American Horror Story: Coven Recap: “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks” (Season 3, Episode 10)

Ryan Murphy, that scamp, amped us up for Stevie Nicks’ appearance on American Horror Story: Coven before leaving us hanging over the the holidays. I know your holidays consisted of Cards Against Humanity with Mom and Dad and lively discussion of the Coven’s rising Supreme. (Fact: Mine only contained one of those things, and I’ll let you guess which.)

In Wednesday’s mid-season “premiere,” Murphy delivered on Nicks, prepped us for the finale by “killing off” a few of the coven’s members, and united our warring factions of witches. The episode was one of the most coherent, least insane this season – and on the whole this season has been pretty tame compared to last. Murphy and the writers are zoned in on the goal, and they’re not slowing down for anything. (They are, however, still popping in random new info and plotlines for funsies. It wouldn’t be AHS without that.)

Marie LaVeau

Do not fuck with Marie LaVeau. Photo courtesy Frank Ockenfels/FX.

After Hank gunned down all of the voodoo witches (including Queenie, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her), Marie found herself on Fiona’s doorstep. As she sips a cup of tea heavily laced with Fiona’s whiskey, she admits she’s ashamed, but not about her coven’s violent deaths: “I’m over 300 years old…I taught myself long ago not to waste tears for the dead.” No, she’s ashamed she didn’t recognize their common enemy or respond to Fiona’s pleas for a truce. The writers had rollicking fun pitting the witches against one another, but as Marie tells Fiona with thinly veiled contempt, “It’s a relief to have found an equal, even if that person come in the guise of an enemy.” After Marie beds down for the night, the voodoo loa Papa Legba pays her a visit, warning her she must pay her debt. “The bargain was made long ago,” he intones. Marie climbs out of bed, grousing about how it’s been a long day, and pays a visit to a hospital nursery to steal a brown baby. In her wake she leaves an enchanted nurse and two dead officers.

In the bright morning light, Marie explains to Fiona and Cordelia the deal between her and Hank. Fiona rejects not Marie, but her daughter, sneering that she was not only blind, but willfully blind to marry a witch-hunter. Fiona knows about the “ancient order of men” who kill witches, “black or white.” The enemy is always men, always the patriarchy, in this show. It’d be perfect (and hell, let’s be honest, it’s often true – and particularly in the case of historical witchcraft) if the dialogue weren’t quite so transparent. Which begs the question: why couldn’t Fiona see through Hank? Is it, perhaps, because she’s a pretty lousy Supreme?

Lily Rabe as Misty Day with Stevie Nicks as herself.

Witches, all of them witches. Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

After she lights a cigarette to calm her nerves, Fiona visits Misty, who’s in a pretty new black dress, twirling in a shawl a la her songstress idol. She’s anxious to show Fiona she’s not stupid, she can’t be easily fooled – or killed. Tricksy Fiona tells her that the title of Supreme is “a skeleton key to anything you wish for in the world.” She then introduces Misty to an old friend. “She’s a white witch, and try as I may, I cannot get her to play in the shadows with me.” Of course, Nicks herself appears, looking every bit the older version of Lily Rabe. Misty faints dead away. “You owe me five bucks!” Fiona cries, kissing Stevie on the cheek. “I told you she was gonna do that.”

On the way back to school, Nan, Zoe, and Madison debate “hitting the morgue” to reanimate Queenie. “NO,” Zoe and Nan say with finality. No more reanimation. (Well, at least not in this episode.) As Ms. Nicks croons the 1981 Fleetwood Mac hit “Rhiannon” (“a little song about an old Welsh witch”), Fiona lies weakly in her chair and the girls stare, unsure of what to do with Stevie’s singing. Misty is completely overwhelmed, dancing and twirling, staring rapt with wet eyes. Stevie gifts Misty with a shawl that has “danced its way across stages around the world, shows her how to twirl correctly, and wishes her luck with the Seven Wonders. Fiona, it appears, is officially convinced Misty’s the true up-and-comer.

Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” Live

Upstairs, Nan dreamily says maybe she could be the new Supreme. Yeah, right, says Madison, “Mumbles the Clown.” This kind of slur on Down’s is not usually Murphy’s style, so of course Nan gets the last word: “Put out that cigarette.” Madison automatically tamps out her smoke. “Now stick it in your vagina.” She starts to do exactly that before Zoe cries, “Stop it, skanks!” The fact is, Nan’s powers are growing; she can now control minds. Madison no longer has a heart murmur since her reanimation. Although I was pretty sure (alongside Myrtle and Fiona) that Misty was the new Supreme when I heard Stevie Nicks was going to appear on the show, they’re still holding out on “who the next goddamn Supreme is.” Well played, writers. But the delayed amplification of powers feels, oh, a tad contrived. A bit “let’s punch ‘em in the face in the penultimate round.”

