– by Joseph Jammer Medina

All right. Now we’re getting somewhere.

While I was, at first, taken by the format of the first six episodes of the show, around Episodes 2 and 3, I the lengthy re-enactments were starting to wear on me. It felt like an inefficient and overlong way to tell a story. In my mind, the same story couldhave been told over the course of 3 or so episodes rather than 5. 

But at the end of last episode (Episode 5), there was a promise of something new. The My Roanoke Nightmare story wrapped up completely — complete with a nice little bow attached to it — and in the preview for this week’s episode, we saw the character, who we now know as a TV producer named Sidney (who’s played by the same dude who portrayed Danny in 30 Rock, I might add), telling the cameramen to never stop rolling. It seemed to indicate a complete format change…and this continuation followed through with that promise.

Episode 6 marks the end of the “docu-series” aspect of the season, and the beginning of the “reality TV” aspect. For the first half or so of this episode, we follow Sidney and his setup for the new season, now titled Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell. Rather than have re-enactments, they bring all the real people back to the house — along with their re-enactment doppelgangers (plus Rory, the actor who plays the original owner of the house in the re-enactments — oh hey, I guess that subplot became an integral part of the story, after all. Well done!) — to experience the horrors in real life. In doing so, they also hope to conjure up an explanation for the one lingering mystery from the first season: the murder of Mason Harris (Lee’s husband).

Mason Harris (or at least the re-enactment version of him) and his daughter Flora from Episode 2 of the season.

Mason Harris (or at least the re-enactment version of him) and his daughter Flora from Episode 2 of the season.

As mentioned above, my main critique for the first half of the season was its glacial pacing. As if in direct response to that, this episodes moves at lightning speed. In one scene, we’re in a meeting room at the network, then Sidney is in an interview with Shelby, then an interview with Agnes (the woman who played The Butcher in the re-enactments) — before we know it, the crew is at the house setting things up for this reality TV show, and the horrors begin almost immediately.

One crew member and one producer die (both under mysterious circumstances) before the production even gets underway, already giving us a sense of foreboding of what’s to come.

Finally, right before the final commercial break, they give us a big twist: that everyone in the house will die — except for one. But things don’t stop there. Before the credits roll, they kill off Rory in a quick and unexpected way before giving us one final turn of the key: Matt, once again, sees those bloody letters on the wall that spell out MURDER. Wait a second…when last we saw, it only had MURDE on the wall, correct? Matt has the same epiphany, and reports back to the others that “R is for Rory.”

Cut to black.

Of course, I’m full of questions, which is exactly where I should be at the end of an episode like this. I’m assuming the writing only the wall of the house house only counts those killed within its walls, which explains why there’s only six of them, but man, isn’t that cool?

On the whole, this episode was fast, fun, and frightening — exactly what I want out of my American Horror Story. I loved the fourth wall breaking, behind-the-scenes stuff, and how it all set up the next stage of the show. I loved how they delved into how the original show affected the lives of the actors as well, and was heartbroken when Sidney went so far as to humiliate Kathy Bates’ Agnes on the show. Sure, the woman isn’t the most mentally stable, but I couldn’t help but feel for the woman who was clearly going through a rough time — and had grown overly-attached to the show and the role she played in it. I’m sure that’ll pay off big down the line.

My main concern going forward is that it’ll just be a retread of the first half. I can only watch people running around a house for so long before I get bored, so I hope the show has something else up its sleeve to keep the narrative going. I am comforted a bit by what we saw in the preview for next week, when they cut back to Sidney at the production office. If they’re able to keep loose with the format, I have plenty of faith they can keep the pace up.

Either way, I was doubtful going into this, but pleasantly surprised coming out of it.

I’m on board again.

Grade: A-

What did you think of this episode? Were you as smitten as I was, or are you upset that this is becoming more and more like, say, Paranormal Activity? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.