4:30pm PT by Jackie Strause
'American Horror Story: Roanoke': Ranking the Big Twist Theories
American Horror Story: Roanoke viewers are about to be thrown for a loop.
Ever since Ryan Murphy confirmed that a game-changing twist would arrive in the sixth episode of the sixth season, currently airing Wednesdays on FX, viewers have been counting down to Oct. 19.
“You’ll see starting in episode six, the show has a huge turn and the thing that you think you’re watching is not what you’re watching,” the secretive showrunner told EW at the start of the newest cycle in the anthology horror series. His co-creator, Brad Falchuk, added, "No matter what you think it is, it’s not that. Episode six comes and you’re like, ‘Wait! What happened?'"
After its mysterious lead-up, where Murphy and FX kept the subtitle, plot and cast a secret until premiere night, viewers have been watching Roanoke with a skeptical eye. So far, the season revolves around a true-crime docuseries called My Roanoke Nightmare in which the assumed survivors relive their near-death experience as talking heads for the filmed TV special. The season has unfolded as a show-within-a-show as actors play out the events in a dramatic reenactment.
Last week's episode suggested that Shelby (Lily Rabe, reenacted by Sarah Paulson) and husband Matt Miller (Andre Hollard, reenacted by Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Matt's sister Lee Harris (Adina Porter, reenacted by Angela Bassett) escaped the ghosts, cannibals and immortal spirits haunting them in their North Carolina mansion — the site of the famed pre-16th century disappearance of over 100 colonists, documented as the Lost Colony of Roanoke. The episode felt like a finale — until the scenes for next week aired (watch below). My Roanoke Nightmare producer Cheyenne Jackson, who at this point had only lent his voice from behind the camera, stepped into the shot to tell his cameraman to keep things rolling "no matter what."
What will happen next? The Internet and THR have a few theories, the best ones ranked below from least to most likely.
6. The season truly begins with episode six
Each week, viewers on Twitter lament the absence of the show's usual opening montage and theme song. Many speculate that the signature introduction is missing because Roanoke is a ruse, and that the true subtitle and plot will be revealed next week. Reddit user danielsk1 accurately predicted that episodes one through five would feature corresponding callbacks to previous seasons of AHS: The premiere began with a Murder House premise; the second introduced Asylum-like nurses; the third brought back Coven star Leslie Jordan and again imprisoned Kathy Bates' character in an iron head cage; the fourth gave a nod to Freak Show's Dandy Mott's ancestor, Edward Philippe Mott (Evan Peters); and the fifth had cannibalism, human-swallowing beds and the survivors checking into a hotel. He also, however, surmised that the real theme would be revealed when the numbers matched up.
Why it's unlikely: The one press release from FX about the season, as well as the show's social accounts, confirmed the subtitle as American Horror Story: Roanoke. FX marketing boss Stephanie Gibbons also told THR ahead of the season that there will be no bait and switch: After the premiere, viewers will know the theme. She did go on to say that doesn't mean much will be known about the rest of the season: "You know more when you’ve read the first chapter, but it’s far from the end of the book." It seems safe to say that, for now, the episode six twist will exist within the Roanoke world.
5. Everyone on camera is an actor
Since the first episode, speculation has run rampant over whether or not the talking heads can be trusted. The Millers and Lee could be ghosts, even telling their story from the dead on medium Billie Dean Howard's (Sarah Paulson in Murder House and Hotel) Lifetime series. Initial theories suggested that the dramatic reenactment actors would hear "Cut!", return to their trailers and subsequently find themselves being haunted like the real people they portray. Redditor ckstarling, however, suggests that the talking heads are the real killers, who are posing as the Millers and Lee in order to tell their story and lure Jackson, his team and the dramatic reenactment actors back to Big Shaker Mansion so they can murder them all.
Why it's unlikely: Something certainly seems off with the talking heads. Sometimes their stories conflict and in many instances, each one recounts something that only they themselves can verify. On the fifth episode, the most questionable one, Lee — who, all-too-coincidentally, also had her first child abducted — said something especially odd to the camera: “As Mark Twain says, if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” Still, how would the docuseries air as a finished product if the entire staff is murdered?
