Talk about an info-dump!
American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 4 was the televisual equivalent of reading a speculative history paper about the vanished Roanoke Colony. To rephrase: There was so. Dang. Much. Exposition.
Now, that's not all bad. In fact, some parts of "Chapter 4" were quite good.
But I do think it's hilarious that, in my review of American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 3, I remarked that it sure seemed like we got a lot of expository dialogue in that installment. "Chapter 4" made all that look like nothing at all.
Interestingly, we've now gotten answers to just about every major question we had at the beginning of American Horror Story Season 6. In less than an hour – there were so many commercials, you guys – we learned the history of just about every mysterious figure and the cursed land itself.
All of this exposition made its debut courtesy of Elias Cunningham, Cricket Marlowe, and Matt Miller in turn.
After flipping out at Matt for having had sex in the woods with a strange (and quite dirty!) woodland lady (aka, Gaga's forest monster-witch) – and getting over it in no time at all, once she realized Matt was entirely ignorant of the forest sex – Shelby treated herself to a shower.
Or, rather, attempted to treat herself to a shower. The Pig Man had other ideas in mind.
Can we just break off and talk about the pig theme for a second? Perhaps I'm just ignorant of early American history, but I don't understand the relevance of pigs with this Roanoke colony story.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH ALL THE PIGS? Is it thematic? Symbolic? An actual historical reference? I honestly want to know, because there is just SO MUCH of the pig stuff; it's impossible to look past or accept it at face value.
ANYWAY: The Pig Man, who we'd previously seen burned alive in a ritualistic gathering by Kathy Bates' Butcher when Shelby was lost in the woods, was a regular knife-wielding psychopath. He chased Shelby and Matt through their house until Elias appeared, axing the Pig Man in the back and banishing him (temporarily) with the "Croatoan" curse.
This was all exceedingly sudden and started off the installment at an extremely fast pace.
Firstly, I was shocked that Elias was even alive. It seemed pretty clear that he had died in that first video Lee and Shelby found when trapped in the basement – but I suppose he survived, somehow (luckily for Shelby and Matt).
Secondly, where has he been staying all this time? Has he just been wandering the land? How big is this property anyway?
Thirdly, the Pig Man is now officially the most mysterious remaining antagonist of the season. We know the origins of every major villain we've met thus far, but we know basically nothing about this dude with a pig head.
Elias went on to reveal a few key, game-changing facts to the Millers (with gaps filled in by Cricket, which we'll get to later).
The former professor explained that the Roanoke colony ghosts were systematically murdering everyone who trespassed on their land. To the ghosts' credit, they did fire off a few metaphorical "warning shots" prior to gruesomely murdering the trespassers – that much was made abundantly clear.
The Chen family, killed in 1973, had several run ins with the Pig Man before the Butcher offed them. Similarly, the Butcher specifically told the murder nurses that they were being killed because they had refused to heed the warnings and leave the land – they had "chosen to remain."
Thou hast chosen to remain on these hallowed grounds, despite our warnings. For these sins, thy blood shall sanctify the land. Thy body to enrich the soil. And thy soul to serve me for eternity and a day.The Butcher
This is an interesting detail. The Butcher isn't into murdering anyone who shows up. She's killing with purpose – to guard her land and ward people off. Not that this makes her an innocent non-villain – it's just a complicating factor.
Elias also keyed the Millers into the fact that the "Dying Grass Moon" was fast approaching – the specific lunar cycle in which the ghosts became capable of murder. Of course, Matt and Shelby refused to leave without Flora – but conveniently, Elias was able to lead them straight to her.
Turns out, Flora was just chillin' in a field with some ghosts! For days.
The ghosts, who were all various victims of the dead Roanoke colonists over the years, hang out together, separately from the Roanoke ghosts, because they, too, are trapped on the land. Basically, there's a lot going on on this land.
Elias was killed by the colonists, but Shelby and Matt escaped, only to run into Cricket back at the house, where the psychic filled in the missing details.
Cricket: I met her. And I lived to tell the tale. But there were moments I felt my survival was in doubt.
Shelby: The Butcher?
Cricket: Oh, no, darlin'. I met the bitch with the real power.
Like Elias, all of Cricket's information was second hand. He related information that he had learned from the forest witch (named "Scathach," after an Irish mythological figure, in closed-captioning).
