American Horror Story: Coven
“The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”
January 8, 2014
Welcome back, witches! Last we left our coven, Marie Laveau’s hair salon had been shot up by one angry Darrin, leaving everyone but Marie Laveau dead. Marie Laveau, in fact, was saved by Queenie, who used her voodoo doll powerz to shoot herself in the head and kill Darrin. Queenie is presumed — but is not necessarily! — dead. And so, her posse wiped out, Marie Laveau has nowhere else to turn but towards the sexy, elegantly dressed bosom of her enemy, Fiona.
And Fiona takes her in, offering her a bed, a cup of brown and a sleeping spell. Marie Laveau accepts Fiona’s hospitality a bit sheepishly: she’s ashamed to expose her weakness, but her soul is touched by Fiona’s kindness. She’s been alone for so long, it’s nice to find an equal, even if it is her enemy whom she was trying to slaughter not 6 hours ago. And then they braid each other’s hair and make fortune tellers and become BWFs 4EVA.
But in the middle of the night, Marie Laveau is visited by her previous BFF, Papa Legba, which is kinda awkward. Papa Legba, who is one part Rob Zombie to three parts Mr. Abaddon of Lost (because of course, that is who he is), wonders why Marie Laveau is hanging out in her enemy’s house. She explains that she’s seeking to forge a truce, and Papa is like, “That’s cool but I need my baby sacrifice first pls, kbye.”
So Marie Laveau has to get up in the middle of the night and put on pants and shoes and head over to a hospital and bewitch a maternity ward nurse to let her into the baby room so that she can pick out a fresh baby and then get that baby past security in what appears to not be a hospital at all but a French Quarter hotel courtyard, and that involves going all white-eyed and waggling her tongue at the officers until they shoot each other in the face and then she has deal with the now sobbing 4 month old that she’s got to sneak back into a school full of mind-reading witches and in short, it’s a lot to ask of someone at 3 a.m.
The next morning, Marie Laveau joins Delia and Fiona in the kitchen where they watch a news report on the shooting at the salon, and Delia is all “WAAAH, THIS IS ALL MY FAULT, DARRIN WAS TRYING TO BE A HERO FOR ME.” Marie Laveau is like, “Actually, funny story. So, I hired your husband to kill your momma and you. Darrin was a witch hunter, and he hated him some Fiona. But he got all these squishy feeling for you and couldn’t bring himself to kill you.” This pushes Fiona over the edge, and she slaps Delia across the face for being such a dumb dummy as to marry a FREAKING WITCH HUNTER, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. COME ON. And with a sigh, Fiona explains that witch hunters are never lone assassins, but rather a part of an ancient order of dudes whose sole purpose is to rid the world of witches because misogyny. But flushing out the witch hunters is going to have to wait a minute because there is a surprise guest at the front door and a news report about a kidnapped baby to turn off.
TRUE FACT: 75% of all local news in New Orleans is witch-related.
Up in her new bedroom, Misty Day is getting her spin on (although when isn’t Misty Day getting her spin on?), when Fiona pops her head in for a friendly howdy-do. But Misty Day is not interested in being friends with Fiona, she knows perfectly well what Fiona is capable of. Fiona assures Misty Day that she doesn’t want to hurt her, she just wants to encourage her to take her rightful place as the new Supreme because Fiona is riding one of her “I Should Do What’s Best for the Coven” moods. It won’t last.
As Fiona leads Misty Day downstairs, she seduces her with all the perks and bonuses of being The Supreme: It’s the skeleton key to awesomeness! You get to travel the world, you get to be super famous, you become influential and powerful, and you get to hang out with all the cool kids. Why, Fiona was just telling an old friend of hers about Misty Day … and that’s when Fiona reveals the guest appearance we’ve been hearing about for two months now: white witch, STEVIE NICKS!
