If you thought that American Horror Story would cap their shows-within-the show at only two... well, American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 10 definitely proved you wrong.
Rather than moving beyond the camera lens for the season finale, the majority of "Chapter 10" told the end of the Roanoke saga through the eyes of three new, distinct reality shows.
When the season began, way back on the American Horror Story Season 6 Premiere, who would have guessed that Lee Harris would end up being the sole survivor and central character? Not me, that's for sure.
But through it all, Lee did emerge as the de facto main character, and Adina Porter did an incredible job with taking a complicated, problematic character and imbuing her with sympathy and depth.
Leaving off on American Horror Story Season 6 Episode 9, I assumed that we'd see Lee get some kind of comeuppance for her various crimes. As it turned out, "Chapter 10" revealed that Lee employed the best damn lawyer in the world to get herself acquitted of every murder charge against her.
The finale used the same technique that the earlier installments of the season employed – presenting information through the lens of a reality show. For the first half of the season, we had "My Roanoke Nightmare." For the next three installments, it was "Return to Roanoke." On "Chapter 10," there were multiple reality shows presenting the events to us.
"Crack'd" (a clear copy of the real Oxygen Network true crime show Snapped) presented Lee's story as a true crime incident, focusing on her back story and her subsequent murder trials. Lee's acquittals (particularly in Mason's death) took some suspension of disbelief – but at the very least, the Mason murder trial was heartbreaking (particularly given Lee's lawyer making Flora look like a liar).
Also, this gem from one of the jurors in the first trial was pretty great too:
It was obvious that that magic pot was messing with her brain! She was seeing things.Juror Number Two
"Magic pot" indeed.
Of course, Lee's acquittals came at the expense of her relationship with Flora. As was revealed during Flora's trial testimony, she actually witnessed her mother killing her father. So I can't say I blame her for being more than a little bit cold to Lee after that.
Lee's much-hyped Lana Winters interview followed her "Crack'd" acquittals. Lana is one of the best characters of the entire six seasons of the show, so it was great to have her back – even if it was only for a few minutes of screentime.
By far the best aspect of Lana's return was how the writers set up these neat parallels between the characters of Lana and Lee. Both were mothers (technically) and both were relentless fighters. I think Lana explained it best, when she was on the air with the reporter during Lee's standoff with the cops at Roanoke.
Lana: Well, in many ways, I understand Lee Harris. We are two women for whom trouble just seems to walk alongside. Which is why I think your rather crude analogy is actually quite true. Both Lee and I have the capacity -- or the curse, depending on how you look at it -- to be singular of thought. Dogs with bones, as they say. When we latch on to something, it becomes our destiny. And we will do anything to see it through.
Reporter: And what is that thing for Lee?
Lana: Her daughter, of course. It's always been about Flora.
It's quite a lovely sentiment and perfectly encapsulates Lee's character. Lana appeared to be a mouthpiece for the writers, here, explaining why we should feel for Lee and her plight. She's flawed, for sure, but she sure as heck adores her daughter.
Lee's interview was set up as the centerpiece of "Chapter 10," and I think all viewers were expecting more than a few twists, given the fact that the interview was being broadcast live. And boy, AHS sure delivered on those twists.
Not only did Lana break the news, mid-interview, that Flora had vanished (and lowkey accuse Lee of kidnapping her daughter once again), the interview was cut off completely by none other than Lot Polk barging in, assault weapon in hand, to take his revenge on Lee.
I didn't think we'd see any of the Polks again – to be honest, I'd forgotten that they hadn't all died already – so Lot's sudden vendetta against Lee was unexpected. It did seem a little superfluous though, as if the only reason for his attack was to provide an excuse for killing off all of the Polks. His attack really had no bearing on the larger plot, or the finale.
The real issue was Flora's disappearance. As soon as we heard that she was gone, I immediately thought "Roanoke." Apparently, Lee didn't – she somehow searched for a solid two weeks before thinking to go to the Roanoke house. Really, Lee? I thought you were brighter than that.
