American Horror Story is an idea that I like a lot. Every season is a brand new story and new characters. The story wraps up within the season giving you a beginning and end. They recycle a lot of their actors, giving the series the feel of a playhouse putting on new stories.
The execution of these stories can leave a lot to be desired. Even with just one season, the stories can go on too long. There is an obsession with torture and despair that drags the show out of entertainment and into just hard to watch. Some of the actors play the same damn type of character over and over again which ruins the potential freshness of a new story. Worse of all, many interesting ideas will be tossed out but never really followed up on and some arcs end too abruptly to be satisfying. For these reasons, even though I sometimes still enjoy a season of AHS, I have never had a season that I could recommend.
That has changed with the sixth season, not available on Netflix. The season is called Roanoke and has a quite a few new gimmicks. One, the show is presented as something that is being aired on television. It is a reenactment show about two poor bastards who bought the wrong house in the North Carolina woods. We have two sets of actors for all of the characters. There are the “real” people discussing their experiences in a studio and then there is the actors playing them in the reenactment. The story unfolds and weird shit happens. There is a shit ton of ghosts, evil hillbillies and strange sightings. In the fifth episode, the reenactment series wraps up. It is pretty much a self-contained story.
In the sixth episode, we begin a new season of the fake show. The first season was such a hit that the producers are bringing back the “real” people and their acting counterparts to spend a few days in the house as a reunion reality show with cameras. As you can imagine, terrible shit happens. The “show” is built from the footage recovered by the authorities.
This is a really neat development. None of the actors think this shit is real. The real people know it is real but they have their own reasons for coming back. When the monsters show up, they are far worse and scarier than what we have seen before because as the audience, we have only seen what has been reenacted.
The final episode of the season is made up of footage from three different shows, including a True Crime show, a live interview show and a Ghost Hunters-style show before spending the final act completely divorced from found footage and more like a normal show. If you love found footage stories like I do, this season of AHS is a true gift.
I’ve talked a lot about how the show is structured but that isn’t my favorite part. The best part about this show, without going into spoilers, is that the most important character is a black woman. The “show” vilifies her so they can have a villain and you the audience is left guessing whether she is as bad as she has been portrayed. It is a season long discussion about racism in ways I would never expect from AHS. It is also a discussion about how media creates villains out of people and who do they pick? The really dark black woman who is no angel. The last five episodes of Roanoke tackles these issues in interesting ways and I would rank this season almost as racially significant as the movie, Get Out.
The season isn’t perfect. There is still quite a bit of torture. You know if it graphic when they announce a discretion warning AFTER the scene where someone has his intestines pulled out. I feel the first five episodes could have been a bit more creative with their gimmick, but I accept it because the first five episodes are setting the table for the really excellent last five episodes.
So yeah, if you like horror and you like interesting black characters, you should really watch season six of American Horror Story: Roanoke.