Warning: The following recap of the “Chapter 2” episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke contains spoilers.
Horror on TV is trickier to pull off than a turtleneck made of Scotch tape. Movies can provide an unbroken 90 minutes of tension and tell a contained story in real time. For example, a haunted house saga could transpire in one night. Therefore you’re not constantly yelling at the screen, “Move out, bozos!” But TV is episodic and not only divides a story into installments, but each installment is divided by commercial breaks and resets after each one. That means we’re only in Episode 2 of Roanoke and the main characters have experienced more than A DOZEN terrifying things yet still wake up every morning with a fresh hope that everything’s fine. Everything is not fine, bozos!
I’m sorry for my harsh language, but the current premise of My Roanoke Nightmare is starting to get on my nerves! At least Murder House came up with an excuse for the Harmons to stay put (their daughter was a ghost). Roanoke has seen the characters actively put themselves in danger for no real reason —
EXCEPT hold up. Wait a second. I think we can all agree that there is more to this premise than we’ve been led to believe. This show is a slippery rascal, and any minute now some big reveal will be made and we’ll feel like dummies for having doubted it. The only problem is, we have to pretend to be invested in a traditional haunted house story where the heroes are dimwits while we wait for the twist. Bring that twist already, jeez! That being said, the possible twist is already going to be more surprising and wonderful than the bad, bad, very obvious “twist” of Hotel. So that’s exciting!
Hey let’s talk about “Chapter 2”!
We began with an extremely unsanitary looking pop star running around with a scalp on a stick.
Shelby had stumbled into one of the weirder forest parties I’ve ever heard of. Not only were people being scalped and yelled at, this other guy was being doused in pig parts and spit-roasted in an unsexy manner!
But just when the party was really getting started, Shelby made the mistake of gasping too loudly from the nearby bushes and everyone spotted her!
Fortunately, she was able to run away and fall down in the street just as Lee was driving up. Phew! Close call.
The amazing thing was that Shelby — who’d just experienced myriad insane things, including a writhing forest floor — suddenly believed that the whole thing had been a prank at their expense by the townspeople. Uh, OK. Clearly, Shelby had lost her mind officially.
Oh, just FYI, this is how FX is officially branding the season — in case you were wondering if My Roanoke Nightmare was the official subtitle or not. (It’s not!)
In one of the worst ideas a horror character has ever had, Lee decided that an environment full of jump-scares was suitable for her daughter to spend some time in. So suddenly little Flora was walking around a cursed manse becoming best friends with ghosts and whatnot. Kids!
Shelby and Matt were alarmed to see a piece of outsider art posted on their property. Anyone who regularly attends openings and group shows has seen a dozen flaming pig effigies, so they weren’t impressed by the concept. But the execution was admittedly remarkable, though they were going to have to wait for critics and fellow collectors to weigh in before contacting the gallerist for a price list.
Later, Matt answered an unplugged phone and spoke to a ghoul or whatever. Haunted house stuff. Then he noticed there was an old woman in a hospital bed in his dining room.
And then those two nurses from last week shot her in the face! And even worse, they spray-painted graffiti on the wall!
These nurses were jerks, and something told me they didn’t even have proper nursing licenses. Anyway, Matt was clearly having a vision of some bad stuff that had gone on in this house. When he called Shelby and Lee down to back him up on this, obviously all the weird stuff had disappeared and they both rolled their eyes and went back to bed. That’s another thing about this season: By now, they’ve each experienced tons of terrifying things yet they still look at each other’s stories with skepticism and side-eyes. Trust each other, you bozos! (Sorry again for the language.)
Lee’s daughter had begun hanging out in dark closets where she became besties with a ghost girl who had promised to murder all of them. Honestly, Lee’s daughter did not have great instincts when it came to making friends. But this incident was enough to get her father to yank her right out of there. (At least there’s ONE reasonable person in this world.) Unfortunately, Lee did not take this well, and she hit the bottle HARD.
Right away we knew Lee was in a bad way because she broke the bowl and spilled the popcorn. That is rock bottom basically. But, just FYI, she did NOT throw all the kitchen knives into the ceiling. That was not her. That was the ghosts. Shelby and Matt didn’t believe her, though. Because why would they have any reason to believe that something supernatural had occurred?
This was disturbing to me. One, because who was that mysterious girl hanging out in the yard? And two, because buy some Windex, you buncha slobs!
Lee was very drunk now, and you’d better believe all the ghosts and monsters were going to take advantage of this. First off, all those waggling pig tails on the wall were a disgusting affront! Then this happened:
Evan Peters, is that you? Be honest.
Meanwhile, Matt and Shelby discovered a secret door in the yard that led to a storm cellar or something. And in that cellar they found a TV with an old camera from 1997. Upon pressing Play, they discovered what Denis O’Hare looks like with a beard. But he then told the tale of the nurses who used to live in this house. They were not great nurses!
Their main thing was murdering elderly people in their care, in order of the letters of their first names. They wanted to spell out murder because they were kind of basic and uncreative. But apparently they only got to a misspelling of the French word for s*** before disappearing themselves! What was going on this place? Was there some kind of interdimensional portal that people were falling through? Maybe we will learn more when this season becomes about the actors filming the reenactments on set and encountering the real threat? Maybe.
Then a bloody butcher knife ruined the paint job on the front door, and Matt and Shelby decided it was time to sell the house. But then a man from the bank was like “Nope!” and they frowned. Because they had spent FIVE FIGURES on the place, they couldn’t leave. You or I would rather sleep under a car in the city than stay at this nightmare emporium, but that’s because we’re not TV characters probably.
It was at this point that Lee decided it was time to bring her daughter back to the house, so she kidnapped her! It was a great plan, but then something happened that she did not expect: The girl disappeared!
The only clue to her whereabouts was her yellow hoodie dangling from a tree 50 feet above their heads.
Not a great sign. Bye, Flora! You’re better off.
Ignoring the fact that this show is probably about to unveil some new twist on its premise, these first two episodes HAVE been effectively frightening. I truly don’t think we can handle yet another episode of these shenanigans; few things are less scary than characters who stay in situations they shouldn’t. But this show is still so well produced and acted and directed that it’s a pleasure to watch even if I don’t understand motivations. And, again, I’m pretty sure it’s going to shift into a behind-the-scenes mode soon, don’t you? Unless Lady Gaga is going to simply be an extra with a dirty face and no dialogue? I have doubts about that, to be honest. But anyway, yeah. I like this season, and I can’t wait to know what it’s REALLY about. Let’s get to it!
What did YOU think of “Chapter 2”?
American Horror Story: Roanoke airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.