*This post contains SPOILERS for American Horror Story Season Six.*
I’m a pretty huge fan of American Horror Story, and I won’t lie, I have been super disappointed in this season for multiple reasons.
- The idea of doing a dramatic recreation show in itself wasn’t clever enough, and we all knew it, and thus knew there would be a twist.
- There was no dramatic tension with the characters being alive.
- The new haunted house just didn’t have a personality to it, and each episode felt like ideas were being ham-fisted down my throat.
- I couldn’t stop focusing on Sarah Paulson’s amazing wig.
Because of this, the idea that somehow My Roanoke Nightmare would become a worldwide phenomenon is just…ridiculous. (Sorry). I watch those horror re-enactment shows when I’m at my mom’s and nothing else is on, and they’re campy time-passers—a little creepy and fun, but nothing amazing, definitely not something that would captivate a nation. Even the fake version, with its ability to do anything, didn’t captivate the fanbase.
When the episode six “twist” came about, which most of the viewers had already figured out, I kept feeling myself wishing THIS was the first episode, and the rest of the details were filled in throughout the season, layering the story and creepiness, creating mysteries for us to solve, like the usual AHS that we all know and love.
Think about the first episode of Hotel. We had so many hints to think about. I remember theorizing about what could be “the thing in room 33” for weeks.
With Roanoke, or whatever this season is called, I had none of that. I felt myself semi-patiently waiting each week for something to captivate me, but every week I was disappointed, finding the story never really moved forward.
So in a story like this, there are stages. First, we introduce the characters, then we show how they are being haunted and drop some hints about what’s haunting them, then they see a psychic, things get worse, they discover the twist about why they’re being haunted, and there’s a final showdown. It’s a formula that’s hard to get away from, but when it’s done well, it works.
The issue with the first five episodes of AHS 6 is that they never really got past the “infestation” stage. Even though there was a brief psychic interlude, it didn’t really present itself in a way that moved the story forward.
So how do we learn from this?
As a writer, exposition is your enemy. On one hand, you want to show as much of your world to the reader (or viewer), as possible, but on the other, you don’t want to bore the audience with details that won’t add to the plot.
If I had a chance to “fix” this season, here’s what I would do:
Episode 6 would be episode 1. Don’t feel like you need to start at the beginning. Start at the most optimal place for the audience to get hooked. In this case, it would be when the exciting story of the new reality show is introduced.
With this in place, we lay down the groundwork that the Roanoke show was successful without having to show five episodes of (frankly boring) content. Instead, the most exciting scenes could be weaved into the story to layer over what’s happening in the present, giving the audience the details they need while keeping a forward-moving pace.
This would also give room for clues about what’s going to come. There are elements of what could be really creepy in this season, but I just don’t really know what they are, yet, and for being halfway through, that really worries me.
Of course, episode 7 is going to air tonight and I could be completely wowed or underwhelmed. I do think the concept of this series really missed the mark in the way it was developed, and had the writers thought a little more about the overall season, it could have been gracefully weaved together to create something unique and amazing, as opposed to a hodgepodge mix of some borderline bad re-enaction and cheesy characters.
What are your thoughts? If you had the option, would you have changed the way the season began?