By the time American Horror Story aired its sixth season, the show was a proven television and horror-genre triumph. The previous season, Hotel, even dispelled many fans' skepticism that the show couldn't survive without Jessica Lange at the helm. Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk ambitiously sought to reinvent the show with its sixth season, Roanoke, which is essentially a show within a show. The audience witnesses the acted-out and "real-life" horror of a malevolent haunting caused by the infamous lost colony of Roanoke.
So why is Roanoke often considered the worst season of American Horror Story? Are there too many plotlines? Did fans not have enough time to bond with the characters? Or could it be that Roanoke is simply a bad concept? Here we examine all the possible ways that American Horror Story: Roanoke became arguably the worst season in the series.
The Season Has No Opening Credits
Since the very first episode of American Horror Story, fans have been treated to delightfully macabre opening credits scenes contextualizing the current season's theme. We've seen everything from body parts in jars to someone in a Hillary Clinton mask to ominous aerobics classes.
They're the kind of opening credits you never want to skip, making Roanoke's lack of opening credits stand out in a bad way. The closest thing we get to an opening sequence in Season 6 is flickering images of the logos for My Roanoke Nightmare and Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell, followed by the AHS title - this all takes about three seconds.
While the worth of American Horror Story doesn't rest solely on the opening credits, their absence from Season 6 does seem like a missed opportunity.
The Final 10 Minutes Are Anticlimactic
The final 10 minutes of Roanoke are essentially just a long conversation between Lee and her daughter Flora, in which Lee has to decide how far she's really willing to go to save her child. While the audience has had the whole season to bond with Adina Porter as Lee, this is the first time we've ever seen the "real" Flora, so it's hard to sense any type of relationship between the mother and daughter.
Although the house blast and approaching Roanoke settlers create some drama in the show's final minutes, there is no real climax to leave fans' pulses racing. For a season dedicated to myriad plot twists, the Roanoke finale felt like a letdown.
The Season Is Tonally Inconsistent
Because of the stark split between My Roanoke Nightmare and Return to Roanoke: Three Days in Hell, the season's tone is hardly as consistent as past iterations of AHS. Even though the show is known for playing around with time, every season has its own unique theme to maintain consistency.
The first half of Roanoke has plenty of bloodshed, but much of the horror is cerebral, reminiscent of films like The Conjuring that are rife with mystery. The second half of the season is all about the exploitative nature of reality television, and it features a cast of characters who are all distinctly different from their personas in the first five episodes.
For Roanoke, the only consistency is the constant return to the house and the ensuing gore, which gets stale fairly quickly.
The Season May Be Too Ambitious For Its Own Good
Whether you loved or hated American Horror Story: Roanoke, Ryan Murphy and company clearly set out to create a season like nothing fans had seen before. Murphy not only wanted to breathe new life into the show after the previous season received mixed reviews, but he also wanted to create a thread between the first five seasons and Roanoke that would tie them all together.
Season 6 also features the highest number of actors playing multiple roles, with Sarah Paulson playing three: on-screen Shelby, "real" Audrey, and a 70-something Lana Winters. When all these elements are laid out, the season sounds perfect, but given how it actually came together, it's hard not to wonder if it was all too much for a single season to accomplish effectively.