Spencer Wright, ‘20/ TV Staff Writer
Due to the consistently underwhelming recent seasons of American Horror Story, fans should expect to be disappointed when the popular anthology show picks up each fall. However, in its sixth season, under the mysterious label of ?6 instead of the traditional themed subtitle, the tiring show promised to reinvent itself. With a slew of discomforting trailers and posters- all of wildly different aesthetics- viewers began to feel optimistic excitement for what this new season could have in store. Sadly, after six episodes, the excitement has quickly depleted and is now replaced by frustration and annoyance as the show balks at the opportunity to provide the shocking “twist” that was promised for weeks, and thus proves it to be a waste of a season as a whole.
In the first few episodes of the season, Roanoke grabbed the attentions of its audience by abandoning the conventional style of the show, choosing instead to utilize a meta, show-within-a-show documentary style of horror. This concept was fresh and unique for a series that had become too predictable in the past few seasons- but even this became exhaustive quickly. By having two sets of identical characters, (a “real” Shelby, and an actress who was playing her in dramatic re-enactments, for example), the audience rapidly lost interest in the characters, knowing they survived the horrific ordeals by the end of it. Furthermore, each of the three main characters- Shelby (Sarah Paulson), Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and Lee (Angela Bassett)- were all idiots, deciding to stay in a decrepit home plagued by disgusting horrors even after teeth fell from the sky and homicidal nurses chased them down the hallways.
The irritancy of these nonsensical characters could be ignored thanks to some legitimately creepy moments- Piggy Man and Kathy Bates’ Butcher were especially disturbing- and the promise of a huge “twist” that would come in episode six. Just like the overall premise before this season premiered, the impending twist was shrouded in mystery and kept viewers glued to their TV’s, even through dumbfounding moments. Because of the reliance on the sixth episode to revive the already-weak season, disappointment was doubled when the “twist” was revealed to be nothing more than a “look behind the cameras” -which included embarrassing wastes of Kathy Bates’ and Sarah Paulson’s talents- and a senseless return to the cursed house, this time, with the “real people” and their famous, actor counterparts under one roof for the purposes of juicy reality TV drama.
Though the sixth episode as a whole was poorly executed in its decision to make the season a mock-reality show from that point on, the “twist” became especially displeasing after the further “idiotization” of the characters. Though character development was in short supply in the first five episodes, the main understanding viewers had from the beginning of the season about Shelby, Matt, and Lee was that they were traumatized by the occurrences of their Roanoke home- and yet, for no particular reason other than “plot purposes,” we are expected to believe they would return to that home to be on a reality TV show? ‘Suspension of disbelief’ is too lenient a phrase to use for this extreme load of absurdity, and it’s even more offensive when Bates, Paulson, and Evan Peters are subjected to behaving like fools to fit this sudden plot change. Seeing Kathy Bates as Agnes have a random “schizophrenic” breakdown because she’s “too attached to her fictional character” is something viewers could live without; Sarah Paulson’s forced English accent and use of overt British slang as Audrey to suddenly prove she’s vastly different from her character of Shelby was embarrassing for an actress of her caliber; Evan Peters’ goofy adoration of Audrey as the lovable dweeb Rory (Evan Peters) was clearly, and obnoxiously, written for no other reason than to please his teen fans.
With the redeeming “twist” now a thing of the past, it is a sad truth that this season of AHS is simply a dud. A plot that makes no realistic sense and insufferable characters leave this season, though only halfway to completion, another underwhelming failure. For fans of the show who were expecting a satisfying return to form for the once-stellar series, Roanoke is not the season to watch with optimism.
Blessings and Afflictions
Blessing: Flora (Saniyya Sidney) is no longer being used as a cliched horror device! When the young girl was first introduced in the second episode, she was excessively used for only two reasons: to say frightening things, and to be kidnapped, both of which are stereotypes of children in modern horror and something that feels especially tired on AHS. Luckily, for whatever reason, Flora isn’t participating in the “reunion special” at the Roanoke house, meaning future episodes won’t rely on that particular trope.
Blessing: The Piggy Man and the legitimate horror he brings to the show! Though it was obvious that shrill producer Diana was going to die as she escaped in her car, Piggy Man leaping at her from the backseat of the car was a legitimately shocking, and a genuinely creepy, visual.
Affliction: The entire flashback of Audrey and Rory’s wedding. That scene was awkward, forced, cheesy and irrelevant, providing further evidence at the serious lack of genuine character development present this season
Lady Gaga as Scáthach, the Witch of the Wood
In a season plagued by red herrings and underdeveloped characters, Lady Gaga was able to infuse enough simultaneous compassion and distrust into her mysterious character to make her one to root for. With an off-kilter accent, abnormal body movement, and rabid facial expressions, Gaga leapt onto the screen as a woman to fear, but soon developed her into one we felt a cautious sympathy for. Thank you, Saint Gaga!