American Horror Story: Coven
November 20, 2013
Let’s get one thing straight: regardless of what Kyle might have to say on the matter, late seventies/early eighties rock band, Toto, is not nor ever has been “awesome.” They are terrible, The Worst even. And I’m not sure which song I hate more, “Africa” or “Rosanna,” which was WRITTEN ABOUT ROSANNA ARQUETTE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
But Kyle is a huge fan and says as much while at the tattoo parlor where his frat brothers are getting themselves some very clichéd ink. One bro has “the beginning and the end” tattooed onto his ankle but in Chinese, because of course in Chinese; and the other bro has a tiny little shamrock tattooed in a weird spot on his inner arm. Do people ever get tattooed there, has that ever been a thing? Kyle passes on the ink because he plans on being an engineer one day, and a tattoo would somehow prevent him from being one? I do not understand the logic, something about Katrina.
So, when chained-up FrankenKyle notices the tiny shamrock tattoo in a weird spot that no one would ever choose to tattoo he is all “GRRR!” And then when he notices the Chinese tattoo on his ankle, he’s all, “ARRG!”
Zoe approaches FrankenKyle with a teensy gun hidden behind her back with the intention of putting him out of his grunting misery. They wrestle over the gun for half a second, and FrankenKyle — still in chains, mind you! — manages to snatch it away from her and shove it into his mouth. Zoe suddenly decides that maybe she doesn’t want her zombie boyfriend to be for reals dead after all, MAKE UP YOUR MIND, ALREADY, ZOE, and swats the gun out of his mouth causing him to shoot out one of the greenhouse windows.
Inside the school, Undead Madison wanders around smoking and feeling sorry for herself. OH, WOE IS ME, I’M DEAD AND I EAT TOO MUCH AND I CAN’T FEEL ANYTHING AND IT’S ALL SO MEANINGLESS AND EMPTY, BOO HOO WAH.
Delia receives a phone call from Darrin, asking to come home. Nope! says Delia. Not happening! says Delia. Unfortunately, she doesn’t receive psychic visions through the phone, or she would see that Darrin is surrounded by an alarming stockpile of very big guns, and after she hangs up on him, he promises that he’ll be seeing Delia soon. Yikes! That’s not a good thing!
Delia hears Undead Madison wandering about in the hallway and goes to investigate, nearly hurling herself down the stairs. (Hey, hows about looking into a downstairs bedroom for the blind lady, guys?) Undead Madison grabs Delia to save her and when they touch, Delia sees how, exactly, Madison died. OOOH, FIONA, YOU IN TROUBLE NOW.
Zoe, meanwhile, brings FrankenKyle into the big house with the understanding that he not slaughter everyone. She also tries to teach him some basic words, but that ends with FrankenKyle flinging a bowl of oatmeal across the room and sulking. Undead Madison slithers into the scene, informing Zoe that Delia wants to speak to her; no worries, Undead Madison will take care of your undead boyfriend.
Zoe visits with Delia who, over a cup of tea and vodka, informs the younger witch that Fiona is on the warpath, murdering potential Supremes. Zoe’s in danger, girl. Not that Delia is saying that Zoe is the next Supreme! Don’t quote Delia on that! Just, if there’s even a chance Fiona thinks Zoe’s the next Supreme, Fiona will kill her. So that’s why they are going to kill Fiona. “Kill her once, kill her good(e), kill her dead.” Considering how NO ONE ON THIS SHOW STAYS DEAD, good luck with that, Delia.
And that’s when Zoe heads back to her bedroom only to find Undead Madison and FrankenKyle getting their zombie on. She backs away politely.
Zoe takes out her jealous rage on Rat’s Nest, whom she has put in a kimono and tied to his bed in the attic. When he comes to, she asks him how he’s feeling and he replies that he’s fine. This startles Rat’s Nest as much as anyone, and Zoe explains that she found his enchanted tongue, put a spell on it, and shoved it back into his mouth, so now he can tell her who killed Madison Montgomery. After trying to avoid it, Rat’s Nest blurts out Fiona’s name, adding that she is “OUR SUPREME!” Wrong! Zoe informs him, Fiona is not his Supreme, she’s just his employer. But, his family has served the coven for the past 10 generations, Rat’s Nest whinges. But Zoe doesn’t care about that and she stabs him in the heart. His big fat tongue lolls about grotesquely for what seems like forever, until Rat’s Nest finally dies. Well, for now. It’s only a matter of time before Misty Day revives him, or he turns into a ghost, or someone sews his head onto another person’s body and says a spell over him, who even knows, but he’s not staying dead, come on.
