American Horror Story: Coven
“The Seven Wonders”
January 29, 2014
Sing it, Stevie:
While Stevie serenades Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, our exceptional young ladies practice their magick in preparation for performing the Seven Wonders. Misty Day spins, Zoe levitates, Undead Madison Montgomery bathes, Queenie mourns Nan, even though Missing Your Friends isn’t one of the Wonders.
The night before the competition, Myrtle holds a last supper if you will, and she will, except instead of bread and wine, she’s serving some Caspian Sea caviar and champagne, because that’s what Jesus would have served if he had the choice.* It’s their last moment of freedom and anonymity before one of them must assume the responsibility of the Supremacy, and it might very well be some of their last meals, as performing the Seven Wonders is VERY SUPER DANGEROUS. Somehow. Then Delia paraphrases the Bible: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I understood like a child, I thought like a child. When I became a woman, I put the ways of childhood behind me,” because why not drag Corinthians into it at this point.
Typically, the reigning Supreme designates her successor who then performs the Seven Wonders from the easiest to the hardest so as to prove her worth. However! Thanks to Fiona being a jealous selfish witch, they’ve had to break tradition and allow all four of the young witches perform the Seven Wonders to sort out who, exactly, should be the Supreme. And since they’re mixing it up, Myrtle declares they’ll begin with her favorite Wonder: Telekinesis.
FrankenKyle, who appears to be your new Rat’s Nest, places lit candlesticks in front of each witch, and Undead Misty Day worries that if she can’t perform it means that she’s not Supreme. Delia, however, has faith in her and coaxes Undead Misty Day to be intent. She does, the candlestick slides across the table to her and she blows it out. Which, wait, wasn’t she using telekinesis with the other witches to knock out Axeman and grab a knife off the wall? She was? Then why are we pretending that this is new to her?
BUT OH WHATEVER, all the other witches drag their candlesticks towards themselves, too, because of course they do, they ALL performed this just the other night.
Next up: Concilium, more familiarly known as “mind control.” Undead Misty Day faces off against Queenie, whom she makes slap herself across the face. And when Queenie takes her turn, she makes Undead Misty Day
burn her Fleetwood Mac 8-tracks pull her own hair.
And then Undead Madison Montgomery and Zoe face off, which is just a terrible idea, obviously, what with their sexytimes history and all. Undead Madison Montgomery makes FrankenKyle drop the tray of wine glasses he’s holding, forces Zoe to slap herself, and then draws FrankenKyle towards her, where she kisses him against his will before making him lick her shoe. Zoe, furious, pulls FrankenKyle away from Undead Madison Montgomery’s shoe and towards her, where she kisses him — and it all seems very forced even though she shouldn’t have to control his mind to make him kiss her? BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT. The point is, this, in turn, infuriates Undead Madison Montgomery, who forces FrankenKyle to begin strangling Zoe until Delia, sensing something amiss, flings FrankenKyle off of Zoe and across the room. THAT IS ENOUGH.
Next Wonder: Descensum, the descent to Hell. It’s easy enough to go to Hell, it’s the coming back that’s the trick and if they don’t return by sunrise, they stay there. Queenie wakes up in Fried Chicken Hell, takes a look around and is like, NOPE. She returns first. Undead Madison Montgomery wakes next, having returned from a Live Network Production of The Sound of Music Hell, and worst of all, she was Liesl.
YA BURNT, NBC.
Zoe takes a bit longer, but finally wakes up from her own personal Breaking Up with FrakenKyle Hell. And as the sun comes up, Undead Misty Day is the only one remaining. Poor Undead Misty Day is trapped in Middle School Biology Lab Hell, bringing her dead frog back to life, only to be forced by her teacher to slice the poor creature open. Over and over and over again. Undead Misty Day is stuck, and no amount of Delia whispering Latin in her ear in an attempt to lure her back will help. And like sands through the hourglass, so were the Misty’s Days of her lives. (HIGH FIVE.)
