Let's be real, if we're ranking all the different iterations of American Horror Story (and ranking IS the primary purpose of the internet/the very gift of Dear Sweet Life), this current outing isn't exactly the Usain Bolt of stylized emotional sex-gore. By now it's well documented the clunky interview format is to blame. Until Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk drop this much promised script-flipping, we'll just have to judge each episode on its own merits. Sure season-long storytelling doesn't have to be sprint. Which is to say it's very possible for some game-changers to come along like tonight and make Roanoke pull ahead when we least expect it.
Come, let us "pig out" on the five things "Chapter 3" did right.
5. Dropping that Pesky Fourth Wall
This should have happened in the first five minutes of "Chapter 1," but still credit where credit is due. In her talking-head segment, a distraught Lee (Adina Porter) demanded to have the cameras turned off, and we got a quick behind-the-scenes shot of the My Roanoke Nightmare production, boom mics and all. In breaking the element of control these segments normally have, the fake TV show became less a narration and more a story in its own world capable of developing outside the confines of whatever happened at the Miller's house. There was conflict! Things going wrong — whatever you want to call it. Surprise is the bread and butter of engaging television and especially horror. We want surprises! This moment showed us that there are living threats on both sides of the dramatization.
4. Secrets, Lies, and Indiscretions (i.e. DRAMA)
Lee tried hiding a psychic's whispered line from the production team (more on the star of this clairvoyant show stealer later), as well as from Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Shelby (Sarah Paulson). Matt claimed memory loss during sex with the Forest Witch (Lady Gaga) and promised to burn the house down behind Shelby's back. Meanwhile, Shelby ratted out Lee to the cops against the express wishes of her sister-in-law and husband. We're seeing the characters splinter and that splintering continue into the "real world" with present-day emotional effects on the talking heads. Breaking the Fourth Wall brought danger into a controlled environment and introducing varying versions of the events after the fact makes the interview format more necessary.
American Horror Story: Roanoke just made a huge Murder House connection
3. Gore and Other Messed-Up Stuff
But neither of those things mean a lick of sow-spit without some good ol' fashioned blood and guts. Specifically, blood and guts that matters to the characters. Arguably all the gore we've seen so far have been glorified jump scares. No one has lost their life or been wounded is what I'm saying. But that all changed tonight. Mason unfortunately got roasted, toasted, and burnt to a crisp on what appeared to be a bespoke, wooden pentagram (meanwhile ex-wives everywhere let out a collective cheer); a truly disturbing combination of doll and piglet parts were found scattered 100 yards from an abandoned farmhouse that also happened to house a couple of feral children drinking pig milk (natch); and if all that wasn't enough, a some stubborn colonists got hacked up and slit via a meat cleaver. We joke, but this sort of thing is important for a show that touts the word "Horror" in its title, and last night delivered the kind of unsettling moments that makes our skin crawl. Let's just say it'll be quite some time before this writer enjoys a nice glass of pig milk (two days tops, probably).
2. Some Damn Answers...ish
Feral children, ghost mobs, haunted bonnets and the associated mystery that surrounds all these things are all as spooky head-scratchers, but looking past the setup of this season, it's time to provide the audience with some damn answers. Thanks to a certain character who might just hold the number one ranking we finally got some clarity. We learned that Flora is not dead but rather ghostnapped by Priscilla; we also learned what the ghost collective hassling Matt, Shelby and Lee actually want. The answer wasn't super surprising, as most ghosts want like two things usually — either help finishing unfinished business, or just for the living inhabitants off their turf to bounce. In this case it's the latter. Which is to say, by providing some answers instead of just questions we have a little more information to deduce where all this is going.
1. Cricket and The Butcher
Oh, Cricket. Cricket, Cricket, Cricket. Cricket Marlowe (Leslie Jordan) is just the breath of fresh air this season needed. Aside from the chance to see things bludgeoned/flayed/immolated/exsanguinated, we watch American Horror Story for the larger than life characters who operate in this heightened world with style and a strong point of view. Your Zelda Rubensteins (Jessica Lange), your Marie Leveaus. Enter New Orleans-based psychic Cricket, who boasted the dapper charm of Truman Capote mixed with the fashion of Andy Warhol. (Hmm, he also looked suspiciously like Coven's male witch Quentin Fleming). Maybe the two are twins. "Spirits download to me like a paranormal zip drive," Cricket said pretty much sounding like the psychic from Poltergeist, before naming his price of $25,000 in order to plunge his "delicate soul into peril." Love it! Seers got too eat to man.
The best thing about Cricket is that he's authority on righting the unholy wrongs we're seeing on screen and does not take any guff from the spirits he deals with, especially The Butcher (Kathy Bates). Every pot needs a lid and these two are our first characters who seem equally matched in the world of the supernatural. Plus the yin to Cricket's yang had a really cool origin story! Thomasin "The Butcher" White was a woman who inherited governorship of the doomed Roanoke colony only to be banished via spike helmet. In her hour of need she sold her soul to the Forest Witch Gaga and returned victorious to chop mad heads. Again, all this should've happened twelve minutes into "Chapter 1," but maybe all this delayed satisfaction is what Murphy's going for? Suffice to say if future episodes become populated with larger-than-life characters like Cricket and The Butcher, then this season might not be down for the count just yet.
So there it is, all the parts that made last night's episode-sausage the tastiest yet [end meat metaphor]. Here's hoping there will be more of what worked going forward and zero of what didn't.
Who is your favorite character: Cricket or Cricket?
Will Wes Bentley's mother-betraying character be more developed?
Do you hope the Millers adopt those pig-children?
American Horror Story: Roanoke airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on FX.