We’re almost there horror fans, and last week delivered an American Horror Story: Coven episode that in many ways felt like the one I’ve been waiting all season to see; scary, funny, gleefully wicked, and full of all sorts great supernatural twists and turns. Regardless of whether or not the upcoming finale lives up to expectations, this episode was sure a fun way to lead into it.
We open with a black-and-white silent-type film (complete with title cards) explaining each of the seven wonders (something that has been a little murky up to this point in the show). We now know the powers the Supreme witch must display are telekinesis, concilium (mind control), transmutation (the ability to teleport), divination (predicting the future and thoughts of others), Vitalum Vitalus (balancing life force), descensum (the ability to move in and out of the afterlife), and pyrokenesis (control of fire).
We step out of the black-and-white instructional video to reveal that Fiona is actually explaining each of these abilities to Queenie. Queenie thinks Fiona only wants to have the girls all try the seven wonders so she can kill them, and is worried about Laveau who has gone missing. Fiona is upset about Queenie’s snarky attitude, strangling her with her own telekinesis. “You will perform the seven wonders, or you will die trying,” she growls.
Elsewhere in the coven, Cordelia (eyes plucked out yet again), approaches Madison, trying to “read” her in order to find Misty. Madison is able to transmutate around the room in order to escape Cordelia’s grasp; the little Hollywood witch is indeed growing more powerful by the minute. Finally Madison permits Cordelia to touch her skin, but Cordelia feels nothing; her sight has not returned.
Intimidated by her encounter with Fiona, Queenie enters the nursery and sees the blood, wondering if it may be Marie’s (it’s not entirely clear, but I believe the blood is actually Cordelia’s, due to her stabbing her eyes out). Seeing the blood, Queenie decides to dig through one of Laveau’s old spell books, filled with images of voodoo hellfire. On her bed she speaks aloud a spell in Latin, and suddenly sees herself floating above her own body. Suddenly she is sent to Hell (whoa!), though in this case that means she is once again working at the old chicken shack from her past. First in line to get chicken is Papa Legba, who informs her that she has been sent to not the Hell, but her own Hell, as each of us has a personal Hell adapted to our own worst moments in life. Queenie tells Legba how she is looking for Laveau, but Legba says that Laveau will not be found in the afterlife, since the voodoo Queen is immortal. Queenie manages to snap out of her chicken shack Hell, finding herself lying yet again on her bed (like Madison, Queenie’s powers are growing). In her room, Legba is there, and so Queenie once again asks what happened to the voodoo queen. As Legba explains we are shown in a flashback sequence, as the black witch is torn to shreds by LaLaurie. Queenie reminds Legba that it will be hard for Laveau to continue making her immortality pact with Legba, now that her body is strewn into fifty pieces scattered about New Orleans…
Meanwhile, at LaLaurie’s (now tourist attraction) home, the tours are being given by the immortal owner herself, sporting a modern new haircut. The visitors are bummed out when LaLaurie downplays her own barbarian tales, saying that they were mostly embellished or made up. In a quick flashback we see how LaLaurie “got the gig” as a tour guide, when she knocked out the other tour guide with the sharp end of a hammer in her old torture attic. Queenie comes to see LaLaurie after the tour, upset and asking the racist women to try and find a way to redeem herself. LaLaurie scoffs, saying that she has learned a lot about the current state of the world by watching the “magic box” (television). We are shown a montage of current events happening today (most noticeable being Paula Dean’s apology for use of the n-word). LaLaurie says she knows that all the apologies are fake, and that the people were only sorry for being caught. When Queenie asks if LaLaurie was moved at all by her “film festival” of the Roots TV series, LaLaurie admits she did cry, but not for the reasons Queenie thought; LaLaurie was crying for the state of the world itself, and how disturbing she finds it that blacks are considered equal to whites. Upset, Queenie stabs LaLaurie and condemns her straight to Hell. This time, either due to Queenie’s growing power or her new familiarity with Legba (or both), it works, and LaLaurie dies.