And just to make it PERFECTLY CLEAR that she’s dead dead, for real dead, no, seriously, totally not kidding this time, no way anyone is bringing her back: Misty Day explodes in a cloud of Misty Dust.
This makes Delia very sad, but everyone else is like: OH WELL, what’s next?
Transmutation: The young witches play a game of tag, dashing and disappearing around the yard of the school while Myrtle and Delia tsk at them to be careful. WHATEVER, OLD LADIES. WE’RE HAVING FUN, the little brats snot back at them. Which is how Zoe ends up impaled on one of the fence posts — which is not unlike what Delia saw when her mother touched her the week previous.
ZOMG, IS THE VISION GOING TO COME TRUE? (No.)
They somehow get Zoe’s body off the fence, let’s say “magic,” quit worrying about it, jeez, and bring it into the greenhouse, offering Queenie and Undead Madison Montgomery the perfect opportunity to prove their Vitalum Vitalis skillz. Queenie goes first, and tries to blow life back into Zoe, but, despite HAVING SUCCESSFULLY DONE THIS JUST LAST WEEK ON MISTY DAY WHO HAD BEEN DEAD FOR DAYS, I MIGHT ADD, it doesn’t take. (Whatever, Ryan Murphy. WHAT. EVEN. EVER.)
When it’s Undead Madison Montgomery’s turn, she refuses, claiming that she’s the Supreme by default. Myrtle and Delia insist that she still has to go through with the Seven Wonders. So to prove she can perform Vitalum Vitalis, she catches a fly, kills it, and then brings it back to life. When Myrtle and Delia continue to balk, certain that Undead Madison Montgomery can’t possibly be the Supreme, because NO, Undead Madison Montgomery stomps off in a snit. LATER, WITCHES.
Delia and Myrtle mope for a while, and wonder if they should just let the coven die off rather than have that little witch rule them. Mope mope pout mope. But later, Myrtle is like OH, HEY, What about you? You might be the Supreme, Delia! After all, your mom was, and you’ve been nothing but a whiny little baby who didn’t realize her own husband was a witch hunter and despite that caveat that the Supreme has to be in pristine physical health and you have neither eyeballs nor the capacity to have children and the only thing you’ve ever proven to be able to lead is a tour around the school, you might just be the Supreme we’ve been looking for!
That sounds plausible! says Delia.
And with that, she begins performing the Seven Wonders her damn self.
First up: Pyrokinesis. This is a no-brainer for both Delia and Undead Madison Montgomery who is not a little peeved that Delia has decided to play. That taken care of, Delia then proves her ability with Concilium by making Queenie dance. DANCE, VOODOO DOLL, DANCE! And as for telekinesis, Delia sees your candlestick, Undead Madison Montgomery, and raises you a piano.
Delia then goes and returns from Fiona Hell before transmutating herself into the next room. So what’s left? Divination. To this end, Myrtle hides some items of previous Supremes around the house, and Delia and Undead Madison Montgomery are charged with reading a bunch of tossed pebbles to determine where the items are. Delia goes first, and finds Mimi DeLongpre’s broach tucked under a dresser upstairs.
Undead Madison Montgomery tosses her pebbles and is ordered to find the object belonging to Anna Leigh Leighton. Undead Madison Montgomery tantrums that this is NONSENSE and she’s NOT DOING IT, until Myrtle threatens to fail her. So Undead Madison Montgomery is all “…uh, it’s in the vase on the mantle?” But there’s nothing there. “How about the box on the piano??” But there’s nothing there either, and with that, Undead Madison Montgomery is out of the running for Supreme.
THAT’S FINE, Undead Madison Montgomery rants, IT WAS ALL RIGGED ANYWAY. I’M GOING BACK TO HOLLYWOOD AND I’M TELLING TMZ EVERYTHING.
