American Horror Story: Coven Recap: “Go To Hell” and “The Seven Wonders” (Season 3, Episode 12 and 13)

I went to Florida for a wedding, then found myself wrapped up in other media blitzes: the Golden Globes and subsequent Woody Allen scandal (which, sorry, I’m not touching with a 10-foot pole); the Super Bowl and the “controversial” Coke commercial; and finally, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death. In all that cray, I got woefully behind on my American Horror Story recaps. Oh well. There are far more important things.

This series always seems to flounder a bit mid-season, then speed to a feverish velocity of weird before leaping over an abrupt edge in the final episodes. Hell, up until episode 11 the writers were still introducing integral new information. In “Go to Hell,” we finally learn what the Seven Wonders entail. Before the credits roll, the episode dives headfirst into a flickering silent film behind which Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat major plays softly. (This reminded me very strongly of Waltz in A flat major, which, because it featured prominently in Welcome to the Dollhouse, added an extra layer of weirdness for me). ANYWAY. The film depicts Salem-era witches undergoing a theatrical version of the test of the Seven Wonders, thus explaining succinctly to the audience what we’re in for.

"You walked into the wrong house." Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

“You walked into the wrong house.” Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

“Go to Hell” gives Gabourey Sidibe the chance to shine (and yeah, I realize she’s hidden in the above photo – sigh); Queenie defies Fiona and gets a small comeuppance, and in her search for Marie LaVeau she gets to take care of Delphine LaLaurie once and for all. Delphine had apparently murdered the tour guide at her old home and whisked Marie into her attic torture chamber to show her who’s really boss. Delphine underestimates Queenie, of course – black people, man! – and Queenie kills her for good. Honestly, I don’t remember why Queenie was able to kill an immortal; does it matter? Unfortunately, the amazing Sidibe either gave up the ghost as a result of the terrible writing, or she’s just no match for Lange and Bassett’s scenery-chewing. At one point she mutters, “You’re Papa Legba. You live in a chicken shack?” and her deadpan voice and total lack of expression reveal she’s pretty grossed out she has to recite these lines.

After their grinning, romantic escape, Zoe and Kyle show back up at Miss Robichaux’s, obviously. Cordelia divines Misty’s location in the cemetary and recruits Queenie to help retrieve her from the casket. When Misty reappears at school, she starts an impressive straight-up, swamp-trash fistfight. We always knew Misty could take Madison in the witchy sense, but I didn’t expect it to be so thrilling to watch Misty put her boot in Madison’s skinny, sequined-Daisy-Dukes-clad ass. Of course, just as the ladies are attacking one another – as these ladies are prone to do, it seems – a true enemy arrives.

The Axe Man wanders through the door, weapon held high, and newly blind seer Cordelia ascertains that he’s dripping with Fiona’s blood; he’s murdered Fiona and dumped her in the swamp. Misty asserts that she can’t resurrect gator shit. They spew so many bad lines that taking notes was a chore. “We really don’t need a man to protect us,” Madison tells Kyle, and the witches stab the Axe Man to death, penetrating him over and over and over again with their knives. Really, we get it, okay? You’re reversing the roles, you’re returning the Gaze, you’re giving power to the powerless. Bitches unite, etc. etc. It’s been done before, and better.

Why you scheming sonuva... Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

Why you scheming sonuva… Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

In the final minutes of “Go To Hell,” Cordelia decides that with Fiona apparently dead (seriously though, why does anybody believe this?), all the remaining witches will be tested on the Seven Wonders. And that’s right where the finale picks up. Stevie Nicks wanders through Miss Robichaux’s, singing (what else?) “Seven Wonders” as the girls prepare for their test.

To prove they have the power of telekinesis, the witches compel a lit candle across the dining room table. Concilium (mind control) gives them the opportunity to actually slap each other, pull hair, and literally use Kyle to hurt each other.

Sigh.

