‘American Horror Story’ Season 6 Episode 1 Recap: My Roanoke Nightmare

American Horror Story Season 6 Teaser Logo

Wait…what? If you feel frustrated and/or confused after watching FX’s American Horror Story season six’s first episode, you are not alone. Series creator Ryan Murphy and FX spent the last couple of months mercilessly teasing AHS fans with two dozen short trailers, none of which gave away any real clues as to what AHS season six is about. And after watching the first episode, many fans are still unsure what to expect from this new season. Is the theme really “My Roanoke Nightmare” or is that just what episode one and two will be about? The title card read American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare but are we going to be getting new reenactments over the course of the season featuring different characters reliving different ghostly encounters? Why did the episode end five minutes early? What the heck has Murphy and his creative team got planned and why wasn’t Evan Peters or Lady Gaga in this first episode? So many questions, so very few concrete answers.

Reading through Twitter it appears the reviews are mixed, with some fans calling it the creepiest season premiere to date while others claim to have been bored by season six’s first episode. After all the teasing and the vaguest of hints as to the season’s theme, I’m not sure that even those who think they’ve got it figured out really know what’s going on.

”Chapter One” Recap:

Ryan Murphy kicks off the show promising to answer the question that’s been haunting everybody. Nice try, Mr. Murphy. Questions still linger.

A woman in voice-over tells us she’s has always felt danger “there.” Then we see flashes of a creepy house, a dead pig, the promise this story “may contain disturbing images,” and a warning viewer discretion is advised. Doors open by themselves, a woman is held under the water, and the “My Roanoke Nightmare” title card makes its first appearance.

Shelby (Lily Rabe) speaks to the camera documentary-style, telling the audience her friends thought she and her husband were too perfect. Matt (Andre Holland) also speaks to the camera, explaining he won a work raffle for a free yoga class and that’s where he met Shelby. They fell in love, settled in Los Angeles, and Shelby discovered she was pregnant. They celebrated Matt’s promotion and Shelby’s pregnancy with a night on the town. Unfortunately, a gang attacked Matt and knocked him out as part of an initiation. It was a horrible attack and Matt was hospitalized.

In a reenactment of the events, we see Sarah Paulson playing the part of Shelby. At the hospital she learns Matt hasn’t regained consciousness. Shelby visits Matt’s bedside and now Matt is being played by Paulson’s The People v O.J. Simpson co-star Cuba Gooding Jr. He grabs her hand, waking up as soon as they touch.

Current Shelby (for the remainder of the recap I’ll use Flashback Name and Current Name to tell the timelines apart) tells us she knew Matt was going to be okay, but Matt reveals Shelby lost the baby. They both, still recalling the incident in separate statements to the camera, become emotional. In a voice-over, Matt says they had to leave LA and opted to move to North Carolina. It’s where he grew up and where his family is still living.

Flashback Matt and Shelby walk through the woods with a picnic basket while Current Shelby describes the day. They see an old farmhouse, wander in, and discover it has three bedrooms, two stories, and a basement. Matt loves the house which was built in 1792, and the couple bid on it the next day even though locals warn them not to. They win the mini-bidding war with a final offer of $40,000 and Shelby can’t believe they now own this house.

Current Shelby loves the house and Matt, but says she immediately felt danger there. The camera pans up again to the exterior, focusing on two large windows that form a heart. Minutes earlier, an interior shot showed those same windows forming an upside heart. Bizarre! Even more bizarre is there’s something lurking in the trees outside, spying on the happy couple.

Current Matt tells us he loved the house but sensed a “reluctance” from Shelby, but he thought she missed the city and was still dealing with the miscarriage.

Flashback Matt and Shelby are making love in their new home when they hear crazy sounds and banging. Matt explores outside and finds things are a mess. He asks whoever did it to reveal themselves, and suddenly out of the dark a large bucket comes flying at his head.

Current Matt says he was thinking that it was a racially motivated attack because now they’re in the South. He always worries people will hate them because they’re an interracial couple. He thought the hillbillies who lost the auction might be behind the attacks.

Flashback Shelby is making a meal when she hears things falling on the glass roof above her head. It’s raining teeth! Yes, teeth. Shelby goes outside and steps on them, not realizing what they are. Matt arrives a while later and Shelby tells him about the dental rain. The teeth are all gone, and Matt tells her it was just a hailstorm that he drove through on his way home.

Flashback Matt packs for a business trip and Shelby assures him she’s okay with being alone. Matt’s concerned, but she tells him to go because they have bills to pay.

Current Shelby confesses that she actually wanted some alone time because Matt was being too protective. She wanted him to go away. She also says it felt normal because he went away on business a lot and they always had great welcome home sex.

Flashback Shelby spends the time doing yoga and trying to relax. A banging window shutter causes her to jump while cooking dinner, but she quickly recovers from the fright. Later, glass of wine in hand, she walks down the hallway and sees two women crossing from one side of the hall to the other. She doesn’t know what to make of it and calls out, “Is anyone there?” No one answers and she cautiously walks forward. She flips the light on in what looks like a study, doesn’t see anything, and leaves the room. She then walks outside to spend some time in the outdoor spa. Her few moments of relaxation are over as the brief clip from the episode’s opening of a woman held underwater now play out. She’s attacked and there’s no one around to help her. Fortunately, we know both she and Matt will survive whatever they encounter at this house as they’re alive and narrating the story.

Current Matt explains Shelby called him and he was two hours away when she was assaulted. He drove home as quickly as possible and there was a police officer on the scene when he pulled up to the house. In the reenactment we learn the officer found no evidence to back up Shelby’s claim that her attackers were dressed in old costumes, holding pitchforks and torches. (Remember, this house is located in Roanoke.) He thinks Shelby was drunk but Matt thinks it’s the hillbillies. The cop knows who he’s talking about and heads off to talk to them, telling Matt to get a gun.

