American Horror Story: Roanoke – why the world needs Delta Green

American Horror Story: Roanoke – why the world needs Delta Green

I’ve just watched American Horror Story: Roanoke on Netflix, and it turns out it’s a great example of the vital importance of the work of conspiracy groups in fiction, like Delta Green or Torchwood or the Sleepers from Unknown Armies, whose job is to make sure that no one ever finds out about ghosts or aliens or whatever.

In the modern world, the supernatural must be covered up, for the safety of the public. Roanoke demonstrates this by making a single supernatural phenomenon famous.

In true American Horror Story tradition, it leads to a hell of a lot of deaths. As any agent of Delta Green can tell you, deaths draw attention.




Since the colonial era, the Butcher and her associated ghosts killed a few people every few years. It was a remote area of North Carolina, so no one really paid much attention, and things ticked over without much attention. Even the police investigation of the ‘MURDE’ nurses and their old people’s home was just a passing incidence.

However, the modern day changed that.

Shelby, Matt, Lee and Flora weren’t the first people to survive the Blood Moon at the Roanoke house. Edward Mott’s lover escaped alive (as did, technically, all those house servants that Mott locked in the storm cellar – it would have taken them a while to starve to death). The author Elias Cunningham, whose Blair Witch videos Shelby discovered, also escaped the house alive (on that occasion at least).

Nevertheless, none of these previous escapes drew extensive attention to the house.

However, this time, the Millers’ experience was dramatised for television. My Roanoke Nightmare became a hit TV show with a massive following online. Add in speculation over whether Lee murdered her husband or not, and it more or less guaranteed someone would go there the next year, rather than the house being left empty for a few years or decades, as per usual.

Year One deaths: 4 – Mason Harris, Cain Polk, Elias Cunningham and Cricket Marlowe the small medium.


The second year of the show’s events saw the house host season two of My Roanoke Nightmare, as well as Agnes Mary Winstead, the unhinged actress who’d played the Butcher in season one, plus the three superfans. If My Roanoke Nightmare hadn’t been made, the only person in that house would have been Matt, who would have gone back to be with the witch Scathach, who he’d fallen in love with. Matt probably wouldn’t even have died, as Scathach clearly had a bit of a thing for him, or if he had it would have been voluntary, so that they could be together forever. Instead, the death toll went up massively.

Year Two deaths: 19 – Three members of the Polk family, Shelby and Matt Miller, the actors who played the Millers, Lee, Edward Mott, the Butcher and the Butcher’s son in season one, four members of the production team, three superfans and an unlucky rigger with a chainsaw.


In the third year, it gets even worse. To begin with, there was the unspecified number of the deaths caused during Lot Polk’s shooting spree (it was good to see Lana Winters again though, wasn’t it?). Even though this happened away from the house, they were a direct revenge attack based on the events of the second year’s Blood Moon. Year two’s massacre and the publicity (and money) surrounding it draws in the Spirit Chasers TV show, before escalating into a fully-fledged siege.

And then there’s another ghost massacre, broadcast live on the news, just after the season end credits start to roll

Year Three deaths: lots, but only 12 are shown on screen – Lot Polk, that production assistant we see him kill, all three presenters of Spirit Chasers, each of which had their own camera operator, the actor who played Cricket Marlowe in My Roanoke Nightmare, two cops investigating the Spirit Chasers team’s trespass on private property, and Lee Harris… and many, if not all, of the people still on the site at the end of the episode as the ghosts close in.


And what happens next? The Masquerade has been well and truly breached. American Horror Story: Coven may well have ended with its witches going public, but that could easily be dismissed as a hoax or forgotten about. This is live-broadcast footage of bullet-proof and, in some cases, clearly inhuman ghosts butchering police officers and TV journalists. There’ll be news stories for weeks, lawsuits from family members of the dead Spirit Chasers, congressional hearings, conspiracy theories, more adrenaline-hungry ghost hunters and, don’t forget, Lot Polk was a redneck whose family prominently displayed the Confederate battle flag at their home and on their vehicles, and who was shot dead on live television while trying to kill an African-American woman with an AR-15, having previously posted on Youtube his intent to do just that.

