‘American Horror Story: Coven’: A head of the game

American Horror Story: Coven
“The Sacred Taking”
December 4, 2013

Miss Queenie goes out for a late night walk under the I-10/Claiborne Ave. interchange which, for you New Orleans tourists out there, DO NOT DO THIS. THIS IS A BAD TERRIBLE HORRIBLE IDEA. Queenie warily eyes a couple of sleeping hobos when a very much awake one approaches her with not nice intentions. Queenie grabs a 2×4 spiked with nails that was conveniently laying about, but Bad Hobo has a hammer and laughs at her for making him “fight for it.” Oh, Bad Hobo, you do not know what you are up against, and Queenie promptly puts the 2×4 into her arm, voodoo-dolling him.

That’s when Zoe and Undead Madison Montgomery arrive to try to talk Queenie into returning to Miss Robichaux’s, even though there had to have been any number of places that didn’t smell quite so much of pee that they could have had this conversation. Queenie’s not having it, though: Marie Laveau set her straight, and she’s no longer Team Witch. Zoe and Undead Madison Montgomery try to convince Queenie that Fiona is on her way out, but Queenie’s unimpressed: what, and they think she’s going to be the next Supreme? Come on. On that note, Queenie removes Bad Hobo’s heart, explaining to the others that Marie Laveau needs a “dark heart” for a special potion that will make Queenie even more powerful. Queenie adds that New Orleans isn’t big enough for both the coven and Marie Laveau: a war is coming, and the witches are going to lose.

Back at Miss Robichaux’s, Fiona isn’t looking so great, you guys. She gives another one of her flowery soliloquies about cancer and pain and the River Styx and WOE IS FIONA. The only thing more painful than the cancer spreading up her spine, according to Fiona, is having to tell your child you’re going to die. However, her child is less than emotional about it and just hopes her mother expires before Thanksgiving so that she doesn’t have to suffer through Fiona’s stuffing one more year. As if Fiona cooks, COME ON.

Fiona finds some comfort in Axeman’s bed, who tries to lure her away to Europe with him. Fiona is too vain to have him see her in a state of decay, and she’s too stubborn to off herself: she’s going to live if only to deny the coven the satisfaction of her death. But, to do that, she has to figure out which of these little witches is rising to replace her…

Meanwhile, next door to the school, Patti Lupone gives her son, Shirtless, a Comet enema, because devout Christians be crazy, yo.

Nan can hear Shirtless’ pain, and is distracted by it during a coven meeting with Delia. Delia has bigger problems: Queenie has defected, she has a mother to kill, and she can’t find a servant anywhere in this house. And that’s when Misty Day barges in, begging for sanctuary — someone is trying to kill her.

Misty Day explains that she was sound asleep when Myrtle Snow dug herself up out of the garden to warn her that a man with a gun just stepped on her face. Fortunately the two of them were able to escape before the gunman came busting in, shooting up the joint. Delia takes Misty Day’s hand, “sees” her death and regeneration, realizes who she is dealing with and offers Misty Day and her friend a place there at the school.

Misty Day then leads Delia out to the greenhouse where she reveals that her “friend” is none other than Myrtle Snow and everyone is reunited, hooray. Myrtle Snow, impressed by and grateful for Misty Day’s powers, is convinced that Misty Day is their next Supreme, which, of course, automatically rules Misty Day out as the next Supreme and probably marks her for death — such as it is on this show. Sorry, Misty Day!

Elsewhere, Zoe has been giving FrankenKyle a computer and some educational apps for toddlers in an attempt to reeducate him and make him part of society again. All FrankenKyle really wants, though, is a kiss, which he gets from Undead Madison Montgomery, who makes her disapproval of this education business known. Why can’t he just watch porn like any other undead guy? But Zoe is determined to teach FrankenKyle to communicate again and plops some headphones down on FrankenKyle to help him with the whole edumacationamal process.

frankenkyle headphones.gif
Gratuitous Evan Peters gif.

Time for an actual bit of witchcraft! The coven puts on red cloaks and black mantillas to perform “The Sacred Taking,” a ceremony that allows for the ascension of a new Supreme. Since Misty Day has “brought more people back from the dead than Jesus,” according to Myrtle Snow (because Ryan Murphy isn’t going to quit until he offends every Christian out there, thank you very much), it’s time for Fiona to get off the stage. Misty Day protests that she doesn’t want to be the Supreme, but Delia explains that the Supreme don’t get to choose. Being the Supreme is not a gift, it’s a responsibility.

