THR's weekly breakdown of the FX franchise's most mysterious season yet.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the seventh episode of
arrived last week, flipping the sixth season of the FX horror anthology series on its head and spiraling it into its most twisted territory yet. The seventh episode played out like a true
nightmare — serving up every horrific element of the season onto one bloody platter as the ominous Blood Moon made its rise.
the talking heads and the actors seen in the dramatic reenactments — were reunited at the Roanoke murder house for a
-inspired reality show sequel pitched as:
Last week's episode revealed that every participant, except for one, was murdered in the following three days, the never-before-aired footage discovered after the fact. Rory (Evan Peters)
became the first victim when he was killed by the lethal nurses, who used his name to finally finish their favorite word: Murder.
Only minutes into Wednesday's episode, the show's producer Sydney (Cheyenne Jackson) and his crew were stabbed and disemboweled while watching the camera feed from inside the house. Crazy Agnes (Kathy Bates) then sliced Shelby (Lily Rabe) with her cleaver while in character as the murderous Butcher, sending Audrey (Sarah Paulson), Lee (Adina Porter) and Monet (Angela Bassett) fleeing the house and running through the woods, filming their evolving nightmare with handheld cameras,
As the Blood Moon appears — signaling the one time of year when spirits can crossover to murder the living — the trio encounter colonial ghosts carrying torches and are abducted by the real Polks, the cannibal neighbors who tortured the Millers in the telling of
franchise star Finn Wittrock makes his brief introduction as one of the Polks, who films the abduction from behind a camera. This time, they season Lee's leg before cutting it off in pieces they then force-feed to Audrey and Monet.
Back at the house, the predicated powers of the Blood Moon appear to infect the housemates, as Matt (Andre Holland) is beckoned by Scathach (Lady Gaga) for a midnight sexcapade. When Shelby and Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr.) interrupt them, however, Matt confesses that he came back for Scathach, who he is in love with. Shelby responds with rage and bashes his skull in with a crowbar. When Dominic leads her upstairs, they watch as the real Butcher and her colonial ghosts storm the house — just as they did in Shelby and Matt's retelling of the Blood Moon haunting in
. Agnes kneels in front of her real-life counterpart and then receives a cleaver to the head from the real Butcher.
Scenes for next week's episode show more from Wittrock's Polk, a role that Murphy said was the actor's "most f—ed up character of all time." Easily
's most violent and terrifying episode yet, follow
's breakdown below and share your thoughts on the episode and on what you think awaits ahead in the comments.
When the promised big twist of season six arrived in the sixth episode, things got very meta.
, Sydney (Jackson) stepped in front of the camera to document the journey of creating the sequel season to his massive TV hit
As was predicted, Sydney returned to the Roanoke murder house with his crew and cast and put his stars under 24-hour surveillance. The real-life drama, combined with the mind games from being in the actual house would serve as the perfect guilty-pleasure combination to top the inaugural season's massive 23 million viewers, was Sydney's pitch. (The first season's ratings even topped
Debunking several online theories, the twist episode — which was directed by co-star Angela Bassett — revealed that Shelby and Matt Miller and Lee Harris, were, in fact, the real people they claimed to portray, while the reenactors and spirits were actors. The docuseries made them all instant stars, and with fame came the pitfalls of stardom: Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Matt (Andre Holland) separated after Shelby had a fling with the actor who portrayed him, Dominic (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Fans created an online petition to charge Lee with husband Mason's unsolved murder, and the actress who played her, Monet (Angela Bassett), is now an alcoholic. The Butcher actress Agnes (Kathy Bates) was diagnosed with Schizo-affective disorder, sentenced to six months in a mental health facility after a breakdown and was served with a restraining order to stay away from set.
The actress who played Shelby, Audrey (Sarah Paulson), was revealed to be British and newly engaged to her co-star, red-headed Rory (Evan Peters), who played the home's 16th-century builder, Edward Mott — the only happy result of the docuseries, noted Shelby.
After only a few days back on set unexplained acts occurred and producer Diana (Shannon Lucio) was murdered by the Piggy Man, the incident revealed on footage discovered three months later. During the first night of filming, the cast was reintroduced as they trailed in, receiving room assignments and serving up drama like the first episode of every
. The newlyweds were the first to arrive and, after an attack by Agnes dressed as The Butcher, Audrey revealed that the co-star also attacked her when she took home the trophy at the acclaimed horror awards The Saturns. The rest of the episode played out like a stereotypical reality show, with drinking, hookups, backstabbing, fistfights and the "stars" taking turns in a confessional booth — only this reality show upped the game by throwing murder onto that list.