Misty Day soon recovers and is enjoying a personal concert of “Rhiannon” (and twirling, duh) when the young witches walk in, offering a little Queenie expository (the names of the dead in the salon have not been released yet, Nan and Zoe are too chicken to go to the morgue and look for her, ergo: QUEENIE ISN’T DEAD, LONG LIVE QUEENIE!). Undead Madison Montgomery seethes with jealousy over the Misty Day love Fiona is showing and notes that she’s a huge Eminem fan, when will he be coming to the house? Fiona sneers that Undead Madison Montgomery is not Marshal’s type (mostly because she’s a foot taller than him and not named “Kim”), but more importantly, Undead Madison Montgomery is not the next Supreme. So Stevie Nicks finishes her song, teaches Misty Day how to properly twirl and then gives her the shawl off her back, officially blessing her with her Stevieness.
Upstairs, Undead Madison Montgomery whines about some swamp hick being given the keys to the kingdom. What has she ever done? Did Misty Day come back from the dead? Because Undead Madison Montgomery CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD. Zoe reminds her that it was Misty Day who brought her back from the dead. Nan then joins in the conversation, hey! she could be The Supreme, too, you guys! Seriously! The writers just remembered that they could increase her powers just by saying her powers have been increased, and now she has the gift of mind control! And to prove it, Nan almost makes Undead Madison put a cigarette up her Montgomery, until Zoe stops all this foolishness. Zoe then reminds Undead Madison Montgomery that she’s out of the running for Supreme thanks to her heart condition. Ah! but that was cleared up by the whole dying and resurrection thing, so she’s back in again. Bring on the 7 Wonders!
In the office downstairs, Delia reveals to Fiona and Marie Laveau that she’s been doing a little Googling and has discovered that contrary to what he had told her, Darrin actually did have family. In fact, his father is one Darrin Renard, Sr., C.E.O. of one of the richest private equity companies in the country, The Delphi Trust. The company’s roots date back to Salem, where they began as carpenters and furniture builders before taking on witch hunting as a hobby. Now they are headquartered in Atlanta and worth some $50 billion in assets, which is a whole lot of armoires.
Having decided, somehow, that these are their guys, Marie Laveau is ready to suit up and cast some spells on some witch-killing bros. But Fiona insists that they bide their time and go after what Delphi really cares about: money. WAIT, NOT SO FAST, DELIA. You’re not allowed to play along, seeing as Fiona regards you as worthless, hopeless and tainted, and please to get out of Fiona’s sight now.
Having dismissed Delia, Marie Laveau and Fiona set up a bewitched rat’s maze and deposit Eloise and her friends inside. Eloise, et al do not time travel, but, instead, cause the FTC to raid Delphi’s headquarters looking for financial shenanigans — which, apparently, they find. Darrin Sr. is NOT PLEASED and knows exactly who is behind all of this.
All that spelling makes Fiona weak, however, and she takes to her bed while Marie Laveau waves incense around to shoo out the evil spirits. Fiona explains that no amount of incense is going to cure what ails her: some young thing growing into the next Supreme and sapping her of her powers. Fiona then explains that she’s recently found love which has given her a reason to not just accept her fate. Sooooo, now that they are besties, how about Marie Laveau tell Fiona how she gave Mme. Lalaurie immortality? Marie Laveau dismisses this idea: it was from a vial of Marie Laveau’s tears, but all that would do is maintain Fiona in her current ill state for all of eternity, certainly not their best option. Fiona then asks for Marie Laveau’s personal beauty secrets, and Marie Laveau explains that she sold her soul to Papa Legba in exchange for eternal life. But be careful what Fiona wishes for! There is a cost, and for Marie Laveau it was her infant daughter plus an innocent soul once a year, every year.
Meanwhile, in the greenhouse, Delia takes out her frustrations with her mother on some Mandrake and Belladonna, but CAN NOT THINK FOR ALL THE THEREMINING HAPPENING IN THE CORNER. ENOUGH WITH THE THEREMIN, MYRTLE. But haters gonna hate, and Myrtle is gonna theremin. Delia vents her frustrations with herself: she’s not of any use to the coven any more, she’s lost her powers, she’s a big dumb loser, wah. Myrtle insists that she buck up and suggests that Delia focus on her other strengths: she should make her own salad dressing, maybe get a job with a cruise ship. In response, Delia breaks everything.
