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American Horror Story: Roanoke delivered another big twist with Wednesday’s season six finale, an episode that is sure to leave viewers with as many bubbling questions as when the season first began.
After shrouding the sixth series of the FX anthology in complete secrecy, Ryan Murphy’s horror series closed the chapter on Roanoke by revealing the true sole survivor of the season to be Lee Harris’ daughter, Flora (Jessica Pressley). The episode played out as one big social commentary on the genre and fame, unveiling the events by time-jumping from one reality series to another as viewers were tasked with deciphering if what they were watching was real.
If any of the five TV shows documenting the events of the finale are to be believed, the horrors of Roanoke did, in fact, happen — answering the seasonlong burning question — and starring villain Lee finally redeemed herself.
Doubling down on Roanoke‘s premise as a show-within-a-show, the events of My Roanoke Nightmare and its sequel Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell — which also ended up airing on TV as a monster hit — left Lee (Adina Porter) as the only featured star still standing. A court documentary called Crack’d — which also came with a dramatic reenactment — showed Lee’s life after Roanoke, where she was tried and exonerated for her Three Days in Hell murders.
Now one of the most “provocative and polarizing figures” of all time, the debate over whether or not Lee is a monster or a victim spurred journalist Lana Winters (played by Sarah Paulson) to come out of retirement for a live TV special with Lee, titled The Lana Winters Special. Reprising her role as the only survivor of AHS season two’s Asylum, Paulson played two different characters (technically three, if her on- and off-screen Roanoke roles are counted) for the second season in a row.
The return of Paulson’s Lana Winters had been announced ahead of the finale in a rare tweet from Murphy. Paulson’s season one psychic, Billie Dean Howard, also reappeared on season five’s Hotel. However, the exclusive sit-down between the final woman of Asylum and the sole celebrity survivor of Roanoke gave viewers AHS‘ most high-profile season crossover yet, solidifying Murphy’s vow that the sixth season would prove all of the seasons exist in one big — and twisted — universe.
The interview, however, was interrupted by a vengeful Roanoke star and his assault rifle. It is later revealed that both women survive when the paranormal-hunting Spirit Chasers return to the Roanoke mansion and find Lee, who is looking for Flora, before being murdered — in over-the-top and produced fashion — by the ghosts of the house. The episode is then interrupted by a breaking news broadcast — followed by another cable news interview — to document the “hostage crisis” with both Lee and Flora inside. Ultimately, Lee sacrifices herself beneath the rising Blood Moon in order to save her daughter by burning the house down while inside, forever binding herself to the land so she can care for Flora’s spirit friend Priscilla.
The Butcher and her ghosts of the Lost Colony of Roanoke watch as the house burns, signifying to viewers in the episode’s final minutes that all along, My Roanoke Nightmare survivors Lee, Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Matt Miller (Andre Holland) could be trusted. In addition, the series broke format by showing viewers the final scene without any gimmick of it being broadcast through found footage, a TV show or different medium.
— AmericanHorrorStory (@AHSFX) November 17, 2016
Though the season left many questions in its wake — namely, the missing details surrounding Lee’s abduction by the Witch of the Woods and its impact on her spirit’s immortality — it also connected the franchise. Previous seasons of AHS have dropped hints for discerning viewers that all of the seasons could be linked, but Roanoke delivered confirmation after confirmation as it called back each previous season of AHS with familiar nods, returning characters and new reveals.
“The seasons are connected, for sure,” Murphy told THR ahead of the season-six premiere. “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.” [A seventh season was picked up during Roanoke‘s run, but the eighth has yet to be announced by FX.] He continued, “This is a show that could be like The Twilight Zone and run for multiple, multiple seasons and have its own inner mythology. So that’s how we’re approaching it. I’ll keep doing it for as long as we have the ideas and the momentum.”
In addition to Winters’ crossover from Asylum, Roanoke proved it also exists within the same universe as season one’s Murder House by bringing back the Piggy Man killer; tracing the ancestry line of Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) of season three’s Freak Show to Roanoke mansion builder Edward Mott (Evan Peters); and confirming the Witch of the Woods, Scathach, (portrayed by Lady Gaga) to be the original Supreme witch of season two’s Coven. In season one, Billie Dean even recounted the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, bringing the series, at this point, full circle.
Aside from connecting the dots within the AHS universe, Roanoke also served as a takedown of its own genre; social media; the press; Hollywood producers, stars and fame; and in its finale, even gun violence. The season skewered recent TV obsessions — Making a Murderer, The Jinx and even Murphy’s own The People v. O.J. Simpson — and toyed with paranormal TV and horror film movie tropes, the latter with nods to Blair Witch, The Grudge and Deliverance, among others. It broke format with its narrative style and kept the media in the dark with press and screener access limited. The finale even kicked off with an inside joke aimed at the industry, when the entire Roanoke cast reappeared for a flashback Paley Center panel during Paleyfest, a real TV festival.
Though Murphy has said he has no plans to keep the seventh season as under lock and key as he did with the sixth — the subtitle of Roanoke wasn’t even announced until premiere night — the showrunner has revealed little about what to expect. The theme will be announced in the spring and the season airs on FX in 2017.
What did you think of the Roanoke finale? Share your thoughts with THR below in the comments and keep up with all AHS coverage here.
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