To this end, Undead Madison Montgomery stomps upstairs and begins throwing her things into a suitcase, while FrankenKyle lurks in her closet. Seems FrankenKyle is a mite peeved that Undead Madison Montgomery refused to bring Zoe back to life, and his monster hands would like to have a chat with her trachea about it. Choke choke choke, kill kill kill, and Undead Madison Montgomery is now just Dead Madison Montgomery. Again.
Fortunately for everyone, Rat’s Nest has a few ideas about what can be done with her remains, but don’t bother asking him what happened to that baby, don’t worry about it.
Meanwhile, as FrankenKyle was remurdering his creator, Delia finally FINALLY goes into the greenhouse and performs a little Vitalum Vitalis on Zoe, bringing her back to life. However, this causes Delia to collapse. But it’s cool! She’s alright! In fact, when she stands up, she has her eyes back and no this is not some sort of dream or afterlife, she apparently is the new Supreme. Huh.
And for her first order of business, Delia gives an interview to
CNN HCN to say that they are not a cult, they’re witches, and they’d like to get the word out to all the other young women (and gay men, come on, Delia, quit being so exclusionary) who have been born with similar powers: they can emerge from the shadows, there is a home waiting for them in New Orleans. Good thing her mother and Marie Laveau killed all six of those dangerous witch hunters, and all outside threats are eliminated!
As the applications pour in, Myrtle pays Delia a visit, and announces that it’s time she be burned at the stake. Again. If Delia wants to be a proper Supreme, she must dole out proper punishment for what Myrtle did to poor Pembroke and Quentin. Delia mustn’t be a hypocrite and keep Myrtle around just because she was more of a mother to Delia than that alleycat Fiona ever was.
And so, with a sigh, the witches head out to the levee again, Myrtle this time wearing a fabulous red ball gown. Delia decrees Myrtle’s punishment for murdering the Council. Myrtle assures Delia that she’s never been more proud of her “sweet daughter.” Delia asks Myrtle if she has any last words, and Myrtle announces she only has one:
Going out in style.
With a line of wannabe baby witches wrapped around the block, Delia invites Queenie and Zoe to be her Council, and they’re like, “Sure. I mean, either of us make a hell of a lot more sense as Supreme than you, but sure.”
And with that, Delia has only one more point of order to deal with: her Not Dead Mother, who is looking worse for
Because of course Fiona wasn’t dead. (Sigh.)
It seems Fiona cast a false memory spell on Axeman, one that he himself believed, sending him into a suicidal fury, thereby killing two axe-murdering ghost boyfriend problems at once: her daughter thought she was dead, and Axeman was out of her hair … what was left of it.
But Fiona knows the jig is up, and she’s here to ask her daughter to put her out of her misery. Delia declines, and asks her mother why she was so awful to her, was it because Fiona knew that Delia would take her power one day? Fiona assures her daughter that Delia started sapping her power the moment she was born. (TRUTH.) Fiona always loved her daughter, just in her own, neglectful, terrible way. And now Fiona must die for Delia to truly live. After a bit more of this mother-daughter blahblah, Fiona stands, bringing her daughter the knife she used to claim her own Supremacy, but Delia puts it down and hugs her mother, who is finally having a human experience, one she must go through alone. As they hold each other, Delia notes that they’ve never hugged, and her mother finally lets go and slips away …
… to a catfish farm in Covington, Louisiana that she shares with Axeman. Fiona, confused, growls at Axeman and the catfish he’s offering for breakfast, and Axeman is like, “Why do we have to go over this every morning? … You can’t put a clock on eternity.” And Fiona is like “OH HELL NO,” as she realizes she’s trapped in her own personal Hell. Fiona goes to pour herself a stiff drink because COME ON, PERSONAL HELL, WHO CAN BLAME A GIRL? Axeman offers her his own “stiff one,” which Fiona finds vulgar, and so he slaps her across the face. SHE CAN’T STAY HERE IN THIS TERRIBLE CABIN, WHAT IS THIS, KNOTTY PINE?!?!?!?!!! And as Axeman takes her in his arms to comfort her, Papa Legba laughs and laughs and laughs in the corner.