Back at the coven, Fiona is getting her portrait done by a London painter brought in by Myrtle (she mentions he’s also painted portraits of both Margret Thatcher and Sting). However as she poses, Fiona’s nose suddenly starts to bleed. She sees her reflection in a mirror, and thinks to herself how she probably only has two weeks left to live.
Some time later, Cordelia enters Fiona’s room, furious about having heard how Queenie will be performing the Seven Wonders. Fiona, seeing Cordelia’s eyes (or lack thereof) is upset, saying how one’s powers are always inherent in oneself, and how self-mutilation wouldn’t bring them back. Fioan then surprises Cordelia with a family heirloom…an old necklace. It seems a little out-of-character for Fiona to be so generous; is the dying Supreme finally giving up? Yet as Fiona puts the necklace onto Cordelia, the daughter’s second sight returns. She has a hunting vision of each and every girl brutally killed in the house; it’s a haunting scene as the camera floats across the many staircases, the girls’ horrific screams echoing through the halls. Finally the camera rests on dead Cordelia herself, a gunshot to her head, as Fiona takes back the necklace. Snapping back to the present, Cordelia is able to hide her disturbing vision from her mother, asking only, “Wasn’t there a ring? I feel so selfish asking…”
Soon afterward, Cordelia goes to visit the Axeman. “It’s not safe to love my mother you know,” she warns. “She can’t love anyone but herself.” She tells the Axeman how she knows of Fiona’s plan, but that she will also leave the Axeman behind as well. She found Fiona’s ticket to leave for a flight in two days, but that Fiona failed to get the Axeman a passport (though I wonder how a resurrected jazz musician might get a passport anyway?). The Axeman is crestfallen. “You feel that? That empty, heartbroken feeling? That’s what it feels like to get close to Fiona,” she worms the sax player.
Later on, Cordelia searches some of Misty’s clothing for hints of what happened to the swamp witch, and has a vision of her singing from within a coffin. Cordelia and Queenie both go the graveyard in order to dig Misty back up, using Queenie’s ever-strengthening powers of telekinesis to break open the crypt. Opening up the coffin, however, it appears poor Misty has suffocated; yet Queenie displays yet another power by whispering “Vitalum Vitalis” and bringing the Stevie Nicks lover back from the dead. All right…Misty’s back!
Meanwhile, a bored Madison bothers Myrtle who is busy looking over a deadly nightshade plant. Madison wonders where all the other witches are, and Myrtle says how Cordelia and Queenie have gone to rescue Misty from being buried alive. “Who would have been cruel enough to commit such an atrocity?” asks Myrtle. “I have no idea,” asks Madison, though (ironically) her acting experience does little to hide the quavering in her voice. Just then Zoe and Kyle return to the coven as well. As it turns out their trip to Florida was short-lived, as Zoe understood her true place was at the coven among the witches, having been able to revive a homeless person from death (after Kyle killed him to defend her, of course). Myrtle is upset, but Zoe declares, “I came back because there’s no escaping what I am. I’m clearly the next Supreme.”
Before Madison can disagree, Misty walks in the door, and (in the kick-ass moment we’ve been waiting for all season) shouts at Madison, “I don’t want to waste my magic on you, I can do it with my hands” before beating the living shit out of the starlet brat. Kyle is barely able to break them up, when the AXEMAN suddenly appears, covered in blood, screaming, “You will pay for what you’ve done!” “Boy did you walk into the wrong house,” says Madison, and all the witches throw the murderer backward against the staircase with telekinesis.
Most of the younger witches in the coven have no idea who the Axeman is, but Cordelia explains, and also notes how he’s now on “the mortal coil.” Myrtle notices the blood covering the man and wonders whose it is. Cordelia touches the traces of it on the floor and realizes it belongs to…Fiona. Wait, what?!
In flashback (and a spectacular long take with magnificent camerawork) we see how Fiona returned to the Axeman, who isn’t playing music but is instead drinking nervously. He asks if he can take Fiona catfishing, but she denies him. Looking into her bag he finds the ticket, and Fiona realizes she’s been caught. She says how he’s been a “delightful distraction, a life preserver. But I want to be on dry land soon.” Fiona admits how she knows nothing of love, but that she’ll have thirty years of eternity once all the other witches are dead. He’s upset, and tries to push her onto the bed and kiss her, but she pushes him off. She moves to the kitchen and starts to tell a story: “When I was eight years old, my mother brought me a little calico cat…” WHAM! Never mind! The story is cut off, as the Axeman has just slammed an AXE INTO HER BACK. Is this the end of Fiona?!
