American Horror Story “Chapter 10” Review (Season 6 Episode 10)

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On the sixth season finale of “American Horror Story,” things came to a head with the “My Roanoke Nightmare/Return to Roanoke” arc with an episode that served as a sort of reflection of the sixth episode, in that “Chapter 10” was basically a collection of continued meta world-building comprised of various clips of a variety of sources.

We began with a brief look at an after-screening of “My Roanoke Nightmare” at the (real-life) PaleyFest back in March of 2016, as much of the cast, as well as Sidney, were reunited to talk about and take questions from the audience about the initial series and what might be to come. Among those asking questions was a Lee Uber-fan, who we then cut to months later, via a YouTube clip of her complaining that the follow-up, “Return to Roanoke” wasn’t as good.

This was followed by another YouTube video of the surviving Polk brother vowing to enact revenge on Lee if a jury didn’t. We then cut to a faux-“Biography” type show called “Crack’d,” about Lee, in which we got a recap of her life to date, followed by footage from her subsequent trial after the events of “Return to Roanoke,” in which she was charged with multiple counts of murder.

Lee’s defense claimed that she was under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs at the time, and that, combined with the stress of the other murders happening at the hands of Agnes and what she went through being tortured by the Polks put her in a state of mind in which murder was understandable, as she couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t by that point. The jury finds her not guilty, but the prosecutor is undeterred, and goes after her for her alleged initial crime: killing her ex-husband Mason.

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This time, they not only have her confession, but testimony from her own daughter, Flora (Jessica Pressley, “Second Sight”), claiming that she actually witnessed the event in question. However, the defense points out that Flora had an “imaginary friend” at the time, meaning Priscilla, and infers that Flora is prone to flights of fancy, and Lee gets off for this charge as well, after 16 days of jury deliberation.

Next, we get another series of clips from the “Lana Winters Special,” for which Winters (Sarah Paulson, reprising her Season 2 reporter role) came out of retirement to interview Lee, post-trials. Lee admits that Flora refuses to see her and that they continued to be estranged, with Mason’s parents continuing to assume custody over Flora. Lee says she only did the interview because, as someone who had been through something similar to what she had, she felt that Lana could sympathize with her.

However, Lana drops the bombshell that Flora has gone missing, implying that Lee might know where she is and had something to do with it, which she adamantly denies. Before Winters can question her further, gunshots ring out, and the Polk son bursts in, gun blazing, taking out anyone who gets in his way. Lana tries to talk him down and is knocked out for her troubles, but before he can shoot Lee, the cops shoot him- on live television, as they hastily cut to a “technical difficulties” message as the plug is pulled on the broadcast.

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Next up is footage from an episode of the paranormal hunter-type show “Spirit Chasers,” taken on November 18th, as a group of dubious folks break into the Roanoke House, accompanied by Ashley Gilbert (Leslie Jordan), who portrayed “Cricket” on the original “MRN” series and try to capture some footage of ghosts, during the Blood Moon. They get it alright, and then some, as all concerned are killed one-by-one by the various ghosts on the prowl, along with some cops who arrive on the scene.

Also showing up is Lee, who suspects- correctly- that Flora might be on the premises as well. Upon finding her, she tries to talk Flora into leaving, but she refuses, wanting to remain there to “protect” Priscilla from the “Butcher.” Realizing she has no choice, Lee agrees to stay behind if Flora agrees to leave instead, which Flora does. Then Lee has Priscilla shoot her so she can become a ghost herself, and they proceed to burn down the house around them.

Flora escapes to the relative safety of the cops and leaves, as the house explodes into flames. As she leaves, she spots her now-dead mother Lee and Priscilla and waves to them as they retreat into the woods. As the camera pulls back, we see the colonists heading towards the scene, torches in hand, as they descend upon the police and press still in the area. Presumably, the group is massacred shortly thereafter, but the episode fades to black before we see for sure one way or another.

