American Horror Story: Coven – An Overview

For this long time horror fan, American Horror Story has been a breath of fresh air. The genre has been struggling for a long, long time as horror fans soon get comfortable with the shock, schlock and special effects used to generate the scare we’re all looking for. The genre has slid into cliché many times in its history: too many lumbering monsters in the 1940s, too many heaving cleavages in the 1950s, too much repetition of stalk and slash in the 1980s and too much industrialised torture/too many remakes and re-visionings of classics in the 2000s. Horror regularly needs innovators to breathe new life into the genre. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk did just that with American Horror Story in 2011.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: Airing on FX

The first season took advantage of the revitalisation of adult drama on cable television and provided the audience with a story that was disturbing and genuinely unsettling. Setting Murder House in bright and sunny Los Angeles and weaving in stories from L.A.’s history, as well as America’s recent past, the show took a new approach to horror’s role in dealing with the fears and concerns of the producing culture. There was a confidence in Murder House that allowed it to deal with adult topics in adult ways – even though at times this got the programme into trouble with commentators of many political persuasions. Its frank depiction of sex and sexual relationships had the potential to shock and when it dealt with difficult topics, such as the attempt to depict how ‘the male gaze’ objectifies women and reduces their power allowed it to be criticised for creating sexualised and objectified representations.

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The American horror stories dealt with in Murder House included family relationships and reproduction, fidelity and trust, problem teens, home invasion, recreational drugs and school shootings, as well as illegal abortions, gay marriage and the failure of psychoanalysis. It packed a lot in and it did so with style, panache and the nerve to present controversial topics and images head on.

The second season packed in even more. Set in the 1960s it showed a culture moving away from long standing traditions in organised religion (the Catholic Church) to be replaced by a reliance on the ‘religion’ of psychoanalysis (the lead male in Murder House was a psychoanalyst – no coincidence surely). Asylum dealt with attitudes to homosexuality and gave us serial killers, exorcism, Nazi doctors, aliens and Anne Frank! It ended by bringing us up to date and critiqued the modern media and its use of sensationalised, human interest stories and, like the first season unpicked elements of the contemporary culture and showed that this is where horror is located.

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Combine the approach with some truly innovative direction, wonderful performances and deeply disturbing story lines, American Horror Story is busy revitalising the horror genre by giving it back to the grown-ups and not being afraid to delve into subjects that remain taboo in most mainstream drama.

Coven started well with its modern setting tied closely to a horrific aspect of American history. Kathy Bates, Angela Basset and Jessica Lange pitched their performances brilliantly managing to balance elements of emotional realism with some of the most outrageous, ridiculously camp costumes, dialogue and situations. This season, like previous ones, touched on topics rarely dealt with in other media texts: sexual abuse, incest, date rape and religious mania were all on the agenda. The first half of the season dealt with the potentially destructive nature of maternal relationships. Mothers were central and they were generally problematic but they too had their issues. This season’s most radical representation was that of ageing, disease and (natural) death. Amongst the magic, ghosts, torture and trips to hell, the core of the story has been an elderly woman railing against the indignities of age and the imminent decay that comes with her cancer diagnosis. Fiona was never a sympathetic character but her pointless railing against her own unavoidable decline and demise allowed her story to be tinged with tragedy. Her unrelenting fight against death isolated her from her child and her legacy but spoke of the way older women are often dismissed as it is perceived that they cannot offer youth, beauty and vitality. The beauty industry relies on women fearing the onset of ‘visible signs of ageing’ to sell its ‘cures’ and Fiona personified the response to being replaced by the young and beautiful. As a ‘younger model’ prepared to replace her as the Supreme, Fiona could feel herself becoming invisible and irrelevant and so she was prepared to do anything to become immortal.

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Sadly, this season seemed to get distracted by its multiple story-lines and themes. An early idea was to bring the coven into conflict with Voodoo culture as a metaphor for America’s problematic history (and present) with race relations. Delphine acted as a representative of a particular attitude and a set of values that, whilst updated to fit modern sensibilities, still exists in some form in the US… the war on drugs and the US penal system are both often argued to be racially divisive. There is a black man in the White House (however appalling Delphine finds that idea) but there are more black men than white in US prisons. Aside from the shooting in the salon and its visual juxtaposition with Delphine ‘learning a lesson’ from the civil rights movement, the racial issue was raised but not fully explored. Similarly, the evangelical Christian neighbour could have led to an interesting discussion about dominant belief systems and the marginalisation of any alternative belief systems (including the non-acceptance of non-religious belief) but the story line fizzled out and was absorbed into the ‘abusive mother’ theme. Even the male witch hunters, the shady organisation of men who felt the need to control women who threatened their power, was a plot point that was hurriedly dispensed with.

