[Warning: The following article contains spoilers from American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare episode one, "Chapter 1."]
Let's address the fat, bloody elephant in the room: American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare is something new for AHS fans. After Wednesday's simultaneous theme reveal and season premiere, we couldn't help but wonder if Roanoke's "true-crime style" format would ever be as immersive as seasons past.
Knowing everything we're seeing is a "reenactment"? Being fully aware the characters we're following are merely actors themselves? It's different. But by "Chapter 1's" final minutes, we were convinced: It's fabulous, and it works.
Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. portray the couple couple as they reenact Shelby and Matt's narration. After being accosted in the big city of LA, losing their unborn baby as the result, the two escape to "safe," rural North Carolina. It's not long until they discover an old home for sale, built way back in the 1700s and, after a short bidding war with a pack of stubborn rednecks, secure it. It's also not long until the creepiness begins.
After some minor garbage vandalism of the "this could easily have been a rabid bear" variety, Shelby steps onto her front porch and straight into a hale storm of human teeth. Sound familiar?
Then one night after yoga addict Shelby's practice, she starts seeing things in the house. As Matt is gone on business, a lone Shelby walks through the massive hallways of her behemoth of a home only to see two pale women pass 10 feet in front of her and disappear. She's shaken, but determined to relax (same, girl, same) and decides to take her red wine into the hot tub on the porch in order to regroup.
But it was never to be. Just as she gets comfy, she's suddenly shoved down into the water head-first. We watch as she's nearly drowned by unknown forces.
Enter the Roanoke colony: According to Shelby, said attackers were dressed in traditional colonial garb and wielded pitch forks. The local police force does nothing to help — "no finger prints, no torches," they point out in uncertainty — but Shelby remains unmoved and Matt being a good husband, believes her.
Actress Adina Porter is introduced as Matt's sister Lee, reenacted by AHS OG Angela Bassett. She's a no-nonsense ex-cop who's not too keen on Shelby and may or may not be suffering from a painkiller addiction. She's also recently weathered a divorce, which leaves her free and clear to stay with Shelby and Matt during their time of need.
Lee asks Shelby not to drink while she's staying with them, because she's "hanging on to her sobriety" as it is. So when an empty wine bottle rolls into a sleeping Lee's room in the middle of the night, she stomps right into the living room to confront Shelby. Shelby, of course, denies pranking her, and their argument is just enough distraction to ensure the ladies miss the group of colonially garbed beings with pitch forks marching back onto the property.
Lee, who sees them incoming on a mobile security app all the way from his hotel, attempts to warn them to no avail. But before the two see anyone, they hear something from the home's basement. They step down into the dark stairwell, following the groans and grunts of misery reverberating from around the corner. It turns out to be an old home movie playing on a decrepit television set in the corner. On it, a strange man is seen documenting his own fear, video-taping a pig with the height of a human being.
Just then, the lights go out and the pitch fork crew enters the home — or so it seems. Unaware, Shelby and Lee emerge from the basement to discover the hallway decorated with strings of "stick men" hanging from the ceiling.
Thanks to the aforementioned rednecks' unsavory behavior, the whole family is under the impression it's that group who's been harassing them. Out of the three, however, Shelby is the only one convinced it's time to leave.
As she jumps in her car and gets the heck out of dodge, she just so happens to run over a colonial woman — an as yet unnamed Kathy Bates. Shelby, shellshocked and guilt-ridden, runs straight into the forest where Bates' character has retreated, untouched. Shelby quickly becomes lost in the woods, where she runs right into the same exact strings of "stick men" hanging from the trees that had been hung up in her home just minutes before.
Collapsing onto the ground, she realizes the earth itself seems to be moving — the trees swinging and the ground breathing. Terrified, she runs even deeper into the woods, where (what else?) a group of be-torched ne'er-do-wells (one of which is maybe Wes Bentley?) close in on her and a bloody, scalped man approaches her from behind.
Roanoke is defined by two groups and one outlier: the modern-day family we witnessed in "Chapter 1," the Roanoke Colony itself, and Lady Gaga's speculated "Croatoan" character. While "Chapter 1" revealed only a present-day storyline, the Roanoke Colony's story is very likely to be unveiled in future episodes via flashback. Episode one was a soft, downy introduction to what could have been a bamboozling smack in the face for fans, and while it's new, we are all about it.
Here's a recap:
Actors we've seen so far:
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Characters we've seen so far:
Catch American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare Wednesdays on FX.