Fans of “American Horror Story” waited a long time for last night’s season 6 premiere. Not only because the show is immensely popular, and is coming off a 5th season that redeemed the horror anthology series after they jumped the shark with “Freak Show,” but also because this time around, producers/creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk decided to play their cards close to vest and keep the theme and title of the season a secret, using only a series of teasers for promotion. One of the teasers revealed the word “Croatoan,” which is a reference to the colony of Roanoke in 1590 North Carolina, which mysteriously disappeared without a trace, a mystery that is unsolved to this day. Sure enough, this season’s first episode, simply titled “Chapter 1,” takes place in modern day Roanoke, North Carolina. But other than that, AHS’s season 6 premiere is, simply put, just one more slightly larger teaser.
(SPOILERS AHEAD) “Chapter 1” starts as a show-within-a-show, as the characters are recounting their story on a paranormal documentary series, called “My Roanoke Nightmare,” a format that is familiar to all us fans of the shows “A Haunting,” and “Paranormal Witness.” Lily Rabe and Andre Holland play Shelby and Matt Miller, an interracial couple that moves to North Carolina from Los Angeles, after a gang initiation attack leaves Matt seriously injured, while Shelby miscarries the couple’s unborn baby. In keeping with the documentary show format, Rabe and Holland portray their characters during on-screen interviews, while AHS veteran Sarah Paulsen and series first-timer Cuba Gooding Jr. portray the characters in the documentary re-enactments, which is the bulk of what we, the viewers, see as the episode.
After they arrive in Roanoke, they find and fall in love with an old, dilapidated colonial farm house in the woods that is about to go up for auction, of which they win as the highest bidders, beating out a group of backwoods locals. After they move in and begin renovating the house, the strange occurrences begin, from loud pig squealing in the middle of the night, Shelby discovering it is hailing human teeth in the backyard, to Shelby being attacked in the hot tub by a woman in colonial attire. Matt finds that the police are no help, most likely due to them being an interracial couple in the South, and chalks it all up to the angry locals who lost the auction trying to scare them away.
By far, the most interesting character of the episode is Matt’s sister Lee, played by Adina Porter and Angela Bassett (as the reenactor), whom Matt calls to stay with Shelby before he goes out of town on business. Lee is a tough former cop who loses her spot on the force due to her addiction to painkillers, and doesn’t make it a secret how much she dislikes Shelby, for pretty much just being a yoga teacher. Their first night together, the house is seemingly invaded by torch carrying druids, which Matt simultaneously views on a security camera feed on his phone. Shelby and Lee go into the basement and find a TV playing a VHS of footage of a man with the head of a pig in the woods (or Pig-man, for all you Kramer fans out there). They go upstairs to find the house covered in wooden dolls and totems.
As they recount their tale to Matt, Shelby admits she wants to leave, and drives off frustrated. As she answers a call from Matt on the road, she accidentally hits a woman in the road, and after stopping, sees the woman (played by Kathy Bates) getting up and walking into the woods. Following her, Shelby gets lost, and stumbles across the torch-bearing druids and a man with a sliced-off cranium, exposed brain and all, running towards her. Credits.
After all the build-up, “Chapter 1” continues to tease this season of AHS by really showing us nothing we didn’t already assume we were going to see, although the paranormal documentary format was a fun and creative change for the show. If anything, “Chapter 1” does what it initially set out to do – effectively drive our desire to tune in next week.