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‘American Horror Story’ Season 6 Premiere Recap: What Is ‘My Roanoke Nightmare’?

Move over, Sharknado! The creepiest, craziest TV weather phenomenon in town officially belongs to American Horror Story, which made its season 6 debut Wednesday, September 14, amid a hailstorm of … teeth?!

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That’s right: Several thousand molars dropped on the Emmy-winning FX series at the same time the showrunners dropped the scoop on this season’s theme, which remained a mystery even through the first commercial break. Eventually, the season’s title was revealed to be American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare (although we had our hopes set on American Horror Story: Tootherstorm).

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The latest installment of the anthology horror series was the subject of so much speculation in advance of the premiere that it seemed impossible for the first episode to actually live up to the buzz, let alone surprise fans. But thanks to a few inventive twists, the sixth season already feels fresh and unexpected. Read on for our recap!

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At first, it seemed like FX accidentally doubled up on those title cards that warn the audience about disturbing content ahead — but instead, it was the first of a few unexpected curveballs from the showrunners. Rather than a straight drama, this season seems to be taking the form of a show-within-a-show, in the vein of a Dateline special exploring a true-life incident with the titillating title, “My Roanoke Nightmare.”

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Documentary and Dramatization

Here’s where things get a little bit complicated. First, we met salesman Matt (Andre Holland) and yoga teacher Shelby (Lily Rabe), a young married couple who fled L.A. after Matt was badly beaten in a random gang initiation attack. But then we met them again — in the dramatization of their story, where the same two characters are being played by Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sarah Paulson. Real Matt and Shelby told their story in documentary-style interviews throughout the episode; fake Matt and Shelby acted it out. Despite the lack of a little DRAMATIZATION subtitle on every Fake Matt ‘n’ Shelby scene, it actually played pretty seamlessly.

A Haunted House

The plot of AHS this season looks a bit like The Beverly Hillbillies in reverse: Couple flees L.A. to rural backwoods, neighbor-related drama ensues. Matt ‘n’ Shelby bought an ancient fixer-upper at auction, outbidding a trio of peeved locals (who, to be frank, should’ve really been spending that money on dental work anyway). But once they moved in, the scary stuff began: Trash cans turned projectile, terrifying slaughtered-animal screams echoed through the house at night, Shelby was viciously attacked in her outdoor hot tub by a group of colonial cosplayers and, of course, there’s the whole “hailstorm of teeth” thing.

The Scares Get Scarier

To keep an eye on the increasingly terrified Shelby while Matt traveled for work, Matt’s sister Lee (played by Adina Porter in the docu-interviews, Angela Bassett in the dramatization) came to visit. A former cop struggling with her sobriety, Lee showed up just in time to bicker with Shelby and then get a taste of the horror herself. The cosplayer mob invaded the house and locked both women in the basement, where a creepy home movie had been set to play. But the real terror came when the women emerged to find rudimentary stick figures dangling from every surface like a mad homespun tableau of death. It’s worse than ghosts. The house is haunted by … FOLK CRAFT ENTHUSIASTS.

A Walk in the Woods

Not interested in sticking around for the mob to come back and scrapbook them all to death, Shelby fled alone in the car — and ran smack-bang right into one of the intruders, a crone in full skirts and an old-school bonnet. Chasing the woman (Kathy Bates) into the woods, Shelby got hopelessly lost, fell to the ground (which seemed to be … breathing?) and looked up just in time to see firelight — and a guy with his scalp removed, stumbling into view. Yikes!

Tell Us: What did you think of the highly anticipated premiere?

American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare airs on FX Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET. 

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