Warning: Spoilers ahead!
After last week’s finale of “My Roanoke Nightmare” has led us into the new premiere of “Return to Roanoke!” As the story continues without double-cast of intrepid heroes, the TV-show frame narrative is now switching from a ghost-stories-haunting show to a reality TV reunion special. We’re told that, apparently, “My Roanoke Nightmare” did so well on airing that it beat out football games and Empire in ratings. Naturally, the producers start pitching a sequel to make even more money.
Their idea? Shove the real hauntees of Roanoke into the haunted house with the re-enactment cast for three days. Somehow this unhinged idea gets accepted by the network, and this is where AHS’s new catch phrase beings. At every turn, the producers and crew members of this TV show– now called “Return to Roanoke”– seem to just shrug their shoulders and say “What could possibly go wrong?”
First, we find out that the ‘IRL’ Shelby has separated from her husband Matt because she had a brief affair with her FAKE husband, Cuba Gooding Jr. Despite everything horrible that happened to her and her family while staying in the big colonial house, Shelby decides to go back to Roanoke for the singular reason of locking herself in a room with her husband and trying to force him back with her.
What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
Next,we see the TV crew setting up the house. They rig it with cameras and booby trap the house with all kinds of ways to spook and scare the Roanoke Returners. As they do this, a lovely bloody right in fetal pig dissections is found in the yard. How quaint.
But this is not enough to put off the stubborn TV production crew. They want their show, and they want it bad, so they continue to go film short interviews with actors and ‘IRL’ people alike, breaking about 5 fourth walls in the process. They go to interview Kathy Bates next, who is no longer playing the evil colonial butcher, and now just playing the actress who played the evil colonial butcher.
That’s not confusing at all, right?
Well, turns out the Bates is still crazy, and she has started to believe that she really is the evil colonial butcher, and when the production crew tells her on camera that she has a restraining order from the set, she goes off on them, quoting her own monologues from the first fake TV show.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we find out that Angela Bassett, as well as the ‘IRL’ Lee, is an alcoholic, but the crew isn’t planning to stop anyone from bringing alcohol on set.
Once again, What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
To put the pre-production cherry on top of this new sequel show’s sundae, there is a mysterious accident on set the day before they start shooting. A crew member dies. But that won’t stop this capitalist media machine, as even when one of the set assistants decided to then leave and get out of the crazy town, she too is killed by the pig-man appearing in the back of her car.
Cue “Return to Roanoke” episode 1, because about halfway through the AHS episode, we actually start to see the new TV-show within a TV-show begin.
We re-meet Sarah Paulson, who is now a British actress, who has recently married Evan Peters, now just an actor who plays a foppish ghost, instead of actually being said foppish ghost. They arrive at the Roanoke house first for the reunion special and catch sight of crazy Kathy Bates outside the window.
But there’s no time to call the police because the rest of the cast has arrived! And they don’t have time for common sense of self-preservation when they can all just start making meta-humor remarks critiquing one another’s acting portrayals in the living room.
After a quick commercial break, we’re greeted with the narration card that tells us every participant in the house of “Return to Roanoke” died, save for one. This show-ception never aired, but this is the spliced together, editing version of all the found footage they had from all those house cameras.
Well, at least now we know what could possibly go wrong. The show could spoil us and kill any sense of suspense for the next four episodes. Especially as episode six 6 ends, Evan Peters gets stabbed by two murder-nurse-ghosts.
AHS has been known to have its mid-season turnarounds, but I honestly thought that the Roanoke Nightmare plot was going to be over after episode 5. It looked like they might make the second season a different Roanoke story, maybe make it look like they were impersonating a real ghost story series instead of just being a one-season deal. Yet no, Ryan Murphy sticks to his singular plot and has now decided to stretch out the overly convoluted scenario to encompass the whole season.
AHS is still an enjoyable sort of camp for me, but I do honestly feel a little disappointed by this mid-season twist. It would have been more fun to take their ghost-series concept and run with it, rather than now turning it into a drawn out reality-TV-found-footage gimmick. I got enough bad found footage when I watched Blair Witch, but it seems those of us who are still loyal AHS watchers will have to put up with a little bit more.
Let’s all hold hands and pray for a Jessica Lange cameo, that would be the only true remedy.