Zoe takes a nice, hot, blood-removing shower, which is where Undead Madison finds her. Undead Madison knows that Zoe knows what she’s been up to with FrankenKyle, and Zoe is all, SO WHAT I DON’T CARE AT ALL. But Undead Madison knows better, and explains that since coming back, making the zombie with two backs with FrankenKyle was the only time she felt anything, and that she’s not going to give him up. WHATEVER YOU CAN HAVE HIM, Zoe pouts. But that’s not what Undead Madison is suggesting: Instead, she leads Zoe into the bedroom where FrankenKyle is sitting on the bed waiting for them. Undead Madison sits next to FrankenKyle, and the two extend their hands to her, imploring her to join their menage a zombie. Which she does.
You guys, the PTC is going to like this ONE BIT.
In his dingy little apartment, the Axeman offers Fiona a glass of Old Dominion, quotes her a little Faulkner, plays a little jazz, and notes that she seems to like “danger.” When Fiona excuses herself to the ladies’ room to check herself, a clump of her hair falls out and Fiona is so distracted she doesn’t appear to even notice the dead body of presumably the actual apartment renter slumped in the bathtub. Presumably, he will not be resurrected, but who can say.
When she returns: banter banter banter, and they kiss, finally. However, another chunk of Fiona’s perfect blond hair falls out and she announces that this is all a huge mistake. Axeman counters with some destiny talk, but Fiona’s not hearing it. After Fiona moans about what a miserable person she is and how after three failed marriages and a terrible relationship with her daughter, she doesn’t believe in love, Axeman proposes just some good, old-fashioned sex. That, Fiona is down for and they make with the sax playing.
The next morning, Fiona attempts to make her exit by thanking Axeman for a charming broom ride, but she’s got to be going before someone takes notice of the old jazz man rotting in the bathtub. The Axeman protests, and when Fiona tries to claim she’s called the police on him already, Axeman is like, “Gurl, please, as if.” Axeman then psychoanalyzes Fiona: she’s afraid of her own pleasure and needing someone. Fiona is all, YOU DON’T KNOW ME! But doesn’t he? Doesn’t he, Fiona?
Turns out, Axeman has been her ghost stalker ever since she was a young girl at Miss Robichaux’s. There was this one time when Wee Fiona was being bullied by an older witch; when ordered to dump her glass of milk over her own head, Wee Fiona threw it at her bully instead. For her insolence, the bully telekinetically threw Fiona flat on her back. And for her insolence, Ghost Axeman dumped a cabinet on the bully.
Axeman explains to a disbelieving Fiona that when he first saw Wee Fiona he was all, “AWWW!” But then she became Young Fiona and he was all, “HUBBA HUBBA.” And Now Fiona is like, EW GROSS GET AWAY QUIT STALKING ME, GHOST STALKER.
But she doesn’t mean it, not really, and after having a moment of doubt with an electric razor she finds herself back at his club, offering to buy him a glass of brown. Get it, girl.
Elsewhere, Queenie and Mme. Lalaurie go out on a Frostop run at 3 o’clock in the morning thanks to Undead Madison eating all of the food in the school. MOAR FRENCH FRIES, says Mme. Lalaurie before noting how perplexed she is by the modern age. Queenie says that she is just as perplexed: she came all the way down here from Detroit to be with her sister witches, and she finds herself sitting in a Frostop parking lot at 3 in the morning with an immortal racist. Mme. Lalaurie warns Queenie that the other witches will never accept her, not because of her weight, but because of her skin color, and Queenie is like, “Huh. Somehow, I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
Intrigued by this whole race question, Queenie stops by Marie Lavueau’s hair salon where she finds the voodoo queen making gumbo, which has to be in violation of about a thousand different health codes. LISTEN. If the city of New Orleans shut down Kermit Ruffins’ potlucks, you’re going to tell me they’d be cool with hair gumbo? Whatever. Further straining credulity, Queenie claims that she has not yet tried gumbo during her entire time in New Orleans. COME ON, SHOW. THAT IS JUST RIDICULOUS, SHOW. Marie Laveau who knows exactly who Queenie is and is just surprised it took Queenie so long to come stop by. Marie Laveau adds that she is not surprised that Queenie hasn’t had gumbo, hanging out with all those white witches. Queenie insists that her coven doesn’t care that she’s black, but Marie Laveau is all LOLWHATEVER. And after a lot of Angela Bassett chewing on the lush scenery and fish heads, Marie Laveau gets to her point. Queenie’s coven has something she wants: one Mme. Lalaurie. And here’s the deal: Marie Laveau and Queenie can help each other! If Queenie brings Mme. Lalaurie to Marie Laveau, Queenie can hang out with her and all the other badass voodoo witches. So?
