This review contains major spoilers for American Horror Story Roanoke, season 6 episode 2.
At the end of last week’s episode, Flora disappeared, leaving only her jacket at the top of an impossibly high tree. It’s here that we begin things, as the police recover the jacket and begin a grid search for the girl alongside a large group of volunteers.
The “real life” Lee talks openly about the terror that a mother feels when their child is missing, as the group goes further and further into the woods finding no sign of Flora. The pig symbolism continues here, as Lee finds Flora’s doll with it’s limbs ripped off and the head and one of it’s legs replaced with that of a pig.
The group of Lee, Matt and Shelby continue on, and discover a horrid looking farmhouse far into the forest. Outside the farmhouse grounds, they come upon the dismembered body of a pig, surrounded by the remaining parts of Flora’s doll. Just what is the pig imagery in this season trying to tell us?
That mystery remains, however, as they explore the farmhouse and find it in predictably disgusting Resident Evil state, and there’s no sign of Flora. Out back, however, there is a barn. Drawn by strange shouts coming from it, the group approach as we hear thick, stomach churning suckling sounds growing louder and louder. We are then “treated” to the sight of two feral children, suckling on the teats of a pig.
I must give a nod here to the visual and sound design team, as my stomach genuinely did a turn here when we saw the two boys in full view. The group are equally horrified, and then we jump to the hospital.
A social worker tries desperately to get the boys to tell them something, anything, about what happened to Flora but it’s clear these boys have not been raised at all. They can only shout one word: CROATOAN. Until now, we had all assumed that the “Roanoke” connection was not that of the infamous disappearing colony, as we were too far away for that.
But, with the seed of “croatoan” laid, it seems that is not the case.
During that scene, we had the arrival of Mason, the arsehole father from the previous episode. He returns, once more a human wrecking ball of anger and unhelpfulness, and that comes into full force here. After deciding to call the search for Flora a day, as it’s now the middle of the night, the group returns to the house. Here, Mason lays some seeds of his own: that of suspicion.
He accuses Lee of engineering the whole thing, of pretending to the police, FBI, and everyone that Flora has been kidnapped so that she can keep custody of their daughter. This argument goes about as well as you’d expect, and Mason storms out of the house. He seemingly falls foul of some of the nasties out in the woods, as the next time we see him the main group are awoken from sleep by the police, as his burned body has been nailed to something resembling a St Andrew’s cross enclosed in a circle.
However, that seed of suspicion begins to sprout, as Matt checks the CCTV footage and sees Lee leaving the house shortly after Mason and not returning until four hours later. This doesn’t pay off for some time, but it’s a nice thread lied for both the characters and the viewers.
After that tense, dark moment things take a bit of a left turn off Fourth and Bananas, as we get the sudden appearance of a psychic named Cricket. After proving his credentials of having worked with the FBI (told to us by the “real” talking head segments), Cricket explores the house and walks unerringly to the cupboard where Flora hid and tells them that Priscilla has her.
“Real” Shelby tells us that she believes in psychics and people having “gifts” and so the group conduct a seance. Instead of making contact with Priscilla, we are visited by the visage of Kathy Bates’ character, who calls herself the Butcher. She tells the group that she will protect her land from “trespassers such as thee”, confirming that she and her colony have been behind at least some of the events at the house.
After the seance ends, Cricket loses all credibility with all, including the viewers, when he says that he can take Lee to Flora… if she pays $25,000. Matt throws him out of the house after the group turn on him, confirming his earlier belief that Cricket is a fraud.
As Cricket leaves, he whispers to Lee about her first child, Emily. At first, we don’t hear what he says. What’s really interesting here, is that we hear the voice of the person filming the “docu-drama” for the first time. He asks the “real” Lee about Emily.
Cricket says something like, “Emily says hello. She wonders why you quit looking for her, all those years ago.”
As intruiging as hearing the voice behind the camera is, the really interesting thing here is the facade of the “docu-drama” starts to fade. I think we’ve all had a feeling from the start that things are not as simple as they appear here, and that the docu-drama veneer would start to crumble. The cracks really start to show here as “real” Lee calls for a break, then the next time we see her, it’s a wider shot and we see Lee sitting next to a man in a fairly barren set.
She asks “are we rolling again?” Eventually, the “real” world and the “fake” world are going to merge – that seems to be the popular theory among most, and that theory has certainly been lent some strength here.
Lee tells the story of Emily and her disappearance, and then we jump to Cricket and Lee sitting across a table from each other. We learn the true story of the Butcher, a woman called Thomasyn White. Here we learn that the spirits are that of the famous Roanoke settlers, because the settlers moved inland to where the house is.
Before that, though, Thomasyn is banished by her fellow settlers and forced to wear some sort of cage mask like something of Saw. Days later, on the verge of dehydration and dying of hunger, Thomasyn is approached by a wild looking woman. Here we see for the first time this season – the barely recognisable Lady Gaga. After offering Thomasyn a deal to rescue in return for her soul, the sorceress (?) frees her and Thomasyn becomes the Butcher.
She murders her betrayers with a cleaver and announces that the colony will be moving inward.
Later, the group meet with the Butcher and the other colonists to strike a deal – return Flora and they will leave the house, and ensure that no one returns to the land ever again. Lee offers to burn the house down, and shocked to hear that Matt agreed to this, Shelby runs off into the woods and runs into Lady Gaga’s character. Seemingly in a trance, Matt is having sex with the sorceress as two hillbillies watch, much to Shelby’s horror.
When Matt and Lee return to the house, having struck a deal with the Butcher, Shelby has seemingly called the police on Lee as they arrest her on sight. Here we see the payoff from the suspicion that Mason laid earlier in the episode, as Lee is carted away by police.
Here Shelby is showing some pretty frustrating and arrogant denial, especially after all she has witnessed at this house. While Cricket is certainly unscrupulous, he clearly does possess something, and to dismiss him outright after her experiences and place the blame on Lee, does seem an annoying case of plot stupidity.
What’s most interesting about this episode is that after the raising of the stakes last episode with the MURDE twins and the murder of the professor at the hands of the Butcher, we have actually wrapped up a lot of threads and almost solved the mystery. Knowing AHS and it’s fondness for referencing horror tropes this season, there’s no way it will be as simple as what the group planned this week.
So while, all in all, it does seem like a de-escalation from last week, we also have the threads for future plot points buried for us in the soil.