American Horror Story
I had no idea I wanted to see Evan Peters dressed in 19th-century garb and making out with a sexy young male slave until it was actually happening on my television screen, and then that was all that I ever wanted in my entire life. Well, that is, until Evan Peters took off his 19th-century garb and played slap and tickle with his sexy young male slave in a copper bathtub. Man, I really want that. No, not the slap and tickle — that tub! It is freaking amazing.
Just as our collective Roanoke nightmare is coming to a close, Evan Peters arrives with his powdered wig and post-Revolutionary capri pants to do his annual cameo for Ryan Murphy. It’s like Evan Peters is the Butcher and every year he has to consecrate his career by being Ryan Murphy’s object of obsession for at least one episode or his agent will stop returning his calls or something.
Anyway, Peters plays Edward Philippe Mott, the guy who built the house in Roanoke in 1872. He’s Dandy Mott’s great-great-great-great-great-great- (inhale) great-great-great-grandfather. We hear from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (the real Doris Kearns Goodwin, in a stroke of casting genius) that Mott built the house because he had social anxiety and wanted to be alone with his slave lover Guinness and his beloved art collection. After he died, the house was owned by the Mott trust for centuries until the final Motts, Dandy and his mother, died in South Florida back in the Freak Show season. This is just one more awful thing we have to thank Dandy for. But, hey, it also explains why he always seemed so gosh-darn gay.
Two days after the house was completed, someone destroyed Mott’s art collection, and as a punishment, he had all of the servants locked in the root cellar, where they died of starvation. That’s why Mott died at the hands of the Butcher, who found the biggest blackest thing she could find and impaled Mott on it and then pushed him into the flames. Well, at least he died as he lived.
Mott is a great help when Matt and Shelby are stuck in the house with the Butcher at the gates and the pig man and his friends lurking inside. At one point, Wes Bentley tries to break through the door with an axe and does his best impersonation of “Here’s Johnny!” from The Shining. Man, that is just dumb. There are some shots that are just so iconic that they can’t be repurposed, especially in something that really hasn’t had any allusions to the famous Kubrick film. Oh, and what was up with the little girl from the bottom of the well in The Ring suddenly creeping through the interior? Where the hell did she come from? Were these people living in the Mott house, or were they trapped in the fever dream of a film-studies major?
To escape they go into the basement (never go into the basement!), where Mott finds them and leads them through the tunnels that he built in case he needed to escape a slave uprising with all of his precious artwork. The best effects of this whole season have been how ghoulish Mott’s face looks as a solitary torch lights it.
The tunnels dump them out into the middle of the woods right near the Polk family house — you know, the pig farm where they found those feral children suckling on a pig like the were the only two members of the Babe fan club. When the gross Polks discover them, they take them into their garage, where Elias, whom we thought was dead from all of those arrow wounds, has been hacked to pieces and eaten by the Polk family. It turns out that they are Cannibal Redneck Weed Farmers From Outer Space. (How is there not an Off Broadway play with that title already?)
In walks Momma Polk (Frances Conroy, doing her own annual career consecration for Ryan Murphy), who lets Matt and Shelby know that they have a deal with the Butcher: She leaves them alone as long as they provide her annual sacrifice. This year it’s going to be Matt, Shelby, and Flora. When they try to escape, Momma Polk catches them, and to make sure they’re not going to flee again, she goes all Misery on Shelby and crushes her legs with a hammer. Silly Frances Conroy — doesn’t she know that is Kathy Bates’s job? And while we’re asking questions, between Misery and The Shining, is there some sort of subtle Stephen King–film–festival thing happening this season? Will the scary clown from It try to get little kids to eat his candy in the woods? No, they’re saving that for American Horror Story: The Nightly News.
The Polks take Matt and Shelby back to their haunted house, and the Butcher is about to sacrifice Flora when suddenly Wes Bentley has a change of heart and lets his mother know that he’s not going to stand by and watch her spill the blood of one more innocent. He pushes her into the fire just as Lee returns from her interrogation. She gets one of the cars, and everyone escapes in the nick of time. Since we knew these people were telling the story, we always knew that they were going to survive, so there wasn’t much suspense.
After spending five hours with these characters, I wanted a little bit more of a resolution as to how they got away. It all comes down to Wes Bentley suddenly growing a conscience after, what, 400 years or something? That moment seemed less justified by anything that happened and more of a deus ex machina. (Was that the name of a Stephen King movie?) This episode is supposed to be pretty scary, but lumping all of these extra story lines and scare tactics into the last half-hour seemed like gilding this particular lily. It was meant to be frightening, but I was about as scared watching this as I was watching Tyler Perry and the Tyler Perry Corporation Present Boo! A Medea Halloween Starring Tyler Perry As Medea.
That is the end of our story, folks. Man, how long is this episode of My Roanoke Nightmare supposed to be? Is this some sort of Netflix marathon of a paranormal show or something? Aren’t these things usually boiled down to just about an hour?
The big question: Where does everything go from here? Since the season began, Ryan Murphy has been teasing a big twist in episode six that will change the way the story is being told. I was hoping that it would come at the end of tonight’s episode, giving us an ingenious shift in the perspective so that we would see how everything was somehow subverted. Based on the very short preview of next week’s episode, where Cheyenne Jackson tells a film crew to keep shooting no matter what, even if he tells him to stop, it’s going to have something to do with the filming of My Roanoke Nightmare.
But this story seems locked up pretty tightly. I assume that he will do something to challenge the sanity or veracity of what Matt and Shelby have told us. Has he brought in the Butcher to terrorize them once again with her awful accent? Maybe now it’s the film crew that will be stalked to death. Whatever it is, it seems like less of a twist and more of a related story somehow tacked onto this one, like they couldn’t sustain Roanoke for 13 episodes (or 12 maybe? Or 10?), so they had to break the season up into multiple stories. If the second half will somehow be a reflection of the first half, does that mean we’re going to get to see naked gay Evan Peters again? I will not complain at all if that happens.