As the coven performs the ceremony — which involves a lot of blowing kisses at one another and becoming blood sisters — we learn the coven’s history with The Sacred Taking ceremony. The coven has only performed the ritual 3 times, the first being in 1693 at the height of the Salem Witch Trials. When it was clear it was time for the witches to get out of Dodge, their Supreme was too sick with consumption to lead them, so they performed the ceremony to get rid of her, let the next Supreme rise and lead them all off in a bunch of covered wagons to make the long journey south. However, Fiona is not going to be so self-sacrificing, so it’s time to give her a little push.

And push they do. Upstairs, an increasingly sick Fiona is enjoying some quality time with her friend, Toilet, when she hears some music coming from her bedroom. There, she finds Madison Montgomery dancing around in her room, decidedly undead. Undead Madison Montgomery explains that she brought herself and Myrtle back from the dead, so clearly she’s the next Supreme. And since the Council knows that Fiona killed Madison Montgomery, she has two choices: burn at the stake in the morning or swallow a handful of yummy pills and call it a night.

Instead, Fiona chooses Option #3: pack her bags, see the European capitals with her ghost boyfriend. As she’s doing this, Myrtle comes in and is like, “O RLY? Where do you think YOU’RE going?” Fiona tries to explain that she’s finally found true love, so she’ll check these witches later. But Myrtle plants the idea in Fiona’s beautiful narcissistic head that He will grow bored of watching her stinky slow death, and He will leave her before she finally gets around to expiring. “Good point,” says Fiona, before putting on some lipstick, demanding her floor-length fur coat and climbing into her death-bed. “Bring me all the pills, and put my portrait on the good wall.” And after dumping the contents of Fiona’s jewelry box into her purse, Myrtle Snow leaves her old rival to die, FINALLY.

But! No one ever dies that easily on this show, and sure enough as Fiona begins to drift off to the Big Sleep, who should appear but Ghost Rat’s Nest, who urges his mistress to wake up, drink this Ipecac and quit being a martyr. Madison Montgomery didn’t bring herself back from the dead, some dirty little swamp witch did and HE WILL NOT STAND FOR FIONA BEING TAKEN DOWN BY THESE LESSER LITTLE WITCHES. Fiona’s like, “Good point,” and follows his instructions, purging herself while fabulously rocking her fur. Fiona then vows to avenge Ghost Rat’s Nest’s murder after she avenges her own. OOH, GURLS, LOOK OUT.

While this is all going on, the younger witches wait on the staircase, discussing who is going to be the next Supreme. Nan quickly comes to the conclusion that none of the other witches believe she could be Supreme, so she leaves in a snit and stomps over to the next door neighbor’s house. When no one comes to the door, Nan just lets herself in, where she finds Shirtless shoved into a bad girl closet, thinking about his choices.


The pair plot their escape, because, seriously, Shirtless, it’s time for you to get your own apartment, honey. But they are thwarted when Patti Lupone appears, calling the cops to report an armed and dangerous intruder in her home. Shirtless is all “YOU CAN’T STOP ME MOM, BLAH BLAH BLAH,” but it’s a moot point when his mother is shot down by an unseen gunman, and he throws himself in front of a bullet for Nan. Between the zombie attack, the axe to the shoulder, the Comet enema and now a bullet to the head, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for poor Shirtless.

Back at the school, Myrtle plays a funeral dirge on the piano while everyone waits for Fiona to DIE ALREADY. When Misty Day notes that she feels like a storm is about to hit, who should appear but a beturbaned Fiona, who is all, “O HAI, WITCHES. YOU WON’T GET RID OF ME THAT EASILY, LOL.”

Fiona then takes Misty Day next door with her to check out all of the commotion. As Nan rushes to the hospital with Shirtless, Fiona shoos the police away and has Misty Day demonstrate her powers by resurrecting Patti Lupone — which she does, which causes her to pass out, which causes Fiona to give this, the greatest eyeroll in the history of “witch, are you serious,” eyerolls:

fiona eyeroll

Meanwhile, outside, Delia finds a silver bullet, which, when she touches it, reveals that this was not a botched robbery, like the police told them, but an assassination attempt.

Upset by this assassination business, Zoe rushes upstairs to find FrankenKyle trying to use the computer like an iPad (QUIT TOUCHING THE SCREEN, UR DOIN IT WRONG) and informs him that they aren’t safe there, he has to leave. But FrankenKyle refuses, telling her that “This … road … goes … two … ways …” But Zoe is like, “buh, wha?” And FrankenKyle busts out with the “I … love … you …” which she returns, while a jealous undead roommate listens in from the bathroom. GREAT, GUYS, BUT CAN WE GET BACK TO THE “AN ASSASSIN IS TRYING TO KILL US ALL, WE GOT TO GET OUT” PLAN?