Visually there is no more beautiful (if often in a grotesque way) and challenging show. American Horror Story is prepared to be creative in its presentation of scenes, images, locations and gore. It doesn’t shy away from taboo subjects and themes. All three seasons have been radical in the way they have presented women, women’s relationships and feminine themes – motherhood, birth, sexuality, ageing… all topics you’d be hard pressed to see discussed with such visceral frankness anywhere else. American Horror Story is a long way from perfect but I for one am looking forward to being entertained, frustrated, shocked and appalled by season 4…. and my money’s on American Horror Story: Red Scare… Cold War paranoia, Roswell, communist witch-hunts and mad scientists!!

s@albionmill

More of my thoughts on American Horror Story can be found in Media Magazine.

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American Horror Story Series 3: Episode 13 – Seven Wonders

Thirteen weeks in and the final episode of the third season of American Horror Story opened with a music video. Stevie Nicks walked us through Miss Robichaux’s academy whilst the girls prepare for the test of the Seven Wonders. It’s all been leading to this and tonight we will discover who gets to be the new Supreme.

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The Seven Wonders
Myrtle creates a ‘last supper’ of caviar, blinis and champagne, reminding the girls that for one of them this marks the end of their anonymity and for the others it could quite literally be their last meal. Cordelia tells the girls to put aside childish things as they prepare to ‘kick ass’ in the trials they are about to undertake.

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The test begins with telekineses and the witches make it look easy by moving candles across a table. Misty seems to struggle at first but, like all the others, she passes the test.

In a test of concilium (mind control), Misty makes Queenie slap herself so Queenie returns the favour by making Misty pull at her own hair. Revisiting her continued objectification of Kyle, Madison makes Kyle kiss her and then lick her shoe whilst Zoe is forced to slap herself.

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Kyle is treated like a puppet ye again as Zoe wrenches Kyle him away from Madison. The young lovers kiss until Madison controls him again making him throttle Zoe. Cordelia has to intervene to stop the girls’ tug-of-war over Kyle.

Next is descensum, travelling to hell and back. Queenie is first to return after finding herself back in the chicken shop.

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As they return we learn that Madison’s hell was being in a network musical (but not in the lead role) whereas Zoe’s was the repeated break up of her relationship with Kyle. Misty however, seems stuck in a loop back in school where she is bringing a dissection frog back to life in a biology class. Her hell is to be forced to kill the frog and then bring it back to life over and over again. She cannot escape her hell and, although Cordelia wants to help her, Myrtle says Misty must make her own way back. At dawn she is still trapped and so Misty is the first casualty of the test. Her body disintegrates into dust in Cordelia’s arms.

The girls let off some steam in a game of transmutation ‘tag’. Despite Cordelia’s warnings, they get carried away and Zoe transmutes, impaling herself on a cast iron gate. Moving quickly into vitalum vitalis (the ability to give and take life force), Queenie tries to bring Zoe back to life but fails and is immediately out of the running.

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Madison could save Zoe but she chooses to end the tests and show she has the right to be called the Supreme by killing a fly and bringing it back to life. The coven, it seems, has a new Supreme. Madison thinks Fiona had the right idea in leaving the coven behind and demands that the witches ‘either crown me or kiss my arse’.

Myrtle and Cordelia see Madison’s ascension as the end of the coven and Myrtle clearly thought that either Misty or Zoe would be the next Supreme. She now believes they have overlooked the fact that Cordelia could be the Supreme – Cordelia, she says, has royal blood. Myrtle encourages her to try to complete the test much to Madison’s annoyance. Cordelia undertakes all the tests (including pyrokinesis) without any hesitation – even having a bit of fun with the mind control section of the test by making Queenie dance!

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She returns from hell just in time having found out her hell is to be refused the approval she seeks from Fiona and getting ‘bitch slapped for it’ for eternity. Something that Cordelia notes is ‘not exactly new’.

Madison has not completed the divination task but as Cordelia is successful she has to try and this is where she fails. She has to accept she is not the next Supreme. Livid at having the power she wanted denied, she says she intends to go to Hollywood and threatens the coven with exposure saying she intends to expose them on TMZ. Kyle holds her responsible for Zoe’s death (or at least not bringing her back when she could). Filled with rage and grief, he chokes her as Cordelia breaths life back into Zoe in the greenhouse. Madison is now dead and the spirit of Spalding turns up in time to dispose of Madison’s body – or so he says. He had taken Madison’s body before to be part of his doll’s tea party. The implication could be that this (along with playing Lisle in The Sound of Music) is Madison’s somewhat disturbing fate.

