This review contains spoilers.
Three women kidnapped and terrorised by a gang of incestuous, cannibal, pot-farming hillbillies. It’s one of the classic horror plots, going back to HG Lewis’s 2000 Maniacs to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and beyond. Out-of-town folks wander somewhere they don’t belong and become a screaming buffet table. Given the presence of the Polks in the reenactments, it’s only natural that they reappear in the real version of the story, with some delicious Hollywood actresses to turn into fear-tangy jerky.
On one hand, you’ve got the women in the Polk compound and on the other hand, you have Dominic and Shelby on the run from various vengeful ghosts in the Roanoke house. The nurses are more like zombies than the fetishised women from the reenactment. The Chens aren’t a happy family; they’re skittering, black-eyed monsters. At every turn, Shelby and Dominic are menaced, fleeing from one monster or another until, fittingly, they’re back where they started. The episode is kind of an even split between the two storylines, and while Shelby and Dominic is more frightening, the Polk storyline ends up being the one that is going to be more worthy of discussion.
One of the credits to Todd Kubrack’s script is that while it does linger heavily on the story of the Polks and their real-world cannibalism, it’s not exactly torture porn. Yes, they luxuriate on the idea of these women being tortured—not one but two women have their mouths pried open and their teeth either threatened or pulled out by Mama Polk (Robin Weigert). However, there’s an interesting development that takes place between the characters. It’s not enough to make the torture porn worthwhile, but it definitely colours the events preceding it.
The actresses have always gotten along fairly well, but Audrey and Monet have never had much respect or care for Lee the person. Both women seem to feel like she’s a murderer (we find out that yes, she is, via her videotaped confession for her daughter, one of the better uses of the conceit from director Gwyneth Horder-Payton) but after Lee breaks free of Jether (Finn Wittrock) and goes out of her way to go free Audrey, things seem to change between the two, and they form a tight unit for the rest of the episode. Audrey supports Lee, and Lee supports Audrey, each woman urging the other on, pushing the other forward, and the two form a pretty cohesive unit by the end of the episode.
It’s actually kind of nice to see, and it mirrors something that you see a lot in disaster situations. You either grow closer with the people you survive the disaster with, or you completely shatter; there’s very little middle ground. Matt and Shelby broke apart in violent fashion, Lee and Audrey seem to have banded together for their own survival (though Lee is apparently willing to put Audrey in danger to save herself from criminal charges, suggesting that there’s a limit to companionship). The two turn immediately on Dominic once they find him with Shelby’s body; he’s an outsider to the new pair group.
That said, Adina Porter is great playing Lee, as it’s nice to watch the character as she openly manipulates both Jether and Audrey, in different ways and using different methods. With Jether, it’s a bit harder, playing on his status as the middle child who is too old for ‘cuddles’ and too young to share his mother’s bed. She first provokes sympathy by bringing up her daughter, opens herself, and then seduces him (it’s an old trope, but it’s effectively pulled off by the actors involved. With Audrey, she’s able to use the reality show to her advantage; as Lee has said throughout, she’s recording her side of the story to keep others from editing it, and if they did that to Lee, they won’t hesitate to show footage of Audrey that portrays her in a bad light.
After all, as Dominic has made perfectly clear, it’s all about ratings. All of it. Bringing them back to Roanoke, getting them all together to fight amongst themselves, looking the other way while alcoholics sneak in booze, and so on. Sidney cared only about ratings, so he did things in a big way and he didn’t hesitate to shake things up, which is probably why Dylan (Wes Bentley) AKA Ambrose shows up randomly in a Pig Man costume. It’s a hilarious tag to a pretty tense scene of the two wounded survivors trying to get out of the house and get to the Polks before night falls, only to be stopped by a guy in a rubber mask.
It’s a bit of a step back from last week’s episode, but the Audrey character is so amusing in her artistic delusion that it’s hard not to like her, and it’s hard not to like Lee despite her being a self-admitted killer and an open manipulator. The cast is getting smaller every week, and we were only promised one survivor. I kind of doubt it will be Dylan/Ambrose; smart money is on Lee, but maybe a surviving Audrey might not be out of the question. After all, she’s proven to be tougher than she looks.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would love to see a show with murderous cannibal hillbillies from the north of the United States, rather than the south of the United States. Is that too much to ask? Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.