While Delia’s smashing up the joint, Undead Madison Montgomery somehow convinces Misty Day to spend the day hanging out with her in the Treme, crashing strangers’ jazz funerals. As they march along with the crowd, Undead Madison Montgomery begins to warn Misty Day about the cost of being The Supreme. Sure, it’s all private Stevie Nicks concerts and twirling shawls now, but there will come a day when Stevie Nicks will be back with her hands out, looking for a favor from Misty Day. Players only love you when they’re playing, after all.
Undead Madison Montgomery then invites Misty Day to go see something, and leads her into St. Louis Cemetery (#2 methinks?) where she orders Misty Day to enchant a couple of grave … well, not diggers … more like tomb pushers who are in mid-push. Undead Madison Montgomery then explains that she is just as powerful as Misty Day and can prove it. And with a wiggle of her nose, the gentleman who had been about to be interred gets up out of his coffin and stumbles around in a daze. See? Undead Madison Montgomery is powerful too, she doesn’t need Misty Day, she just wants to be friends! And as her friend, Undead Madison Montgomery has to insist that Misty Day bury that dumb shawl. After all, she should be her own witch, not playing dress-up as someone else. Misty Day considers it for half a second and nearly drops her precious token into the coffin before she suddenly remembers that OH MY GODDESS, STEVIE FREAKING NICKS GAVE THIS TO ME and pulls back. However, that is just enough time for Undead Madison Montgomery to bonk Misty Day over the head with a brick, knock her unconscious body into the coffin, yoink the shawl up for herself and disenchant our tomb pushers who place Misty Day’s coffin into its tomb. And that’s why you never trust a zombie.
Elsewhere, Nan and Zoe swing by the hospital to check on Shirtless, all the while Nan yammering about how when she’s the Supreme she’s going to only do good. Which is a thing that is definitely going to happen. At the nurse’s station, they learn that Shirtless died and that the mortuary has already removed his body. ACCCCCK, says Nan.
So Nan and Zoe swing by Patti Lupone’s house with the intention of finding out which funeral home Shirtless is in so as to send Misty Day and some of her Magik Mud in to revive him. Once inside, however, Patti Lupone reveals that she’s already had Shirtless cremated. Ashes to ashes and all that! This infuriates Nan who screams at Patti Lupone that she knows she killed her son. In a rage, Nan flings Zoe across the room, and using her newly written mind control powerz, forces Patti Lupone to drink a bottle of bleach, so as to “cleanse” her.
AND STAY DEAD THIS TIME.
As for Fiona, she has her pretty head filled with visions of eternal life and perfect Voodoo Queen skin. To this end, she lays out lines of cocaine on a mirror and says some magic words and lures Papa Legba into her bedroom. Papa is impressed with the quality of her goods, and she promises there’s more where that came from — if they can strike a bargain. The two negotiate their terms: she wants eternal life with no tricks, no illness, no ageing, no decrepitude; and in exchange he gets her soul and her services once a year, be it crippling her daughter or murdering an innocent, whatever it is, she’s game! Deal! And they seal it with a kiss, at which point Papa calls the whole thing off: turns out Fiona’s doesn’t have a soul to sell. KBAI.
Devastated, Fiona finishes off the coke that Papa left behind and chats with her ghost boyfriend, AxeMan about her disappointment. Having exhausted medical and voodoo options for curing her cancer, she’s back to Plan A: Find the next Supreme, kill her. Of course that first part of the plan might take a while, and since she’s soulless, why not just skip ahead to the second half of the plan and be comprehensive about it.
