Warning: Contains major spoilers for American Horror Story season 6. This article originally ran on Den of Geek UK.
Finales – or endings, really – and American Horror Story don’t typically get on. Tying everything up has proved a problem for a show populated by an abundance of complicated characters and storylines. Even the respective conclusions of the show’s strongest outings were lacking in one area or another, with later runs like Freak Show and Hotel bowing out on final installments that were confused to say the least.
So, it’s a bittersweet moment. American Horror Story: Roanoke has been a tremendous return to form for Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s series. The true-crime-with-a-twist format has been a real blessing, giving a fresh feel to what could have been another stylish but navel-gazing instalment of the horror anthology show. Likewise, the decision not to have the season pivot on one actor has paid off in spades, giving expanded screen time to alumni like Angela Bassett, Lily Rabe, and Sarah Paulson as well newcomers André Holland and Cuba Gooding Jr.
It’s been a great run, but will the finale manage to do justice what has come before it? With our fingers tightly crossed, we ponder what might await us in the last chapter of American Horror Story: Roanoke.
It isn’t so much a spoiler as official news but Ryan Murphy made our Halloween when he tweeted a couple of weeks ago that Asylum’s final girl and star of the show’s best ever sequence, the wonderful Lana Winters (as played by Sarah Paulson) would be returning. Asylum is a triumph of television and Lana was its heart, the plucky ex-schoolmistress who endured so much after being wrongfully banged up in Briarcliff by Jessica Lange’s hard-bitten Sister Jude. When Asylum finished we left Lana in 2013 as a still-indomitable octogenarian journalist. She had to euthanise her illegitimate serial killer son in self-defence when he snuck onto the set of one of her interviews but we suspect that’s something that won’t come up. The teaser for this week’s finale sees Lana in full talk-show host mode, fronting her own interview special with Roanoke’s own lone survivor, Lee Harris. The finale looks to show a lot of that conversation as well as extracts from the formal trial.
The big difference between Lee and Lana is, of course, that the former professedly burned her husband Mason alive because he accused Lee of kidnapping their daughter Flora. Lee has been an interesting character, initially playing with viewers’ suspicions in “My Roanoke Nightmare” before earning our sympathy in “Return to Roanoke: Three Days In Hell” when it was revealed that Monet Tumusiime’s portrayal of Lee had left the real person vilified and found guilty in the court of public opinion. Then, when it was revealed she actually had killed Mason, our sympathy plummeted, culminating in Lee being possessed by Scáthach and causing the deaths of Monet, Dylan, Audrey and the trio of well-meaning “My Roanoke Nightmare” fans that found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What will be interesting to see is whether Lee is found guilty of any of her crimes. Arguably she wasn’t responsible for any murder besides Mason’s, her body having been taken over by a witch, but that’s not something exactly easy to prove in a court of law. A theory I’d put money on is that, despite seeming exorcised and unaware of the massacre, Lee is still possessed by Scáthach. It’s a Murphy-ish twist that means the gruesome horrors of the Roanoke house won’t be left behind when the show finally leaves the one bit of North Carolina woodland where roughly thirty people have died.
Bringing Lana back seems like a deliberate move as well (they’ve not just included her because they needed a present day journalist) because she proved in the Asylum finale that she’s as shrewd as ever, and she might be the one that rumbles Lee if she’s found innocent in her official trial, which seems a likely outcome (as the teaser shows, Lana will go full Diane Sawyer on Lee and people found guilty of over a dozen murders tend not to get a TV interview once a verdict has been reached). However, Lee’s taped confession is still somewhere on the Roanoke property and if it were discovered then they’d be as well skipping a trial and just throwing Lee behind bars for life.
The revelation that Lee was possessed and that the local witch of the woods is capable of fully inhabiting bodies (we know she enchanted the real Matt before his death) makes us re-evaluate what we’ve seen. It poses questions like whether Lee was also under Scáthach’s influence when she killed Mason (it does seem improbable, though) and whether anyone else was possessed during “Return To Roanoke.” Scáthach’s return is a certainty either way and perhaps we will see her in her real form (thus far we’ve seen her portrayed by an actress, as a silhouette and in someone else’s body), perhaps played by another surprise American Horror Story veteran. A lot of fans want to see Jessica Lange return and it is an enticing thought – it’d only be for one episode, after all – but given the acting heavyweight’s insistence that her American Horror Story days are over we’d file this one under “unlikely.”
Another American Horror Story star who has yet to appear in any form (when it draws to a close Sarah Paulson will have inhabited three roles in Roanoke) is Matt Bomer. The actor himself confirmed back in June that he would play some part in it and given that speculation is rife over his return – fans have been vocal about wanting Bomer to return and dazzle us with his jawline once again – you would think there would have been some confirmation either way.
With the story shifting away from the Roanoke house and into a courtroom setting (Ryan Murphy continuing to lift from The People vs. O.J. Simpson playbook this season) Bomer could appear as a lawyer or perhaps a fresh-faced judge. He might even be part of Lana’s set or someone in Lee’s life. It’s difficult to predict because American Horror Story is notable for throwing curveballs at its audience. Roanoke has been something different, however, and none of its twists have veered into the absurd so let’s hope the finale stands by this and keeps things more in line with the subdued tone of the last ten weeks.
With each season, American Horror Story is getting closer and closer to becoming one big interconnected story with an increasing amount of crossovers. Lana Winters’ return is the most notable following on from smaller characters’ cameos like Naomi Grossman’s Pepper and Lily Rabe’s Sister Mary Eunice in Freak Show, and Gabourey Sidibe’s Queenie in Hotel. Season seven, Murphy assures us, is something of a big crossover event and we’ll start to see an overlap in characters from different seasons. It’s hard to envy the person tasked with sorting out a filming schedule for all of American Horror Story’s starry cast, past and present.
It’ll be fun to see old characters return – having Lana back even just for one episode is a thrilling prospect – and it assures viewers that the same reliably strong cast will be present but given that American Horror Story is at its best when it dials things down and doesn’t rely on a hook, a crossover season sounds awfully gimmicky.
At the top of its game American Horror Story is bewitching, compelling genre TV and at its weakest, it can descend into an over-complicated slog saved only by the performances of its outstanding cast. Until now, season six has been a consistently strong run, so here’s hoping that it sticks the landing. It’s hard not to think that the TV landscape would benefit from more Roanokes and fewer Hotels.
American Horror Story season 6: Roanoke concludes on Wednesday November 16th.