Descensum. Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

Descensum. Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

Descensum is where things really start to get interesting. In this season of AHS, hell is repetition. It’s a series of inescapable loops, a lack of progress. Queenie’s hell is Chubbie’s Chicken Shack; Zoe’s is Kyle breaking up with her again and again; Madison’s is “a live TV version of The Sound of Music” in which she isn’t even the lead (I see what you did there, writers); Misty’s hell is being forced to repeatedly kill and resurrect a dissection frog in science class. Unfortunately, she can’t pull herself back out of the life-death loop, and thus she turns to dust. Bye-bye, Misty. I had high hopes for you.

The show must go on after Misty dusts, so the girls continue with transmutation. They play a giggly game of tag reminiscent of the Hogwarts courtyard…and it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or gets impaled on the wrought iron fence. Rest in peace, Zoe. (But not really.) EDIT: I forgot to include the fact that Queenie tried and failed to resurrect Zoe; her inability to bring the dead back to life removes her from the running. Since Madison alone remains alive and able to perform vitalum vitalis, she is by default the new Supreme. However, when she chooses not to resurrect Zoe, she makes a grave mistake (so to speak).

Zoe for Hand. Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

Zoe for Hand. Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

Nobody wants another Fiona, and Madison would be a nearly exact replica. Commence scrambling for another viable option: at Myrtle’s urging Cordelia attempts the Seven Wonders. Meanwhile, Madison is quite the sore loser. “I’m going back to Hollywood, where people are normal!” she cries, stomping up the stairs. Her choice not to bring Zoe back sets off an already-unstable zombie boyfriend, and Kyle strangles her before she can leave town. Enter that creepshow Spalding to help dispose of Madison’s body (again). Shudder.

“The mark of a true Supreme is glowing, radiant health,” a voice-over from Langue intones, and Cordelia’s sight miraculously returns. Myrtle sighs, “Behold, the one true Supreme.” I’m unsurprised, but a little disappointed, the stereotypically beautiful, skinny white woman with a powerful mother took up the mantle. I’m pretty sure Murphy sees this twist as an opportunity to reveal true privilege and power dynamics even within a (symbolic) culturally disadvantaged community. To hammer out that point, Cordelia comes out of the witch closet, conducting pleasant interviews with the media, reassuring the weird girls everywhere that they have a place. Her approach is reminiscent of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign. “Call us, email us, or just come to New Orleans. There is a home and a family waiting for you,” she announces with a benevolent smile.

BALENCIAGA! Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

BALENCIAGA! Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

This leaves only a few more loose ends to wrap up. Myrtle requests to be burned at the stake again for the crime of murdering Quentin and Cecily (which I’d forgotten, actually). She goes up in flames screaming “Balenciaga!” at the top of her lungs. How very…drag queen.

Cordelia appoints Zoe and Queenie to be her Council: after all that bitchcraft, here’s that sisterhood thing I mentioned a few weeks ago. Lastly, Delia discovers that Fiona isn’t actually dead (duh). This season has been a pointed, cynical perspective on the battles women fight against one another, and particularly those fought between mothers and daughters. “You took my power the minute I gave birth to you,” Fiona, visibly dying, tells Cordelia. “The minute a woman becomes a mother, she can’t help but see her own mortality in that cherubic little face. The moment I looked at you, I saw my own death. You were a constant reminder of all my worst fears.” What a fucked up way to look at parenting. Leave it to Murphy, an openly gay man, to include a speech about the horrors of motherhood. Fiona asks to be put out of her misery, but Cordelia won’t oblige; Fiona doesn’t get to control her own death, or her own version of repetitive hell.

In the final frames, Cordelia, Zoe, and Queenie stand confident in front of the new crop of witches. I honestly thought Murphy might be playing around in Greek mythology, but aside from Cordelia’s new role as oracle and Supreme, that seems far-fetched. Perhaps even coincidental. I had high hopes for this season. I’m a true sucker for witches and NOLA in the media. The addition of Bates, Bassett, and Sidibe to the cast seemed purely genius, and Stevie Nicks is nothing short of a legend. Sadly, the writers couldn’t make it all pan out. Frankly, I’m pretty sure I liked Asylum better despite (because of?) its complete insanity and incoherence. That doesn’t mean I won’t be tuning in next season, though. I do like to bitch.

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