Another short one this week, kiddos: 37 minutes once again. I’m really glad I don’t watch with commercials, because that’s a lot of ’em.
Unlike last week, Chapter 5 actually did a few things to move the story forward, so let’s dive right in…
The episode opened with Doris Kearns Goodwin (yes, THAT Doris Kearns Goodwin) giving us a recap of the house’s history. It was built, we learned last week, in the 18th century by one Edward Philippe Mott. This week we actually get to see him: Evan Peters, looking pretty much just like the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
We learned in season 4 that madness runs in the Mott family, and clearly Edward Philippe is no exception. He suffers from social anxiety disorder and basically wants to hole up in his house in the country with his beloved art. And his “lover,” a slave named Guinness. I’ll talk more about that later.
One night someone destroys his art, and in retaliation he locks all the servants (except Guinness) in the cellar, naked. It doesn’t help, because the Butcher still comes for him and he’s impaled on a big stake and burned alive. Fun, fun times. Guinness runs away, and he’s later imprisoned for murdering his master.
Fast forward to Shelby and Matt. Lee is released since the cops don’t have any reason to hold her for Mason’s murder, and when she gets out she sees multiple texts from Matt, including one that says they found Flora! She asks the cop for a ride home, concerned when Matt doesn’t answer his phone.
At the house Matt and Shelby call 911 because Kathy Bates & co are outside ready to cook them alive. Matt tells Shelby to take Flora and run for the cars…just as the ghosts set the cars on fire. Shelby and Flora run anyway, but on the stairs one of the Chinese girls from last week grabs Flora and does her best imitation from the monster from The Grudge. Which was Japanese, right?
They’re chasing Flora when the pig dude appears, then the dead hunters. They’re all being herded toward the door and the Butcher. Why they didn’t yell out a convenient “Croatoan!” I don’t know, but I guess the plot needed the herding.
Anyway, they end up in the basement, where Evan Peters’s ghost shows up to lead them through the underground tunnels, supposedly to safety. But then he just abandons them in the damn woods, where they stumble upon the house where they found those Romulus and Remus kids back in Chapter 2.
Things get more horror movie cliché from there, as the homeowners are none other than the rednecks from Chapter 1. Headed by matriarch Frances Conroy, they are, you guessed it! CANNIBAL rednecks!!
They have Denis O’Hare strapped to a table and they’ve been taking samples and nibbles from him, but it turns out he’s “rancid.” So the son kills him with a hammer. It was gross. Apparently the family made a pact with the Butcher’s people 200 years ago that they’ll help ensure the blood sacrifice happens every year, and in turn the colonists will leave them alone.
So that’s. Good news.
The rednecks load Matt, Shelby, and Flora into their truck and start toward the house. Matt manages to overpower the son and shoot the other son in the head, but rather than stealing the truck, the three of them set off into the woods. Where the family has lived for generations. Very smart, city folk.
Of course they’re found pretty fast, and to punish them, Frances Conroy half cuts off Shelby’s foot with an axe. After that Matt gives up, and he doesn’t fight at all as they’re brought to the Butcher.
She gives a speech to Frances Conroy about how hard it is to lose a child, and the camera pans to her son who, if you remember, she totally murdered. Apparently he’s fed up, because when they drag Flora off to be the first sacrifice, he grabs Tomasin and drags her into the fire.
There’s a moment of shock, then the other ghosts (specifically the pig man) start advancing on Matt and Shelby.
Meanwhile, Lee and the cop arrive, but when the cop sees what’s happening, he straight up takes off. Peace the fuck out. Not this white boy. Sort of implies, since no one responded to the 911 call, that the locals know exactly what’s up and choose not to get involved. How very Texas Chainsaw Massacre of them.
As the pig man approaches Matt and Shelby, suddenly Lee plows through him with a half-burnt car. They grab Flora and all three of them get in the car and drive away.
They drive to a motel to spend the night, and Shelby has a dream that the Butcher is in the bathroom and chops her in the head with a butcher knife. It was a fun jump scare, honestly.
Aaaaaand that’s it! Seems we’re done with Matt, Shelby, and Lee, doesn’t it?
First of all…
Listen to me: Evan Peters making out with his character’s SLAVE is not good queer representation.
Edward owns Guinness. That means Guinness cannot give consent to his “relationship” with Edward. Sure, it seems like there might be genuine affection between them, but it doesn’t change the gross power imbalance that defines every interaction they have. Edward is assaulting Guinness every time they interact, and that first kiss? Honestly, gross. Really, really gross. Guinness was trying to do his job and he just gets grabbed and kissed in front of all the servants and everybody.
If that moment doesn’t show you how WRONG this “relationship” is, then I don’t know what to say.
When Doris Kearns Goodwin defined Guinness as Edward’s “lover,” I was like, “You mean in a Sally Hemmings/Thomas Jefferson way?” Turns out that’s exactly what she meant. A slave is never his master’s “lover,” y’all. Edward literally owned Guinness, and to sweep that under the rug and make this look like some Great Moment in Gay History is awful.
I say all of this because in my search for images this week, both the “ahsedit” and “ahs roanoke” tags are solid Edward and Guinness. Celebrating them. Gifs of the kiss, of the bathtub scene, over and over and over.
It doesn’t help any that Guinness’ status was glossed over until the very end of the prologue. I wasn’t 100% sure if he was Edward’s slave or a freed servant until, finally, after Edward’s death, Doris Kearns Goodwin said he was “jailed for his master’s death.” Master. Yeah.
Honestly I’m grossed out by the whole thing, and even more grossed out that so few people seem to see the problem here. It strikes me as a general fandom problem (and by that I mean not isolated to AHS), where m/m relationships are so fetishized that even the most problematic of them (and this one exceeds our usual definition of “problematic”) are seen as Fantastic Representation!
Trust me: no one wants this kind of representation. The gay dude is a crazy, violent, slave-owning rapist. A+, AHS.
General (brief) Review
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get back to the episode as a whole.
Overall it wasn’t bad. There were some icky violent moments (remember: major wuss here), and some serious cliches, like the redneck torture family, but it did wrap up the Matt/Shelby plot fairly well.
Of course it leaves the “what now?” question looming pretty big, as it was meant to. We’ve been promised a Huge Twist in episode 6. Will we see the filming of the show, maybe? The “My Roanoke Nightmare” crew being tortured by the Butcher and her ilk? Some theories suggest that now the entire cast will be replaced with their “real” counterparts, which would be interesting. I guess.
I do look forward to next week, since these first five episodes seem to have been a prologue, really for the true “meat” of season 6. I just really hope we can go the next 5 episodes without more sexual assault.
Images curtesy FX