Unless Scathach and the Butcher are somehow magically put down (the witches from Coven, perhaps?), things are just going to get worse. The destruction of the house isn’t an end to the haunting, since the ghosts have haunted this area since long before Mott built it.


Meanwhile, Delta Green would have pulled strings to ensure that My Roanoke Nightmare was never made, even if that involved sabotage, blackmail of Sidney James or, as a last resort, discreetly force-feeding an entire bottle of sleeping pills down the throats of one or more of the traumatised survivors, all of whom had mental health problems or, in Matt’s case, a brain injury. The network pulls the show before it’s ever broadcast. Lee is never prosecuted for the murder of Mason and she disappears from public view or interest.

Finally, Delta Green buys the land through a CIA shell company, demolishes the house to ensure no one even attempts to move in there, and probably quietly eliminates the Polk family (who no one, other than the people they grew marijuana for, would really miss, and they’re not likely to cause a fuss).

Problem solved with minimal fatalities or public exposure and, since the Butcher has got the privacy she so desires, zero risk of escalation


Game of Thrones – Hope Like Hell Your Captor is Evil

Game of Thrones – Hope Like Hell Your Captor is Evil

I’ve been running a deadpool at work for the current season of Game of Thrones. Basically, people pick one or more named characters, pay £1 per character into the pool, and if one of their picks is the first to die, they get the entire pool.

Surprisingly, episode three has just ended and no one has won yet.

It was a difficult decision with this episode, because…

Wait one moment. Spoiler warning. Stop reading if you’ve not seen the episode yet.

Really, if you’re still reading this post, you only have yourself to blame.

One of my players had whatserface as one of their picks.

You know, her. Thingy. Whatserface. Pretty, Dornish, mostly pointless as a character, not stuck on the front of a ship?

That’s it: Tyene, apparently. (Thanks, Google.)

Unfortunately, one of my players picked her after last week, having correctly predicted that Cersei would target her, rather than Ellaria Sand, as vengeance for Ellaria’s murder of Myrcella. This led to a tricky quandary. Tyene was poisoned, supposedly with the same substance that killed Myrcella. I personally think that we’ll not see her alive again. However, she didn’t die on screen.

I wrote a few rules for the Deadpool of Thrones when I started it: “Flashbacks, bodies found long after death, weird mystical crow visions count in the order they’re broadcast, not when they occurred in-setting! If your character later comes back from the dead, but was actually definitely dead as far as the audience of that episode is concerned, it still counts.”

Tyene is likely to fall into the ‘bodies found long after death’ category, presumably the next time we see (an extremely traumatised) Ellaria Sand, but she’s not there yet. Ergo, she didn’t count as a death for the purposes of the game.

No one picked Olenna Tyrell, but then, no one really expected her to snuff it, least of all Olenna Tyrell. I’m glad of this, because (perhaps controversially) I’d say her death would have counted, despite the scene in which she was poisoned also ending with her still breathing.

For me, it all comes down to the nature of the poisoner.

Game of Thrones is fond of drawing comparisons between characters within an episode. In this case, the Lannister twins each killed a prisoner using poison, but the way it happened was completely different. In his Discworld novel, Men at Arms, Terry Pratchett wrote:

If a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you’re going to die. So they’ll talk. They’ll gloat.

They’ll watch you squirm. They’ll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar.

So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.

Now, Jaime Lannister is not a conventionally good person, what with various murders and that time he pushed a child out of a window to cover up his incestuous affair with Cersei, but he’s still got a sense of honour and has been gradually developing a sort of decency since he hung out with that proper example of knightly chivalry, Brienne. He makes sure the poison he brings to Olenna Tyrell is painless and quick. When Olenna admitted to poisoning Joffrey in a very brutal fashion, I half-expected him to pull out his dagger and stab her to death out of anger, but he kept his word. He leaves the room to give her privacy to die, but Olenna, it is safe to say, is definitely dead.

Conversely, Cersei is evil. Her only redeeming features were her genuine love for her children, and the fact that she brought 67% of them up to become lovely human beings. As each of them has died off, and particularly since Tommen’s… uh… vertical abdication, she’s become soulless. Being evil, Cersei doesn’t even kill her actual enemy, instead promising to keep Ellaria alive, but murdering someone else instead. She poisons Tyene as vengeance for Ellaria doing the same to Myrcella. Cersei promises that the death could take a few hours, or it could be drawn out for weeks, and she’s going to leave the daughter to decompose in the cell occupied by her mother.

But she’s not dead yet, and Ellaria isn’t going to die for a very long time, because Cersei is evil.

What if Yara or someone else rescues Tyene and her mother? What if we see Tyene in a later episode, coughing up blood but still clinging onto life? What if there was never any poison and it was a cruel bluff by Cersei to torture both Dornishwomen?

Personally, I think Tyene’s had it. The Sand Snakes hardly served a narrative purpose in the show (and I barely remember them from the books, though the Dorne sequence completely failed to grab me when I read it) and it was obvious that the only reason she survived the battle at sea to be captured alongside Ellaria was for something more ghastly to happen to her later on.

My money is on Tyene being a corpse the next time we see her. So long as no one else croaks first, that would count as a win for the deadpool.

Ellaria though? As Cersei once said:

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

Olenna Tyrell lost. Fortunately for Ellaria Sand, Cersei is evil.



Game of Thrones: Thoughts on Thoros of Myr

Game of Thrones: Thoughts on Thoros of Myr
Game of Thrones Warning – if you haven’t seen the first episode of season seven, look away now…
“You’re not fooling anyone with that topknot.”
The relationship between Sandor Clegane and Thoros of Myr is interesting, to say the least. I’ve just encountered some criticism online that the Hound’s vision in the flames doesn’t feel like Game of Thrones.
But… but… the exact same situation occurred a few seasons ago with Stannis and Melisandre. She used her magic, or acted as a conduit for the Lord of Light, maybe, to show him a vision in the flames. It was a major part of the tragedy that was Stannis’ character arc.
The Red Priests do this thing where they latch onto someone they see as critical to the future and guide them. Kinvara is doing a similar thing, albeit more at an arm’s length, with Daenerys, by preaching about her across Essos. Of course, it was Melisandre’s guidance that led Stannis to his death, but she was trying it again with Jon Snow until Davos called her out for murdering Shireen. It’ll be interesting to see where she shows up next in the series – perhaps at Dragonstone to adopt Daenerys, or maybe at King’s Landing to adopt Queen Firestarter herself, who’s already made mortal enemies of anyone who follows the Seven?
Thoros is doing this ‘trusted advisor’ thing with the Hound, and has also been doing it with Beric Dondarrion as well. He may not be as cold and ruthless about it as Melisandre, and he may have developed a far more humane outlook on life since he wound up with the Brotherhood Without Banners, but he’s still a devout Red Priest of the Lord of Light and he’s still working towards the same goal as Melisandre – the eventual defeat of the ‘darkness’ (presumably The Night King).
Game of Thrones is well onto the closing arc of its story, and narrative tropes that seemed to be consistently averted in earlier seasons (if you judge each season as a standalone piece, rather than as chapters in a larger book) are coming back into play.
Narratively, Sandor Clegane/The Hound still has an important role in the story. No one has more narrative right to kill Gregor Clegane/The Mountain than he does, not least for Gregor being the one who held his little brother’s face into a fire. Sandor’s pyrophobia has been a constant part of the character (remember what prompted his desertion at Blackwater?), and was flagged up again during the scene in which he has his vision. To close that arc, he’ll have to kill Gregor.
And how will anyone (Jaime, for example) kill Cersei without the Mountain being out of the way?
Cersei needs removing before the Seven Kingdoms can defend themselves against the Night King, because she’s threatening war against the North, which is where the battle with the White Walkers is going to happen. Thus, it serves the Lord of Light for her to be defeated. (And if Melisandre gets another karmic comeuppance for siding with the wrong monarch and helping bring them to their doom by isolating them from any allies they might have, all the better.)

American Horror Story: Hotel (2 of 2)

American Horror Story: Hotel (2 of 2)

A bit back, I wrote my initial thoughts on the first episode of American Horror Story: Hotel, after it appeared on Netflix. After not watching for a month, due to concentrating on NaNoWriMo, I finally got around to seeing the last four or five episodes over the past few nights.

I figured I’d follow up on those initial thoughts with how they panned out.

Beware, there are most likely SPOILERS ahead… but, you know, most fans have already seen this series.