Current Matt says he just knew the cop wasn’t going to do anything about the assault. He also thought he had a condescending attitude.

Flashback Matt asks Shelby if it was the guys from the auction because her description makes no sense. Shelby sticks with her story. She was choking on the water and when she surfaced, they were gone. Shelby swears she wasn’t imagining things, and Matt swears he believes her.

Current Shelby says she felt guilty. She couldn’t tell him she didn’t want to live there.

Flashback Matt is awake in bed, hearing all sorts of strange noises coming from outside – guttural sounds, growling, and other weird noises. The pig from the opening sequence is dead on his doorstep when he opens the front door. He buries it without telling Shelby and then sets up security cameras around the property, all synced to his cellphone. He has to return to Raleigh and he’s worried about Shelby, so he asks his sister, Lee (played by Angela Bassett in the re-enactment), to stay with her.

Current Lee (Adina Porter) admits she and Shelby never liked each other. Lee always thought Shelby’s yoga was silly and definitely not a real job. Lee was on track to be a detective when she was busted for taking drugs, an addiction she says she developed after getting hurt on the job.

Flashback Lee is part of a drug bust in a crack house. Going through the building, she hears a baby crying and goes to help it. She’s shot from behind while looking at the baby. The drugs helped with the pain but she had to take more and more. After taking who knows how many pills, she’s involved in a high-speed chase in pursuit of a serial rapist. He crashes his car, she tries to arrest him, but he puts a gun to his head and kills himself. An officer on the scene finds her pills in the squad car.

Lee’s fired from her job and her husband wants a divorce. She keeps forgetting to pick up their daughter because of the drugs.

Current Lee says her ex-husband has full custody of their child and she only sees her three days out of every 14.

Flashback Shelby cooks dinner for herself and Lee, with a wine glass close at hand. As she’s chopping carrots, she hears a noise and goes to investigate. It’s a banging/scraping type of sound but Shelby can’t find its source. When she returns to the kitchen, the knife she was using is now sticking straight up from the meat. Lee walks in, scares Shelby, and Shelby thinks it was Lee who moved the knife. The fact there’s no love lost between the in-laws is evident. Lee asks her not to drink inside the house because she’s barely hanging onto her sobriety. Lee also reveals she’s still packing a gun and knows she’s there to protect Shelby.

Current Lee says she didn’t believe the stories Shelby told her brother and thought it was all because of the fact Shelby wanted to move back to LA. She soon learned the truth.

Flashback Lee wakes to the noises her brother’s been hearing. She gets out of bed and a wine bottle rolls toward her in the dark. She thinks Shelby did it, but Shelby swears it wasn’t her.

Current Matt says his phone buzzed around that time and it was an automated alert from the security system. Flashback Matt looks at his phone and sees men with torches walking around the property. He calls home but doesn’t reach Shelby.

Current Matt knows this mob isn’t there to welcome his family to the neighborhood.

Inside the house, Flashback Shelby and Lee continue to argue. Neither hear their phones ringing, but Lee hears someone in the house. They creep into the hall and go downstairs toward the noise. Of course Lee’s gun is locked in a drawer upstairs as they head toward danger. Lee grabs a hammer and then they see an old TV is turned on, playing a weird home movie. It’s Blair Witch-ey found footage, but with a bizarre walking on two legs pig-like thing. Shelby and Lee don’t understand why someone would break in and play a tape. Just then all the lights in the house go out.

Flashback Matt watches as the men with torches enter his home.

Current Matt says the cops brushed him off, so he knew he could get there quicker than they would even from 100 miles away. He kept begging God to get him home in time to save his wife and sister.

Flashback Shelby and Lee hear “a lot of someones” outside. They stay as quiet as possible, hoping the people will leave. Then Lee decides they have to get out of the basement. They head upstairs and find creepy Blair Witch-ey wood figures are strung up all over the house. Cut to a commercial break advertising the new Blair Witch sequel.

Current Matt says he made it home and the cops had been by the house, chalking the figures up to vandalism. Matt thinks it was terrorism not vandalism.

Flashback Shelby says these people broke into the house and locked her and Lee in the basement. She’s freaked out they were in her home and that they were lured into the basement to watch a video. They show Matt the video and he thinks it’s a fake, something the rednecks created to get them to leave. Shelby wants to leave immediately, but Matt doesn’t want to because this is their home. Shelby’s had enough and storms out of the basement. Lee hears Shelby pulling out of the driveway.

Current Shelby explains humans respond to danger with either fight or flight reactions, and she chose flight.

Flashback Shelby drives off, answering her cell phone and not paying attention to the road. She hits a woman who’s standing in the center of the street and gets out to help her. She’s no longer in the road and as the fog creeps in, Shelby sees the lady dressed in colonial attire walk into the woods. She chases after her into the forest but she’s gone. Shelby runs around and is quickly lost in the woods. She tries to settle herself down, heading toward noises in the woods. More creepy doll figures are strung up in the trees surrounding her. She runs away, trips on a branch, and the earth starts moving under her fingers like it’s breathing. She gets to her feet and runs into the middle of a group of people holding torches (one of the men is played by Wes Bentley). A man missing part of his head stumbles toward her and she screams. The episode ends five minutes early.

The credits include Evan Peters and Cheyenne Jackson who weren’t in the episode (unless I somehow missed them), but not Lady Gaga. After the episode ended, the preview for the next episode was made available online after 11pm PT. It looks like the people who are terrorizing Shelby, Matt, and Lee are, according to Shelby, devil worshippers.

Show of hands of those who think Matt is in on the bizarre happenings at the Roanoke house. He’s conveniently absent whenever anything unusual takes place.

American Horror Story Season 6 Recaps: