The most mysterious season of the FX franchise also revealed more clues than ever about Ryan Murphy's twisted 'AHS' universe.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season six finale of American Horror Story: Roanoke, "Chapter 10."]
American Horror Story: Roanoke was a horror romp that came with a warning to society.
By keeping its plot a secret and instructing viewers to trust nothing and no one as the sixth season aired on FX, viewers who buckled in for the mysterious, twisty and meta 10-episode ride of Ryan Murphy's horror anthology series really had no idea what they were watching.
Not until Wednesday night's finale did Roanoke reveal itself to be one big social commentary on the dangers of reality television. Like Black Mirror warns about near-future technologies when placed in the wrong hands, Roanoke scolded society over its obsession with fame. Succumb to its pitfalls and end up dead, or be forced to go out in flames like its starring player Lee, a monster born out of pop-culture phenomenon. (And enjoy all the genre tropes and jump scares along the way.)
But the legacy of Roanoke won't be its message: The sixth season was the first in the franchise to truly tie together every season of AHS. Murphy has filtered crossovers for the most discerning of AHS viewers in the past, but Roanoke delivered on his promise to clearly thread together Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel and Roanoke as all existing within the same universe.
Roanoke opened up the mythology of the series by conjuring up crossover characters, drawing season-hopping ancestry lines and dropping all-too familiar nods in a TV world where no coincidence goes unnoticed. So what does it all mean? That everyone and everything is fair game when the series returns for its seventh round next year.
Here are all the ways the Roanoke reveals connected the dots.
Lady Gaga, who won a Golden Globe for her first run on AHS: Hotel, returned as a guest star to play the mysterious 16th-century wood witch, Scathach, in the My Roanoke Nightmare dramatic reenactments. She was revealed to be the most powerful of any character in the AHS franchise, as the immortal witch collects souls, has been around for centuries and can even bestow immortality onto others.
After Gaga's run on Roanoke — the actress did not return to play the "real" Scathach — Murphy revealed that Scathach is the original Supreme witch (who was never introduced on Coven) and promised to return to Coven and the witch of the woods in a later season. The reveal means Gaga's Roanoke character created the witches of Coven. (Keep an eye out for the Antichrist spawn of Scathach and Matt Miller when the storyline returns.)
Roanoke brought AHS fan favorite Lana Winters out of retirement for a big exclusive with Lee Harris (Adina Porter). The sitdown saw the final girl of Asylum come face-to-face with the sole survivor of My Roanoke Nightmare, and their confrontation revealed that Lee knew all the details of the Bloody Face killer survivor. Sarah Paulson's reprisal of her aged Briarcliff journalist, who murdered her son with the serial killer (Dylan McDermott) at the end of season two, places the timing of Roanoke — revealed to be in March 2017 — only shortly after the finale of Asylum.
Freak Show's serial killer Dandy Mott is a hard AHS character to forget. As spoiled as he was evil, Finn Wittrock's twisted murder-clown protege made such a last impression that Murphy decided to reveal more about the Mott family tree in Roanoke. He traced Dandy's ancestry all the way back to the 16th century with the original builder of the Roanoke mansion, Edward Mott (played by Evan Peters). Roanoke revealed that the house remained in the Mott family trust until the scandal-ridden end of the ancestry line in Florida, 1952 — a nod to Dandy.
The urban legend of Piggy Man was first told by Eric Stonestreet's guest character, Derrick, in Murder House. Ben (Dylan McDermott) dismissed the paranoid patient when he told of a pig-mask wearing butcher who murdered people in 1893's Chicago reappearing when "Here piggy pig, pig" is said in the mirror. But Roanoke revealed the Piggy Man legend to be true, and the man to be an ancestor of the cannibal Polk family who tortured the stars of My Roanoke Nightmare. Around the time of the Chicago World Fair (in 1893,) it was explained that Kincaid Polk graduated from slaughtering hogs to people and was killed by the Butcher, who burned him alive with a pig on his head. Now bound to the Roanoke land, perhaps he can appear in mirrors only during the period of the Blood Moon.
Leslie Jordan, who only appeared in Coven, also returned for Roanoke as an actor playing medium Cricket Marlow in the dramatic reenactments. In Coven, he helped to council the witches as warlock Quentin Flemin. Both Cricket and Quentin hailed from New Orleans and carried similar powers before moving on to the afterlife. The string of coincidences — in addition to the Coven callback appearing in Roanoke's respective third episode — hint that Cricket and Quentin could be relatives, reincarnations or even the same person. The finale brought the actor back to give him a name, Ashley Gilbert, and then kill him on TV for the second time.
Before the arrival of the sixth episode's big twist — when My Roanoke Nightmare ended and sequel Three Days In Hell began — the first five episodes featured callbacks to their respective AHS season within the franchise. References to the inaugural season, however, invaded the core premise. Shelby and Matt's story began in similar fashion to Ben (Dylan McDermott) and Vivien's (Connie Britton) of Murder House, with a married couple moving into a haunted mansion in hopes of starting over. The Roanoke land followed the Murder House curse of trapping its dead, something also featured in season five's Hotel Cortez. And the bloody words forever printed on the walls of the Roanoke mansion, thanks to the lethal nurses, even gave it a "M-U-R-D-E" house nickname.
The legend of the Lost Colony of Roanoke was first told by Sarah Paulson's Murder House psychic Billie Dean Howard. When Violet (Taissa Farmiga) seeks her help to banish the ghosts in their home, she tells the tale that viewers watched unfold on Roanoke:
"It’s difficult to banish a spirit, but not impossible. The most successful attempt I know of happened when America was known as the new world. In 1590, on the coast of what we now know as North Carolina, the entire colony of Roanoke — all 117 men, women, and children — died inexplicably. It became known as the ghost colony because the spirits remained. They haunted the native tribes living in the surrounding areas. Killing indiscriminately. The elder knew he had to act. He cast a banishment curse. First he collected the personal belongings of all the dead colonists. Then they burned them. The ghosts appeared, summoned by their talismans. But before the spirits could cause them any more harm, the elder completed the curse that would banish the ghosts forever. By uttering a single word. The same word found carved on a post at the abandoned colony: Croatoan.'"
Billie Dean also mentioned she was filming a Lifetime series on Murder House and her character reappeared in the fifth season, Hotel, to film a piece for her show — the crossover was the first to signal a connection between the seasons, with the timelines playing out not too far apart.
"The seasons are connected, for sure. You'll see it this season, and then you'll really see it after this season," Murphy told THR ahead of Roanoke's premiere. "We lay a lot of pipe, and you'll see it explode in seasons seven and eight."