In the completion of the final task, Cordelia becomes the Supreme and her eyes are immediately restored.

A New Beginning
In a quick leap forward we find Cordelia being interviewed on TV about her announcement ‘a month ago’ about the existence of the coven. She offers a safe haven for all potential witches and urges them to contact her. Myrtle insists that Cordelia has to shoulder her responsibilities and she, (Myrtle) should be burnt at the stake as a punishment for the killing of council members Pembleton and Quentin (episode 9).

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This, she says, is needed to allow Cordelia to be able to start a new era for the coven; free of the stain of the crimes of the older generation. In a visual return to episode 5’s first execution of Myrtle Snow, the coven returns to the desert and Cordelia sets Myrtle on fire. Myrtle goes out with one final fashion-based declaration of ‘Balenciaga’.

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Back at the school, Cordelia senses a presence and she finds her mother is back and is not dead after all. Fiona tricked the coven into revealing the identity of the next Supreme. She persuaded the Axeman to accept a false memory of killing Fiona – which of course drove him to the coven where the witches killed him (episode 12) and believed she had been fed to the alligators. Fiona has been in Paris and her original intention was to return to kill the new Supreme once she was identified. All Fiona wanted was to regain her power and life-force. She tells Cordelia how motherhood forced her to live with her own mortality but that she had always loved her daughter – just not necessarily in the way Cordelia wanted her to. Fiona’s cancer has advanced and she is close to death and in her final moments she and Cordelia hug and go some way to reconcile their problematic relationship. Cordelia refuses to end Fiona’s suffering and encourages her to accept her fate rather than continue to fight against it. Fiona dies in her daughter’s arms…

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… only to ‘awaken’ in a rural hell. Cocks crow and dogs bark outside and the urban and urbane ex-Supreme realises she is doomed to exist in a ‘knotty pine’ shack with the Axeman for all eternity. To add to her hell she wakes up every morning shocked to find out where she is and to discover she is powerless and is unable to escape. She sees Papa Legba observing this hell of her own making and laughing at her distress.

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AHS313-00334 Cordelia asks Zoe and Queenie to be her advisors and together they welcome the many girls that have responded to Cordelia’s offer of a home as lines of black clad girls have come to see if they can be part of the coven. Cordelia welcomes them with a speech that speaks of a recognition of the past and hope for the future. A new Supreme is in charge and a new era begins.

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Asides

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  • The gathering of the goth/pilgrim girls at the school and Cordelia’s last speech was reminiscent of the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where ‘potentials’ gathered to learn the craft of slaying. Buffy’s finale shared magical power between them all rather than maintaining a ‘chosen one’. American Horror Story: Coven reinforces the notion that inherited power is absolute. A sign of the times perhaps??
  • Kyle has replaced Spalding as ‘the help’ – what Spalding is doing with Madison’s body and Marie’s stolen baby is not revealed. That’s probably for the best.
  • What happened to Bastien – having his head cut off should not have been the end given he was immortal… and what was the significance of his and Queenie’s encounter in the greenhouse?

Quote of the Week
Madison (after failing the test of the Seven Wonders): ‘I’m going back to Hollywood where people are normal.’

s@albionmill

American Horror Story Series 3: Episode 12 – Go to Hell

ahs-coven-voodoo-queenAmerican Horror Story begins season 3′s penultimate episode with a silent movie style presentation of the history of the Test of the Seven Wonders. To identify the leader of the coven witches must demonstrate their ability in seven magical skills.

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The test has been alluded to several times but the wonders are formally identified here as:

  • Telekinesis
  • Concilium (mind-control)
  • Transmutation
  • Divination
  • Vitalum vitalis (the ability to give and take life force)
  • Descensum (the ability to descend into hell (and return again)
  • Pyrokinesis

The test itself is dangerous for the participants and Fiona is trying to persuade Queenie to undertake it to enable her to take her place as the Supreme. The girl isn’t fooled by Fiona and she believes Fiona is working her own angle. Queenie (unlike Fiona) is concerned as to Marie’s whereabouts. Fiona dismisses her concerns and, annoyed at Queenie’s disrespectful tone, she magically chokes her and demands the respect due to her as the Supreme and insists that Queenie will perform the Seven Wonders on Saturday morning ‘or … will die trying’.

To Hell and Back

Queenie has found a pool of blood in the greenhouse and she senses it is Marie’s. She casts a spell that allows her to descend to Hell so she can speak to Papa Legba to find out where Marie is. Queenie finds herself in her own personal hell – the fried chicken shop she used to work in. At the head of the queue is Papa Legba. He warns Queenie to return back as she could end up trapped in hell if she lingers.

