'American Horror Story: Roanoke' S6E1: Chapter 1

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Time to escape to the countryside for some rural horror.

It's about time that American Horror Story has gotten out of the city. After five seasons of Roman Polanski-style camp, Roanoke does the exact opposite: it's based entirely outside of city limits.

American Horror Story took a big chance on its fanbase when it turned its story structure upside down in this experimental first episode. American Horror Story took what could have been a can of worms and used those worms as bait instead.

There was a lot of secrecy around this season. A big reason being that people have been able to accurately guess the season theme since Coven. (And Lady Gaga revealed Hotel really early in the year.) So when it comes to surprising the heck out of audiences expecting a run-of-the-mill season, Roanoke does the trick. With the way things are set up now, there's no telling just what this season has in store.

AHS: S6E1

We're introduced to a cliche horror-show couple: Shelby and Matt. They're seemingly perfect and waiting for a chance to start over after an accident, and that comes in the form of a creepy old North Carolina home out in the middle of nowhere. But, for them, it's a home away from a place that isn't. The gimmick is, you're shown a "real" Shelby and Matt and their actor counterparts. In a hilarious twist of meta humor, American Horror Story's sixth season is actually just another ghost show. Something along the likes of A Haunting.

The most ingenious aspect of this season so far is not the storyline, something that feeds off of cliches in a clever way, but its overlapping stories. You're given multiple storylines, all with characters who find themselves unable to trust one another. With hallucinations, lies, and distrust, there's no character point of view that's reliable.

Another break from earlier seasons is a complete abandon of the family dynamic that has been central to so many seasons. There aren't exactly any "children" or "mother figures" that stand out right away. While it became problematic in Hotel, it's odd to see Murphy's signature trope for AHS be missing so suddenly. That said, will it be difficult for this season to stay afloat with so few characters to keep the narrative grounded?

The only unreliability Roanoke faces is the usage of its horror tropes. While American Horror Story is known for its camp and gore, the scary moments in this season seem so detached from one another that it becomes a little difficult to pinpoint just how their relationship exists with one another.

Introducing an entirely new structure to AHS, Roanoke gives way to a sense of delirium that the show hasn't been able to show for some time and while this season comes as a total shock simply because of how the story is arranged, it's a creative entry to American Horror Story. Though it's uncertain just how well this risk will pay off, it's going to be a scary-fun watch.

Do you think American Horror Story will take a break from the reality show format to show you what's happening to them in the present? What do you think of this season's first episode? Say what you think in the comments!

Comments

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Audrey BenedettoContributor
Sep 17, 2016 11:19PM EDT

Interesting that the "reenactment" actors are all significantly older than the "real life" actors... I wonder if that's significant?

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Sep 18, 2016 10:15AM EDT

im loving this season so far, i'm into ghost/paranormal shows, such as.. My Haunted House, Paranormal Survivor, etc.. so love the way they have set this season out. I also love how they have called it AHM: Roanoke, for those of you who don't know about Roanoke, it was a settlement founded by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 16th century and the entire settlement of around 150 people, kids, women and men all just suddenly vanished one day with no trace as to where they went, it's still an unsolved mystery today. All that was found when people returned to the village was a sketched out word on the main gate 'Croatoan' and on a tree they also found 'Cro' carved into it. SO! is this season gonna be a modern telling of that mystery? I hope so, cos i'm really interested in the Roanoke (Lost Village) story and the myths and theories that surrounds on of the worlds most famous mysterious vanishings.

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Sep 18, 2016 5:31PM EDT

The Roanoke colony made its appearance all the way back in season 1 along with "Croatoan"! We got the chance to see the background on it then and I'm so happy that Ryan Murphy's finally touching upon it.

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Sep 19, 2016 10:37AM EDT

@daviswalden agreed, it has been said though that this season will tie in stories from all the other seasons somehow, not sure really how they are going to do that.. lol.

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Sep 30, 2016 6:08PM EDT

seems I was right.. the lost colony.

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