Spoilers ahead, obviously!
To much fanfare, season six of American Horror Story premiered last night, finally revealing the mysterious theme, and subtitle, as My Roanoke Nightmare. It seems odd that they didn’t just call it American Horror Story: Roanoke, since in the past all of the season titles have been one- or two-word nouns or places (not to mention “My Roanoke Nightmare” sounds like the name of an emo band), but that’s hardly the biggest change to the new season. Most noticeable right off the bat is that even the trademark creepy opening credits sequence is gone, replaced with a simple red-and-black title card.
Stylistically, it couldn’t be more different than previous seasons, especially when compared to the over-the-top goth glam of last year’s Hotel, or the surreal grittiness of Freak Show. Instead, like many contemporary horror movies, My Roanoke Nightmare sets out to tell a “real” story, complete with a note informing viewers that “the following story is inspired by true events.” It accomplishes this by setting the season up as a news magazine style investigation series that even toggles back and forth between interview segments and “dramatic reenactments.”
And yes, that means we have two actors playing each character. The story focuses on Los Angeles couple Shelby and Matt, played by Lily Rabe and Andre Holland in the present, and Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. in flashbacks, a couple so perfect that friends used to not like socializing with them because it made them feel insecure about their own relationships. Yes, really. Shelby and Matt’s perfect life is abruptly shattered when — out celebrating Shelby’s pregnancy and Matt’s promotion — Matt is injured in a gang initiation/hate crime attack. Matt ends up being okay, but Shelby loses the baby due to stress, or possibly from getting pushed in the attack, so the two decide that the city is no longer safe (irony alert!) and move back east to North Carolina, where Matt grew up.