Overall thoughts at the end of the season were that it was a good ensemble piece, probably more-so than Freak Show, although this season’s characters murdered people a lot more readily than any series before. Sure, the Hotel Cortez was built by James Patrick March as a more terrifying murder house than the Murder House and that generally corrupts people, but generally there was some form of motivation or (often tenuous) justification to the killings in previous seasons. In this, aside from the vampires and the actual serial killers, multiple murder is just something to do when you’re dead and bored.

Throat-slashing: an excellently done make-up effect, but it was so overused that it became boring to see. The one time it had any impact was the Countess’s final kill, although maybe that was the point: take the signature murder move of the series and make it meaningful.

The Sarah Paulson Game was pretty much all done by the second episode, but it was a hell of a revelation to realise that Eileen Wuornos was actually played by the gorgeous Lily Rabe. Angela Bassett turns up as well, although never quite materialises as a noteworthy antagonist, since she’s outmanoeuvred at every turn and eventually becomes just ‘one of the guys’ at the hotel. Sadly, no Jessica Lange or Frances Conroy, although there was a nice, if bloody, guest appearance by Gabourey Sidibe as Queenie from Coven, which revealed the big flaw in her witchy superpower. The winner of the Sarah Paulson Game has to be Finn Wittrock (Dandy from Freak Show), who plays not one but two characters in Hotel, one of whom apparently reminds the Countess of the other. That’s not to say that Sarah Paulson herself doesn’t have a good stab at the crown, reprising her minor role from Murder House in the final episode.

This is a good season for crossovers as well, reaffirming that AHS exists in one shared universe, rather than as unrelated parts of an anthology. The only previous crossover I can remember was when Pepper turned up in Freak Show, some years chronologically before her more plot-important appearance in Asylum. This one not only features Queenie, but also confirms that the events of Coven did actually make witchcraft a thing, although possibly only amongst supernatural nerds like the hotel residents. Several characters turn up from Murder House, and it turns out the Countess gave birth there way back in the 1920’s, when it was a backstreet abortion clinic.

What the hell happened to Bartholomew the hideous, unkillable, half-vampire, monster baby anyway?

I wasn’t sure about Liz Taylor to begin with and wondered if the transgender aspect of the character was intended to be just another bit of creepy weirdness for the Hotel Cortez. Thankfully, it turned into a remarkably sensitive portrayal of a transgender character (from this cisgender male’s perspective anyway), while also being a well-developed character in her own right. It probably helps that American Horror Story rarely portrays any but the most callous and sadistic murderers as being bad people; yes, like the rest of the cast, Liz was a cold-blooded murderer.

Denis O’Hare played the role excellently, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jeffrey Tambor’s comment during his Emmy acceptance speech for Transparent: “I would not be unhappy if I were the last cisgender man to play a transgender character.”

And I can’t mention Liz Taylor without her incredibly touching friendship with Iris, and the amazing performance in that role by Kathy Bates. They like casting Bates as mother figures that are lacking in confidence, don’t they? Even Coven‘s Madame LaLaurie had wobbly moments when she appeared close to renouncing her horribly racist ways after hanging around with Queenie.

The scenery porn may have calmed down as the audience settled into the hotel, but the sex didn’t. Yet still, besides a pair of buttocks or four, no nudity. It was as if the Countess was actually meant to be wearing black electrical tape during her scenes. As I mentioned last time, despite the liberal attitude towards showing characters having sex on screen, the prudishness about actual nudity feels incredibly at odds with the exceptionally graphic violence in this show, but at least that keeps it focused on being horror.

Oh yeah, the Addiction Demon, to give Sally’s strap-on-wearing stalker its proper name (I’d been referring to it in my head as ‘the rape goblin’, for reasons I can’t quite remember). Rather than being something that Sally has called up and is in hiding from, as seemed to be implied earlier on in the series, it actually turns out to be a manifestation of the evil of the hotel itself (the major theme of the series being addiction, whether to heroin, alcohol, murder, sex or whatever). Not sure if this is the result of an aborted story arc that they didn’t have time to expand on later in the series, but the Addiction Demon just felt unnecessary, particularly in light of its sole reason to appear on camera being to rape people, usually to death. I know that it was a creation under March’s control, and that March himself is shown to sometimes include rape in his killings, but he wasn’t primarily a sex killer. In fact, refreshingly for a TV serial killer, most of the murders we see him performing are both non-sexualised and of men. Yeah, the Addiction Demon felt wrong.

