|"Drag queens always say 'paint for the back row.' |
I paint for the check cashing place down the street." - Trixie Mattell (goddess)
“It's a sort of piss-take on culture, because a drag queen is a clown - a parody of our society. It's a sarcastic spoof on culture, which allows us to laugh at ourselves - but in a way that is inclusive of everyone.”
“It's like when Dorothy looks behind the curtain. Like, ‘Wait a minute. You're the wizard?’ And you figure out the hoax. That this is all an illusion...and you realize, ‘Oh, I get it. Let's have fun with it...I can shape-shift? Great.’”
The finale of Season 6 of American Horror Story was ushered in by one of the most delightful drag queens of modern pop culture: Miss Trixie Mattel. Anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of drag understands that it is a complex art form that seeks to undermine everything about mainstream culture, putting up a mirror to the most beautiful and the ugliest things about ourselves and the world around us, while acknowledging that even our darkest realities are only illusions, and that “reality” is always and only what we allow and create it to be. While this season of AHS was a little uneven and at times tedious, the overall effect of the experiment - throwing off all constraints, toying with the rules of storytelling, augmenting how we view and present reality - was as refreshing as it was fun, and no episode played more effectively with these ideas more than Chapter 10.
The episode opens with a flashback to Trixie hosting the cast of My Roanoke Nightmare as they sit on a panel at PaleyFest after the incredible success of the first season of the show. The crowd goes wild, displaying all of the energy and fervor of the opening scene of Scream 2, axes flailing in the air, screaming with laughter as Ashley Gilbert (Leslie Jordan) declares with delight in reference to The Butcher: “Bitch impaled me!”
This is the point at which the perspective shift we saw in Chapter 6 - where the show pulled the veil away from the known medium of reenactment TV and transitioned to continuing the story in the “real world” behind the camera - goes into hyperdrive. In a dizzying sequence, we cut from a fan in the audience asking questions at Paleyfest, to the same fan complaining through tears on YouTube about the exploitative nature of Return to Roanoke, to Lot Polk vowing on his YouTube channel to “take care of” Lee for what she did to his family. Gotta love those Polks. So media savvy.
|Oh, y'all didn't know this was my story? Take a seat.|
Next, we’re treated to highlights from an episode of “Crack’d,” (think: Snapped), which chronicles Lee’s life and experiences on MRN and RTR and catches us up on what’s been happening since. Clips of actual Lee murdering actual human beings are shown and described as having been broadcast on television to millions, which is completely distracting, because there’s no way in hell that could actually have been shown on television. We watch clips of Lee standing trial for the murders, and witness the intense drama in the courtroom as Monet’s family sits front and center waiting for a verdict. Lee’s defense team successfully argues she was not of sound mind for the commission of her crimes, as she was hopped up on the Polks’ “magic pot.” After her acquittal, the Prosecution, furious, goes after her for the murder of her husband, during which trial Flora is put on the stand to testify, and we see just how upset she is at her mother. After some serious tapdancing by the defense, Lee is acquitted in her second trial, but it is a bittersweet victory, because Flora refuses to have anything to do with her mother, a fact Lee finds completely devastating.
|Pictured: A Boss Ass Bitch.|
And finally, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for since the teaser last week: The Lana Winters Special. She’s come out of retirement just for this ratings bonanza, an “unedited, unfiltered, LIVE” conversation with Lee Harris. At Lana’s prodding, Lee explains that the reason she has turned down everyone except Lana for an interview is because she feels that Lana will understand why Lee had to do the things she did (after all, Lana made it through the events of Asylum only to have to kill her own son).
Lana isn’t pulling any punches, and shortly after the interview gets going, she reveals to Lee that Flora was reported missing by her grandparents an hour before Lana and Lee went on the air. Lana believes Lee knows where Flora is, and puts the squeeze on her. Before either woman knows what’s happening, Lot Polk bursts in on them in all his hillbilly glory, wielding an assault rifle. He knocks Lana out, and the Lana Winters Special goes dark. By the way, did it take anyone else this long to realize Lot Polk was being played deftly by Chaz Bono this whole time?! As Clark Griswold once said “If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”
|Dude, a little to the left. Great. |
NOW we look as disposable as possible.
The carnival ride that is the finale of AHS: Roanoke then takes another gut-churning spin, and this time we’re watching “Spirit Chasers,” a show that features a few hubristic - wait for it - ghost hunters - who have ignored all warnings and posted signs for a chance to capture some orbs and EVP at the Roanoke house (and during the Blood Moon, no less). “Man, I haven’t been this freaked out since we were in that asylum,” one of them chuffs arrogantly. I laughed. A “tee-hee” kind of laugh. But I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. The team are joined by Ashley Gilbert (and thank God for more Leslie Jordan) who, though he has no real connection to the house besides playing a medium on MRN, knows the layout of the house. Plus, I mean, the camera loves him.
One of the most delightful things about this part of the finale is watching these “spirit chasers” lose their minds at sheets billowing and doors slamming, which is more than EVER happens on those shows. The anticipation of seeing their reactions when they come face to face with the real horrors of Roanoke is delicious. Before things go all pear-shaped, though, the crew are delighted to run into….drumroll...Lee! She’s here to look for her still-missing daughter, and the spirit chasers can’t believe their luck at running into her. They heed none of her warnings to get out, and are of course laid to waste in short order by the ghosts of the house: the Chens, a Pig Man, The Butcher, and the Nurses all make an appearance.
And now, we’re finally privy to the conclusion of a season that started with so much mystery. As the world watches news coverage of what police are calling a hostage situation, Lee and Flora, who Lee rightfully figured she would find at the Roanoke house, hash it out inside. Flora explains that she can’t get over Lee killing her father, and says she wants to stay at the house, to become a ghost and protect Priscilla (her ghost friend). Lee tries to explain to her young daughter how hard it is to be a parent, and that the reality that unfolds is never like the picture in your head. That all she’s ever done is try to make the best decisions for her daughter. But Flora seems to know, as we do, that Lee is almost all lip service. She does love her daughter, but her decisions don’t go a long way toward delivering on her many promises. Lee realizes that, though all she wants to do is be with her daughter, perhaps the best thing for Flora is for her to live with her grandparents. Knowing that walking out of that house will surely land her in jail, Lee makes an offer: she will stay at the house to protect Priscilla, and Flora can come visit whenever she likes. It’s a huge sacrifice, but it seems to be the salve Flora needs to move forward. Flora walks out of the house just before an explosion that kills Lee. Lee tells Priscilla it’s going to be okay, and we see Flora, in the back of a police car, waving to her mother and Priscilla. Lee has finally taken a real step toward ensuring her daughter’s happiness in a completely selfless way. Except of course that it leaves her daughter an orphan. Oof.
This season of AHS was an incredibly fun experiment and commentary on reality, media, our consumption of it, and celebrity. It found so many ways to shape-shift in its storytelling, and though the initial “twist” could have come an episode or two sooner for my taste, its many surprises in the latter half of the season were worth sticking around for. After the bold liberties they took with Roanoke, I look very much forward to seeing what Season 7 will bring. So, um. Is it October yet?
How did YOU feel about the completion of this season of American Horror Story?