So here we are… one episode away from the season finale of American Horror Story: Coven, and I have to keep reminding myself that these characters are finite – their days are numbered. Other shows make the promise of a continued life for their characters, but not AHS; this show promises a lot of grisly deaths and horrible endings, and they are certainly getting right to it. I haven’t written about the show since it’s been back from break, and there is so much to say I hardly know where to begin. This show has always ridden the line between extreme camp and captivating horror, and the last three episodes have wobbled more than the first half of the season trying, to find the right note on which to end. The show has made its way out of the murky waters of subtext and implication and now are just coming right out with it – whatever “it” is.
I’ve missed a lot in the three weeks I haven’t written– most remarkably (but not really all that important) the appearance of the interminably
beautiful Stevie Nicks in the first episode after the break, aptly named The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks. This is the ep in which Fiona and Marie declare themselves equals in a truce that was so lazily constructed I felt cheated out of an epic catfight between the two powerhouses. We also saw the cliques form along generational lines and take down the Delphi Corporation – which I found a little boring. Who cares about the one percent when you have Papa Legba to contend with? He is the most intriguing male character to come along all season, and I love that AHS stays true to the local lore and legends. Papa Legba owns Marie Leveau’s soul and is paid every year in new born babies, and God knows
what else. He is also important to this episode because he is the vehicle which delivers the big news that Fiona doesn’t have a soul, (DUH!) but exactly what this means remains to be seen – hopefully the finale will sow this thread to my satisfaction, but AHS is not adept at resolution (y’all remember the Minotaur rape?). Nan dies in this episode, as well, but I’m using the term pretty loosely – nobody really leaves forever. There is so much backbiting among these snarky, sneaking women, (cut to Madison hitting Misty with a brick and burying her alive) that I find Myrtle the most refreshing. I wish SHE could be the next Supreme. I trust her the most, anyway. She delivers the anthem for this episode when she tells Madison, “Don’t be a hater, dear.” Ironically, this is the most meaningful line of the episode.
Last week’s episode, Protect the Coven is the most campy and sigh-worthy so far. This episode made me roll my eyes on several occasions, and I found myself constantly thinking, “Come on, AHS, do better than this.” For one, I feel like they are treating the race issues with such a heavy-handed ham-fist, that it was almost clichéd. The nuanced implications of the Voodoo/Witch war set a tone that this episode didn’t uphold, and it became a running joke throughout. From Queenie showing up to Nan’s funeral with Delphine on a leash, to Delphine using Madison’s “leftovers” to make soup – Octavia Spencer-style, it just seemed so overt and blatant, and felt too indolent to be the AHS I’ve come to know all season. What is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, like Marie calling Delphi CEO, “white devil” is limp and overdone and doesn’t feel modern or sexy enough to fit in with this season. This ep did dial up the gruesome as we got a look into Delphine’s “restless mind” (as she called it). We saw the twisted motivations behind the atrocities she inflicted on her slaves from 1830, but we also saw the intestines of the gardener in 2014 as she tries to satisfy the restlessness forming from being the coven’s maid. She forms a weird alliance with Spalding the butler, yet he gets the last laugh (and we did too) when he traded her a magic pill to kill Marie for a baby doll – the pill was only Benadryl, which is NOT a cure for immortality, it turns out. Speaking of super gross stuff, Delia stabs her eyes out with gardening shears in an attempt to get her second sight. I hate to side with meany-mom Fiona, but she is kind of useless since she got her eyesight back, so she needs to up her game.
This brings us to this week with, Go to Hell. This week does better in terms of the tempeed ridiculousness, and it builds pretty successfully towards the end of the Coven universe. Stylistically, this episode reminds me of the earlier ones this season, offering an artistic edge to the campy silliness – so much so that you almost don’t recognize how campy it is (which is how I like my silliness – disguised as art). It begins with a crash course on the seven wonders a Supreme witch must perform, delivered via silent, black-and-white instructional video akin to the movies shown in elementary school when you had to change the reels on the projector. Queenie dominates most of this episode as she travels to her own version of hell (Chubbie’s Chicken, of course) and encounters Papa Legba (have I mentioned how much I love this character – can he be the star of season four, please?) She devises a plan to send both Marie and Delphine to hell in one double cross. They must share a hell in which Dephine has to suffer torture at Marie’s hands and watch as Marie tortures her daughters. So much for redemption, huh? The pace is quickening and it is evident we are building toward the end. The Axeman dispenses of Fiona pretty unceremoniously when he learns of her double cross, and when the coven learns of his offense, they team up to kill him. What I don’t get, however, is why they are mad at him? Didn’t he do them a favor? It makes no sense when Misty tells him, “We don’t need a man to protect us,” since apparently they do. He was the only one to do the thing they have been trying to do all season (which I could write another thousand words about how this is a double cross to the feminist reading I’ve been doing from the start. But I’ll spare you the rant). Why didn’t one of them just chop her up with an axe like he did? I am disappointed that Fiona went out with such a whimper; they cheated her (and Marie, if you ask me) out of an exit fitting a Supreme.
Next week will see the trials of the seven wonders that will pit the witches against each other. This is AHS’ last chance to get it right. There is a lot riding on this episode, as this is the moment in which all the issues raised about gender politics and racial modernity must be resolved, just as much as the story must end on the right note. I will definitely be writing about this episode, so I am looking forward to hearing what you think between now and then. Tweet me and let’s talk…. @sroseholt.