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That was about it, save a newscast cameo from Denis O’Hare, reprising his role as the actor behind the Professor in “MRN,” and, as far as I can tell, the lone survivor, barring maybe Lady Gaga, who never returned to the show after her last appearance. Well, him and Flora, of course. All in all, it was reasonably entertaining, I suppose, though it didn’t really add that much to the proceedings, besides wrapping things up for the remaining characters. Basically, it was just more world-building, a moderately amusing “Ghost Hunters” satire and that was about it.

I suppose one’s opinion of the season as a whole would depend on how one feels about the whole found footage-style approach of everything and how entertaining and/or scary one finds that sort of thing. I can’t say I was scared by any of it, but then, I’ve seen so much horror over the course of my life, it takes a lot to scare me.

That said, I was reasonably entertained by it, and don’t mind found footage, if done well, and this was, more or less, despite the occasional typical “Why are they still filming/who the hell is filming this?” thing that plagues almost all entries in the much-reviled subgenre. I did appreciate the whole meta aspect of things that was introduced in episode six and driven home in the finale, and liked how it enveloped the viewer in this world they created.

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Be all that as it may, though, it did drag a fair bit to be only ten episodes, and shorter-than-usual ones at that. Given that one of the major complaints people have against the show is them dragging things out too much or taking on too much, it was gratifying to see them rein things in and focus in on a limited subject matter and in tighter-than-usual fashion, but telling that it still seemed to get a bit poky here and there, even with a shortened season with shorter episodes.

I’m not sure how to remedy this, save maybe to rein things in even tighter moving forward. There’s no denying this was a step in the right direction and addressed a lot of the issues many people had with the show, and that’s a good thing. While I suspect this season will play much better in binge-watch form, it still remains a fact that the show has a tendency to overindulge in certain areas, and that needs to be addressed moving forward.

On the plus side, creator Ryan Murphy has already said the show will go in a completely new direction in the next two seasons, and that it will continue to tie things together, which is one of my favorite aspects of the show as a whole. He also mentioned that the show will be circling back around to previous seasons to fill in the blanks, notably “Coven” and “Murder House,” so it will be good to get back to those stomping grounds, as those two seasons remain my favorites of all the seasons thus far.

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If Murphy and company can keep things concise and not meander, they might be able to capture some of the magic from the earlier seasons, which the show has lost with each progressive season since “Coven.” Though I didn’t hate “Hotel,” it did play as a bit of a retread of “Murder House,” and, frankly, so did this season. And “Freak Show” took a promising premise and dropped the ball by seeming to not know what to do with it, especially towards the end. Perhaps by honing in on what made the show work in the earlier days, it can recapture some of that magic again. Fingers crossed.

Until then, this was an okay season that didn’t quite live up to the hype, even if it was fairly watchable and coherent by this show’s standards. We’ll chalk it up to an interesting experiment that wasn’t a complete waste of time, but was nonetheless inherently flawed by virtue of its very premise, i.e. we knew that the three main characters would survive the first half of the show, just as we knew only one would survive the second half, which robbed the show of some of its intended shock value, sad to say.

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I may not have hated it, and it certainly had its moments, but overall, it was just so-so. Kudos to Sarah Paulson, who, as ever, supplied the season of some of its best moments, especially as Audrey; and though their screen time was admittedly limited, both Kathy Bates and Evan Peters impressed with clever meta turns in their respective roles. That scene with Sidney interviewing Agnes was a mini-master class in superior acting from Bates, and the unexpected chemistry between Peters and Paulson was a delight from start-to-finish.

Beyond that, the show often played like a series of “guess who’s cropping up now!” moments, which were occasionally amusing, but often slight, with not much substance to them overall. It hard to invest much in characters that are barely there before they’re killed off, or, in terms of the ones who had more screen time, if they aren’t particularly likable. Oh well- better luck next time, guys.

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What did you think of the abbreviated season of “American Horror Story”? Was it a step in the right direction in some ways? Or were you disappointed on the whole? What were your favorite elements of the season? How about your fave moments? Did you enjoy a particular actor’s performance more than others? Did you like the way it connected to other seasons? Sound off on this and more down below in the comments sections, and see you next season!