After some thorough internet research (which, as Fiona pointed out, really should have been done years ago), Cordelia uncovers Hank’s true identity. His father is Harrison Renard (the French word for Fox), CEO of the Delphi Trust. Fiona and Marie join forces to attack the multi-billion-dollar firm, and when Cordelia tries to help them Fiona tells her she’s worthless, hopeless. The voodoo witch and the Supreme call Hecate, place a mouse in a maze, cast a spell to call down all the forces of the federal government on the corrupt Trust.

Jessica Lange is the Supreme

Supreme descending. Photo courtesy Frank Ockenfels/FX.

Fiona and Marie, whose similarities are apparently myriad, discuss love. Marie had been in love once before – a love that Delphine LaLaurie murdered brutally. Apparently Fiona has “found passion” in the Axe Man. (I still don’t understand that part.) Fiona probes gently but eagerly to find out how Marie (and Delphine) can be immortal. Marie gave LaLaurie (“that despicable torturing racist”) the secret to eternal life, and why wouldn’t she give it to Fiona? Evidently it’s out of Marie’s hands; she can’t help Fiona live forever, but perhaps Papa Legba can. She reveals (of course) that she sold her soul. He comes once a year, asking for a new and more terrible deed; the first was Marie’s own newborn child, and we already know this year’s due. Fiona dons a Cheshire grin at the idea of calling the loa herself. Anything for eternal life. Why, after spending a whole season trying to murder these damned white folk, is Marie suddenly so anxious to befriend them? Is it pure selfishness? These flashbacks indicate she was once more human, more vulnerable, than Fiona has ever been, so that makes not much sense. Is it just bad writing? Probably.

When in New Orleans, you simply must depict a funeral procession; traditional New Orleanians do it like no one else. A horse-drawn hearse rambles at the front, pulled by gorgeous black stallions wearing elaborate feather plumes. Behind them follows a train of marching mourners, moving in steady unison as a jazz band plays a slow dirge. Though the sun shines, many of them carry black umbrellas. At the end of the procession sidle Misty and Madison, chomping on fried shrimp on a stick (at least I think that’s what it is). Always tasteful, these witches. Madison is rightfully cynical, Misty rightly naive (it’s what would make her a good Supreme). “Everything’s transactional,” Madison says – and she should know, since in her previous life she was a movie star. Misty proclaims sullenly that she’s “not so easily bought, not so easily fooled,” and then gets in one last remark: “Thanks for the lunch.” Rabe is amazing this season; Misty is the perfect mix of powerful, vengeful, kind, and naive. She seems incapable of true bitchcraft.

At the cemetary, Misty freezes the gravediggers (although they’re preparing to load the dead man into an above-ground vault, as is traditional in NOLA, so I’m not sure that’s their title) while Madison flips open the coffin and awakens him. Her powers are also growing, and apparently Misty isn’t the only one who can bring the dead back to life. “Lose the shawl,” Madison pleads. Telling her to stop being Stevie and just be Misty. Meanwhile, the corpse stumbles around, staring blankly at the graves. Madison yanks away Stevie’s shawl, knocks Misty over the head with a brick, pushes her into the open casket, and twirls away.

Nan and Zoe try to visit Luke at the hospital and discover he’s dead. Completely crushed, Nan insists they visit Joan to find out where he is. After vehemently protesting against bringing Queenie back, Nan’s desperation for kindness will lead her to do evil deeds. When she learns that in fact, Joanie killed him with a pillow in the last episode and then cremated him (negating the possibility of reanimation), she completely loses it. Nan forces joan to her knees, throws Zoe across the room, and makes Joan drink bleach. Luckily, we don’t see much of the results.

Frances Conroy is Myrtle

Don’t be a hater. Photo courtesy Michael Becker/FX.

In Cordelia’s greenhouse, Myrtle plays the theremin (“listen to the celestial tones!”) and when Cordelia tells her to stop, scolds, “don’t be a hater, dear.” Cordelia asks for advice; if she can no longer offer anything to the Coven, who is she? Myrtle advises drily that she could market her salad dressing, “Cordelia’s Conjured Coriander Condiment,” or perhaps get a nice job on a cruise ship. Myrtle goes on playing as Cordelia smashes all her jars and screams about being a failure.

At the Delphi Trust, Harrison and his assistant decide to finally deal with the witches. This episode isn’t a stunner in terms of cinematography – too much story to tell – but the headquarters of the “evil order of men” is shot from below, focused on an ornate, darkly stained wood ceiling. The witch-hunters/bankers do business in an appropriately creepy space, a dark chapel. It’s very Devil’s Advocate. Harrison, canvassing for solutions, amusingly asks his assistant to call Ben Bernanke. Delphi used to have friends in really high places, but no longer.