4. Scathach is the key to the entire AHS universe
The fourth episode gave Lady Gaga's Witch of the Woods a backstory and a name: Scathach. She is an immortal witch who has been alive for centuries and who practices the most powerful form of witchcraft, Old Magic. She has the power to take and give life and control spirits in the afterlife and Murphy later confirmed that she is the original Supreme witch, mentioned only by myth in Coven. Whether that makes her a goddess or the devil is yet to be seen, but if she is the devil, Satan has reared its head in nearly every season of AHS. Could her soul collecting strengthen her powers to travel through time and possess others, like Mary Eunice in Asylum? Connie Britton's Vivian gave birth to an Antichrist baby in Murder House and another theory suggests she is the very first Supreme who started Coven's academy of witches. This season is also the devil's number: 666.
Why it's not unlikely: Ahead of the season, Murphy confirmed to THR that all of the seasons are connected, and that season six would begin to show that mythology. In addition to the corresponding season callbacks mentioned in No. 6 above, the first five episodes have featured a slew of other nods to past AHS iterations: For example, the lore of Roanoke was first mentioned in Murder House by Paulson's Billie Dean. Murphy has compared AHS to the Twilight Zone and having its own inner mythology. and Gibbons teased that "6" has "a particular meaning in the horror realm." With Jessica Lange gone, who better to be tasked with connecting the entire franchise than Murphy's new muse, Emmy-winning Gaga? If Scathach is the devil, she could even have the power to resurrect Lange's witch, Fiona Goode, from hell.
3. The Antichrist will arrive
666 signals the arrival of the Antichrist. Though Peters was revealed to be Mott in episode five, he could play a different character in the back half (same goes for all the actors). Peters confirmed he dyed his hair red for the season, which means something else is coming down the pipeline. Viewers have linked the color to Gaga's redheaded Scathach, suggesting that Peters could return as the Antichrist spawn of Matt Miller, a mortal, and Scathach, an immortal. The emphasis on Scathach's need to fulfill her female desires heavily hinted at a demonic baby being on the horizon. Season one's Murder House also featured a child born of human and spirit when Constance (Jessica Lange) found the Antichrist toddler (below) had murdered the nanny. The Antichrist's existence had also been warned of by Paulson's Billie Dean in Murder House: "A child born of human and spirit will usher in the end of times."
Why it's not unlikely: The end of the world could be the perfectly unpredictable way for Murphy to flip the season on its head and link the entire universe together. One of the first things Murphy teased about the sixth season was that it would involve "elements" of children. “If you look at horror tropes, the innocence of children, that sort of wide-eyed entryway into some world, is always very dramatic and satisfying," he said at this summer's Television Critics Association press tour.
2. My Roanoke Nightmare will return to Big Shaker Mansion
It seems like a safe bet that My Roanoke Nightmare will be returning to the Millers' haunted Roanoke home on Sappony Road, Big Shaker Mansion. Jackson, desperate for killer footage for his docuseries, could threaten to withhold payment from the Millers and Lee if they don't agree to return to the site where the haunting occurred. And the scenes for next week indicate that Jackson is going rogue. The Millers have commented multiple times throughout the series about how every cent they had was tied up in the home, leaving them homeless. Most curiously, it sounded like an omen when Shelby (Rabe) said: "I'm just grateful that I will never have to see that god-awful place again."
Why it's not unlikely: The return to Big Shaker Mansion provides an opportunity for the rest of the cast to remain on the series. The myth of the Lost Colony ends with the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree, something Roanoke has yet to show. Most importantly, it's an opportunity to reveal the true intentions behind this docuseries, and perhaps of the entire AHS universe.
1. It's a combination of all of the above
Murphy promised the sixth episode's twist would separate the show into two halves. But Falchuk also indicated that the final episode of the season would bring about something new, making the season more like three chapters. "It’s like [episodes] 1-5, 6-9, and 10 is its own thing,” he told EW. Episodes six through nine could continue with the new flipped version of My Roanoke Nightmare, with Jackson leading the cast back to the mansion, and then the 10th episode could bring about the Antichirst-Scathach connection that links the entire AHS universe.
Why it's not unlikely: Murphy told THR that this season would only begin to explore the mythology of the entire AHS universe. "You'll see it this season, and then you'll really see it after this season. We lay a lot of pipe, and you'll see it explode in seasons seven and eight," he told THR. With the seventh season now picked up and confirmed by Murphy to again be a "secret season," the finale of season six could be the setup for what's to come in 2017.
Share your comments on the theories with THR below and check back here next week once the big twist is revealed.