The sixth season of the FX series American Horror Story explored the story of the missing Roanoke colony.
This review will talk about this sixth season, which went by many different names, but is mainly referred to as Roanoke.
Fans of the popular FX series were kept in suspense leading up to the release of its sixth season. Normally, the theme of the season is released in advance, but this year, the creators decided to keep it a mystery. Fans were further surprised on the night the season premiered. The theme was revealed to be a spin on the story of the lost Roanoke colony, but it was the format that was entirely different.
AHS Roanoke began as a re-enactment series, similar to shows like Paranormal Witness where actual people speak in interviews and actors recreate their story in a dramatization. This portion of the season was coined AHS: My Roanoke Nightmare. Its format was drastically different from every season before, and it divided audiences. When the re-enactment format was paired with a more subdued horror than previous seasons, many fans were disappointed. I saw many people complaining that it was boring.
Personally, the more subdued type of horror is what I prefer, so I was incredibly taken by the My Roanoke Nightmare portion of the series. It was very reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project in what it tried to do.
Within this portion of the series, we saw the “real” Matt and Shelby Miller describe their experiences in a haunted house in North Carolina. If you know much about history, you may pick up very quickly that the Roanoke colony was not in North Carolina. I saw many complaints about this early on, but the writers had that covered. It is explained as the series progresses.
While the “real” Millers describe their experiences, we see the dramatization take place, and this dramatization plays out like every other season of American Horror Story in a third person narrative, just with the subdued horror.
With the arrival of episode six, there is a dramatic change. My Roanoke Nightmare ends and Return to Roanoke begins. Everything you think you know changes. It winds up being very meta. This change brings about a version of American Horror Story that everyone thought they were waiting for. It adds a whole new layer to everything. The violence is also much more in-your-face.
Again, the audience is thrown for a loop in the final episode, as the format of the show changes for a third time. How many shows within a show will this season grant us? About 6 actually… Just like the number of seasons? How clever!
As usual, American Horror Story uses a lot of its returning actors in this season. Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, Denis O’Hare, Evan Peters, and Francis Conroy return as assorted characters throughout the season. We also see the return of Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, Lady Gaga, Finn Wittrock, and Taissa Farmiga. A notable addition to the cast in this season is Cuba Gooding, Jr. As always, the cast is pretty great. Adina Porter and André Holland also play key roles.
Overall, I know this season of American Horror Story received mixed reviews from fans. I mentioned previously that a lot of people thought the story was boring, and some people absolutely hated the Blair Witch parallels. I’ve seen fans complain that there was no overall story throughout the season, criticizing how characters had very little screen time before being killed off with no character development. I’ve seen people complain about the ending, stating that if Lady Gaga’s character had returned in the end, there may have been some resolution, but there was none. These are all valid complaints. I agree with them all.
Yet, personally, I would say Roanoke is one of my favorite seasons. I really enjoyed the subdued horror, the pacing, and how it managed to be a bit original, yet still familiar. It felt like American Horror Story was getting a little too comfortable with its fanbase and kills. It felt like the show was trying so hard to be shocking that it wasn’t shocking anymore. It was time for a change-up and I think Roanoke delivered that.