The vaccination storyline went a little haywire, and seemed to exist largely to give Alex Lowe something to do when she wasn’t arguing with John. That said, it was a nice little subplot and a welcome diversion from the vampire’s castle politicking of the Hotel Cortez. I get the feeling that the showrunners wanted to comment on the insane way that school shootings have become normalised in American culture, particularly after their horrifying portrayal of one in Murder House. In the aftermath of Sandy Hook and all those other tragedies, the lockdown scene was chilling, even when the audience knew what was actually killing people.

Oh yes, and vaccinate your children, or they’ll turn into vampires with measles!

I’m looking forward to the next series, Roanoke, appearing on Netflix…



(Oh cool, WordPress allows you to pick out previous posts when you insert a link! Nice touch.)

American Horror Story: Hotel (1 of 2)

American Horror Story: Hotel (1 of 2)

The fifth season of American Horror Story turned up Neflix UK the other day, so I watched the first episode last night and am watching the second episode now. (Well, I clicked pause.)

This might be a bit late for people who actually watch TV, but here are my somewhat disjointed thoughts:

I’m not yet hooked by it in the way that I was about, say Asylum or Coven (aka Evil Hogwarts for Girls), but it’s appropriately different from the previous seasons, which is one of the strengths of the show. Even when it misfires, it keeps things fresh.
And then there’s the Sarah Paulson Game, where you wait for each recurring actor from previous seasons to show up. Interesting that they’ve chosen to use Freak Show‘s Edward Mordrake as the apparently sympathetic protagonist, considering how small a role he played in Freak Show (although I understand he’s also in season six, Roanoke, so I guess he counts as a regular now).
Not sure what they’re trying to do with Denis O’Hare’s character, Elizabeth Taylor, this time. Let’s see what happens with that.
The director clearly loves the set/location they’re using for the Hotel Cortez, with long, lingering shots of the art deco. I can see why. It’s lovely.

Lady Gaga seems to think she’s in one of her own music videos, which is appropriate, since the entire thing seems to be a particularly bloody Lady Gaga video, but without her music.


For a show that has frequently dabbled with sex, usually of the really sinister or sordid kind, and just as often represented it on screen, it’s somehow managed to completely avoid any nudity beyond the occasional pair of (usually male) buttocks. That trend continues with lots of careful hair placement and, I think at one point, some digital nipple erasure. American network TV, huh? You can show caved in heads and disembowelled torsos, severed limbs and flayed muscles, but a lady-nipple is a no-no. Still, it helps resist the temptation of turning the show into an HBO-style boobfest which would probably detract from the show’s splatter-horror heart.
That said, how graphic was that rape scene? The reflection in the mirror showed a lot more than you could if the attacker was male. (Was the attacker male? Hard to tell. Not sure it was even human.)
If the show could be said to have any message, it’s ‘VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN, YOU IDIOT!’ I’m just a few minutes into the second episode, and it’s been repeated again, thanks to a stupid mother who read some stuff on the internet. I guess the need to protect children is an important part of the Lowes as characters, but coming at a time when completely preventable, yet extremely serious, childhood diseases are coming back in the US, thanks to the fraudulent work of a stricken-off British doctor, it needs saying.

As mentioned, the show hasn’t quite hooked me yet, but it’s not the first season of American Horror Story that hasn’t. Murder House, the very first season, didn’t grab me with its first episode, but I went back to it nearly a year after and ended up mainlining the first three seasons via Netflix. Even seasons that never quite seem to work out what they are, like Freak Show, are still worth watching. Let’s hope that principle still stands for Hotel.


EDIT, HAVING SEEN THE REST OF EPISODE TWO: Oh look, Dandy’s back, playing another psychopathic man-child! He does it so well though. And yes, it’s Evan Peters, probably the most varied of the regular team, this time chewing scenery as psychopathic Clark Gable.

(As an aside, I really need to work out a Featured Image to use for my posts about
Cold Iron/Streloc.)