The next morning, Nan hears something and follows the sound into Marie Laveau’s bedroom where she discovers the kidnapped baby shut away in a drawer because Papa doesn’t collect on his debts right away, apparently? Marie Laveau discovers Nan trying to steal the baby away to safety, and demands it back. I’M THE NEXT SUPREME AND I KILLED THE NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR, responds Nan, just in time for Fiona to walk in and be all, “Oh, brother. Give me the baby, Nan.” And so she does and then she leaves and Marie Laveau and Fiona agree that Nan is trouble. Marie Laveau gets all mopey while looking at the baby because she reminds her of her own child, and now she doesn’t want to have to sacrifice her to Papa Legba so as to eat her or whatever it is he does. Fiona is like, Hey! Let’s kill two
witches birds with one stone!
And that’s how Marie Laveau and Fiona find themselves drowning Nan in the bathtub, hoping to offer her to Papa Legba.
However, when Papa arrives, he’s unhappy with this substitution, and notes that Nan is not exactly the innocent soul he was looking for. Fiona protests that Nan is innocent: she only killed Patti Lupone, who had it coming, and Marie Laveau begs Papa to be a sport. Papa wisely notes that the two of them together are trouble, before escorting Nan to the other side. “YOU GUYS SUCK,” Nan adds as she walks out the door.
And then Stevie Nicks sings “Has Anyone Written Anything For You” to a sad Fiona who is having a sad, despite not having a soul. I’m legit confused.
First, let’s start with the big Stevie Nicks appearance. It’s not that I thought it was gratuitous — I mean it was gratuitous, don’t get me wrong, wedging any guest star in just so you can say you did so is always gratuitous — it’s that I actually found the reasons for her to be at the house legitimately confusing. I like the idea of Stevie being an actual witch, and I didn’t expect her to do any more acting than what was in the episode. I’m not mad at Ryan Murphy having Stevie perform a little sing-along; after all, if you have Stevie Nicks on your show, you going to have her sing “Rhiannon,” obviously. No, the problem I had with her appearance is that it confused me as to Fiona’s motivations. Before her exchange with Papa Legba, what are Fiona’s intentions for the coven? Had she changed her mind, again, about its future and her part in it? Is she legitimately interested in encouraging Misty Day to become the next Supreme? Is she trying to get in Misty Day’s good graces in case she becomes the next Supreme and if so, why? Will she be alive for any period of time after the ascendency of the new Supreme? Or was it a trick, to try to lure the next Supreme out so that Fiona could eliminate her? But if it were all a manipulation, why does it seem like Fiona has changed her mind at the end of the episode to when she decided to move forward with Plan Kill ‘Em All? I get that Fiona is a complicated and conflicted woman, but I was left sincerely baffled. (And I kind of think the writers were, too.)
As for the other events in the episode, yes, Nan is dead and clearly staying dead this time. And kudos to Ryan Murphy for tying up the whole Nan-Patti Lupone-Shirtless story in a satisfyingly clean way. I liked Nan as much as anyone, but once Shirtless and Patti Lupone were dead dead for reals dead, she didn’t have much more of a point in the plot. And with Nan’s very concrete, permanent death, there are finally some much-needed consequences in this series. You can die and stay dead, after all. Bye, Nan! You were pretty great, even if your entire subplot was essentially just one more way for Ryan Murphy to poke his finger in Christians’ eyes!
This episode also introduced us to Papa Legba, an actual figure in voodoo, although actual practitioners might have some concerns with Murphy’s interpretation of him both on and off the show. In an interview with ew.com, Ryan Murphy is asked what Legba does with the souls he collects, and Murphy answers: “I just think he takes them, he collects them. That’s based on a long myth of that character. I like that there’s a voodoo version of the devil.” And a devil figure is certainly the way Legba was depicted in this episode.
However. Just to be clear, Legba is actually a crossroads spirit, who one must communicate with first before being allowed access to the other spirits. He’s a guardian figure, a liminal being that grants access to the other world and protects it. A practitioner must pray and make an offering to Papa Legba before they are allowed access to the other spirits, from whom he can make other, more specific requests. As for what Papa Legba prefers as offerings, according to this website, “He is happy with the modest cup of coffee, a fistful of grilled or roasted corn or peanuts, some tobacco that he smokes in a noticeably simple pipe made of little bamboo and corncob.” No baby souls required.
