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‘American Horror Story: Roanoke’ Recap ‘Chapter 1’

The sixth season of American Horror Story got off to an interesting start tonight. Avid AHS fans have been anxiously awaiting the big reveal of the show’s theme and, if I were to take a guess, I’d say it was certainly a pleasant surprise.

The episode opens with a confessional-style interview from AHS favorite Lily Rabe. She plays a woman named Shelby who, after experiencing a series of traumatic events, relays her story on camera for a documentary titled My Roanoke Nightmare.

In her interview, Shelby tells of her relationship with husband Matt (Andre Holland) and their search for peace in North Carolina after a devastating street attack results in a miscarriage. The couple find a nice home in the middle of nowhere, but are met with some resistance by local ‘hillbillies’ (Chaz Bono plays one!).

During their first weeks in the house, Matt and Shelby experience a number of strange events, including a hailstorm that produces human teeth and a dead pig left by their doorstep. When Matt leaves on business, he calls on his sister Lee (Adina Porter) to look after Shelby…which makes for some intriguing television. The two characters approach the situation from totally different angles–Lee is an ex-cop who uses her logic to assess and analyze; Shelby, who is meant to be a calm yogini, startles at anything that makes a noise.

Later in the episode, Shelby and Lee fall victim to a creepy home invasion and vandalism incident. Shaken by the ordeal, Shelby leaves and runs over an older woman (Kathy Bates) who lures her into the woods. And that’s where the episode leaves us!

While the story is told primarily from Shelby’s perspective, Matt and his sister Lee also give their on-camera accounts. Similar to shows like A Haunting and My Ghost Story, the interviews are interspersed with fictional reenactments which are especially enjoyable to watch. Sarah Paulson doubles as Shelby, Cuba Gooding Jr. as Matt, and Angela Bassett as Lee.

It’ll be interesting to see how this story pans out over the season. The dual stories/realities going on here make me wonder if they’ll somehow cross over at some point. Will the real Shelby meet the fictional one? Will they both be put to task? I can’t see Rabe, Holland, and Porter just sitting there staring at the camera all season. It’s American Horror Story–there’s got to be a twist.

Overall, I think we’re in for a really great season. Already, the writing and acting are very solid. And I don’t see any hint of the over-the-top shenanigans we’ve seen in some of the more recent seasons.

Definitely a good start! This AHS fan is pleased.

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Tara Martinez

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Tara Martinez is a New York-based writer with a passion for pop culture and a penchant for analysis. She frequently covers film, television, and representations of women in the media.