Queenie, torn between hanging out with all the cool kids and giving up her late night snacking buddy, returns to the school and asks Mme. Lalaurie about the worst thing she ever did. Mme. Lalaurie is like, “Oh, you mean that one time my husband raped one of my slaves so I had her newborn baby killed and used his blood as my makeup regimen? And then she killed herself in grief? If I had to pick one thing, that’d probably be it. Why do you ask?”
So, Queenie has Mme. Lalaurie put on her best tiger sweatshirt and sweatpants, and takes her out to “get her hair did,” and by “get your hair did,” she means “turn her over to her sworn enemy.” Marie Laveau promptly shoves a betrayed Mme. Laveau into a cage, hands Queenie a knife, and orders her to make the first cut: it’s been a while since she’s applied her Retin-A.
There is not a lot to unpack in this episode, at least not in terms of imagery and symbolism. There’s blood, which represents life force and power and immortality and all that, but that seems fairly obvious. And really, it was used here mostly to mirror the opening scene of the series, wherein Madame Lalaurie painted her face with fresh slave pancreas (and to service as poetic justice to the terrible newborn incident mentioned earlier in the episode, of course).
But more than this being a nice callback, I wonder if Marie Laveau painting her face with Mme. Lalaurie’s blood isn’t also intended to signify a tipping point in the story, the place where the power has shifted, and we all begin to hurtle towards the conclusion. (Which, considering this is the 7th of 13 episodes isn’t exactly a revelation, I am aware. I will note that though we have a week off before the next episode, this is not technically the “winter finale.” According to the schedule, we will have two more episodes on December 4 and 11, before taking a hiatus until January 8. Plan accordingly.) And while I think the return of Mme. Lalaurie to Marie Laveau is an interesting development — and a dire one — it’s the shift in Delia’s consciousness, her decision to kill her mother that I believe truly marks our arrival at the beginning of the end.
But let’s talk Mme. Lalaurie for a moment before we leave. First of all, while both Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett are FABULOUS (and need another scene together, like, yesterday), Kathy Bates has been a revelation as Mme. Lalaurie. Only an actress with her skill could make audiences care about a monster like Lalaurie moments after confessing to killing a newborn baby to smear its blood on her face. That is some world-class acting right there, and when the time comes, we must give her all of the Emmys.
That said, my one quibble with this episode is Mme. Lalaurie’s neediness and desperation for a friend. I will give Ryan Murphy credit, he established that Mme. Lalaurie was looking for a friend in the previous episode when Mme. Lalaurie tried to bond with Fiona over being terrible mothers. And this issue of loneliness, of longing to connect with others is a prevailing — if not the most significant — theme of the season. However, Mme. Lalaurie does not strike me as a creature that would be so desperate for friendship, not even this new and improved Lalaurie. The shape of the relationship between Queenie and Lalaurie was developing quite nicely and believably, and I understand that it was crucial establish so that the betrayal when Queenie hands her over to Marie Laveau is heartbreaking. But that doesn’t mean her character had to be drawn so cartoonishly and explicitly needy, jumping at the chance to be Queenie’s “true friend.” It just felt forced and unlikely and in conclusion: DO GOODER, WRITERS.
As for the teenaged corpse three-way, yeah, I don’t even know what to say about that. Maybe: gross? I’m going to go with gross. I get it: Zoe is finally able to connect with FrankenKyle and Undead Madison thanks to their undeadness, and it was an unexpected turn of events, certainly. But I have no idea where this is headed, or how this triangle will play into the larger, more important story at hand: Zoe’s development of her powers and coming into being.
Alright, I think we’re done here. Have a lovely Thanksgiving, and try not to kill anyone for a facial treatment.
OH WAIT, I ALMOST FORGOT: Where’s Nan? Anyone seen Nan? WHAT HAPPENED TO NAN, RYAN MURPHY?
American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FX.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.