Halfway through Season 6 of “American Horror Story,” and not only are we conflicted on how the story of “Roanoke” has played out, thus far, we’re unsure how to react to all this seemingly senseless violence. After the reality show twist from “Chapter 6,” and the gruesome havoc unleashed on the season’s main characters in “Chapter 7,” we have to ask a question: Why doesn’t this gore have the same effect as Negan’s head busting introduction in “The Walking Dead’s” Season 7 premiere?
What’s interesting about Sunday’s (Oct. 23) big reveal was how the kills were presented on AMC’s — and basic cable’s, for that matter — biggest show. Taking a note from HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead” pulled no punches in how they presented Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) death. And even though this is a series about the zombie apocalypse, where it’s very common to see walkers eating intestines and people getting their faces chewed off, this specific scene cut through the nonsense and resonated with fans far and wide.
It’s been called “torture porn,” which is an incorrect assessment — the horrible violence was justifiable to the story as the events that’ll play out will help a new hero rise from this awful moment — it’s sparked protests and has even provoked a number of fans to give up on the series.
While we understand the passionate response to probably one of the most bloody moments on television, we have to wonder why “American Horror Story” is not receiving the same sort of reaction. Case in point: featured just in Wednesday’s (Oct. 26) episode alone, there was a senseless head bashing, cannibalism, a hatchet attack that left a horrid looking gash and some disemboweling… and for the most part, people are celebrating the episode. But why?
Mainly it comes down to the ability to tell a good story and the audience’s emotional investment in the characters as they struggle with the various human drama that is being thrown at them. It’s probably safe to say that “The Walking Dead,” with all its gore and events that are rooted in the horror genre, is a show about a family’s struggles through the guise of the apocalypse. The drama as it unfolds helps to further connect the audiences to characters like Glenn and Abraham — the heart and valor of the show. Seeing them brutally murdered provided such awful imagery, that it also acted as a rough separation that the fans really needed to deal with, inciting all sorts of anger, outrage and grief.
But what of the likes of Rory (Evan Peters), Sidney (Cheyenne Jackson), Lee (Adina Porter), Matt (Andre Holland), Shelby (Lily Rabe) and the others from “AHS: Roanoke?” There’s been a substantial amount of gore and death in this season of “American Horror Story” — more than we’ve seen in previous seasons, especially only halfway through — and most of this violence isn’t even justifiable. Yes, it’s the blood moon… but there has to be more there, right?
Between the warning that was given at the end of “Chapter 6,” which informed the audience that the majority of the cast will die, and the lack of any real character development or backstory to help audiences to truly connect with any of these characters, we’re left in a position to root for these people to be killed. It’s a similar role we play as slasher movie fans, mostly rooting for the likes of Freddy, Jason or Micheal, instead of the hard-to-like cast of characters trying to outrun imminent death.
That’s a fun position to be in as a horror fan because it helps to disconnect from any humanity these characters can offer. And while we’ve not really been given a final girl to root for as of yet, there are hopes that one will emerge (we’re looking at you, Lee).
“American Horror Story” began as a series that explored some strong and important issues. One of the unlikely heroes of “Murder House” was also a tortured teen who shot up his school before taking his own life. That scene received a similar amount of disdain and outrage that Negan’s kills elicited over the weekend.
But since then, “AHS” has jumped so far over the genre shark that the real horror being explored has become unaffecting and somewhat silly. We had our hopes for “Roanoke” but after the mid-season reveal, we’re not even sure this season can save itself. It may be the goriest season yet, but without any substance behind the kills, we’re just left scratching our heads ask, “Is that it?” Deep down, we’re hoping it’s not.
“American Horror Story: Roanoke” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.