American Horror Story “Chapter 6” Review (Season 6 Episode 6)

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On the latest episode of “American Horror Story,” the much-hyped “big twist” was finally here in “Chapter 6,” and it was…pretty much what a lot of us already suspected it would be, TBH. Yes, there were a few wacky outlier theories that had the interviewed cast turning out to be ghosts and a more intriguing one that had “My Roanoke Nightmare” turn out to be a show produced by recurring character Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson), but I think most of us had decided the more likely one had a team of filmmakers returning to the scene of the crime to film some more footage and running afoul of the actual Roanoke ghosts.

That was basically right, save a few key details. For one, I never would have expected the actual Matt (André Holland), Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Lee (Adina Porter) to ever set foot on the Roanoke property again, yet there they were, and right around the time of the Blood Moon, no less, even though they, of all people, should have known better.

Predictably, the reasoning behind this was a little on the iffy side. Lee had the best defense: she wanted to clear her name after public opinion had her being the one that not only killed her ex-husband Mason, but endangered the life of her child Flora, to the point of receiving death threats and being sued by her mother-in-law for custody of her child.

Meanwhile, Shelby wanted to come back simply to get Matt behind closed doors with no choice in the matter, in hopes of reconciling with him after she had a real-life fling with Dominic Banks (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), the actor who played him in the re-enactments! As for Matt…well, I’m honestly not sure why he returned at all. Moral support for his sister?

Either way, show producer Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson) promised Shelby that Dominic wouldn’t be there. Naturally, he lied, as Dominic did show up, albeit late in the game- and promptly got into a full-on fist fight with Matt practically before he walked in the door.

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It was this sort of “Reality TV” wrangling that gave the episode its best moments, as Sidney gleefully set things up for his “guests” in such a way as to achieve maximum drama, hoping to replicate, if not surpass the ratings success of “My Roanoke Nightmare,” which we were told on the outset was a massive hit.

As we began, Sidney, filming everything and telling his cameraman to continue to do so, no matter what, even if he “says” to quit, took in a meeting with the network execs of the unnamed network the original show had aired on to pitch his new idea: “Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell.” The idea being to get both the original inhabitants of the house, as well as some of the cast of the re-enactments, to spend three days at the now-infamous house- which he now owned, we discovered- smack dab during the Blood Moon.

Of course, no fool he, and not believing for a second that the Millers were telling the truth, Sidney arrived early at the scene to “set things up,” which is to say, rig the house with special effects to mess with everyone to ensure something actually did happen. Well, as he found out soon enough, he needn’t have bothered, as no sooner did the crew arrive than things started going awry.

First, a crew member found a circle of fetal pigs on the property, which she insisted they didn’t plant. Then, another crew member working on the house “accidentally” sawed his own head off! You know, as you do. Then, after a Union Rep (Kimberly Bailey) gave Sidney the go-ahead to continue shooting, his assistant producer, Diana (Shannon Lucio, “True Blood”) immediately bailed in disgust, only to end up (presumably) dying moments after, when the Pig Man popped up in her back-seat and caused her to wreck.

We find out that Diana’s body was never found, only the footage from her car camera, via a title card, which cropped up periodically throughout the episode, to further drive home the whole “Blair Witch”-style conceit, albeit with diminishing results, TBH. The other one informs us that no one survived the three day ordeal- except one individual- and the project was never completed.

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Honestly, creator Ryan Murphy must trip over his balls constantly, because his propensity for revealing stuff he shouldn’t reveal ahead of time must mean they’re so big he can’t avoid it for walking. I mean, seriously, how much more effective would this “twist” have been if we hadn’t all known it was coming? And now, to add insult to injury, we already know everyone is going to die!

One of the bigger complaints about the initial set-up in the first place was that we knew the Millers were going to survive or they wouldn’t be able to tell the tale in the first place. Now, we also know that only one of the bunch is going to survive the next half of the show. What the what, Murphy?!!!

Anyway, I’m going go ahead and call it: it’s going to be Agnes Mary Winstead (Kathy Bates), aka the actress who played “The Butcher” and got a little too into the role, to the point that she got arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and thrown into an institution for six months, where she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and put on extensive medication.

To that end, solely to rile her up, Sidney pays her a visit, ostensibly for an interview, where he points out that she continued to dress as “The Butcher” long after the shoot was done, stole a bunch of props from the set, and even went so far as to try and attack Audrey Tindall (Sarah Paulson, having a jolly good time affecting a purposefully fake British accent), aka the actress who played Shelby in the re-enactment, who won the Saturn Award she was also nominated for instead of her!

Serving Agnes with a restraining order keeping her away from the set, he leaves her completely freaking out, saying that he hopes she ignores it and shows up anyway, which she naturally does- indeed, before most of the people even show up. My guess is that she’ll live to tell the tale, but no one will believe her, as she’s crazy pants, and as such, will likely be blamed for the ensuing murders, leading everyone to believe that it’s all still fake.

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Honestly, the best part of this was undeniably the excellent world-building going on here. I’ve got to give credit where credit’s due- Murphy may have telegraphed his “big twist” to the point that he may as well have paid for a billboard announcing it before the fact, but at least he delivered the goods with some sharp, vitriolic writing that takes Hollywood down a few pegs in the process, boding well for his impending new series “Feud,” which will revolve around the real-life rivalry between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

In addition to the highly-amusing Saturn Award melee (which we cleverly hear about via a 911 call) and the method-acting-gone-horribly-wrong bits I already mentioned, there was also footage from E! Entertainment News, featuring real-life reporter Kristin Dos Santos playing herself doing a “gotcha”-style interview with Lee, in which she confronted her about profiting from her husband’s murder and child’s abduction; hilarious faux “audition” footage from the casting sessions for “The Butcher”; outtakes from “My Roanoke Nightmare” featuring Audrey busting ass and Rory (Evan Peters, with gloriously terrible red hair) hitting on her, then the professionally-shot footage of Audrey and Rory’s subsequent marriage, and so on and so forth.

All this meta, fourth-wall breaking stuff was brilliant- there was even a quickly glimpsed Funko POP!-style figurine of “The Butcher” shown at one point- and much-welcome. Honestly, if anything, it made the show, especially after the not-exactly earth-shattering revelation of what the twist actually was. The show’s sense of humor, barbed as it may be, was fully intact, and it went a long way towards selling the whole thing. Props also to Angela Bassett for a fine job of directing all this craziness.

Besides, as Murphy couldn’t resist telling us, there’s yet another big twist coming, and in this case, I genuinely have no idea what it could be, though Murphy did confirm that the Lady Gaga character was indeed the “first” Supreme witch, as in Season 3, “Coven,” so there’s that. He also said the show would be returning to the history of witches at some point on down the line, albeit not next season, which is supposedly a whole new thing altogether, and might involve a deep dive into the history of some of the previous seasons’ various characters.

The only other thing I know is that old-school “AHS” vets Taissa Farmiga, not seen since the aforementioned “Coven,” and Finn Wittrock, who also appeared in the last two seasons, will be returning in some capacity later in this season. Of course, all of that is more than enough, so I genuinely hope Murphy quits while he’s ahead. For all the secrecy surrounding this season and the upcoming ones, he certainly is a Chatty Cathy.

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Oh, and allow me a moment to pour out a glass for poor Evan Peters, who once again bit it, which is two episodes in a row, for those keeping score at home. That sound you hear is a whole lot of fangirls- and probably a few fanboys to boot, given the nature of that last turn- freaking out over the fact that they resurrected Peters only to immediately kill him off yet again. But hey, you never know, he could be back as another ghost! (I also liked that he completed the long-standing game of “Murder” Scrabble by the nurses- “R is for Rory,” indeed.)

So, this was an undeniable step forward, which probably spent a little more time than it should have with the “My Roanoke Nightmare” stuff, and didn’t help matters by informing us that no one would be left standing by the end of “Return to Roanoke.” But was it enough? Hard to say. I suspect the whole “Big Brother”-style gambit will continue for the foreseeable future, but I do hope that Murphy keeps up the side-track meta stuff, which was easily the most fun part of this episode.

That said, this was all reasonably entertaining, even if it was sort of predictable and silly. I can’t say I was remotely scared by any of this, even less so than the first half of the show, in fact, and I can’t say that was very creepy either, though the whole docudrama thing was well-executed, at the very least. I think that we’ll probably have to chalk this season up to an interesting, if not outright failed experiment that made up for in ingenuity what it lacked in scares, but we’ll see.

Until then, I expect it will continue to be fun, which is better than aimless and meandering, which some of the previous seasons, notably “Asylum” and “Freak Show” were guilty of. Say what you will about the docudrama/Reality TV gambit, at least the show is focused for once and essentially staying on point with one specific plot-line, instead of throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us. I can live with that- for now, at least.

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What did you think of the latest episode of “American Horror Story”? Did you see the big twist coming? If not, were you surprised by it? If so, did you enjoy it, anyway? What do you think the next twist will be? Who do you think will be the lone survivor of the second half of the season? Do you totally want a “Butcher” figurine now? How adorable were Paulson and Peters as a couple? (Seriously, I was totally ‘shipping it until Peters met his untimely end.) Sound off on this and more down below, and see you next week!