Papa Legba, apparently a fan of cocaine, comes to visit Fiona after she lines some blow up on a mirror. “I don’t want to die,” she implores. Shadows dance on the walls behind them as they discuss Fiona’s fate. He gives her some details of the bargain: “Cripple your daughter. Murder an innocent, someone you love.” Fiona agrees. He leans in to kiss her, giving us just enough time to wonder how Fiona’s immortality will affect the rising Supreme. Then he leans back, tilts his head, and proclaims, “You have nothing to sell. You have no soul.” So obviously Fiona does the lines and tells the Axe Man nobody will be the next Supreme because she’s just gonna kill ‘em all.

Jamie Brewer as Nan

RIP Nan. You would’ve made a nice Supreme, indeed. Photo courtesy Frank Ockenfels/FX.

After killing Joan, Nan tells Zoe she wants to be a “nice Supreme.” She discovers Marie’s kidnapped sacrifice in an enchanted closet, and tries to take the baby back. Fiona and Marie, soulless devils that they are, retrieve the baby for their evil deed. “Eat my shit. I’m the next Supreme. You have blood on your hands. The both of you,” Nan tells them. That much is certainly true. Unfortunately, Nan underestimates her enemies (hormones and growing powers’ll do that to you).

With no ceremony whatsoever Fiona and Marie drown Nan in the bathtub, hoping perhaps they can fulfill Papa Legba’s requirement with this particular innocent. “She killed the neighbor but the bitch had it comin’,” Fiona tells him defiantly, prompting one of those uncomfortable giggles from me. Papa takes Nan with him. “Do I have to wear that outfit for the rest of eternity?” she asks (this show is, after all, populated by drag queens), and he assures her that the other side holds much in store. So, basically, instead of uniting against the patriarchal male, Fiona and Marie are killing and alienating their own? That’s totally sensible. Idiots. I have a feeling Murphy’s gunning for a message about sisterhood up in here.

In the final scene, Stevie serenades Fiona with “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For you?” Fiona, crumpled in her chair, weak and tired, cries bitter tears. No soul, indeed.

Lily Rabe is Misty Day.

The dawn of a Misty Day. (Sorry. Couldn’t help it.) Photo courtesy Frank Ockenfels/FX.

Well. I thought for sure Misty was first in line for Supreme. But now everybody’s powers are amping up, Fiona officially has no soul, Misty’s in a vault (though not dead), Queenie’s whereabouts are unknown, and Nan has escaped to the other side with Papa Legba. Marie and Fiona have formed an alliance, Cordelia is impotent and going crazy, and the witch hunters are about to retaliate. Three episodes remain, and the writers have pulled out all the stops. No time for nonsense; too busy building to the climax. It better be good. Despite all the murder, rape, and torture this season, it’s been pretty tame in comparison to Asylum. Every episode might bring in some shiny new plot thread or kill off somebody you thought you liked, but at least it’s relatively on track.

Given this episode, who’s your guess for next Supreme? My money’s still on Misty. When/how do you think Queenie will reappear?

6 comments

  1. Ashley says:

    These are basically all my mumblings, theories & brainstorms to my fiance, so they may all be out of order.

    SUPREMES:
    1. THANK YOU for pointing out Misty is NOT dead. I’ve seen so many comments calling her so. Knocked out, buried alive, no proof of death. She’s still the one I WANT to be Supreme, but I also want to be Misty Day. And bought the shawl to prove it.

    2. Madison. I could almost see Murphy making her Supreme, because she’d be lousy. She’d be the next incarnation of Fiona, and would be a poignant way to make a case for the “race” dying off because they’re killing themselves off.

    3. Cordelia. Now that Nan is no longer really an option, there’s a niggling feeling that it may be Cordelia. Because she’s so broken, because of her relationship with her mother, because she’s always held back so much of her powers.

    4. Zoe. Not buying it AT ALL.

    5. Wild card – maybe Murphy won’t give us a Supreme. I can’t find the article, but Murphy hinted that in the season finale that people would die and not be able to resurrect themselves. So… that would be a total buzzkill, but I almost wonder if he’s not so attached he can’t pick. Or doesn’t want to.

    THE SHOW:
    Last night’s episode while, as you say, “was one of the most coherent, least insane this season” reminded me how much hope I had for this season and how tremendously let down I’ve been. Character development has been uneven and unexpected at best. (Madison can raise the dead? Misty can stop time? Nan can control people with her mind? Why couldn’t we have had smaller glimpses of this tremendous growth in all of them throughout the season?)

