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American Horror Story: Everything to Know Before Lana Winters' Return

How Roanoke's finale might mirror Asylum's

Sadie Gennis

As if we weren't already excited, the American Horror Story: Roanoke finale is bringing back a fan-favorite character from Asylum: Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson).

The Season 2 heroine will make her triumphant return in Wednesday's episode to conduct a live interview with Lee Harris (Adina Porter), who is "equally reviled and celebrated" as a result of the events chronicled in Return to Roanoke and her highly publicized trial that followed.

But for those of you who either didn't watch Asylum - in which case stop reading this article, go to Netflix and watch it immediately - or simply need a refresher, here's everything you need to know about Lana Banana ahead of the Roanoke finale.


She's an investigative reporter: In 1964, Lana was a journalist looking for her first big scoop when she snuck into the mental asylum Briarcliff Manor. When she got caught, Lana was institutionalized and immediately began plotting to expose Briarcliff's many misdeeds -- a plan which got temporarily derailed when the serial killer Bloody Face (Zachary Quinto) tried to make her his next victim.

American Horror Story: Roanoke reveals the sole survivor

In 1968, Lana released a best-selling book about her ordeal with Bloody Face. A few years later, she brought a film crew to Briarcliff as part of an expose that got the institution shut down for good. Between then and 2013, when Asylum ended, Lana's successful career also included a prison interview with Bernie Madoff, receiving a Kennedy Center honor and a story in which she exposed the crimes of Cardinal Howard (Joseph Fiennes) and Dr. Arden (James Cromwell) during their time at Briarcliff, which lead to Howard's decision to commit suicide.

And judging by the fact that Lana is the one who landed the exclusive interview with Lee, it looks as though her career is still going strong today.


She's gay: Lana's sexuality will likely not play any role in the Roanoke finale, but there's such a dearth of good LGBTQ representation on TV that we should take this moment to celebrate having such an inspiring, ambitious and intelligent lesbian take center stage on one of TV's most popular dramas.


She was Asylum's final girl:There were many villains in Asylum, but the one who terrorized Lana specifically was Bloody Face, who got his nickname from the mask made of human skin he wore while committing his crimes.

Also known as the psychiatrist Oliver Thredson, Bloody Face helped Lana escape Briarcliff but then chained her up in his basement where he raped her and attempted to kill her. Lana got away, only to find herself remanded to Briarcliff once more. With the help of the Mother Superior, Lana snuck out of Briarcliff again, this time with evidence of Thredson's serial murders. She then waited in Thredson's home with a gun and shot him in the head once he returned.

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Just like Lee, Lana was the lone survivor of her season, but now there are fears that Lana will go from being Asylum's final girl to Lee's final victim. (Creator Ryan Murphy already showed with Queenie's [Gabourey Sidibe] brief Hotelcameo that he isn't above bringing a character back only to kill them off right away). But we have a feeling Lana can more than handle herself after surviving a serial killer, aliens, Nazis doctors and demons. Compared to all that, what's one human who is possibly possessed by an ancient witch?

She was a part of one of the greatest, wackiest AHS scenes of all time: In a fantasy sequence inside Sister Jude's (Jessica Lange) head, Lana's former tormentor-turned-friend imagined all the inmates of Briarcliff performing "The Name Game." There is zero chance this will have any bearing on Roanoke, but it's so charming that you should just watch it anyways.


She's a godmother: At the end of Asylum, Lana became the godmother of fellow Briarcliff patient Kit Walker's (Evan Peters) two children, Julia and Thomas. Julia, whose mother was Alma Walker (Britne Oldford), grew up to be a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, and Thomas, whose mother was Grace Bertrand (Lizzie Brochere), grew up to be a Law professor at Harvard.

Given the apparent focus on Lee's legal proceedings in the finale, there's a small chance that Thomas will make his first appearance as an adult to put his legal knowledge to use -- either as a law expert in the Lana Winters special or potentially even working on Lee's case.


She had a son: When Lana discovered she was pregnant with Thredson's child, she attempted to terminate the pregnancy with a coat hanger. The abortion was unsuccessful and Lana ultimately decided to have the child. For decades, Lana claimed her son had died, but she revealed in a 2013 interview that she had put him up for adoption.

During the same interview, Lana's now-adult son Johnny (Dylan McDermott) went undercover as a member of the crew. When the pair confronted each other after the cameras stopped rolling, Johnny revealed his intention to fatally shoot Lana to make his father proud. Lana managed to get Johnny to drop the gun, only to grab it herself and shoot him in the head, just like she did with his father.

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This moment could prove to be very influential in the relationship between Lee and Lana in the Roanoke finale, because if Lee did kill Mason and also her missing first daughter Emily, then the parallels between herself and Lana would go far beyond their experiences of survival. It would also make them both women who are responsible for killing their own child and for killing their child's father -- a shared past which Lana could exploit in the interview.

It's also interesting to note that both Asylum and Roanoke are ending with a high-profile Lana Winters interview, although Lana's role in the interview is now swapped. (Hotel also ended with Paulson's Murder House character Billie Dean Howard returning to conduct an interview with John Lowe's [Wes Bentley] ghost for her own TV show.)

It's unlikely this is purely a coincidence, which is why many expect only one of the women to make it out of the interview alive. The question is then whether history will repeat itself -- with Lana as the killer -- or if these roles will also be reversed.

​Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Asylum and Roanoke

She's 78: Despite the fact that in the Roanoke finale Lana looks only slightly older than Sarah Paulson in real life, she's actually 78.

When an interviewer mentioned how good Lana looks for her age in Asylum, Lana credited "a very talented surgeon in Paris and a great dermatologist." In the years since, Lana appears to have gotten some more work done, as evidenced by her apparent youthfulness in the Roanoke finale (right) compared to her in Asylum (left).

Are you excited for Lana Winters' return?

American Horror Story: Roanoke's finale airs Wednesday at 10/9c on FX.

(Gifs via Giphy, Wifflegifs)