There are times when you have to throw out all sense of reason and logic while watching American Horror Story: Coven, and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Tonight was one of those times. Whether it’s inconsistencies in storytelling, repetitive scenes that seem to play out in the same way week after week, or aggravating camera flourishes that distract from the otherwise engaging performances on screen, sometimes you just have to let all that go so you can enjoy a zombie learning to speak with a LeapFrog tablet, a neo-conservative Christian purification remedy, and a racist witch’s head in a box. It’ll all make sense after the jump.
Oy, where to begin with this one… As the penultimate episode to Coven’s mid-season finale, “The Sacred Taking” was doing a pretty good job of setting the stage for the second half of the season, right up until the end. This episode had some stellar performances, notably from Jessica Lange, with a runner-up to Emma Roberts, but often times the dizzying camerawork under the direction of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was far more of a distraction than a complement to the storytelling. I know I’ve mentioned my growing distaste for his indulgences in the past, so I won’t harp on it any further.
So far, this season has been all about female empowerment. We’ve got strong characters (and casts) on both sides of the witchcraft/voodoo divide, with only a few male roles to be found scattered between them. There’s Kyle (Evan Peters), the well-meaning frat boy, turned mangled corpse, turned shared sex object. There’s Spalding (Denis O’Hare), the mute servant of Miss Robichaux’s Academy, and specifically to Fiona Goode. There’s Luke (Alexander Dreymon), the naive, puppy-eyed neighbor who has taken a shine to Nan (Jamie Brewer). On the more assertive (and certainly nastier) side of the gender divide are newly revealed witch hunter, Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton), and relatively new addition and serial killer, The Axeman (Danny Huston). (Sounds like we’ll soon get a new player in Lance Reddick, as EW reports.) Up until tonight, the ladies had the clear upper hand in the power struggle. So what happened?
As much as the show is about female empowerment, it also seems to be about infighting among women. Here we have two all-powerful groups of magic-wielders who could lay nations at their feet through cooperation, and yet they perpetuate centuries of a clandestine war, dwindling their numbers to the brink of extinction. And for what? Perceived slights, unforgiven grudges and futile grasps at maintaining eternal youth. Fiona does a remarkable job of poisoning her own kind in service to herself, while Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) is using that toxic environment to turn witches such as Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) to her own side. Nowhere was the conflict between witches and voodoo practitioners more clear than in tonight’s cold open, in which Queenie killed a homeless rapist and pulled out his dark heart for her mistress’s concoction, threatening Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) and Madison (Emma Roberts) with a promise of the coming war.
And yet the coven seems content to focus on taking out Fiona, despite the threat from Laveau. Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) and the resurrected Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) have it in their heads that Misty Day (Lily Rabe) is the new Supreme, and so set to offing Fiona once and for all. It looked like it was about to work – to the eventual detriment of the coven should the voodoo priestess come calling – but Spalding, of all people, saved Fiona from her suicide, which was considered in part because of her sadness at losing The Axeman. While their betrayal could have sparked the ire of Fiona, it drew her approval instead, as she saw their scheme as evidence that they’d found their backbone. Further galvanizing Fiona and the coven were the events that took place at the Ramsey household, where Hank shot both Luke and Joan Ramsey with silver bullets that had been blessed – clearly made for taking out witches. Cordelia herself said she was thankful that Fiona was still with them in the face of this new threat. Add to that the fact that Laveau has cut up Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) and sent her head to the Academy in a box, and that’s all the evidence you need that the coven needs to stick together.
I’ve been around the block with American Horror Story before, and I know that the writers have a general plot in mind that always has a strong beginning and ending, with a bunch of crazy shit in the middle. Unfortunately, we’re just at that gooey center of the storytelling where things don’t have to make sense, they just have to be entertaining. I’m still committed to following the story through to see how it all turns out, but next week’s mid-season finale is going to have to have one hell of a shocker to get me excited for the show’s return in January.
Quotes & Miscellanea:
Odd, really, that Zoe and Madison randomly find Queenie under a bridge killing a homeless rapist…as you do.
Fiona: “This feels as if I’ve been dipped in the River Styx and all the suffering of all the souls has soaked into my body.”
Fiona: “I’m starting to look less Samantha and more Endora every day.”
Did Joan Ramsey mix some sort of Ajax cleaning powder in and use a … catheter??
Cordelia: “What the hell happened to the staff in this house?” (Later) Fiona: “What the hell happened to the staff in this house?”
Misty: “Could my friend stay also? I left her out back in the greenhouse.”
Nan: “How did your hair grow back so quick?” Myrtle: “Oh, little bird, I’ve been buying in bulk from North Korea for years.”
Madison to Zoe, about Kyle: “Relax. We’re sharing him, remember?”
Madison: “Why can’t he watch porn and jerk off like any other guy?” Zoe: “Why can’t he learn something and rejoin society?”
Myrtle: “Can you imagine those poor Salem witches traveling all the way down here in covered wagons without a proper charcuterie platter or a bidet? Absolutely savage!”
Madison: “She thinks I’m the next Supreme.” Nan: “Why can’t it be me?” Madison: “Because you’ve got no style and your pits smell like fishsticks.”
Fiona: “Spalding, you’ve always been my silent sentinel. I promise to avenge your murder…right after I’ve avenged my own.”
LaLaurie: “Throw me back in the box. I’ve seen enough of this world. I’ll take no part in a country that has a darkie in the White House.”
Cordelia, during the ceremony: “Your feet should be getting warmer.” Myrtle: “I’m told it starts as a tingle in the cooch.” Fiona: “For me, it started as a classic migraine. Auras, nausea, pain behind the eyes.”
Zoe to Kyle: “It’s not you, it’s me. We’re under attack.”
Kyle: “This … road … goes … two … ways.”