Meanwhile, across town, Queenie is having a guilt about betraying her immortal racist friend, so she slips a surreptitious Jack in the Box hamburger into Mme. Lalaurie’s cage. But Marie Laveau sniffs out this foolishness right away, and admonishes Queenie for “feeding the animals.” Mme. Lalaurie lapses back into racist mode, demanding that Marie Laveau fetch her something to drink, before insisting that Marie Laveau return her to her box: maybe she can be dug up in another 100 years when the natural order is restored, and a “darkie” is no longer in the White House. Instead, Marie Laveau cuts off her hand, because shut up, Mme. Lalaurie.

The next morning at Miss Robichaux’s, Fiona and Delia snipe back and forth at each other, making veiled threats until Delia is like, “OH COME ON, I know that you know that I tried to kill you last night and guess what, I’M NOT SORRY AND I’M NOT GOING TO BEG FOR YOUR FORGIVENESS.” But Delia’s got it all backwards: Fiona isn’t angry, she’s impressed. What Delia and the coven did the night previous demonstrated strength, and gives Fiona hope for the future of the coven. Fiona touches her daughter’s shoulder and tells her that she is so proud of her — and in that moment, Delia clearly sees something, the truth, perhaps, that Fiona is genuinely proud, that this is not another of her mother’s countless lies. Had Delia known that all it took for her mother’s approval was to try to kill her, she would have done it a lot sooner.

And with that, all is forgotten, I suppose? Because the next thing we know, Delia is showing her mother the silver bullet which has been blessed — a sure sign of witch hunters. Delia admits that when she found it, she was glad Fiona hadn’t died after all: they need her now, more than ever. But such sentiment will have to wait, as their conversation is interrupted by the doorbell and no servants to answer it. Fiona goes to the door to find nothing but a large cardboard box. WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

Actually, it’s not Thom Yorke, but, instead, Mme. Lalaurie’s disembodied head, whispering for help.

Oh, how nice! The witches and the voodoo queens have started an immortal head exchange!

dead racistdead racist head ahsdead racist head ahs fiona


Fun episode, Jessica Lange is The Best, give her all the Emmys, etc. etc. etc.

But a quibble with this episode: can we talk for a moment about Patti Lupone’s character and the lack of dimension there? Yes, I know what show I am watching and yes, I know that Ryan Murphy is nothing if not the walking definition of the phrase “Over the Top.” But even still, I’m finding the caricature of Christians to be not merely an easy stereotype, but actually outright offensive for its sheer laziness. There is certainly a story to be told about these witches bumping up against Christians — a story that could have been nuanced and complicated — but this is not that story. I get that the writers are trying to convey that this Good Christian Woman is just as perverse, just as much a monster as any of the supernatural creatures living next door. But wouldn’t it have been interesting if she hadn’t been so fiendish and that Luke’s attraction to Nan would have been more of a personal struggle for him and his own beliefs? Additionally, isn’t the fact that Nan’s a witch with Down Syndrome enough of a complication that we don’t have to drag Comet enemas into the mix? Granted, there is only so much time to tell so many characters’ stories, but I feel that the Hypocritical Christian is such an easy go-to trope that this entire story has been lessened as a result.

When Ryan Murphy was conceiving of this season, he actually said that there would be a Romeo and Juliet-like romance, and I wonder if this relationship between a witch and a Good Christian Boy wasn’t what he was referring to, perhaps originally intending it to be a bigger part of the plot. Considering how big a part religion played in last season, and how heavy and dark that particular story became, I’m not surprised that the religious aspect of this season has been downplayed in favor of the witchcraft v. voodoo plot. But that’s no excuse for someone who has created so many astonishingly great characters for older actresses to saddle Patti Lupone with such a one-dimensional role. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ryan Murphy assures us that Patti Lupone’s character has something of a transformation in the next episode (I won’t spoil it for you, you can read it here if you are interested), but I feel like this entire story and character has so far been a squandered opportunity.

