– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Image via FX

Image via FX

The last two episodes of American Horror Story: Roanoke really hit us like a freight train. Following the extensive, five-episode build-up — which consisted of at least three episodes that dragged on far too long — we were given a one-two punch of fast-paced plot-moving, character-building, bloody goodness. 

Given the recent pacing, I was getting increasingly worried things would slow to a crawl in the final episodes. After all, the main cast had literally been less than halved, and in order for them to last for the rest of the show, it became apparent that things would need to slow down a bit. Images of those early episodes kept flashing into my head. Would we be sentenced to more boring info dumps, or would the remaining runtime be filled with the characters darting back and from the farm to the house?

Well, it was kind of the latter, but in a not-so-terrible fashion.

Rather than have the remaining cast dart too much around, the series let us linger. Over at the Polk farm, we have Lee, Fake-Lee, and Fake-Shelby tied up in chairs by the cannibalistic hillbilly folk. Much of the time was spent with Lee, who works every angle she could to catch a near-unrecognizable Finn Wittrock (playing the cannibal Jether Polk) off guard. There are several minutes of the pair talking, where we get some insight into Jether’s life — the life of an inbred cannibal with no real exposure to the outside world. It’d be enough to make most feel sorry for him — if he wasn’t so busy carving pieces out of Lee’s leg, that is.

Over at the house, we have Dominic and Shelby, the only two left after Shelby bashed in Matt’s head in a fit of rage. Dominic’s position here isn’t enviable. He’s given the impossible task of picking up Shelby after the realization hits her that she murdered her own husband. But there’s no time for that. The pair take to the tunnels, only to be driven out by these weird creepy crawly face creatures. No, thank you!

That’s not the end of the pair’s terrible luck. The Butcher and her gang are also invading the house from the ground floor, so Dominic and Shelby have to flee to a room upstairs — for some reason these creatures seem to have a difficult time with locked doors. This gives them another unfortunate moment for some introspection, which is the last thing Shelby needs. Another pang of guilt washes over her, and she takes her own life.

The two stories collide back together after Lee and Fake-Shelby escape the Polk farm and make it back to the house. You knew that Dominic wasn’t escaping this story alive, given his generally unsavory nature, and the second Shelby pulled a knife on herself, I had a suspicion that he’d get blamed. The pair of women lock him out of the room, and leave him for the pig-man to slice up.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger with Wes Bentley’s character — one of the re-enactors comes to the house, adding another potential victim to shortening list of survivors (which now consists of Lee, Fake-Lee, and Fake-Shelby). Now’s the time to start placing your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Who will survive this season of American Horror Story? My money’s on Fake-Shelby. Although she started off mid-season seeming like a bit of a prima donna, I’ve appreciated her survival instinct and genuine good nature (she argued against Lee to let Dominic in as he was being killed). When all said and done, Lee still has to atone for Mason’s murder — which was another big revelation in this episode — and that will likely come as she’s dying.

During my review tenure of this season, I’ve definitely found myself drawn to the more fast-paced, action-packed episodes, but I have to say, this was a nice balance. Was it as plot-heavy as the last two? Not at all. But it moved things forwards quickly enough to be interesting, all while taking some extra time to reflect on the characters, their thoughts, pains, and insecurities — which will make these next couple episodes all the more painful when we have to say goodbye to them.

Grade: B+

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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.