The fifth episode of American Horror Story: Coven has two purposes: 1) wrap-up the cliffhanger ending from last week‘s zombie invasion and 2) secure Fiona’s (Jessica Lange) power base in the coven. Both are accomplished quite handily…with one minor complication.
Let’s bitch it out…If AHS were trying to give The Walking Dead a run for its money, it could do far worse than ‘Burn, Witch. Burn!’ which manages to deliver a fairly solid zombie scare. After being trapped in the house by Marie Laveau’s (Angela Bassett) horde, the girls are forced to fight back to ensure their survival, although if we’re being honest, it’s a pretty pathetic effort. It’s clear very early on that these girls are not the fighters that Fiona probably wants them to be. Nan (Jaime Brewer) has courage when it comes to protecting hunky neighbour Luke (Alexander Dreymon), but in a fight she’s not very helpful. Queenie (Gabourey Sibide) would be pretty effective if their attackers weren’t already dead, and Spalding (Denis O’Hare) is clearly just the butler.
That leaves Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga). Frankly, with these two as the designated fighters, I’m surprised that Madame Robichaux’s didn’t burn to the ground. If only LaLaurie would stop opening freakin’ doors to let her demon daughters roam the corridors! When push comes to shove (choke?) LaLaurie steps up to save her charge and skewers her eldest daughter with a firepoker through the heart before Queenie is killed. It’s not exactly worst than anything we saw LaLaurie inflict on her daughters in the cold open, though, so yay motherhood?
Zoe, on the other hand, earns her stripes by channeling her inner Ash, gravitating to a chainsaw as her weapon of choice. In a sequence equals parts Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2 and Peter Jackson’s Braindead, Zoe effectively takes out the entire army. It’s only when her weapon of mass destruction fails her at a crucial moment that we discover what Zoe’s made of. According to Laveau, that something is power: a simple incantation and Zoe knocks the voodoo priestess out of orbit and onto her ass. So does this mean Zoe is the new Supreme? <le sigh>
While the attack on the Academy is occurring, Fiona is roaming the hallways of the hospital which is either experiencing constant power surges or she needs to take fewer pills. After Cordelia’s (Sarah Paulson) attack in the restaurant bathroom last week, Fiona is more than a little dismayed to learn her daughter is blind (like, disgustingly blind. That sulfuric acid messed her up!). In a recurring theme that proves less than subtle, Fiona visits a random mother of a stillborn child, stuffs the dead infant into her mother’s arms and makes her promise to care for it. Then with a quick swipe, she reanimates the infant – demonstrating that she can do great things for other people‘s children, but not her own (LaLaurie also realizes her failure as a mother, but Fiona’s not into bonding and continues bossing her around).
The stillborn scene is easily the weakest aspect of the episode. Not only does it go on for too long, it’s beyond obvious that we’re meant to draw a parallel between Fiona and this distraught mother. But if Fiona is so freaking powerful that she can bring back a dead child (remember this is the second “dead” person she’s healed after Queenie), why the hell can’t she heal her own daughter?! Burnt retinas must surely be easier to fix than DOA.
Bitchiness aside, Fiona has bigger fish to fry, namely Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). There’s a pretty abrupt tonal shift as the Council returns in the wake of the attacks to boot Fiona out and this continues for the remainder of the episode. Unsurprisingly the Council severely underestimates Fiona’s capacity for crafting fraudulent claims (they seemed pretty dumb last week). In a virtuoso display, Fiona rigs a big reveal that suggests that Myrtle is actually the one who attacked Cordelia and may have even killed Madison (Emma Roberts, still dead in Spalding’s room). Featuring some damning evidence courtesy of Queenie’s powers, Fiona turns the Council against her childhood rival, lighting Myrtle ablaze atop a funeral pyre with a flick of a well-placed cigarette. Alas Fiona hasn’t yet discovered that Misty Day (Lily Rabe) survived a similar fate and the episode closes with the Stevie Nicks worshiping witch bringing Myrtle back to life. That’s the beauty of magic: no one ever dies! Of course, that’s also the draw-back of magic: no one is ever truly in danger. We’ll have to wait and see if Myrtle is, in fact, functionally back among the living. On this show nothing is ever simple.
- Who had the easier week: Bassett, who spends the episode suspended in the air with her eyes closed, or Paulson, who spends the episode in bed with her eyes closed? I’ll probably go with Bassett since Paulson likely had to endure hours of make-up
- Husband Hank (Josh Hamilton) shows up after his random philandering and murder last week. He and Fiona clearly have a challenging relationship, but I wonder if he’s long for this world now that Cordelia has seen what he was up to on his business trip courtesy of her new powers
- I totally heart Nan for going after Luke when he foolishly leaves the house because he thinks the zombies are neighbourhood kids. Allow me to be the first to say that no one ever looks that authentic: the crap scar and face paint products available make everyone look like an amateur unless you’re some kind of make-up expert or FX guru
- Finally, I’ve got to say that LaLaurie really is a terrible mother. As if humiliating potential suitors in a legitimate chamber of horrors isn’t bad enough, she locks up her daughters in the attic. Sure they were talking about matricide, but didn’t LaLaurie kind of deserve it?
- Fiona (taking Hank down a peg): “You’re one step above the guys who stand in front of the Home Depot”
- Fiona (when LaLaurie suggest they’re the same): “I doubt it. After all, you are the maid”
- Queenie (describing the frame job she participated in): “I thought we were going to oust her, not roast her”
Your turn: were you satisfied with the resolution of last week’s cliffhangers? Did you suspect Myrtle was actually innocent? What will happen now that Myrtle and Misty have joined forces? Did you like seeing Zoe channel Ash, or are you terrified she’ll be revealed as Supreme now? Sound off below
American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on FX