    Papa Legba: Originally we hadn’t heard of him, and thought it may be an alternative name for Baron Samedi based on the way he was dressed. Historically though, he’s an old man with a straw hat and pipe. He’s also, comparably, a crossroads demon. Given all the work the did for accuracy in Loa and Vodou history, this was kind of disappointing. It also missed an AMAZING opportunity to link into the opening credits with the elderly man with the creepy eyes. (Esp. other historical details, such as free black women wearing a scarf and what it meant in society.)

    Overall, I just feel a bit let down. The actors and casting is incredible this season. There’s so much potential. By this point in the other two seasons I was hooked & sold (on all but the aliens). This season… I’m hooked, but not yet sold on the wholeness of it.

    • julia says:

      Hah, I just edited to include a few more opinions, many of which are parallel to yours. I don’t know much about the history of NOLA or voodoo, and didn’t have time to extensively research Papa Legba, but the Wikipedia article did not indicate a figure anything like what was depicted. Apparently Murphy’s Legba is partial to coke? The one in the Wikipedia article is apparently often depicted as virile and phallic, but there was no overt sexuality to the Legba in the series. But like I said, I’m no expert so I didn’t say much about it.

      I totally think it’s still Misty – but I also think Madison’s a contender simply because, as you say, she would be the next Fiona. I could mayyybe see Cordelia, but I think instead it’ll be Cordelia who murders Fiona in the end.

      I also added the same question you ask: why the eff didn’t the writers depict any of the power amplification before now? Poor writing, I think. Deliberately throwing us off the trail, but transparently so, in much the same way the show’s version of feminism is so blunt and off-putting.

      I’m hoping this season was a kind of experiment. It’s completely different in tone from the last few, and I actually rather liked the COMPLETE batshittery of Asylum. Comparatively, Coven is trying really hard to be cohesive and coherent, and still failing because it keeps sticking in new threads and refusing to actually kill anybody. I’ma keep watching, because AHS is a little like a trainwreck, and the cast IS truly great. But I’m hoping next season is a return to Asylum’s…well, insanity.

      It’s hard for me to center on an episode, try to jot down all its various plot twists and awesome/terrible lines, and still be able to step back and formulate coherent opinions in time to post them on a good timeline. I’m hoping to write a big, overarching article about it at the end of the season that goes into more depth with the problems I have.

      • Ashley says:

        It’s funny, I think back on the other seasons and think:
        Murder House was solid. It was simple, yes. Perhaps at times cliche. The acting was good, and it introduced a beautiful idea of the “American Horror Story” – American horror stories that we grew up with alongside American horror based in our cultural, religious, social, and racial values. It set the tone well.

        Asylum took a period in time with that same core, and stretched it beautifully, and in new and terrifying ways. If the season had excluded the aliens bit, it would have been amazing. Even with, it was really strong, emotional, terrifying, and visceral.

        Coven? I haven’t figured out the end game. For witches, I just wish it’d compel me a bit more.

        An aside: Frankly, I hope Cordelia kills Fiona. But I guess that’s why I keep thinking she will be Supreme. Because it’s a season about mothers & daughters, and what bigger sacrifice is there than a daughter killing her mother for the greater good? Some comment on a site mentioned they wondered if Cordelia won’t end up pregnant, and her child the Supreme… interesting, but I think that’s a whole new generation + another Supreme.

        • Ashley says:

          I wish I could edit to say:
          “An aside: Frankly, I hope Cordelia kills Fiona. But I guess that’s why I keep thinking she will be Supreme. She’s unexpected. She’s at the bottle of her barrel. She’s unhinged, lost everything, and lost belief in herself. It’s the phoenix rising from the ashes. Because it’s a season about mothers & daughters, and what bigger sacrifice is there than a daughter killing her mother for the greater good? “

  2. Matthew Bamberg-Johnson says:

    My money is actually on Zoe. She’s the sleeper hit, and my only real reasoning is as follows:

    Season 1

    She did the “kill em all” thing to the zombies. I think that’s a pretty compelling power, and one that we really haven’t had a chance to see in it’s amped up form. I predict it coming back if the witch hunters attack.

    • julia says:

      Huh! You’re right. Murphy could, I suppose, be distracting us deliberately from Zoe in order to bring her in in the finale. She and Cordelia have both been holding back on their talents; perhaps that’s why Zoe didn’t override Nan when Nan threw her this episode? Hmm. The talent for “killing” the undead would certainly come in handy, since half this season’s cast is already undead. Also curious how Kyle factors into all this. At least the writers are keeping us on our toes.

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