Thanks to the world of social media, I was unaware that this week’s chapter of AMERICAN HORROR STORY was the season finale until the day prior to airing. From my recollection, previous seasons generally were thirteen episodes, many of which exceeded the standard 45 minutes run time. ROANOKE managed to squeeze in plenty of scares and interesting story telling devices within a confined space, making season six one of the most admirable offerings of the franchise by keeping it short and sweet. Bringing back some familiar faces (Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters) along with some new ones (Cuba Gooding Jr., Adina Porter) who are likely to be new fan favorites in the series. Porter, in particular, I loved watching as I felt she was completely underused in “True Blood” as the alcoholic mother of Tara who believed her disease was the evil doings of a demonic possession.
ROANOKE‘s finale proved to be a combination of multiple parodies of various programs couch potatoes such as myself are familiar with. We get a glimpse of the extraordinary success of “My Roanoke Nightmare” in the first segment as all the actors are reunited during a panel after the first season aired. The fans go crazy for everyone, dressing up in costumes, proclaiming their love for the show, and generating millions of views on their personal YouTube pages discussing commentary related to the show. We are reminded of the backlash Lee received from the airing of the show as many believe her to be a murderer (they were right). The events from the follow up series “Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell” inspired another TV show “Crack’d” to use Lee as their subject, focusing on the aftermath of the real life murders. A juicy and highly publicized trial finds Lee going free, but that freedom comes with a price.
Lana Winters from Season 2 comes out of retirement to film a live Barbara Walters-like special, interviewing Lee, but ends up dropping the bomb that Flora was reported missing an hour prior to filming and believes Lee knows where she is. Their interview is cut short with an assault rifle wielding Polk family member who wants Lee dead. He manages to shoot down much of the crew but ends up killed himself before he can finish her off.
Another reality crew, calling themselves the Spirit Chasers, breaks into the Roanoke house hoping to capture some supernatural occurrences on camera. They end up finding Lee, who believes Flora is stuck there. This is, of course, all happening during the blood moon and the new visitors are slaughtered by the many spirits who stay there. Lee, however, successfully finds Flora.
The media surrounds the house, reporting a standoff where Lee is supposedly holding her daughter and possibly another hostage. This is where, for the first time this season, the hidden cameras stop and AMERICAN HORROR STORY returns to conventional filmmaking, allowing the gimmicks to stop and a scene between Lee and Flora can flourish. Lee finally realizes she needs to make the ultimate sacrifice for her daughter and decides to give up her own life to take care of the already dead Priscilla. While Flora can go home to her grandparents, Priscilla yearned for a family and Lee can provide the parent that has been absent for so long.
The ending to ROANOKE had a bit more of an emotional level than I anticipated, but it worked. I didn’t expect throughout this story to find Lee as our ultimate protagonist, but she is a rare find. This season reminds us like Sister Jude in ASYLUM or Ben Harmon in MURDER HOUSE that the most flawed characters prove to be the most relatable as their passion drives the story and every awful decision that stems from love. Their stories all end tragically, but leave a trace of lessons learned often ignored while the right paths were right in front of them all along.
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