American Horror Story: Roanoke episode 9 review: A Final Girl with a twist

Taissa Farmiga's GoPro-donning superfan brings fresh blood - and some nicely meta-vibes - into the season's penultimate episode

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The Independent Culture


"Racism is scary. Patriarchy is scary," Sophie (Taissa Farmiga) earnestly confronts her horror-loving friend with. Honestly, I went to the delirious, ever-impossible world of American Horror Story seeking some brief respite from the real-life American Horror Story we've seen unfold around us in the past few days. 

But, then I remembered. American Horror Story has always been more than its trashy, cult threads and selfless light entertainment; it's a show which dares to exist in the progressive norm we've been fighting so hard to achieve, it uses the regalia of pop culture to tell the narratives of those we usually never grant them to. 

It's in Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson)'s resilient LGBTQ reporter in Asylum, disabled actor Jamie Brewer's scene-stealing performance as Nan in Coven, Liz Taylor (Denis O'Hare)'s moving journey of self-acceptance in Hotel, or even Lee (Adina Porter)'s narrative in Roanoke - the story of a true survivor who knows too well the world is not her ally. 

I may have been initially struck by how stridently the show reached out from its own world and into ours on this week's episode - as Sophie desconstructs My Roanoke Nightmare as a reflection of the "battle we're fighting today", either against the false illusions of a post-racial world or the unbudging patriarchal system - but it's a needed reminder this show has never been afraid to mix social commentary in even its wildest of fantasies. 

Sophie's words may have been perfectly timed, but so was her arrival; Farmiga's grand return to the series also brought with it some fresh blood, with her character forming part of a trio of My Roanoke Nightmare fans eager to capture the house on video so their fansite could get more clicks and followers. 

Fodder for murder also came in the form of Wes Bentley's Dylan, teased at the end of episode 8 as a late arrival to the house dressed in a Pig Man costume; turns out, he's apparently been staked out at a motel, tasked with turning up halfway through to add some scares to Return to Roanoke - on the assumption things would be getting a little quiet, ghosts weren't real, and no one was dead. 

An ex-military man who believes in the old "never leave a man behind" philosophy, Dylan may as well have been walking around with 'R.I.P.' tattooed to his forehead; suffering an appetiser stabbing by the Polks, followed by complete disembowelment by the Roanoke colonists. Nice knowing you, Dylan. You had a great beard, at least.  

His character did allow for the stand-out joke of the entire episode, after he tells Audrey (Sarah Paulson) and Lee (Adina Porter) that he took an Uber to the house. Cut to: Rhett the Uber Driver, eyeing up Dylan in his Pig Man costume like maybe he is now familiar with the term "gay for pay".

It was a moment of light relief in the season's continuation of savage bloodshed and brutality; seeing both Audrey and Monet (Angela Bassett) find particularly gruesome ends, shot by the police and impaled by a stake respectively. And if Roanoke hadn't Blair Witch-ed already, it Blair Witch-ed to the max in its three doomed teens wandering into the heart of the woods with their GoPros and backpacks. 

The trio were initially drawn further into the wilderness by the limping figure of Diana (Shannon Lucio), Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson)'s assistant, killed by the Pig Man; a figure later revealed to be her ghost, with Diana's corpse still stuck in her flipped car. 

It's pretty interesting that this is the first ghost of someone actually killed during the show we've seen materialise; with absolutely zero traces of ghost Sidney or ghost Rory and this episode marking the end of Return of Roanoke, I do wonder whether we'll see some kind of pay-off for this in the season finale. Or is that me just still coming to terms with this season's severe lack of Evan Peters?

And speaking of closing in on the end of Roanoke, American Horror Story decided to add one more slice of meta-fun into the proceedings by essentially inserting the show's own fans into the season. After their friend is brutally murdered, Sophie and Milo (Jon Bass) retreat into the production trailer and discover screens showing the entire camera set-up inside the Roanke house and the events unfolding inside.

In that moment, they essentially become us, the audience. We witness the show's climactic moments by watching people watch American Horror Story; Sophie is us yelling at the screen, "Oh god, she's in the house!" She's us taking to social media to tweet #BloodMoon - which, embarassingly, is the exact same hashtag I used last week. 

And, if Sophie and Milo represent us - audience and fans constantly distraught but obssessed with the Roanoke season - then I'm going to say Ryan Murphy is definitely The Butcher here. He's shown us maybe as much pity in all his brutal twists, trolling, and Evan Peters-witholding as the Roanoke colonists show Sophie and Milo in their final moments.

Really, is it that much of a coincidence they were handed the season's most brutal deaths? Ones so bad the show even issued a titled warning for "graphic, violent, and deeply disturbing" content, right before they got impaled and set on fire? This is Murphy's last laugh with Roanoke - we got f*cked with this season, and we got f*cked with real good. 

Which is exactly what leads me to this episode's grand twist: the identity of our final survivor. For the first time in this entire season I was finally right about something and Lee came out on top, but on one giant condition: she's been fed a pig's heart by the real Scathatch and come under the same possession as the Butcher, killing without mercy and spouting all that same "cleanse these lands" talk. 

And that small morsel of information brings up a truckload of questions we're going to need answered in the season finale, revealed to be a Lana Winters TV special, as I'd also guessed last week - which is not to gloat, but it's so rare to actually suss out American Horror Story that this feels like such a victory.

Did Lee also kill Mason under the influence of Scathatch? Does this make the witch of the woods the real antagonist of Roanoke and The Butcher a mere victim? Is this exactly what happened to Agnes, as well? Will Lana confront Lee with the evidence captured in the Polks' video recording? Is Lee free from Scathatch's influence now? Is Lana even safe?

American Horror Story airs Wednesdays at 10PM in the US on FX, and airs on FOX UK the following Friday at 10PM.