"Chapter 1" is the premiere episode of the sixth season of the anthology television series American Horror Story. It aired on September 14, 2016, on the cable network FX. The episode was co-written by creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk and directed by Bradley Buecker.
Shelby (Lily Rabe) and Matt Miller (André Holland) sit in an interview for a documentary called My Roanoke Nightmare. Through a combination of dramatic re-enactment and testimonials, the couple reveal that they fled to North Carolina from Los Angeles, after they were assaulted as part of a gang initiation that caused Shelby to miscarry their baby. While in North Carolina, the couple find an abandoned colonial farmhouse that they purchase in attempt to start over again. Shelby and Matt (Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. as re-enactors) buy the house in an auction, in which Matt outbids a hostile trio of local farmers.
The couple begin the process of restoring the house. That night, there is a squealing noise out in the woods and Matt goes to investigate. He sees the destruction outside and assumes that it was community hostility. While preparing her breakfast the next morning, Shelby is interrupted by a hailstorm. She heads outside to investigate the hail, and finds that they are actually human teeth. She informs Matt but when they go outside to investigate, all the human teeth have vanished. Matt prepares to leave on a sales call, which Shelby secretly admits that she is happy to be alone, although she experiences sinister events. While she is soaking in the tub, she is attacked and forced underwater by a group of mysterious figures in colonial garb, carrying pitchforks and torches. Matt arrives home to find the house surrounded by police cars. A policeman interrogates Matt, questioning Shelby's version of events and Matt defends Shelby, telling the police officer about the trio of farmers. Shelby admits that she had begun to fear the house but did not want to tell Matt that she wanted to move.
That night, Matt is awoken by the squealing noise again. He heads down to the back porch to find a butchered and bloodied pig left on the stoop. Not wanting to worry Shelby any further, Matt buries the pig without telling her about it. Before leaving for his call, he installs security cameras around the property and has his sister Lee (Adina Porter) stay with Shelby. In an interview, it is revealed that Lee (Angela Bassett as re-enactor) and Shelby do not get along. Lee also reveals that she has a background in criminal psychology, and used to be a police officer before an abuse of prescription pain killers led to her being fired. Lee witnesses Shelby drinking and tells her that she is barely holding on to her sobriety and would appreciate if Shelby did not drink alcohol around her. Afterwords, Lee goes to sleep but is awoken by squealing. Then, her door mysteriously opens and an empty wine bottle rolls inside. Lee angrily confronts Shelby about the empty bottle, however while they argue, the house is being surrounded by knife and torch wielding intruders. While in his hotel, Matt receives an alert showing the house being invaded. He frantically tries to call the two women but neither one pick up as they are both arguing. Matt hurries home to try to help Shelby himself. The women's argument is interrupted when Lee hears an intruder enter the house. The two women follow the intruder down into the basement, where they find a television playing a creepy found footage film. The power fails and the two women are trapped in the basement.
When the power is restored, the two women find that the mob has strung up wooden dolls and totems across the entire upstairs. Matt arrives at the house but believe that people are playing elaborate pranks on the couple to drive them out of their home. Shelby, wanting to leave, tells Matt to do what he wants and then flees in Matt's car. While taking a call, she collides with a woman on the road (Kathy Bates). Shelby goes out to investigate, but seeing her disappearing into the woods, runs off after her, getting lost in the process. While lost, Shelby comes across more of the totems that she found in her house. As she runs further into the woods, she is encircled by the mob that broke into her house and a man with his scalp removed from his head, exposing his brain.
"Chapter 1" was watched by 5.14 million people during its original broadcast, and gained a 2.8 ratings share among adults aged 18–49.
The episode earned an 81% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.1/10. The consensus reads, "Unlike any AHS instalment to date, season six premiere "Chapter 1" manages to surprise still with a unique setup and a new multi-layered look and feel, even if it doesn't get around to revealing much of what's to come." The A.V. Club called the episode "unreliable, but fun". Dan Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter gave a positive review, writing, "When you're the type of show prone to kicking off a season with the introduction of a hairless mole man with a killer dildo, it's possible that the most provocative thing you can do to start a chapter is eschewing mole men, dildos and, in fact, killing altogether for a full week. The American Horror Story franchise has been and done many things, but it's never offered such a false sense of security, so this subdued start may be the scariest promise at all. It's the most curious I've been about future installments in a long time." Jeff Jensen of Entertainment Weekly also gave a positive review, writing, "The use of mystery to market the season may have been contrived, but at this point, mystery might also be the best thing going for it, too." Ben Travers of IndieWire called the premiere "a promising start with a central mystery as tantalizing as the ads teasing it."