As for the whole business of Papa Legba demanding the sacrifice of human souls, this seems to be a conflation of folktales, some of which actually are European — Germanic, specifically — in origin. The Faust story is one in which a man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for magical powers and to know all the pleasure and knowledge of the world. Faust gets 24 good years of enjoying his bargain before the devil will collect on his price and damn his soul to all eternity. The story of the Faustian bargain is so old and so steeped in our culture that we have applied it to other cultures and religions as a way of making sense of them.
For instance, the devil at the crossroads story. Crossroads have long been considered places where humans on this plane might be able to communicate with beings on the “other side.” It is a prevalent image and myth that crosses cultures, including Christian and African ones. In voodoo, one can go to a crossroads, summon Papa Legba — who, we have established is a crossroads loa (spirit) — and ask him to teach you a skill; for instance, how to play an instrument. What is interesting is that in traditional beliefs, Legba does not ask for anything in return, aside from the traditional modest offerings a practitioner might make to him. There is no soul-selling, there is no punishment, there is really very little exchange that takes place. However, Christians read these voodoo spirits as being inherently evil, Satanic presences and such voodoo rituals took on a sinister meaning, in part to literally demonize the religion. And thus, the “devil” at the crossroads was understood to literally demand an exchange of talent for one’s immortal soul. There’s actually a lot of interesting stuff here about the famous Robert Johnson song “Crossroads” here if you are interested.
And then somehow this becomes sacrificing babies. So.
What I will finally add is that the main motif of this episode is the soul, how much one’s soul is worth, and as Madison Montgomery explains to Misty Day, how everything is transactional, including one’s soul. There was also a more subtle symbol that goes along with this idea of the soul being transferable, that of the key. Fiona suggests to Misty Day that becoming a Supreme is like being given a skeleton key, a key that grants one access to any door; and Madison Montgomery, upon realizing that Misty Day has become Fiona’s favored choice for the next Supreme, pouts that Misty Day has been granted the “keys to the kingdom.” Keys are symbols of passage, access, power. What I find terribly interesting is that in Christianity, keys are associated with St. Peter, he of the pearly gates, who determines who will be granted access to or denied from Heaven. In fact, two keys are emblazoned on the papal coat of arms, one silver and one gold: symbols that had previously been associated with the Roman god of passages, gates and time, Janus. According to my trusty Penguin Dictionary of Symbols :”Janus was also regarded as a conductor of souls, hence his two faces, one gazing earthwards and the other heavenwards. With his staff in his right hand and his key in his left, he guarded all gates and ruled all roads.” Hey, you know who else guards roads and is associated with St. Peter? That’d be Papa Legba, crossroads loa. Bringing it back around, high five.
A couple of last points, Queenie is still totally alive, right? I mean, they’ve left that door open for a reason, and I think it’s because she is still alive and is going to go up against Zoe and Undead Madison Montgomery in the Seven Wonders. And I think she might have a shot at it — an even better shot than the last time I put this out there. My guess (which is worth a hill of beans when it comes to Ryan Murphy and his willing to throw all the rules out the window) is that Queenie will emerge from her “death” with new powers; that Queenie’s experience in the salon, wherein she sacrificed herself on Marie Laveau’s behalf, was her apotheosis, and she will emerge more powerful than before. And thus we will have two candidates that have risen from the dead, not unlike Christ, as Undead Madison Montgomery pointed out in this episode. However, only one of them will have died while sacrificing herself for others. But we’ll see.
And I’m going to end on an intriguing and OH, DUH, OF COURSE point that Friend of Tubular and former Tubular writer Nathan suggested: “I wonder if Delphi Trust has anything to do with Delphine LaLaurie’s family.” Yeah. Just sit and think about that one for a while.
American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FX.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.