Back at Miss Robichaux’s, Delia opens the doors to the newest students, and assures them that it’s their time: not just to survive, but to thrive. One of the students, out of nowhere, asks what a Supreme is, and Queenie informs the student that she’s looking at her: Delia.
Yeah, we know, we find it hard to believe, too.
And that, kids, was Season Three. I’m struggling to figure out what, exactly, to say. On the one hand, this has been, without question, far and away the best season of this whackadoodle show; yet, on the other hand, ugh, this finale. I mean, Delia? Her? Is she funny or something?
Let me stress this is not sour grapes because my prediction that Zoe (or Queenie) would become the next Supreme didn’t happen. I thought there wasn’t an insignificant chance that Fiona would come back and kill them all — and I enjoyed one commenter’s (what’s your name, mystery reader?) suggestion that Myrtle would do them all in, especially because it fit Delia’s vision so neatly, and I hate when whatever happened doesn’t happen.
No, I’m not irritated that Delia became the Supreme because I didn’t see it coming, nor am I irritated because I had something invested in that boring little mouse, Zoe, becoming Supreme. I’m irritated because not only did Delia becoming Supreme break all the rules that the writers themselves made up, but it also undermined whatever larger messages about society, girl power and ageism that Ryan Murphy was trying to say in the first place. This was series about a group of women who, through their own innate power, represented a threat to the patriarchal status quo. So what would represent a bigger subversion of said status quo than having a full-figured woman of color from an underprivileged background become the leader of their group? But instead, we are given more of the same: another white woman in a long, unbroken string of white women who, because of her “royal blood,” becomes Supreme. Sure, it’s matriarchal rather than patriarchal, but it still maintains the status quo, and suggests that only the pure blooded can ascend to greatness.
Add to that the fact that Delia as the Supreme just doesn’t make sense based on the writers’ own rules — Supremes are supposed to be “perfect physical specimens,” and yet Delia is infertile and blind. Also, as Fiona began fading, Delia did not become stronger — it took being attacked by the Delphi Trust for Delia to show the teensiest bit of power — her gift came to her thanks to external factors.
Delia was also a simpering ninny for the majority of the season. True, she did vow to kill her mother, but she didn’t manage to actually make that happen, which I suppose was meant to demonstrate that she was a better, kinder witch than Fiona, but instead came across as Delia not being good with follow-through. And aside from her empathy for her fellow witches and her encyclopedic knowledge of the coven’s history, Delia simply doesn’t seem to have any other inherent leadership qualities. They just aren’t there.
And the thing that galls me the most about Delia as Supreme is that there was no journey for her to get there. One of two things happened here: either the writers genuinely didn’t know who was going to be the Supreme and therefore didn’t create an arc for Delia other than: “Oh no, she’s blind! Wait, she can see again! Wait, she blinded herself, AGAIN!” or Ryan Murphy and his writers were so determined to maintain the big mystery of who would become Supreme that they deliberately sacrificed character development in favor of a finale GOTCHA! Neither of these are acceptable answers.*
*Actually, it turns out the revelation that Delia would be the Supreme was in the credits the entire time:
Some users on Reddit and Tumblr found a possible easter egg in the opening credits of “Coven” revealing that Cordelia may just be the new Supreme. They identified the image in Sarah Paulson’s credit as Santa Muerte, a folk saint known as “Lady of the Seven Powers,” according to Wikipedia, aka the Supreme. [Turns out, they were right.] Let us not forget that Ryan Murphy has warned us to keep our eyes open for clues in each season’s opening credits. (Via)
WELL, THIS ONLY MAKES ME ANGRIER.
