What the hell, AHS? This witch hunter business is not the direction I wanted this season to go in. I’ve been griping about the lack of depth in the storylines thus far and instead of doubling down and sorting out all the loose ends (Minotaur rape, Fiona’s and Marie’s feud, Hank murdering the red-headed witch), the writers introduce this new factor into the series. This new factor, Hank as the heir to an ancient brotherhood of witch hunters is a strange fit amidst a season with so many lady problems. The introduction of Delphi Trust feels irrelevant and busy – we were better off focusing on the witches – yet might turn out to be the real problem after all. On the other hand, if AHS stays true to their past pacing, this will pass quickly and this witch hunter affair will only serve the purpose of bringing the Voodoo and Witches together against a common enemy: rich, white men.
Opening on a scene in The Chattahoochee National Forrest (shout out to my home state of Georgia), we see a young Hank hunting with his father – witch hunting, that is. When he falters in front of the witch he is meant to shoot, she starts a fire that almost kills him and his father, leaving a scar on his father’s hand. This, coupled with a scene later in the episode of
Hank and his father at the present day mega-corporation, is meant to outline what we know about this brotherhood of witch hunters, the Delphi Trust: they are a sacred order formed before the time of Salem, trained as children to stamp out witches on the North American continent. Oh, and Hank is a major disappointment to his father, and is constantly undermined and belittled by him. Also, the Delphi Trust is a thinly veiled dig at the conservative right and their corporate manifestations, and possibly the male-invoked oppression of women. Pretty clever, right?
We also learn from Hank’s visit to the Delphi Corporation that Fiona is not, in fact, responsible for Delia’s blindness, and Hank is responsible for the shootout at Misty’s swamp shack). Delia’s blindness, however, quickly becomes a moot point because Myrtle fixes her with an involuntary donation made by the council. In a scene of beautifully choreographed revenge, Myrtle poisons the remaining council members, leaving them paralyzed, and plucks out their eyes with a melon baller, so that she may restore Delia’s vision. In what could have quickly turned into an absurdity, Frances Conroy plays Myrtle as a real(ish) person. Camp aside, Myrtle is a character that has a relatable and sympathetic past and despite her farcical looks, and cheesy motherly exchanges with Delia, has become one of my favorite characters.
Myrtle’s presence, however, is bringing out the bitchy in Fiona, and it’s quite frankly on my nerves, but serves to show us the evolution of their unity (I guess), as is Fiona’s visit to Marie. Delia is the de facto leader, and is set on unifying the coven against the dangers of the witch hunters, even tutoring Misty in spells and such. Once Delia can see (which is a total cop out), she loses her second sight and can’t see Hank’s true intentions when he comes to see her, nor can she verify Fiona’s innocence in connection with her blinding. Fiona is also trying her best to present a united front and says as much to Marie when she takes Delphine’s head to her shop. Marie rejects Fiona’s offer to team up and winds up assigning Queenie with the job of burning the head in order to give it a true death. Apparently every other storyline has skidded to a halt in order to make room for the witch hunters.
In a weird strategy that could only be justified in an American Horror Story universe, Queenie saves Delphine from the fire and sets about to educate her by showing her movies like Roots, The Color Purple and Mandingo. This is such a silly justification for their friendship and Delphine quickly turns into a cartoon as she shuts her eyes and hums so she won’t see what’s on the screen. Seriously, AHS? Is this an attempt to deepen the race conversation? It feels like condescension. Delphine is suddenly completely irrelevant and is now officially wasting the talent of Kathy Bates. What’s worse is that she “comes around” at the end while watching news clips from the Civil Rights error set to the tune of an African-American spiritual while Hank mows down Marie’s tribe in her shop downstairs in a brutal and bloody gunfight. This feels so disrespectful and inappropriate that I am squirming while I watch it. Even when Queenie turns a gun on herself and shoots herself in the head to stop Hank, I have a hard time buying in. Although the chances of her returning are pretty high, we are still left wondering if she is alive or not. Hank surely isn’t. Once Queenie performs this act of sacrifice, Delphine comes around upstairs and we see her crying as the carnage unfolds downstairs as well as on the screen. At that same moment, across town, Fiona accepts the escaped Marie into her house.
Meanwhile, Zoe, Madison and Nan visit Luke in the hospital and reach out to his now-resurrected mother Joan (her resurrection goes completely unmentioned). Nan’s clairvoyance leads us to the revelation that Joan killed Luke’s father in a fit of jealously as he was about to divorce her, but moreover, these scenes are meant to show us how cohesive of a unit these three have become. They are even dressing the part. I am intrigued by this storyline and I hope AHS goes all in with Joan’s religious devotion and resurrection.
As the midseason finale, I was hoping that AHS would sew up some lingering plot holes, but instead they created more. I didn’t even get to Fiona “fixing” Kyle and turning him into her body guard. ASH is riding the thin line between awesome and terrible, so I hope the second half of the season slows down and unpacks some of the more controversial and complicated storylines that I am dying to know more about.