As of tonight’s episode, American Horror Story: Coven is back on track, which is remarkable for a show that’s known for going off the rails in all sorts of entertaining ways. The show’s mid-season finale had all of the elements that make the horror anthology so much fun to watch: multiple examples of the supernatural (in this case, the powers of both the witches and voodoo practitioners), explorations of character backstories that make their otherwise vile actions seem somewhat justified, and plenty of shocking WTF moments to go around. Some characters are starting to come apart at the seams while others are finally managing to knit themselves back together. Hit the jump for a recap and review of tonight’s episode, “Head”.
In a show that highlights witches and voodoo priestesses, it’s a bit surprising that the very human Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) has perhaps been the most mysterious so far. He’s gone from loving husband, to cold-hearted cheater, to cold-blooded killer, to conflicted witch hunter over the course of this season. Tonight’s episode not only filled in Hank’s backstory as the most recent in a long line of witch hunters (and also a man fraught with daddy issues), it also brought his story to a close (presumably, because let’s face it, anyone can come back to life on this show) with a particularly violent assault which ended in an inadvertent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, thanks to Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and her voodoo doll powers.
Speaking of mystical powers, there were quite a few on display tonight, ones that ranged from the subtle to the grotesque. The most apparent would have to be the lasting spell of immortality that’s cursed Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), who now exists quite separately as a severed, sentient head, and a headless, caged body. Nan (Jamie Brewer) gets in on the action moreso than her witchy sisters this time around, as she’s able to act as a go-between for the unconscious Luke Ramsey (Alexander Dreymon) and his mother, Joan (Pattie LuPone), who turns out to be a pretty terrible person. The voodoo priestess herself, Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) gets in on the action as well, as she uses the iconic voodoo doll (about time!) to quite literally prod Hank into action. Unfortunately, his response is not exactly what she had in mind.
Oh, and we need to talk about Myrtle (Frances Conroy), because that woman has sho’ gone crazy. ”Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” or in Myrtle’s case, scorched. Her revenge on the other council members was equally as unexpected as it was brutally violent and kind of sweet, in a twisted way. The brutal: Poisoning the elderly witches with a paralyzing concoction of monkshood, scooping out their eyes, and dismembering their bodies. The sweet: Transplanting their eyes into poor blind Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), who may have regained her vision, but has now lost her second sight. Speaking of which/witch!
It turns out that Cordelia’s blinding wasn’t orchestrated by any of the double-dealing magic users, but rather the united organization of witch hunters, fronted by the mega-corporation, Delphi Trust. In no simple coincidence, that’s the same group Hank was working to obtain intelligence for, a company that’s run by none other than his own witch-hating father. Hank is a bit of a screw-up; he was never tasked with assassinating any of the witches, but rather with gathering information and leaving the wet work up to the professionals. Well, when his deal with Laveau to help take out the Coven goes sour, Hank works out his own shortcomings by going out in a blaze of self-righteous glory. While Odetta’s “Oh, Freedom!” plays over the scene, with Delphine watching footage of police abuse during Civil Rights demonstrations, Hank takes out a number of voodoo followers before Queenie puts and end to him (and possibly herself?), saving Laveau in the nick of time. It’s Hank’s final act of vengeance/stupidity/daddy-look-what-I-can-do that drives Laveau to reconsider Fiona’s (Jessica Lange) offer of a truce against the witch hunters. When the show returns in January, it looks like it won’t be the Coven vs Voodoo we may have been expecting, but rather the Coven-Voodoo cooperative vs Delphi Trust. Color me intrigued!
Episode Rating: A-
Quotes and Miscellanea:
Hank’s Father: “No mercy! Never forget what they are!”
Laveau: “Witch hunters is white women’s worry.”
Hank: “I’m part of a sacred order, a soldier in a shadow war, a war that’s been raging since before the time of Salem; we are a brotherhood pledged in blood, dedicated to stamping out the pestilence of witchery on the North American continent.”
I like that Myrtle is a bit of a foodie.
Myrtle: “At any rate, I’m not going to kill you, well maybe after dessert. I put a lot of effort into the Key Lime Pie. I do love a Key Lime Pie.”
Myrtle: “I had a Turkish Angora cat who was born with one brown eye and one blue; she was absolutely gorgeous.”
Fiona (about Myrtle): “Who let this charcoal briquette back in?”
Myrtle: “There are secrets in the flames and I came back with more than a few.”
I love that Fiona threatens to exile Myrtle … to Paramus, New Jersey.
I wish Queenie would have worked Precious in with Roots and The Color Purple.
Laveau: “They die tonight, or the next needle I use will put a hole in your heart. You understand me?”
Fiona: “One dog moves out, another moves in; it’s the circle of life.”
Fiona: “You know why I got a female attack dog?” Hank: “Because bitches stick together?” Fiona: “Because females are more loyal and aggressive when it comes to protecting their family.”
So did Kyle (Evan Peters) accidentally break the dog’s neck, or what? I’m happy he can finally speak normally … and that he’s acting as Fiona’s guard dog.
Luke: “God told me you put the bees in the car.”
Delphine: “Yeah! I kept my eyes shut tight the entire time, vile negress!”
Do we think Queenie survived the sacrificial gunshot wound? That’s a rough one to instantly regenerate from.
Luke: “You murdered dad!”Joan: “Go back to sleep,” before she smothers him with a pillow. Nice lady!
Do we think Luke will come back like Kyle and Misty and Myrtle and Madison (Emma Roberts) have? Let’s hope so for Nan’s sake!