The show cut to a text reveal that over the next three days during the Blood Moon, every participant — except for one — in the series died under mysterious circumstances. The show planned by producers never aired, and the footage being shown, found from the hidden and handheld cameras in the house, was gathered after the events. In the ending moments, the ghosts of lethal nurses Miranda and Bridget murdered Rory, the final letter in their long-awaited "Murder" message. "R is for Rory," said Matt to the group, signaling the first housemate to bite the dust in
After a lead-up shrouded in secrecy, the sixth season of
following the Sept. 14 premiere. The first five episodes played out unlike any other in the long-running hit horror series by sticking with the narrative of
as it flip-flopped from the present talking-head interviews to past dramatic reenactments. Sydney existed only as a voice from behind the camera.
season — a nod to the special number attached to the season, showrunner Murphy announced ahead of the premiere that season six would begin to tie together the mythology of the entire
Shelby and Matt's story began in similar fashion to the premise of the inaugural season,
, with the pair moving into a haunted mansion in hopes of starting over. The Piggy Man arrived and similar to Murder House, the Roanoke ghosts are bound to the land. The second episode's lethal nurses were reminiscent of season two's
with Leslie Jordan's return as a medium; the fourth provided a
shoutout with the introduction of Dandy Mott's (Wittrock) ancestor Edward Mott (Peters); and the fifth featured
Through the Millers and Lee's retelling, viewers learned that the trio were haunted by the ghosts of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, who were able to crossover and murder the living during the six-day period before the Blood Moon on Halloween. As the story goes, more than 100 people vanished without a trace, leaving only the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree during the pre-16th century event that baffles real historians to this day. In the
version, the colony wasn't so lost after all.
Scathach, the Witch of the Woods (Gaga) is the evil spirit worshipped by The Butcher (Bates). Centuries ago, The Butcher was Thomasin White, wife to the governor of Roanoke, John White, and mother to Ambrose (Wes Bentley). When John went away, Thomasin was in charge and overthrown by the colonists. Left to die in the woods, she gives her soul to Scathach and is reborn. Later, after initiating a mass sacrifice, she returns as a ghost forever protecting the land. In the third episode, Shelby caught a trance-like Matt having sex with Scathach and later, the witch again seduces Matt, leading to speculation that Scathach could bring about the arrival of the
Antichrist (a child born of an immortal and mortal union). Scathach was recently revealed by Murphy to be the original Supreme witch of
universe — would be followed up on in a later season.
Other threads leftover from the first-half of the season are Lee's likely involvement in the murder of her husband and how her first daughter, like Flora in
, was also abducted (but never found). In addition to surviving the spirits, the Millers and Lee also escaped from a local, cannibal family, The Polks (Frances Conroy and Chaz Bono played Mama and Lot, respectively, in the reenactment.) With every cent they owned tied up in the Big Shaker Mansion at 900 Sappony Road, the Millers refused to leave until the culminating events of episode five.
This isn't the first time Roanoke has come up on
Paulson's psychic character Billie Dean Howard tells of the colony of Roanoke when Violet (Taissa Farmiga) asks for her help to banish the ghosts in their home.
"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," begins Paulson's season-one character. She then tells the tale: "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 mentioned she was filming a Lifetime series and when her character reappeared in the fifth season,
During the third episode, Lee recounted the horror myth of Roanoke, though she said 116 settlers disappeared without a trace. (Is the missing person significant, or a result of stories being passed down the lane?) In episode four, Cricket confirmed that the Millers' home is standing on the site of the lost colony, who are now spirits bound to the land. Several times throughout the season, the "Croatoan" spell has been attempted to banish the spirits, only sometimes with success. The show has yet to show the word carved into a tree, a sign that
ahead of the season that six will be the cycle when the
seasons finally start to come together. "The seasons are connected, for sure. You'll see it this season, and then you'll really see it after this season," he said. "We lay a lot of pipe, and you'll see it explode in seasons seven and eight [the seventh has officially been picked up]." He continued, "This is a show that could be like
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."
The main castmembers were confirmed in the credits at the end of the Sept. 14 premiere: Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Angela Bassett (above, right), Kathy Bates (above, left), Wes Bentley, Denis O'Hare, Evan Peters (who arrived in the fifth episode) and Cheyenne Jackson (who was heard by voice only until the sixth episode).
Rabe plays Shelby Miller and Paulson her actor, Audrey Tindell. Bassett plays Monet, Shelby's on-screen sister-in-law, Lee Harris. Bates is actress Agnes Mary Winstead, who played The Butcher in the docuseries. Bentley acted as The Butcher's son, Ambrose White. O'Hare plays Dr. Elias Cunningham, a former owner of the Millers' home who was killed in the fifth episode reenactment.