Lee's appearance at the house coincided with the third (and final) reality show of the finale. A team of paranormal investigators on "Spirit Chasers" idiotically broke into the house, accompanied by Ashley Gilbert (who played Cricket Marlowe in "My Roanoke Nightmare"). Much like the millennials with GoPros of "Chapter 9," the spirit chasers weren't around long enough to get attached to. If anything, they were actually pretty irritating. Lee, I'm sure, would agree with that assessment.
Lee: What the hell are you doing here with all this crap? Are you people crazy enough to be shooting another show here?
Ashley: I could ask you the same thing.
Lee: I'm looking for my daughter, and I'm running out of time. I can sense it outside, the Blood Moon is rising. The others will be here.
Spirit Chaser: That's so perfect!
Lee: You stupid fucks! You deserve to die.
Sure enough, the spirit chasers (+ Ashley and two cops) were all brutally murdered in short order by the land's various spiritual inhabitants. Hilariously, Ashley busted out "Croatoan!" once again in a desperate bid to ward off the Pig Man. It didn't work, at all, obviously.
Much like the events of "Return to Roanoke," the "Spirit Chasers" deaths were horrifying and much, much scarier than anything we saw in "My Roanoke Nightmare." The fear and horror were visceral. I also appreciate the fact that they've resisted giving us clear shots of the "real" ghosts – the Butcher, Scathach, and even the Murder Nurses always remain just slightly out of frame. It makes them all more mysterious and that much scarier.
In the midst of the Spirit Chasers' violent deaths, Lee successfully found Flora in the house. As expected, Flora had gone off with her ghost pal, Priscilla. Disturbingly, Flora wanted to remain behind, as a ghost, dying in order to protect Priscilla from the Butcher.
This was so depressing and heartbreaking on so many levels. That this little girl wanted to forego growing up in order to stick around in a house full of ghosts was legitimately very unsettling. Lee's ultimate sacrifice – remaining behind and becoming a ghost so that Flora could feel comfortable leaving Priscilla behind – was absolutely devastating.
No matter how you feel about Lee as a character, there's no arguing that Adina Porter acted the hell out of that scene.
Lee: What if I stay and look after Priscilla? I fought off the Butcher twice. I could do a much better job of protecting her.
Flora: The Butcher would get you eventually.
Lee: Not if I'm like her. Not if Priscilla did to me what you want her to do to you. You can go live with your grandparents. I know you like them. Priscilla needs a mommy. Let me do that for her and for you. You can come visit us when it's not the Blood Moon. And, in time, you may feel differently about me. Please. Let me do that for you.
This is a minor point, but it was somehow so much worse that Flora didn't even give Lee a hug or anything (on-screen, anyway) before she died. Lee's wish for Flora to come visit them sometime (NOT during the Blood Moon) and her hope that, in time, Flora would feel differently about Lee, basically had me sobbing.
All in all, it was a deeply unsettling end to the strangest season of American Horror Story yet. While Roanoke (and all its various incarnations) wasn't everyone's cup of tea, I found it legitimately creepy, often quite scary, and, in the end, incredibly moving.
- A very minor recurring gag in the finale was each of the two actors from "My Roanoke Nightmare" who were left off of "Return to Roanoke" being touchy about not being included in the second series. Ashley, who played Cricket, was annoyed about Sidney not "deigning" to invite him back, Denis O'Hare's character, William van Henderson, was totally insistent on making sure he had proof that he HAD been invited back. Great meta commentary on the ridiculous priorities of the entertainment industry.
- Ashley shouting "Croatoan!" at the Pig Man in a desperate attempt to ward him off and getting promptly killed was hilarious.
- For me, the Chen family were the most horrifying ghosts of the season. The way they moved up the walls, like spiders, was beyond terrifying. Anybody else want to weigh in on their spookiest spook choice?
- That Paleyfest panel opening was shockingly realistic. Job well done.
- A great shot: the Spirit Chasers looking up at the Blood Moon as the arrows of the settlers rained down upon them.
- Another great shot: Lee kneeling before Priscilla in preparation for the little ghost girl killing her. What beautiful framing that scene had.
What did you think of the season finale? Leave me a comment below and watch American Horror Story online here at TV Fanatic to relive all of the Roanoke madness!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.