Spoilers from American Horror Story: Roanoke follow.
All of the teasers for American Horror Story: Roanoke make sense now: much like the first five episodes of season 6, the promos were mostly distractions from the true story being weaved. Series creator Ryan Murphy has been teasing a major twist coming in Episode 6, one that no one has apparently been able to guess. With the installment premiering Wednesday night, we finally have an answer: My Roanoke Nightmare has turned into Return to Roanoke.
It all begins with Cheyenne Jackson playing the role of Sydney, the producer behind the camera. (We’ve heard his voice in previous episodes, but never saw his face.) The first five episodes of Season 6 featured two sets of dueling casts: one consisted of Lily Rabe as Shelby, Andrea Holland as Matt, and Adina Porter as Matt’s sister Lee, while the other set consisted of actors portraying them in a reenactment-style reality show. Episode 6 brought both sets of actors together.
As it turns out, the first five episodes of American Horror Story Season 6 actually make up the first season of a fictional reality show called My Roanoke Nightmare. For Season 2 of this show-within-a-show, the producers had a novel idea: why don’t they bring together the people who lived through this horror story and the actors who portrayed them, and force them to live inside the Roanoke house together?
Sydney remarks later to his business partner, Diana, that he hopes to use the ensuing horror “to find justice.” As network executives point out, many viewers of Season 1 were disappointed that the murderer of Lee’s husband wasn’t sussed out, but Sydney hopes Season 2 will provoke Lee into a confession. Based on an E! News interview with Lee, it seems everyone thinks she’s the one who killed him.
One network executive points out that this concept is essentially bringing Big Brother to the horror genre, which is exactly what it is. The only problem is, it’s not as great of an idea as Murphy thinks.
In previous episodes, the real Shelby — which, just to clarify, is Rabe — kept asking why she and Matt didn’t just sell the house and be done with it. She eventually did, and Shelby mentions that he now owns it. So the sleazy producer now has the green light to develop 13 episodes of reality television inside the cursed home.
The people living inside the house are Shelby (Rabe); Matt (Holland); Lee (Porter); the actress who played Shelby, Audrey (Sarah Paulson); the actor who played Matt, Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr.); the actress who played Lee, Monae (Angela Bassett); and the actor who played the art-obsessed ghost from Episode 5, Rory (Evan Peters). They’re all supposed to live under the same haunted roof and use their own smartphones to document the entire experience. As Sydney notes, the devices are just for documenting so their phone capabilities have been turned off.
To add more drama to this scenario are the facts that Shelby and Matt are divorced because of an affair Shelby had with Dominic, Monae’s alcoholism, and the marriage of Audrey and Rory.
Plus, Anges Mary Winstead, the actress who played the Butcher in My Roanoke Nightmare (Kathy Bates), hasn’t been invited back for Return to Roanoke because she had a documented nervous break in which she donned her costume and walked through Hollywood Boulevard swinging a carving knife. Sydney sends her into another fit when he bans her from coming within 500 feet of production, but it seems like he only did that to make her angry enough to terrorize the house guests.