AHS is kind of like a freakshow: amazing sights hidden behind every corner and filled with taboos just waiting to be broken. This week we can cross another couple off the list, including incest, exploding semen and a whiff of bestiality.
Let’s bitch it out…Alright, I’m in.
The first two episodes of American Horror Story: Coven didn’t exactly reel me in. I came for the amazing roster of talent in the third season, but felt lukewarm towards this new coven (shallow characters, predictable, disjointed, approaching boring in some cases). With ‘The Replacements’, however, that’s all changed.
Holy cow, Fiona (Jessica Lange) just killed Madison (Emma Roberts)! Where the hell did that come from?!
Alright, yes, I know where it came from. It came from the current Supreme’s complete and total fear of being put out to pasture, of growing old and dying as her energy seeps into someone else (particularly someone like Madison…of all the young witches it turns out to be!) And it’s not like Fiona doesn’t have a history of striking when someone has something she wants, as we see in the open when poor Ana Lee (Christine Ebersole) underestimates just how dangerous Fiona is when challenged/denied/awake.
There’s still a huge WTF component that’s making the show feel like it’s telling about eighteen stories that may or may not intersect, but the stakes are becoming more clear and several of the characters are coming into focus. It’s not perfect (it simply wouldn’t be AHS if there wasn’t one storyline you wanted to shove off a balcony and burn with fire), but I’m far more invested in seeing where this all goes now.
So why is that final scene so effective? There’s just a ton of things working in this scene: Fiona’s predatory movements around Madison; the staging during their struggle that makes it uncertain whether Fiona actually wants Madison to kill her; the stunned moment that follows when the “gash” appears on Madison’s neck and finally, Fiona’s regal pose on her throne in front of the splayed body of the younger model she’s bested (offering a nice counterpoint to Angela Bassett’s more swaggerific pose on her throne from earlier). The fact that this is the second time we’ve seen this turn of events in a single episode cements Fiona’s character and issues a warning to everyone: you don’t f*ck with Fiona. And if she’s interested in you, you might want to get sized for a body bag.
I’ll admit that one of my initial concerns about the show was the Supreme’s obsession with youth; it felt like a shallow observation on the part of the writers, a tired cliche that I dreaded because of the overwhelmingly female cast (I imagined someone saying “look at all of the powerful women – let’s have them catfight!”) Instead it’s turning out to be another powerhouse performance by Lange as a woman who’s so afraid of death and aging that she will do anything to extend her life. This recent turn opens up a number of narrative doors, so I’ll be interested to see how Fiona deals with the fall-out.
With the death of Madison, there’s also an opportunity to bring together some of the more disparate storylines. Thus far the young students of Miss Robichaux’s Academy have had their own slate of stories and the adults have wandered in and out. The murder of one of their own is sure to bring back Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) into the fold, which is great since both of them are stuck in the wastelands of less interesting narratives.
Cordelia’s at least seems to be building to something. The way that the scenes of mother and daughter visiting their respective doctors is edited suggests not only bad news for both, but possibly that their health concerns are connected. Is Fiona’s failing health responsible for her daughter’s inability to conceive? At this point that’s simply a hypothetical, but what we do know for certain is that there will be hell to pay for Fiona’s damaging encounter with Marie Laveaux (Angela Bassett) now that it means Laveaux won’t help Cordelia with that super icky pregnancy spell.
Unfortunately at this point no amount of spell casting can save the Frankenstein storyline with Zoe and the recently reanimated Kyle (Evan Peter). Surprising absolutely no one, the confused former frat boy kills his mom (after two incestuous encounters). How much more interesting would it have been if, instead of going for the shock/ick factor of a dirty familial relationship, his mom (Mare Winningham) had just been a nice woman that he killed? We’ll never know because, as always, AHS went for the sensational angle. The problem is that it was so clearly telegraphed – it’s completely obvious that mom is a goner the moment Zoe drops Kyle off at home, plus it drags on and on. Maybe we’ll all get lucky and Kyle will kill Zoe next and retire to the woods to make a life with Misty Day (Lily Rabe)?
- Wanna bet Fiona totally cut out Spalding’s (Denis O’Hare) tongue to keep him silent about the murder of Ana Lee back in 1971? It almost seems like they share a moment after she kills Madison, no?
- Watching Nan (Jaime Brewer) cozy up to hunky neighbour, Luke (Alexander Dreymon) with his favourite cake helps me to realize that Nan is absolutely my favourite character this season. Now if only the writers would give her her own storyline instead of just using her comic delivery every once in a while
- Luke’s mother Joan (Patti LuPone) should prove an interesting foil to the coven. The scene she goes head to head with Fiona feels like the two sides of Constance (Lange’s S1 AHS character) having a smackdown: crazy religious meet bitchy provocateur. Sparks will fly between these two
- So glad that even though Laveaux denies Cordelia her fertility spell we still get to see the whole thing <sarcasm>. It sure would have been a shame to miss the sight of a jar of semen erupting in a fire and seeing goat’s blood spray across a woman’s vajayjay
- Lots of unanswered questions, the least of which is whether Queenie (Gabourey Sibide) is dead at the hands of the Minotaur? Or did he cover her face just to shut her up from her babbling about Dr. Phil, loving yourself and being beasts?
- Side Note: Interesting to see another example of masturbation on TV after the weird hoopla over self-pleasuring on The CW’s Reign earlier this week. Good timing, AHS!
- Finally, what do we think about Kathy Bates’ Madame LaLaurie? So far I’m underwhelmed at how understated she is. Aside from hissing at Queenie (and crying hilariously about President Obama), she hasn’t really done much. I will say that I do love the “fish out of water” visualization – courtesy of a fishbowl lens – as LaLaurie adjusts to her new role as a servant to a gaggle of modern day girls. American Horror Story remains one of the most well-shot series on TV right now
- Ana Lee (when Fiona lists the way Ana Lee’s fading): “You vicious little gash” Women have the most terrible insults for each other!
- Queenie (eyeing Luke’s shirtless body): “Like butter on a stick”
- Madison (when Nan asks what she expects to get in that dress): “Laid”
- Fiona (lamenting her upcoming death): “I’ve lived a disreputable life but I’ve done it in style”
- Fiona (after killing Madison): “This coven doesn’t need a new Supreme; it needs a new rug.” Zing!
What about you: did ‘The Replacements’ make a believer of you, as well? Were you shocked that Madison bought it so early? Who’s stuck in the worst storyline: Cordelia or Zoe? Is Queenie dead? And what does Nan do while the rest of them traipse around the place? Offer up your two cents below
American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on FX