It’s been one heck of a schlogg from the beginning of this season of American Horror Story: Roanoke up to Episode 5. It started off promising enough, but it didn’t take long for it to fall down the rabbit hole of cliches and boredom. The season went through the standard haunted house tropes, which was bad enough, but it also resorted to lengthy, tedious flashbacks.
Not only were these flashbacks long and dull, but by delving too far into the mystery of the house, they took a lot of tension from the threats. I didn’t want to see the human side of the Butcher. I didn’t care about her motives or the motives of everyone around her. I just wanted compelling leads up against insurmountable, terrifying odds — which we actually ended up getting this week!
The episode got off to a slow start. We had to wade through a nearly-impenetrable flashback to the original owner of the haunted house, Edward Phillipe Mott. At this point, it’s a bit unclear why we needed such a lengthy flashback other than to introduce the character for a brief couple minutes into the present timeline. Admittedly, I find myself torn on that front. Had the flashback not been present, it would have felt random and contrived for the original owner to show up, but at the end of the day, it didn’t really add much.
Regardless, once that flashback was done, we hit the ground running. Matt, Shelby, and Flora were on the move, and all the plot points that have been laid out begin to culminate. We finally understand how the hillbilly family seen in the first episode plays into the whole thing. They work on behalf of the Butcher to find sacrifices for her every year, ensuring that their own farm will be left alone. This doesn’t bode well for our leads when they fall into their hands.
To make matters worse, the family are revealed to be cannibals, and are shown to be feasting upon a tortured Elias (who we last saw riddled with arrows last episode). From there, it was clear that Matt, Shelby, and Flora would not easily find a way out. In fact, they’re only saved by the insubordination of Wes Bentley’s character, the son of the Butcher. This is one instance where one of the flashbacks pay off. We had an idea of why he would betray his mother. AS rewarding as this was, however, I’m still not convinced it justifies its length.
Lee shows up just in time to help the trio escape. With that, we appraoch the end of this “documentary” of sorts. The family escaped, and all seems well. Sure, Shelby has been mentally scarred by the ordeal, but they managed to keep their lives against all odds.
With that, Episode 5 ends…seeming to bring an end to the entire story. It’s only with the clip from next week’s episode that gives us an indication of where the direction is going. We get a camera following who we can assume is the main architect of the My Roanoke Nightmare documentary. He looks into the camera, stating “the camera never stops,” which I assume can mean that we’ll be switching formats for the remainder of the season.
No longer will we be confined to the style we were introduced in the season. What the change means and where the story will go is up in the air. Will it go more traditional, or will it change documentary styles? It’s impossible to say, but I’m intrigued.
On the whole, I think the pacing in this season leaves a lot to be desired, but there are enough questions to keep me watching every week. Let’s hope that with this narrative twist they’ll be able to keep things fresh and interesting.
What did you think of this episode of American Horror Story? What do you hope to see in the remaining season? Let us know your thoughts down below!