American Horror Story: Season 6 Episode 5 review – Chapter 5
Last week we wrote an article suggesting 5 ways to fix American Horror Story: Roanoke. It seems our suggestions were rather well timed, because this week the show happened to go down more than one of the avenues that we raised. Below you will find our spoiler-filled review of this week’s episode.
Bringing back favoured cast members was one potential resolution that we focused on. Fan-favourite Evan Peters had been suspiciously absent this entire season, until this week. Here it was revealed that he is playing Edward Phillipe Mott – an aristocratic, socially anxious, art-adoring homosexual. While this character does hold many similarities to Peters’ character of James March from last season (they both built the horror buildings in question and they both hold a viscousness underneath their posh exterior), which feels a little lazy on the writers’ part, we didn’t mind these parallels.
This is because Mott came across as interesting enough in his own right. Social anxiety is not something that often addressed on television (The Big Bang Theory being one exception), so having Mott fall within this category – with his reluctance to being around people and his love of solitude – was a strong move. Almost equally as intriguing was his love of art. At one point he states to his lover (who is male and non-white, which would have been extremely taboo at the time): “Art never judges us. I envy it… it flows in two dimensions, to watch the world go by unencumbered by the gossip and pain of three dimensional men. I love them you know – the paintings – even more than I love you.”
The other veteran to make an appearance this week was Frances Conroy, who felt a little wasted on what was simply an irate cannibal character. A bad move too was the handling of the hillbillies. It’s better to usurp stereotypes and prejudices than to prove them to be accurate. Shelby and Matt blamed the hillbillies quickly at the start of the horrors and assumed the worst of them. If these are indeed the same hillbillies from the start of the season then all the writers are doing here is reinforcing negative assumptions, rather than smartly subverting them by having the hillbillies help our characters.
By far the worst component of this episode, for us, was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s terrible acting, which jarred so much that it took us out of the magic of the episode. Goodwin is a real historian and not an actress, so no one should expect her to be proficient at acting. And we can see what the creators were trying to do by using a real historian to play a historian. However, there comes a point where you have to choose between using a real life persona and keeping the acting quality at a suitable level. Her acting really was quite painful to watch and they’d have served the episode much better by casting an actress instead.
We also noticed this week that Mott’s eye sockets flickered to black several times when he was showing our characters through the tunnels. There was also a very gory head smashing scene for Dr. Elias Cunningham’s death. This level of on-screen gore is one that the show has never ventured into before (to our memory), to the point where it actually jarred and surprised us, as we thought that the gore bar was set lower on this show. There was also some very cheesy lines in the dialogue this week; from Ambrose white claiming: “I will not let you shed another drop of innocent blood!” in a hammy manner, to the real Shelby stating that they were homeless but felt like the richest family in the world.
Another of our main suggestions to improve the show was to have the narrative catch up to the present and therefore for Lily Rabe to take Sarah Paulson’s place. Towards the end of this episode we saw our characters escape Roanoke and arrive at a motel, where nothing plagues them except bad dreams. The real Shelby (Rabe) then states: “We escaped with our lives that night, but I never completely got over it; I’m not sure I ever will.” This sounds very conclusive of the “nightmare” narrative to us. Combine this with the fact that we’re nearing the midway point (depending on whether this season holds the usual 12/13 episodes or not) and we’re wondering whether the show will finally shed the dreaded documentary approach and change rails going forward.
Image credits: FX