him. It’s insane and amazing and truly worth all six episodes leading up to it.
Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr.)
Naturally, Shelby now falls deep into a homicidal freak-out, and her beau Dominic is there to comfort her — and tell her she has to turn herself in. As it turns out, Dominic’s bedside manner is just about as kind as his decision to visit the house purely to screw with the participants on Sidney’s behalf. “You know what I love most about reality TV? The bad guy. Puck, Omarosa, the bitch with the fake leg. Yeah, I did my homework,” he beams.
But for now, Shelby and Dominic are the only two alive inside the actual house, which Agnes is quickly dousing. They look through the window and start to record her destruction until the real colonists show up and, well, butcher her.
SO, WHO’S GOING TO LIVE?
Let’s break down the odds of survival:
Shelby (99:1) — She already had her big moment, and, let’s be honest, she’s not exactly taking it easy since her bloody wound. She’s gone by episode 8.
Dominic (75:1) — Dominic’s proven to be kind of a smarmy douchebag, so there’s realistically no reason to root for him other than to see Cuba Gooding Jr. get to be so damn insane on this show.
Audrey (30:1) — Sarah Paulson always gets to have fun on American Horror Story, but she hasn’t really gotten to have a big, juicy, gory death scene. I imagine this year, she’ll get hers. Plus, it’s clear she’s having a ball playing such a fun character in the season’s back half, which makes it pretty clear that this time, she won’t be our final girl.
Monet (10:1) — Bassett is a bona fide genius, but Monet is criminally underdeveloped. I’d love to see her survive the nightmare, but her story is too loose to bear any sort of significance if she does.
Lee (2:1) — My money’s on Lee to make it out alive. She’s got the redemption story and a real reason to survive — not just to clear her name, but to win back the loyalty and love of her daughter, Flora, who put us through far too much emotional damage in the first four episodes to not reconcile with her mother at this point. Go get ‘em, acclaimed character actress Adina Porter!
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