It appears so, as Cordelia has read all of this in the blood. “She’s really gone,” she murmurs, “He fed her to the alligators.” Madison thinks they ought to kill him for being a “psycho mass murderer,” but Myrtle reminds them all, “Is there anyone her for whom that could not be said?” Myrtle feels the Axeman has done the coven a service by doing away with Fiona, and “As Cervantes once said, ‘where there is music there can be no evil.'” Kyle (who could barely speak a word for much of this season), delivers one of the best one-liners, grunting, “Cervantes never met this asshole,” and moves in for the kill. However Madison pushes Kyle away, and rips out the Axeman’s guts with his own axe. “We really don’t need a man to protect us,” declares Misty, and she, Queenie, and Zoe teleport knives from the shelf (Jedi-style!), and stab the Axeman over and over, spilling his blood all across the coven floor while Myrtle and Cordelia watch.
Finally, we are greeted to LaLaurie’s personal Hell, as she is locked in her very own torture chamber by her slaves. Surrounding her are LaLaurie’s daughters, each and every one of them mutilated, and presiding over them all is Laveau. Laveau slits LaLaurie’s throat and forces her daughter to drink the blood. The voodoo witch then moves to torture the daughter with a hot poker, while LaLaurie screams in protest. Suddenly Laveau realizes what she’s about to do and stops herself, shouting, “I don’t want to do this, how did I get here?” Legba appears, saying that he owns her soul. “We have a contract!” cries Laveau, but Legba responds, “Which you can no longer fulfill.” And so the two bitter “immortal” rivals must now live out their eternity together in this private Hell. “Eventually everybody pays, everybody suffers,” Legba tells them both, as he hands the poker back to Laveau.
In the final scene, Kyle hangs Fiona’s portrait with the rest of the former Supremes. “How does she look?” asks Cordelia. “Magnificent,” replies Myrtle, “I wish you could see it.” Clutching Fiona’s hand, Cordelia says, “I can see it through you.” “She was a great Supreme,” pipes up Madison, but Cordelia declares that she is wrong, and that Fiona was a horrible Supreme. She shirked off all of her responsibilities, including the most important one: finding the next Supreme. Now the young witches will have to perform the Seven Wonders against each other to reveal the new leader. Who will it be? At this point, they’ve all shown quite a bit of promise. Zoe seems the most obvious choice, but I think that’s too easy. The dark horse would be Cordelia, but time will tell.
As the show comes to a close, it seems pretty clear the big theme this scene was not only motherhood and it’s many shades, but also about prejudices people have against one another; mainly of race, but also classism (as seen with Madison’s disdain of Misty, and even Fiona’s unwillingness to live with the Axeman), which works well with the motif of the witches being persecuted since the early days of Salem. I felt there were a few hiccups in this episode (it seems there must have been more to the story of Zoe and Kyle in Florida that was left on the cutting room floor), but I overall thought it was one hell of a way to start to wrap up the season. Cordelia’s second sight was used as a bit of a convenient plot device, but at least her character was finally proactive in her choices. I also felt that at times it seems like the writers were wavering a bit about certain characters; one episode LaLaurie seemed to learn her lesson, and yet later she’s back to being racist again, for example. It also seems they can’t quite decide about Fiona; one episode it seems she has found true love, but she shrugs it off later. I’ve loved Jessica Lange this season, but I think her character in last year’s “Asylum” was a little better developed.
Even so, “Coven” has turned out to be a blast. Personally, I don’t think Fiona has actually been killed by the Axeman; she’s too smart for that. My best guess is that the necklace she gave her daughter Cordelia somehow plants a “false” second sight, and that the real Fiona is still alive and well, ready to surprise us in the finale. We shall find out soon!
Read the previous recap here!