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The Eerie Tooth Storm In American Horror Story That Stirred Confusion Among Fans

By now, it's not exactly news that while "American Horror Story" has some amazing seasons, it can also really miss the mark. Discontent among long-time viewers is palpable — some long-timers have even stopped watching. Others, though, keep tuning in, season after season, week after week, in the hope that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk will knock out a season on part with the greats. And one season that seemed to show some signs of life in "American Horror Story" was Season 6. This was "Roanoke," the season that took its meta-commentary to a new level by centering on a TV show that reenacted (a la "A Haunting") the events experienced by a young couple at a possessed house.

Overall, fans were divided by Season 6. For some, it was a genuinely chilling return to form. Others were left confused by the dual timelines, along with other apparent plot holes. Still, there's a genuine debate to be had about whether these elements made "Roanoke" a successful season or not. After all, horror requires a certain amount of confusion and inexplicability. 

It's here that the tooth storm comes in.

Teeth fall from the sky

It all happens fairly early on in the very first episode, just when the foreboding atmosphere really starts to sink in, but before anything supernatural has actually happened. The young couple Shelby (Lily Rabe and Sarah Paulson) and Matt (André Holland and Cuba Gooding, Jr.) have just moved in, with little more to contend with than a general feeling of unease. But one morning, when Shelby goes out to the front porch, she discovers teeth raining down from the sky.

Shelby is confused and horrified. So are viewers. Matters then go from creepy to dangerous as the ghosts of the long-lost Roanoke colony –- led by the Butcher (recurring "AHS" actress Kathy Bates) –- start threatening any living human in range. It turns out that the house of itself has become a magnet for murder and evil. We also learn that the rural, insular, Polk family, who live nearby, are insane murderers. Inbred and cannibalistic, they capture some of the cast and crew fleeing the house, eventually slicing off pieces of them to eat. They also -– in what was supposed to be a long-awaited reveal -– extract the teeth of their victims as a souvenir.

At long last, we have our answer about where the teeth came from. Or so it seems. Confusion still abounded, as seen on Reddit. Because yes, the meaning of the teeth is revealed by the Polk family reveal — and perhaps, as argued in a critical essay by Harriet E.H. Earle, signifies the merging of humans with their environment — but none of that clarifies on a story level just why they start raining from the clouds, particularly because there is nothing supernatural about the Polks. For as terrifying as they are, they are ultimately human.

On the other hand, maybe the answer is right there in the dialogue.

The land is a supernatural vortex of evil

Writing for "Harper's Bazaar" not long after the episode's premiere in 2016, Emma Dibdin pointed out that, in her words, "According to the Polks, it rained teeth because they're the only thing that doesn't burn –- so it sounds like those were the teeth of all the many, many human sacrifices over the years."

It's true. As Mama Polk (Robin Weigert) tells Lee (Adina Porter), Monet (Angela Bassett), and Audrey (Sarah Paulson), the Polk family have made a pact with the Butcher going back generations. In return for providing the former colonists with fresh sacrifices, the Butcher and company let the Polks live. Ergo, though the Polks are flesh-and-blood human, they have made a deal with the supernatural. Though they extract the teeth of their victims for their own ritualistic purposes (as they do to Audrey in Episode 8), they likely do not take all of them. Teeth, then, are something of a talisman connecting the Polks to their evil otherworldly benefactors.

It's a cool twist, and definitely answers the question. Or at least it should. If viewers are wondering how the teeth got there two years after the fact, then maybe it ended up a little muddled. It wouldn't be the first time for "American Horror Story." Ultimately, the Polks just end up coming off like one more example of Murphy and Falchuk trying to do too much in a single season, as well as proof that the writers maybe need to watch something other than "Deliverance" for their understanding of rural America.