‘American Horror Story’ Recap: ‘Chapter 5’ Sets Stage for Major ‘Roanoke’ Plot Change

Alex Stedman
Variety

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on unless you’ve seen Season 6, episode 5 of “American Horror Story,” titled “Chapter 5.”

Four score and fives episodes later, “American Horror Story” vet Evan Peters has finally made his “Roanoke” debut… and he’s killed within the first ten minutes.

But fans can rest assured, because this is “AHS,” where no one is ever truly dead, especially this season. He returns as an unlikely aid to Shelby, Matt, and Flora, who, by the end of the episode, manage to escape their Roanoke nightmare. But let’s break it all down.

We first learn who Peters actually is, and in line with some speculation, he is Edward Philippe Mott, the man who built the house. He’s an interesting man, to say the least: escaping city life in favor of the country, he buys the cursed plot of land and builds his mansion on it. He also escaped the city for fear, it seems, of being judged. He’s in a gay, biracial relationship with one of his servants, Guinness, which, especially in the 1700s, is pretty progressive.

His number one love, though, is art, and his world is shattered when he finds one night that all of his paintings have been ruined. He’s not able to get a conclusive answer from his servants, and locks them all away, naked and scared, underground. Unfortunately for Mott, though, the moon is full and red, which means the malicious spirits that live there can kill.

The Roanoke colony finds him and kills him, impaling him and tossing his body to the flames. Guinness managed to escape, only to be arrested on suspicion of murdering his master. Somehow, Guinness neglects to mention the servants who were thrown underground, and they rot away (this house really couldn’t get any more cursed). The historian being interviewed explains that the lot remained in the Mott family, but the bloodline remained rich and crazy. The last of the family died in 1952 in Florida… and hardcore “AHS” fans should catch that not-so-subtle throwback to Dandy Mott of “Freak Show” infamy.

We return to Matt and Shelby, and it looks dire. The butcher and the colony wait outside to spread their blood on the land, and Matt, who apparently has never seen a horror movie, proposes they split up and escape. They barely get a chance, however: the colony sets fire to their cars, and one of the house’s victims, who should look familiar to anyone who’s ever seen “The Grudge,” takes Flora. They manage to get her back, but they’re still cornered by the butcher’s other victims. Still, they run out to the cellar, where they find — surprise! — Edward Philippe Mott.

Mott had a special underground passage set up under the house, and Matt, Shelby, and Flora are so desperate that they trust that he can help. As they travel through the passage, the flame flickering in front of Mott’s face reveals flashes of pale ghostliness, reminding the mortals just what they’re dealing with. Mott, who really just wants to be left alone, leads them out into the woods, where other predators wait for them.

The Polk family — the hillbillies who own the disgusting farm just a little bit away from their house — kidnap them. At their barn, they find Dr. Elias Cunningham, who is alive… and that might not be a good thing. “Mama,” played by another “AHS” vet, Frances Conroy, managed to keep him alive after he was shot with multiple arrows, but they’ve taken his leg and arm, and he begs for death. He’s granted his wish, as one of the Polks bashes in his head.

While that’s happening, Mama Polk reveals that her kin made a deal with the butcher centuries ago, providing her with fresh blood each year. She’s not about to let Matt, Shelby, and Flora get away. The Polks pack them in their pick-up truck, and drive back to the house, with one of the Polk boys holding a shotgun in front of their faces. Matt notices an opportunity, and wrestles the gun away from the Polk in back with them as Shelby kicks him off the car. In the process, Matt blows the driver’s head off, as his mother sits next to him.

For some reason, Matt figures “we’d take our chances in the woods,” where they’ve been preyed upon for weeks, instead of trying to steal the car. Of course, Mama Polk finds them and breaks Shelby’s ankle, keeping them from running again. And just like that, we’re headed back to the house.

Meanwhile, thanks to Shelby’s stunt at the end of episode 3, Lee has spent the past 48 hours being interrogated by police for the murder of her ex-husband. After the cops are unable to find any inconsistencies in her story, because she really is telling the truth, they let her go. When she emerges, she finds a text from Matt telling her that they’ve found Flora, and utters the horribly incorrect statement, “I knew my baby was safe.”

But Lee realizes something is wrong when Matt doesn’t answer his phone. Following her instincts, she asks a cop to give her a ride to the house, and gets there just as they’re about to sacrifice Flora in front of Shelby and Matt. The cop promptly speeds away before Lee can even ask him to call in for back-up, signaling that the police likely know more about the estate than they’re letting on.

As the butcher heads toward Flora, someone unexpected steps up: the butcher’s son. He can’t bare to watch her take yet another innocent life, grabs the butcher and throws himself and his mother into the flames. But there’s still others who want to see Flora dead. The pig man rushes toward her, but hell hath no fury like a mother’s — or really, Lee’s — scorn. She runs him over with a car, and she, Flora, Matt, and Shelby finally make their escape, even as the butcher runs after them, her body on fire.

They’re able to find a cheap motel and, despite being homeless, broke, and without all their belongings, they’re more than happy. Still, the trauma affects Shelby to this day, and the butcher still shows up to terrorize her dreams.

And… that’s it? Shelby and Matt’s nightmare may be over, but we’ve still got more than half the season to go. The show’s co-creator, Ryan Murphy, has teased that episode 6 is where it does a complete 180. From the preview of the next episode, that seems obvious — we see Cheyenne Jackson from “Hotel” in a swanky building like we haven’t yet seen in Season 6. Where will “Roanoke” go from here? Weigh in with your thoughts below.

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