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‘American Horror Story’ Recap and Reaction: “Chapter 2”

The Millers dig deeper into the history of their new house, Lee makes a rash decision, and another video turns up. We still haven’t heard the word “Roanoke” spoken, but we did get a Lady Gaga cameo. Welcome to American Horror Story: Roanoke, Chapter 2.

This article includes reactions to the episode in which specific details and events are discussed. SPOILERS may occur, so read at your own risk.

Picking up immediately where we left off, Shelby ran through the creepy forest into a scalped man…

Into the Woods

American Horror Story Roanoke Kathy Bates in terror and Lady Gaga wearing antler horns in the background
"The Butcher" and whoever / whatever Lady Gaga is...

Just when you thought Shelby hadn’t encountered quite enough terror, we get to the meat of the real antagonists. The colonials track the scalped man. At this point, we have to assume that the colonials are either the lost colony of Roanoke’s former residents or their descendants. Their recovery agent (played by Lady Gaga in an antler-horned headpiece that toes the line between fascinating and ridiculous) brings him back for “purification.” Or at least what Kathy Bates’ character, The Butcher, calls purification. Most of the rest of us would call it nailing a pig’s tail to his backside, stuffing his head into an oversized pig’s head, and roasting him on a spit. This is what goes for justice in this community, as The Butcher accuses him of desertion and theft from the storehouse. As he screams, they catch sight of Shelby observing from afar and order her seizure. Run, Shelby!

And run she does, until Lee nearly hits her with the car (echoing Shelby hitting The Butcher with her car last week). Shelby wakes up in the hospital, tells a fantastic story of Satanists in colonial drag. I hope she managed to wedge in the part where it rained teeth, but she probably didn’t get that far. She’s not on drugs, the police determine; after that story, who could blame them for checking? So, if she’s not crazy and not on drugs, the Millers fall back to the old standby of blaming the Appalachian family for punking them. I will be totally surprised if the Polk family (who they keep labeling with words like ‘hillbilly’, ‘white trash’, and ‘inbred’) do not turn out to be the heroes of this story, trying to buy the property from well-meaning yuppies who are marked for death by an ancient evil.

No sooner is Shelby home from the hospital than the Millers have a new houseguest. Lee’s ex-husband Mason brings their daughter Flora for an overnight. Which is totally what a former cop does when the house was recently invaded and creepy Halloween ornaments left behind. This is really an excuse to play with the “evil imaginary friend trope” as Flora soon is willing to trade her beloved doll in exchange for the family’s lives. Cutting to the chase on this plot: Mason gets freaked out. Lee (the former cop) falls off the wagon and kidnaps Flora back. Flora sees her imaginary friend outside and runs into the woods after her, thereby going missing.

These woods are evil. There are people in it (maybe alive, maybe not) that are evil. Imaginary friends (after every one of you has seen ghosts or had hallucinations, or time-traveled, or whatever is going on with this show) are not imaginary. Listen to the kid, since she’s trying to save the oblivious adults.

Digging Up the Past

Straw Men from American Horror Story Season 6 Promos

We rehash the damsel running into the woods trope yet another night. Shelby hears a pig squealing, runs out, ignores Matt, gets separated from him, and they both come upon the burning effigy of the wooden man with a pig’s head atop it and a buffet of roasting meat. Yep, their new neighbors are cannibals AND Satanists. Matt is incensed, compares it to a burning cross on the lawn, and cuts it down. They apparently have the presence of mind to have cell phones with them, because they lead the police to the long pig barbeque.

Finally, the police agree to have an officer outside and an APB on the Polks. This officer is not privy to the shenanigans inside at 3am, where Matt hears a phone ringing (that wasn’t plugged in) and has a spectral visitation. We’ll get back to what he saw in a minute, but (surprise!) there’s no evidence inside to follow up on. Lee knows the cops think they’re crying wolf.

When daylight breaks, the Blair Witch yet another cloaked figure draws the spouses outside. They find a trap door, and I think we’re getting into a Lost homage for a moment. But it’s just a cellar that had a scientist hiding in it for a while and a mysterious videotape. Then I think we’re getting into a Rings homage when they actually watch the videotape. (Though in fairness, they might be dead in seven days.) Then we get into flashbacks as the enigmatic doctor on the tape describes the history of the Murder House Roanoke House by a pair of killer nurse sisters (Matt’s vision!), capped off with a found-footage/jump-scare reel of the house’s paranormal activity. Then they get a jump scare themselves as someone leaves a freshly bloody cleaver wedged in their door.

Old Stories Made New Again

American Horror Story
Roanoke House

We’ve been here before. We know that previous stories tie together, and we first heard a version of the Roanoke story in “Murder House.” But it feels like we’re retreading tropes and homages that the show has already done. I think that The Butcher’s cult aren’t actually ghosts. If they were, they’re leaving an awful lot of physical evidence behind, when they could disappear at will. Ghosts also don’t need to eat and can’t leave the immediate area (by the show’s own rules), and the scalped man was executed for desertion and hoarding food. The show has done ghosts already twice. While the nurse sisters and the Piggy Man are definitely ghosts (and maybe Priscilla), it seems a little odd that we’re drawing from that well again.

All of the stories so far have featured mass murderers or serial killers (or both), and nearly all have had the serial killers killed by the mass murderers. This story, by episode two, is no different. In a direct parallel to “Murder House”‘s second episode, we have a pair of nurses that are now ghosts. The number of references that this story is a dark reflection of “Murder House” is piling up. Personally, I’m interested in seeing where this story goes; but I also want to see brand new plots.

Season 6

American Horror Story broadcasts on Wednesdays on FX Networks. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming.

For a full recap of “Chapter 2”, visit the American Horror Story Wiki.


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