Now that’s off my chest, onto the more important issues: So who’s the next Supreme? Our leading contenders are Zoe and Misty Day — and in the end, I suspect it will have to be Zoe, thanks to the conventions of traditional storytelling. That said, Ryan Murphy is not afraid of throwing all our expectations (and logic) out the window for the sake of a good twist, so we have to consider all the other possibilities

Our candidates for Supreme include: Zoe, Misty Day, Nan, Queenie, Delia, possibly Madison Montgomery and a long shot Myrtle Snow because why not. Yes, the Supreme is supposed to be a perfect specimen of health, and both Madison Montgomery and Myrtle are dead, but on the other hand, that also suggests that Madison Montgomery no longer suffers from that pesky heart condition, right?

Still, I think it’s unlikely the undead could be considered for the position — it just seems like cheating. But additionally, it seems the Supreme would be unable to kill her replacement; if anything, according to Fiona’s own example, the replacement should be the only one that can kill the Supreme. Which, by this same logic, rules out Delia. Of course, Delia’s blindness and fertility issues probably exclude her as well.

Thus, we are left with Misty Day, Zoe, Nan and Queenie.

Despite my complaining about Nan’s boyfriend’s family in this episode, I did think her story (what little of it there was this week) was actually quite nuanced. Nan’s Down Syndrome is never discussed, but it is never ignored, either, and Nan being hurt that the other witches just assume she’s not eligible to be Supreme was a nice bit of storytelling and character development. Because why wouldn’t Nan be eligible? Her health is just fine, she just happens to have this chromosomal condition — it doesn’t make her any less powerful a witch. And, in fact, I wouldn’t put it past Ryan Murphy to crown her the next Supreme just because it would play against society’s (and the coven’s) collective prejudices. But, that said, if we apply the logic of the show, I would have to rule Nan out based on the fact that her powers have not seemed to change or develop as Fiona’s health has grown worse. Unlike Madison and Zoe (and even Delia), Nan’s powers have remained static; she is a telepath and an empath but otherwise hasn’t demonstrated any other abilities. If she were the next Supreme, her powers should be increasing. Of course, considering how little screen time she’s had, Nan’s powers could very well be developing off-screen and we’d never know it.

And then there’s Misty Day: the power of resurgence is certainly a powerful gift, and it is understandable that those who have been saved by her power would consider it in high regard. Another point in favor of her being the next Supreme is that her powers apparently manifested around the same time that Fiona’s health began slipping. (I say “apparently” because we are actually working on very little information — when she revived the bird at the prayer meeting, was this the first time her powers showed themselves? She seems to know an awful lot about charms and healing spells for this to be the moment of her witchy awakening, is all I’m saying.) Misty Day’s “death,” in fact, is the event that supposedly precipitates Fiona’s return to New Orleans. So are the two related? Maybe. I am given pause, however, by the fact that she, like Nan, has remained static in terms of her powers, which so far have been limited to healing wounds, reviving the dead, and a mean Stevie Nick’s impersonation. Maybe through spending a little more time with the other witches she’ll hone some new skills, but honestly I fear for her safety in the next few episodes.

As for Queenie, like Nan she has two pretty significant strikes against her: her powers did not manifest in relation to Fiona’s weakening and her powers have not since increased. But Queenie has something that none of the other witches in the coven have: a direct connection to Tituba, the first witch in Salem, and a personal connection to Marie Laveau, the coven’s sworn enemy and biggest threat. Queenie is as much a member of the coven as she is a voodoo queen — it’s difficult to say which group, in fact, to which she most belongs. And it’s possible if she were to become Supreme, she would be able to resolve the conflict with Marie Laveau once and for all, by symbolically being the common root from which both practices emerged. All that said, it is more likely that Queenie will end up a casualty in the war between Marie Laveau and Fiona as a means to score cheap emotional points.

That leaves us with Zoe. Zoe, as I’ve noted previously, is our most obvious candidate for Supreme for a number of reasons: Zoe is in good health; like Misty Day, her powers manifested just as Fiona’s health began slipping; and since discovering she was a witch, her powers have been increasing, both in terms of her supernatural abilities and, perhaps even more importantly, in her leadership skills. And we can’t discount the fact that ultimately, Zoe is the closest thing we have to a hero in the traditional monomyth model (even if it is something of an extratextual fact). It was through her experiences that we are introduced to the coven, she has been challenged in her journey and has become stronger as a result, and ultimately I suspect she will achieve the ultimate boon by performing the Seven Wonders, becoming the Supreme and through her powers, saving the coven.

Or she’ll be shot by one of those blessed silver bullets and then Misty Day will have to bring her back from the dead so that she and Madison and FrankenKyle can continue with their zombie three-ways, and make zombie babies until they all get their heads chopped off, who even knows, Ryan Murphy is a crazy person and not to be trusted. 

American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FX.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.

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