After encountering Scathach in the woods, Cricket foolishly promised her Matt (for sex and ~things~) in exchange for intel. The witch, for whatever reason, was all too happy to oblige.
Somehow, too, Cricket has the ability to intuit things about Scathach. For example, he realized just by being in contact with her that she gains her strength over the course of each lunar cycle but that she also has "needs." Like, sexual needs.
It still remains a mystery what, exactly, Scathach needs sex for, or why she's so taken with Matt in particular. But the below quote hints that the sex is an exchange for some sort of "debt" repayment. What do Matt and/or Shelby owe the forest witch?
Scathach: My treasure.
Matt: Stay away from me. What do you want from me?
Scathach: Debts must be paid.
They've now had two sexual encounters, so fingers crossed there aren't any demon-woods babies about to enter the mix.
I really enjoy Cricket as a character – those one-liners are flawless! – but I'm beginning to get a bit irked by his functioning as a pure plot device.
Think about it – Cricket isn't really a character at all. He serves to relay information about the colonists. That's literally it. If the documentary format turns out to be bunk later on, I wouldn't be shocked to find out that Cricket was an "invented" characters for the purposes of the documentary crew.
Scathach revealed to Cricket the history of how the colonists came to be bound to the land, and how the blood moon got its power.
Basically, the Butcher fell totally victim to Scathach's machinations – powerhungry and loony, the Butcher poisoned and slaughtered the entire colony single-handedly, simply because they wanted to stop sacrificing people to Scatach's sketchy gods and go home to England.
They are all children in need of discipline. Bend them to thy will. Shed their blood. Release the power of the blood moon. Thou shalt have their souls enslaved to thee. Thy servants... for eternity.Scathach
Scathach's speech to the Butcher precipitating the slaughter was wonderful. Lady Gaga is killing it in this role – I love her weirdo, unplaceable accent as well.
It's not yet clear what, exactly, Scathach hoped to get out of the mass slaughter. The colonists are bound to the Butcher – they appear to be enacting her will in killing all of the trespassers. What does the woodland witch gain from the Butcher's killings? I assume we'll find out soon enough.
Finally, the last bit of info was about Scathach's own history and it was imparted to us via Matt. The woodland witch was once a regular English woman, who arrived in America on a boat filled with dead sailors. Sentenced to death, she killed everyone and escaped to go live in the woods.
And... at some point, through some ill-defined process, she went from "regular English girl" to "immortal forest sex witch."
The old magic and new world created something new. Something original.Matt
This quote from Matt sounded cool and all, but literally explained nothing about how this is supposed to have happened. What, precisely, is Gaga's character? And how did she come to have all of this power? Unclear.
Between all of the exposition and the forest sex, there were actually a few big plot movements. For one, Flora was recovered (finally!), thanks mostly to Priscilla, who intervened and prevented the Butcher from killing the girl.
Alas, Cricket wasn't so lucky. As Matt, Shelby, and Flora escaped into the house, he was violently and EXTREMELY graphically disemboweled. It was a disgusting, very drawn out scene, even worse than Murder Nurse #1 getting her arms ripped out. I'm also shocked that Cricket and Elias both died so soon!
A closing note: It's important to realize that all of the information we're getting is second, third or even fourth hand. For example: Shelby and Matt tell the producers what they learned from Cricket, who learned the info himself from Scathach. Any one of these characters (Shelby, Matt, Cricket, or Scathach) could have been lying, for some reason.
It's like a game of telephone! Who even knows how much of this is accurate. This season is a case-study in unreliable narration, and I love it.
- Here's a fun drinking game if you want to die real fast: Take a shot every time Sarah Paulson's Shelby screams "MATT!!!!" at the top of her lungs.
- Elias explains that the Roanoke house was finished by Edward Philipe Mott in 1792 – a reference back to Dandy Mott, American Horror Story Season 4's primary villain.
- Now we know Priscilla's origin: She was one of the human sacrifices made to keep the land bountiful, back when the Roanoke colonists were still alive. So, interestingly, she actually died before all of her fellow colonists were slaughtered by the Butcher. That explains why she has no loyalty to the Butcher – unlike the others, whose souls were bound to the Butcher via the ritualistic slaughter, Priscilla is a free agent. Yay, Priscilla!
What did you think of "Chapter 4"? Leave me a comment with your thoughts below and relive every gruesome moment by watching American Horror Story online anytime, right here at TV Fanatic!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.