Over the course of the season, each of the baby witches saw their individual powers grow and develop; over the course of the season, Delia’s powers never made themselves evident until literally the very last moment when she was faced with the possibility that Fiona Jr. was the next Supreme. She spent one half of the season playing with plants, and the other half vacillating between being blind and not blind. This is not a hero’s journey! This is not character development! I do not understand!
But, I do understand: In the end, Ryan Murphy decided that this was less a story about GRRRRL Power or racism or ageism, and more a story about mother-daughter relationships, and rules and logic be damned, but he’d make the narrative fit. And while it made for an emotional denouement with Fiona and Delia — and Jessica Lange should get all of the prizes for that last scene, she was terrific — that scene could have still happened with someone else assuming the throne. In fact, it might have been even more poignant for a dying Fiona to tell her daughter that she was powerful all along, after she failed to follow in her mother’s Louboutins as Supreme.
Listen, I could go on with complaints about this season (Boy, those witch hunters really weren’t much of an threat, were they? Marie Laveau and Fiona sure got over their differences — and by differences, I mean “trying to kill each other” — quickly. So, wait, why did Zoe and FrankenKyle go to Florida? What was the point of that? What did Marie Laveau ever do with that Minotaur head, anyway? Also, how, exactly, does a ghost take care of a living baby? Is the baby even still alive? Also, if you can be brought back from the dead with no consequences, what does death even mean? Why was Zoe SO BORING? MORE VAGINA KILLING, LESS DEAD BOYFRIEND MOPING!), but let’s not belabor the point.
That said, the season could have benefitted from more episodes, 10 more to make it a 23-episode run, in fact. Part of the reason those questions are up there is because the writers were cramming so many characters into too few episodes, all the while trying to develop each of them enough that they could, possibly, be Fiona’s successor. If we had more room for the story to breathe, everything might have felt a little more plausible, or at least more satisfying. (Of course, if Ryan Murphy had 10 more episodes, he would have just added more subplots and wacky characters, let’s all be honest.)
In the end, this season was funnier, sexier, more glamorous, campier and truly more cohesive than either of the previous two seasons. The actresses (for the most part) were all tremendous: Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates were REVELATIONS. I loved Emma Roberts and Gabourey Sidibe, and the regular American Horror Story players, Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy and Denis O’Hare were delights as per usual. (As for Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters, it’s not entirely their fault their characters were so boring and dreadful and wooden.)
But what I most appreciated about this season was that Ryan Murphy and the writers managed to keep the story relatively focused, and didn’t just let it (completely) spin out of control. There were actual themes and motifs interwoven throughout the season — misogyny, racism, immortality, motherhood, ageism — which made it feel more like an actual story rather than a list of crazy ideas that Ryan Murphy came up with while jacked up on 7 espressos and a Red Bull chaser. I might not have loved how the story ended, but I appreciated that it was a complete narrative, without a single digression involving aliens or Nazis.
So I walk away from this season disappointed that
the coven Ryan Murphy chose such an unworthy Supreme, but I don’t regret the ride we took getting there. I only hope the next season is as funny and sassy and crazy as this one. It’s got a big hat to fill.
Speaking of next season, what we know is:
- Myrtle’s theremin was a clue
- As was Darrin Sr.’s comment about communism
- It takes place in different time periods, the main one being the 1950s
- It takes place in New Mexico
- Jessica Lange is going to be playing a Marlene Dietrich-esque German woman
- And while Ryan Murphy sort of waved off the popular American Horror Story: Circus idea that’s been floating around, he didn’t dismiss it outright.
What do you think next season will be? After this season, I’m out of the “guessing what Ryan Murphy is going to do next” business because you can’t predict crazy, so I’m curious what you guys think.
*Is that sacrilegious? That’s probably sacrilegious. But then so is staging a Last Supper with a bunch of witches, so.
THANKS FOR READING, WITCHES!
American Horror Story: Coven will be available on Netflix at some point.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.