Lady Gaga plays Scathach, the immortal Witch of the Woods and is credited as a special guest star in the episodes she appears. Evan Peters is actor Rory Monnaghan, the husband to Audrey who played Edward Philippe Mott, the original builder of the home. Jackson plays
The third and fourth episode saw the return of guest stars Leslie Jordan, of
, playing medium Cricket Marlow and Frances Conroy — of
as the matriarch of the Polks in the reenactment. The seventh saw the teased return of Finn Wittrock as a real member of the Polk family.
Other returning members of the ensemble set to make an appearance are Taissa Farmiga, confirmed by Murphy, and Matt Bomer. Murphy had teased many returning faces to
when the season began and recently, he revealed that the main cast would be playing new characters in the back half: "This is the year where you see the greatest hits in terms of actors of
Murphy delighted the FX audience by bringing Gooding Jr. over to
People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
costar Paulson. Viewers on Twitter squealed with delight when O.J. Simpson and Marcia Clark had a sex scene early in the premiere.
Gooding Jr. (above, right) spilled the beans that he was tapped by the showrunner before the season began. “When Ryan calls you and says, ‘Hey can you do this? Would you like to do that?’ It’s an immediate yes, no matter what it is,” Gooding Jr. said. He even teased the intimate scene with Paulson: “It’s really been a treat to finally engage with her on camera, because when we did
, it was more about my scenes and then her scenes and us being in the courtroom but separate — but we’re not separate no more!”
) are two of the new and main players to join this season as Matt Miller and his sister Lee Harris, respectively. Another fresh face is Cher's son Chaz Bono playing one of the hillbillies, Lot Polk, as well as the officiant in Audrey (Paulson) and Rory's (Peter) celebrity wedding. The killer nurses Bridget and Miranda are played by Kristen Rakes and Maya Berko, respectively, and Saniyya Sidney (
.) plays Sidney's producer Dianna Cross who was murdered by the Piggy Man. See the rest of the cast list here.
Murphy also appears to have courted another alum from his previous show, as Jacob Artist, who hails from Murphy and Falchuk's
script on Instagram with the caption "Day 1."
Ahead of the premiere, the cable network and showrunner, who co-created
with Brad Falchuk, kept the subtitle, plot and main cast a secret. To switch things up for the devoted fanbase, FX marketing boss Stephanie Gibbons and Murphy told
that the mysterious marketing campaign will continue throughout the season.
FX released 26 trailers teasing the possible theme. Among them, FX confirmed one was real and the rest were misdirects. "The truth is in there, we made absolutely certain," Gibbons told
before premiere. "It’s like the needle in the haystack or the pebble in your shoe: It’s tiny but boy, do you notice it and that’s what we wanted."
fanbase launched into conspiracy theories and some of the speculation turned to the "Lost Colony" theme after photos claiming to be of the
set showed the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree. Indeed, the premiere revealed itself to be a docu-drama involving Roanoke. After the premiere aired,
revealed the subtitle (and the premiere ratings turned out to be one of the franchise's best.)
that there will be no bait and switch: After the premiere, viewers will know the theme. But that doesn't mean they will know much else about the season as a whole. "As we’ve seen with other seasons, much lies ahead," she said (most recent case in point:
's Ten Commandments Killer reveal). "You know more when you’ve read the first chapter, but it’s far from the end of the book... It's one twisty-turny season."
Next week's episode continues to up the horror ante, as Lee is shown with Wittrock's Polk. When she asks him how he knows about the show, he creepily replies: "We're part of the U.S., we get TV." Audrey and Money continue to beg for their lives and the hauntings continue inside the house.
With season "six" — a number that holds particular weight in horror — Murphy promised the sixth episode's twist would usher in a new chapter for
. And Falchuk revealed that the season could be divided into three: Episodes one through five, six through nine, and then a standalone 10. With Chapter 1 as
footage, how will the final episode play out?
Who will be the sole survivor? Angela Bassett told
that viewers will be content with the big reveal. "It’ll make sense," she said of the ending. "I think there will be a sense of satisfaction at the end. Of completion and of satisfaction."
Is there any significance to the person under the Piggy Man mask, who again appeared in the teaser scenes for episode eight?
Is the Antichrist theory dead? Much emphasis was placed on Scathach's need to fulfill her womanly desires, and she is conspicuously left out of the cast that Sydney planned to reunite. The Antichrist spawn of Matt, a mortal, and Scathach, an immortal, could be Murphy's tie-in to the entire universe. Season one's
also featured a child born of human and spirit when the season ended with Constance (Jessica Lange) returning home to find the Antichrist toddler had murdered the nanny. Its existence had also been warned by Paulson's Billie Dean: "A child born of human and spirit will usher in the end of times."
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