Archive for American Horror Story: Coven

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. Read more

American Horror Story: Coven Recap: “Protect the Coven” (Season 3, Episode 11)

With only a few storytelling hours left to go before Coven wraps up, the writers are (as in every season, apparently) throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. Wednesday’s episode brought Queenie and Delphine back into the mix (of course); it also supposedly conquered the “Big Bad” while re-introducing a minor villain. It didn’t bother tackling Misty Day – even Myrtle and Fiona, who were pretty convinced Misty is the new Supreme, didn’t bat an eye toward the fact that she disappeared suddenly, and that known scheming trollop Madison Montgomery was the last person to see her. My notes for this episode are all over the place because the showrunners are cruising us through important scenes so quickly your head’ll spin. Further, I’m pretty sure Murphy is playing around in Greek mythology (see below). Join me for this week’s batshittery!

Kathy Bates as Delphine LaLaurie

Delphine? Shady? NEVER. Photo courtesy Michele K. Short/FX.

In the opening scene, we for some reason enter Delphine LaLaurie’s head; her narration provides the main plot thread through the episode. Aside from giving Bates more screen time (I’m in favor, obviously), there seems to be little reason for this. It’s enough to know she’s an evil, torturing racist. We don’t need the back story. Delphine, the product of “two prominent members of Parisian society,” is forced to move to New Orleans, “this shithole,” in 1830, during the halcyon years of ham-hock sleeves and black people as property. When her daughter, well, chickens out on slaughtering a chicken (sorry), a grouchy Delphine discovers she has a taste for blood. After she chops off the rooster’s head, she fingers the arterial spray lovingly, her eyes going distant. Murphy then cuts straight to an injured slave screaming in the attic, blood spurting from his knee. Delphine obviously knocks him over the head and tortures him brutally, muttering that perhaps she’ll like it here after all.

Back in the present day the witches, dressed in their best black, proceed to one of New Orleans’s gorgeous cemetaries to pay their last respects to Nan, “who fell in the tub,” Fiona says nonchalantly. “Amen,” agrees Marie with a shrug. Myrtle and Cordelia murmur about Misty’s mysterious whereabouts, and Madison assures them transparently that they shouldn’t bother. Meanwhile, Misty’s probably trapped in a tomb a few hundred feet away. The cemetary provides a brilliant backdrop to all this murderous jockeying for first place. I mean, let’s recap for all the witches present in this scene: Fiona slashed Madison’s throat, Misty brought Madison back, Madison “killed” Misty; Marie tried to kill them all, and then Marie helped Fiona kill Nan. Delphine murdered Marie’s lover, and Marie cursed and then cut off Delphine’s head and hand. Queenie put Delphine back together (her talents are indeed getting stronger, as there are no scars), and Delphine wants nothing more than to murder black people. Oh right, and Fiona murdered Myrtle (whom Misty reanimated). Am I missing anyone? Basically, shit is cray, and you all are idiots. Read more

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.” Read more

American Horror Story: Coven Recap: “Head” (Season 3, Episode 9)

Well, we’ve hit that point in the season when the writers start to toss things at the wall willy-nilly. In last year’s Asylum it was in episode nine (“Coat Hanger”) that, as ScreenRant put it, the writers started leaping “from dangling plot thread to dangling plot thread in an attempt to set up all the pieces for the push into the final episodes.”

Myrtle in American Horror Story: Coven

How did your hair grow back after you were burned at the stake and resurrected? “Honey, I’ve been buying in bulk in Korea for years!” Photo copyright 2013, FX Networks.

“Head” opens on an idyllic father-son camping trip in the Chattahoochee National Forest; they share coffee from a thermos as sunlight filters through the dust motes hanging in the air. They speak earnestly of hunting, of a desire “not to miss.” When the time comes, though, little Hank hesitates a bit too long while a jaundiced, pale witch with a halo of red hair begs him to let her live; she almost kills both father and son before Daddy shoots her in the head. Does it strike anybody else odd that witch hunters would be able to just, you know, find a national forest and literally hunt witches like they were game? “Got a nine-pointer, son!”

Kyle Cooper’s Prologue Films created the titles for The Walking Dead, Sleepy Hollow, Prometheus, and a number of others. Before that, Mr. Cooper designed the titles for Se7en, which have stuck with me as a profoundly spooky, entirely unsettling sequence that drops you face first into the deeply dark world of Fincher’s film. A friend pointed out that perhaps the “scariest” part of American Horror Story is the opening credits. The show isn’t about terror, jump moments, or psychological thrills. It’s about making you feel as bloody uncomfortable as possible. The credits succeed at that – slivers of imagery, jerky movement, artfully timed shots so that just when you’ve got your head around a severed goat’s head or an insectile, humanoid creature in the trees, it flips to the next spooky-ass thing. Beneath the images a ghastly series of sounds plays, subwoofers prodding at your eardrums as dripping water synthesizes a rhythm and a guitar squeals discordantly. The effect is chilling and discomfiting, and you can’t look away. The credit sequence is near-perfect (but the rest of the show certainly isn’t). Read more

American Horror Story: Coven Recap: “The Sacred Taking” (Season 3, Episode 8)

I adore horror for its silliness, its ability to play in and thwart social mores, its ability to push the limits, to make us feel. So obviously I’ve been watching American Horror Story since the beginning. The first season focused on a haunted house that contained a family full of terrible people, and it dabbled in particularly grotesque sexual horror. The second season, Asylum, was…well (she says, frowning and sipping her coffee because she actually can’t think of a word), completely screwy. There were Nazis, mental patients, lesbians, aliens, important interracial relationships, oppression, hilariously reductive political and social commentary, demons, angels of death…oh right, and a pinhead. And a musical interlude:

Season three is, at the very least, more cohesive. I’ve always been a sucker for movies and TV set in New Orleans, and I love me some witches. So far this season, we’ve had possible vagina dentata, a Frankenstein’s monster boyfriend, multiple instances of necrophilia (one a Ménage à trois and maybe questionable, since the dead aren’t really dead?), incest, an axe murderer ghost dude, a woman who literally rips apart black people because they’re black, multiple witch-burnings, and an acid mutilation. And yet, it almost feels tame in comparison to last season.

Gabourey Sidibe

You ever seen voodoo, bitch?

In the opening of last night’s episode, “The Sacred Taking,” Queenie (the wonderful Gabby Sidibe) wanders through some hellhole under the highway where trolls should dwell, where homeless sleep and rats squeal. Some dude threatens to carve her up into big thick slices and pound what’s left, so she takes him out with a rusty nail stuck in a board.

Zoe (Taissa Farmiga, a returning cast member from season one) and undead movie star Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) followed Queenie. Ostensibly they’re here to beg her back to the coven after she left in favor of Marie LaVeau (Angela Bassett), who assured Queenie those white bitches aren’t your friends. When Zoe indicates she (Zoe) might be the next Supreme, Queenie retorts, “War is coming, and you’re gonna lose.” Throughout this interaction, Queenie is ripping the man’s beating heart from his chest – apparently he is a rapist, though how she knows this is anyone’s guess – and grasping it in her hand, its gentle pumps squishing between her fingers. And here we are at the credits. How do you know it’s American Horror Story? It makes you feel creepy crawly in the first two minutes. Read more