Warning: This recap of the “Chapter 10” episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke contains spoilers.
Found footage horror originally caught on for two reasons: It’s cheap to execute, and it’s an easy way to resensitize viewers to visceral fear. After several seasons of lighthearted, merely morbid happenings, the American Horror Story franchise needed to scare us again, but unlike cheapie found footage exercises of the past, this wild, frightening Roanoke season gave us verité with the full budget and cast of a prestige series. Like most seasons of this thing, Roanoke felt familiar in many very intentional ways — AHS remains the ultimate horror mixtape — but in the end it was a wholly original thing. Lurid, audacious, shocking, sickening, hilarious, and above all entertaining, Roanoke might be the scariest season of this show yet. And man, was it fun.
“Chapter 10” concluded this highly inventive season with not just one new installment of a reality crime series, but FOUR of them. Crack’d, The Lana Winters Special, Spirit Chasers, and a live news broadcast really rounded out our journey into the reality TV landscape of the American Horror Story universe. Though this finale certainly had its horror scares, the episode was more an exploration of how modern crime entertainment digests even the most brutal of tragedies. And while it was a gamble to place the dramatic heft of the season on Lee’s shoulders, it all came to a satisfying conclusion in the end. Let’s talk about it!
We began with, obviously, a PaleyFest panel for My Roanoke Nightmare moderated by Trixie Mattel from RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Clearly this took place well before everyone onstage was BRUTALLY MURDERED. Better times, simpler times. And the scene was about as wild as you’d expect — fans wearing pig masks, frequent raucous applause, girls attempting to kiss Evan Peters on the mouth. William S. Paley would be so proud.
I loved many things about this scene. First and foremost, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s indoor sunglasses. Secondly, Angela Bassett’s hair. Thirdly, Kathy Bates’s character loudly and desperately demanding to be in Season 2. Sure, psycho.
I really enjoyed this superfan’s drawing of Lee and her child. Imagine watching a season of this thing and Lee is your favorite character? Well, that wasn’t just a fleeting fancy in this episode, as it became clear we were then going to focus entirely on Lee’s life after the second, arguably less fun season of My Roanoke Nightmare.
Now, we just need to get into something right now that I still can’t stop laughing about. The “found footage” we recently saw of all the cast and IRL figures getting brutally slaughtered on camera? IT AIRED. It aired on television. Actual murders. I don’t know what kind of dystopic parallel universe the AHS franchise exists in, but something tells me that the American viewing public would not actually like to watch a dozen recognizably famous, beloved actors get eviscerated on camera. That being said, it was apparently a big hit! Unfortunately for Lee, it meant that every murder she’d committed had been caught on tape! Which meant, you guessed it, it was TRIAL O’CLOCK.
The main thing you need to know is, Lee was ACQUITTED. The jury decided that maybe she was accidentally high from the Polk Family’s weed farm, and also she got stabbed in the leg, so maybe she went nuts. In conclusion, if you ever want to murder a lot of people on camera, just blame the ganja. I also liked how when Flora took the stand to narc on Lee for murdering her father, Lee got her to talk about her ghost bestie, which meant that her testimony was no longer credible. Cheap trick, Lee!
It made me laugh that the jury deliberated for 16 days. Excuse me? How many times did they binge My Roanoke Nightmare? Yet they still acquitted her? Man, American Crime Story should do a season about THIS travesty of justice.
Probably the main event of this episode was the long-anticipated appearance of Lana Winters, the hero of AHS: Asylum. As we know from that season, Lana endured all manner of terrible experiences at a very poorly run mental institution full of demons and aliens and Jessica Lange accents and #butts. But in modern times she was now a serious interviewer on par with Barbara Walters, and Lee personally hand-picked her to get into it on live TV. But right when Lana ambushed Lee with the information that Flora had disappeared hours earlier, they BOTH were ambushed by the last surviving Polk redneck, and he had himself a RIFLE.
This guy was not thrilled at the idea that Lee had helped murder his family and then became famous from it, so he shot up the TV studio and pointed his barrel at Lana!
He cold-cocked her to the floor, but before he could finish off Lee, the SWAT team got him first!
Farewell forever, Polk jerks! Also, this made me laugh:
Uh, probably a little too late considering we just watched a man get shot to death on live TV. Way to keep your fingers on the button, control room!
From here we switched to another reality TV show, this one a parody of those ghost hunter shows. It starred a hunk, a geek, and Andrea’s sister from the first season of The Walking Dead. Oh, and Leslie Jordan!
The idea was that they’d break in and film an episode of their show during the Blood Moon, ostensibly to hunt for ghosts in a place where many ghosts had already been filmed MURDERING REAL PEOPLE ON CAMERA. It was a great premise for an episode of TV, and I saw no flaws in their plan.
But then, of course, Lee appeared. She claimed she’d only just arrived, as she’d been looking for Flora for weeks. But I think we all know she’d been sleeping on a pile of rags in the kitchen. Lee definitely had a hobo-squatter vibe now. But I guess she was no longer possessed by Baglady Gaga and therefore very helpfully suggested everyone leave the house ASAP. Unfortunately that’s when the ghosts arrived.
Oh no! Bye again, Cricket!
One of the Chen daughters got her final moment in the spotlight when she scrambled down and snatched up the geek.
Girl from The Walking Dead had a meaningful encounter with the Butcher herself!
The hunk and some local cops all got taken out in a flurry of arrows. Again, the teamwork these ghosts showed was borderline poignant. Way to work together, you bloodthirsty phantasms!
From here the episode switched to local news coverage, with live footage of Lee’s “hostage” situation inside. Apparently she and Flora survived the ghost onslaught and were reunited in time to sort of just hang out while the police chilled out below. Meanwhile we kept cutting back to talking heads discussing the situation, and guess who was back in the mix?
You know, it takes a true baller to give an interview from bed. But that’s Lana for you. Zero f*cks left to give.
For our final stretch, the episode became traditional third-person again. No reality TV trappings, no found footage. Just regular AHS-style dark melodrama. And the final conflict involved Flora’s wish to be killed so she could hang out with her ghost bestie forever. Fortunately Lee talked her into letting LEE be the one to die, so that she could be a mother to the ghost girl and Flora could go off to live a long and full life as the daughter of an internationally notorious psychopath.
Next thing we knew, Lee was letting a ghost girl murder her!
And then the house exploded for some reason!
I loved the look of calm on Flora’s face when the house exploded. Almost nothing impressed her anymore. Typical millennial.
As Flora was driven away from the scene by a cop, she looked out the window to see her mother now joining the ghosts to live with them. Good for her? Still curious as to why she’s not the new Butcher after eating that enchanted pig heart last week, but whatever. Congratulations, Lee!
Our final shot gave the foreboding sense that the Roanoke colonists were just getting started. As the townsfolk carried their torches toward the exploded house, I couldn’t help but worry about those cops and paramedics! Get out of there, guys! How many different TV series will it take before people avoid this place??
And that was it. Ten (short!) episodes with huge twists, surprises, and effective horror. This Roanoke season was AHS at its best, which is saying something since this was its SIXTH season. What does this mean for the franchise going forward? Will it always be very meta and brief? Also, should we expect our main castmembers to only put in a few weeks’ work in the future? This format made it so almost everyone could appear, if only briefly. As you can see, I have a lot of questions about this show, but one thing is settled: Ryan Murphy’s still one of the most gifted entertainers alive, and I feel truly blessed to experience American Horror Story in my lifetime. Truly, what a show.
What did YOU think of “Chapter 10”?
American Horror Story airs on FX.