Kathy Bates gives career-best performance on ‘American Horror Story: Roanoke’

Kathy Bates is giving a career-best performance on “American Horror Story: Roanoke” that should be rewarded not only at the upcoming Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, but also at next year’s Emmy Awards. The Oscar champ (“Misery,” 1990) is the standout in this the sixth installment of Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology,

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Bates had lost nine Emmy races before finally winning her first statue in 2012 for her guest performance on “Two and a Half Men.” She has received consecutive nominations for the last three installments of “AHS” in the Best Limited Series Supporting Actress category for her work in the “Coven,” “Freak Show,” and “Hotel” seasons, winning for “Coven” in 2014.

In “American Horror Story 6” Bates plays Agnes Mary Winstead, the actress who portrayed Tomasyn White, aka, the Butcher in the reality series “My Roanoke Nightmare.” Following the success of the series Agnes develops an obsession with her character and is committed to a psychiatric ward after attacking tourists with a meat cleaver while dressed as the Butcher. When the show’s lead producer Sidney James (Cheyenne Jackson) serves Agnes with a restraining order barring her from participating in a follow-up reality series, Agnes suffers a psychotic break, leading to the events of Bates’s standout episode, “Chapter 7.”

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Bates has several terrifying scenes in “Chapter 7,” from attacking cast members with a meat cleaver, to murdering and disemboweling the production staff. But her finest moments come in two scenes where she is alone in the cellar as she alternates between Agnes and her Butcher persona. As Agnes, she is desperate and almost frightened by her actions, then suddenly switches to the more heartless and bloodthirsty anger of the Butcher seeking to protect her sacred land. These scenes are full of the type of range that Emmy voters love, and it is surprisingly easy to feel sympathy for Agnes as she loses her hold on her own sanity.

And in the episode’s climax, as Agnes comes face to face with the “real” Butcher, Bates delivers her character’s final line combining sincere emotion with genuine insanity: “I just wanted to be on TV.” Although we may have seen the last of Agnes, Bates’s performance is the stuff that nightmares — and awards gold — is made of.

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