American Horror Story: Roanoke Finale Review: American Crime Story?

American Horror Story: Roanoke, "Chapter 10"

It all comes down to this.

After, arguably, the most consistently enjoyable season of American Horror Story so far (and one of the series marking 2016’s success in horror television), we’ve reached the end of (the wonderfully shortened) Roanoke. What treats and twists do the finale hold for us? Let’s find out by taking a look at the season finale of American Horror Story: Roanoke, “Chapter 10.”

The finale opens with a look at a fan screening of My Roanoke Nightmare from before the sequel season (at PaleyFest, no less) that shows us just how big of an impact that the in-universe series had on viewers around the world. It also gives us a chance to see more of the actors’ personalities (something that is appreciated for Evan Peters’ Rory and Leslie Jones, especially), and it’s clear that this series was destined for success. We jump ahead a bit to find out that 3 Days in Hell did, in fact, air as a second season on television (earning even higher ratings than the original), but it left a bad taste in plenty of viewers’ mouths and has left Lee, the lone survivor, facing trial for murder.

We soon find out that the beginning of the season finale, similarly to the two arcs that came before it during Roanoke, is an in-universe episode of the series Crack’d (think of true-crime series that you might see on Investigation Discovery, such as Snapped). After the airing of the second season, Lee went to trial, but her defense was able to convince the jury that the Polk family’s pot caused her to hallucinate, and she was acquitted of all charges. The prosecution didn’t give up, though, and they later went after her for the murder of Mason (something she confessed on-camera during 3 Days in Hell). Flora plays a big part in the second trial (with her time spent around Priscilla being important to her testimony), but the jury again decides to acquit her (saying that they can’t name her guilty for what they believe to be ghost stories). Despite getting off free, though, Lee ended up losing everyone that she cared about. Throughout the trial scenes, Adina Porter delivers an extremely admirable performance, and it’s clearer than ever that she deserved starring status this season. All year, Porter has been one of the strongest performers on the show, and I have high hopes that Ryan Murphy can manage to bring her back for a future season of American Horror Story.

American Horror Story: Roanoke, "Chapter 10"

Moving ahead, the story of “Chapter 10” shifts once again to an interview special with Lana Winters, Sarah Paulson’s heroine from American Horror Story: Asylum (briefly, just how great was it seeing some of Lana’s career in the short opening credits to the special? Did you catch the Briarcliff reference?). As expected, Paulson dives back into the role as spectacularly as possible, and we’re quickly reminded why Lana Winters is one of the most well-regarded roles Paulson has played on American Horror Story. I absolutely loved the ways that the episode used Lana to reference Asylum, too (such as talking about Lana killing Bloody Face), and it’s so nice to see these seasons tie together more. Soon, the Lana Winters set is overtaken by the remaining Polk child with an assault rifle (after Lee is informed that Flora was reported missing an hour earlier), and Lana does what she does best and attempts to talk him out of killing Lee. Unfortuantely, Polk isn’t interested in talking, but he is gunned down by police before he can cause more damage.

Did you think we were done with in-universe shows? Wrong. We move next to an episode of Spirit Chasers, a ghost-hunting show that is going to explore the Roanoke house during the blood moon (fun fact: they also had an episode on Briarcliff Asylum from Asylum). Along for the ride is Ashley Gilbert (Leslie Jordan’s character), the actor behind the role of Cricket from the original My Roanoke Nightmare, and the Spirit Chasers team enters the house to discover the truth about the house. When nightfall finally brings out the blood moon, hauntings, obviously, begin to occur, but the most surprising moment is Lee arriving on-set (it turns out that she’s looking for Flora, indicating that this filming takes place not too long after the Lana Winters special). Needless to say, things don’t end well for Ashley or the Spirit Chasers crew, and the Roanoke house claims even more victims.

Jumping ahead yet again (and I absolutely love the structure of this episode), we witness news reports of Lee’s standoff in the house after the death of the Spirit Chasers team (and we also catch up with more of the actors from My Roanoke Nightmare, including Denis O’Hare’s William van Henderson). Finally, we move into, for lack of a better word, “real filmmaking,” as the in-universe shows end. I’m not going to spoil the ending of the season at all, but I will say that I am entirely satisfied with the conclusion. For this episode in particular, though, I am so impressed with how well it worked structurally. Despite jumping around to different “shows,” it never felt off, and credit is due where it’s been earned.

As great as the entire cast has been this season, Adina Porter is Roanoke‘s clear winner. Wonderful throughout, her performance in “Chapter 10” is one of the best that the series has ever seen, but it’s boosted even further by the rest of the cast around her. This really has been the season for spectacular performances (something aided by the twisty nature of the season), and this might finally be the year that someone other than Jessica Lange receives real recognition on this show.

The story of Roanoke was absolutely phenomenal, and this season finale really did stick the landing in an admirable way. In a season full of twists and turns, it’s pretty incredible that Ryan Murphy and the writers were able to tell this story in the way that they were. The horror felt real for the first time since Asylum, and the more muted aesthetic helped the narrative in a way that I never would have expected. I actually can’t believe how well everything turned out, and that’s coming from someone that’s enjoyed every season of this show.

“Chapter 10” was, in a word, spectacular. I was ready to call Roanoke the best season of American Horror Story so far before the episode aired, but the success that the team had with this finale absolutely solidified that assessment. More than ever, this is the season that American Horror Story absolutely needed to have, and I truly cannot wait to see what Ryan Murphy has up his sleeve for next year. What a great season, guys.

What did you think about the finale of American Horror Story: Roanoke? How would you rank it among AHS seasons? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!

[Photo Credit: FX]

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