This review contains major spoilers for American Horror Story: Roanoke, season 6 episode 2.
The docu-drama style remains strong this week, and we have a brief teaser of things to come in the episode before we get into the action. We pick up exactly where we left off last week, with Shelby in the woods having stumbled across a scalped man collapsing in front of her.
Shelby flees, but comes upon something even worse – a human sacrifice. Here we get our first real look at Kathy Bates’ character, who is talking in a strange way with very religious overtones. As she talks, the man to be sacrificed has a pig tail nailed to him, before being trussed and tied to a tree hanging over a flame pit.
The pig theme has been a very consistent theme throughout both episodes, with the constant nighttime pig sounds and the discovery of a dead pig by Matt, Shelby’s husband. It doesn’t stop at just a pig tail, though, as the people surrounding him place a hollowed out pig’s head over his own. Shortly after, he is set a flame, and Shelby flees as she is spotted by Kathy Bates’ character.
The fact that Shelby was spotted does point to at least some of the shenanigans going on here not being just “looks into the past” as we’ve seen done in this show before. With those, the viewer can’t interact with the “ghosts” at all, yet here that was not the case. It seems we have a bit of a mix going on here in Roanoke.
Soon after, Shelby is found by Matt’s sister Lee, and surprisingly – the couple decide to stay in the house. Something “real” Matt brings up in the talking heads section of the “docu-drama” is how long people with rationalise the irrational, and we see that here in spades with Shelby.
Lee’s daughter, Flora, joins the fray and she brings with her the only missing element to this haunted-house-but-not-quite affair – creepy giggling children. It doesn’t take long at all for Flora to begin communicating with someone named Priscilla, who at first doesn’t seem malevolent. Flora says that Priscilla wants it it to stop and “she’s tired of all the blood”.
What this mostly does, as well as setting up the very familiar “child talking with ghosts pretending to be their friend” trope, is hint at the deeper history of this house. That is something that we finally begin to explore in this episode.
I mentioned last week how AHS seems to be moving at a pretty fast pace with this story, and that continues as things escalate further. Until now, Matt had not seen much that couldn’t be explained away. But, things seem to have been kicked into high gear as both he and Shelby are awakened – once again – by pig sounds. The couple soon get lost in the woods in the pitch darkness, but join up in time to see the granddaddy of sacrificial displays.
A pigs head stands on a series of branches arranged in a vaguely humanoid form, the guts and skin of (presumably) the same person we saw sacrificed displayed in gory detail. What’s really interesting here, though, is that when the police are called – the remains are still there. All the other times they were called, they (supposedly) found no evidence, but this time they do. Again, hints at something more than a simple haunting.
The couple are finally granted police protection, but unsurprisingly, that only seems to make things worse. Matt seems to be the target of the visions this time around, as he hears the phone ring in the middle of the night and answers it to a faint voice hidden by static.
Here is when we see the first true ghosts of this season, as he walks to the living room to see an old, bedridden woman being chastised by two nurses. The old woman refuses to take her medicine because it makes her feel ill, and the nurses react by shooting her in the head. As Matt watches on in horror, one begins spray painting the letter “M” on the wall while laughing madly.
Yet another breadcrumb laid down about the past history of the Roanoke house.
The “friendly” Priscilla is revealed as not so friendly, surprising no one ever – as when Flora’s father comes to pick her up, they find her hiding in a cupboard attempting to give Priscilla her doll. When asked why she would do that, Flora answers: “As a trade. So she wouldn’t kill us. They’re going to kill us all… and save me for last.”
Her father, apparently trying for for arsehole of the century award, immediately leaves with his daughter without even letting her mother say goodbye. Shouting about going to the judge as Flora cries from the car, he drives away. But she’ll be back – Priscilla and the other things in the house have plans for her.
Soon after, Shelby and Matt discover a hatch in the woods surrounding the house, leading down to a basement that has long since been abandoned. However, there are signs that someone once lived down here, and they left something behind – an old Panasonic camera with a tape.
Here we have another character being introduced, Dr Elias Cunningham, played by Denis O’Hare. On the tape he is mad, raving – yet at the same time making sense with everything that has been going on in the house. It is his tape that gives us the big exposition dump that hints at something much larger than what we’ve previously suspected.
Elias once lived in the house, but at the time of making the tape, had retreated to the cellar out of fear of the house. He tells the story of the two nurses that Matt glimpsed earlier on, Miranda and Bridget Jane.
As we gleaned earlier, these two nurses apparently got a kick out of murdering old people. Elias tells us how they once worked at an assisted living facility, where they came under suspicion for the deaths of two elderly patients. They leave before charges can be filed, and soon enough, they ended up at the Roanoke house – as if something had drawn them to it.
Having escaped before they could gain a reputation, we see the events that took place, leading up to death that Matt witnessed. The sisters opened an assisted living facility, and sure enough, they made short work of murdering their patients. They chose patients especially so that the first letter of each of their first names would spell out the word “MURDER” on a wall of the house.
Understandably shaken by what they’ve seen, Shelby and Matt investigate the place he saw the two sisters earlier by peeling off the wallpaper. Sure enough, there it is – the word MURDE, faint but still readable. As Elias says, the sisters were interrupted before their work was complete.
However there is more to the tape, which leaves the first hint that there is something much more malignant here that two mass murdering sisters. Elias tell us that something stopped them before they could finish, and the tape ends with him going into the house to investigate what it is.
As you might expect, it doesn’t exactly end well for him, as he is very quickly approached by a woman. The picture is blurry and the woman’s face is only visible for a brief second, but it looks like it’s Kathy Bates’ character…
Before our characters barely have time to breathe, Lee arrives with Flora in tow, having taken her from her father’s without permission. Shelby and Matt convince her to take Flora back home, but she is nowhere to be found. There is only her yellow jacket, hung impossibly high in a tree…
So, while we have a haunting on our hands, it is definitely much more malevolent than any we have dealt with before in AHS. The show is treading very familiar horror territory, however it’s done with a very dark twist and with it’s own unique style. All in all, this episode comfortably sets the intrigue levels to high, while feeding us more details of the evil that lives in this house.
We’re only on episode two, yet I have a feeling that the couple have much, much in store for them – especially given that the presence has no problem murdering people after a while. As I mentioned before, even the docu-drama style does not necessarily mean that our characters survived…