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Back in the school Papa Legba visits her showing her that Delphine has dismembered Marie and scattered her remains across New Orleans. Queenie notes that given the state Marie is in, she is in no position to perform her annual service for Legba and so is in breach of contract. Given that Delphine cannot be killed whilst Marie remains immortal this seems to imply that Marie’s spell is now broken and Delphine is no longer immortal.

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Queenie finds Delphine who now has a modern make-over and is rewriting history by leading the tours through the La Laurie mansion. This gives her the opportunity to retell the history of the house in her favour claiming the idea of La Laurie being a torturer and mass murderer were ‘lies invented by her many enemies’. In flashback we see that Delphine attended a tour and was horrified at the way her story was being told. She tricks the tour guide into letting her back to the attic alone and, whilst there, she attacks the guide and imprisons her in one of her torture cages.

Queenie tries to persuade Delphine to use her second chance at life to do good and redeem herself. Delphine scoffs as she has learned that modern redemption comes from making public apologies and she has seen the hypocrisy of the modern world and refuses to join in. Delphine’s racism and psychopathic violence is never far from the surface but she has certainly got the measure of modern politics, celebrity culture and the 24hr news cycle. Annoyed at Delphine’s refusal to make amends and even see why she should, Queenie realises there is no redemption for Delphine so she stabs her, telling the woman she is sending her straight to hell.

In hell we see that Delphine and Marie are bound together in the La Laurie attic doomed to live out their hate and violence filled relationship for eternity. Delphine and her daughters are imprisoned in the attic and Marie is doomed to torture them because, as Papa Legba says, ‘everybody pays, everybody suffers’.

The Second Sight

Cordelia goes to Madison for help as she has been trying to locate Misty but fears blinding herself may not have worked in allowing her to regain the second sight after all. Madison doesn’t want to be touched by Cordelia (fearing that Cordelia will discover she buried Misty alive) so she transmutes to avoid Cordelia’s touch. Cordelia is unimpressed by Madison’s growing powers saying all witches powers spike at a time of crisis. Madison appears to magically protect herself from Cordelia’s touch and so Cordelia sees nothing – reinforcing her belief that the second sight has not returned.

Cordelia confronts Fiona about Queenie being told she has to undertake the Seven Wonders but Fiona is struck by Cordelia’s self mutilation. She tells Cordelia that her daughter’s power is not a gift from her but is something that is inside Cordelia herself. Fiona offers Cordelia her own mother’s necklace and when putting it on her daughter, Cordelia receives a vision of all the witches dead. She sees Fiona walking through the school that is littered with bodies. Cordelia sees her own body with a bullet thorough her forehead and looks down as Fiona takes back the necklace. The sight is back.

Knowing Fiona plans to kill them all, Cordelia visits the Axeman and shows him that Fiona can’t be trusted. Fiona has booked her plane to escape New Orleans and, only having one ticket, clearly intends to leave the Axeman behind after she has killed the witches and regained her strength.

Back at the school, Cordelia now seems to be getting a sense of Misty being trapped and she finally receives a vision identifying where Misty is buried. She takes Queenie who, after being reminded about her powers, pushes her way into the crypt and they find Misty, apparently dead in the tomb. Queenie uses yet another power and breaths life back into Misty.

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Myrtle tells Madison that Cordelia and Queenie have gone to find Misty just as Zoe and Kyle return to the coven. The pair had gone to Florida but after Kyle showed that he is unable to control his violent impulses by killing a tramp, Zoe bought the man back to life and decided she needed to return to the coven believing herself to be the next Supreme. As she tells her story, Cordelia and Queenie return with Misty who is livid with Madison. Misty attacks the girl and Madison takes a beating until the Axeman breaks into the house threatening to kill them all. He is covered in blood but Cordelia identifies it as belonging to her mother, not the Axeman.

Another flashback shows that Fiona had gone to the Axeman’s rooms but he’d taken Cordelia’s warning about Fiona to heart and was angry that Fiona had planned to leave him. When Fiona realises there’s no point trying to hide the truth, she admits that she has enjoyed her time with him calling him a ‘delightful distraction’ but she wants have a better life than he could offer her once the potential Supremes are dead. She admits that she could not love him and crazed with a broken heart, the Axeman buries his axe in her back and hacks at her until she is dead. Back in the coven, Cordelia can see that he has disposed of the body by feeding her to alligators.

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The witches debate if he should be killed. Myrtle speaks up for him as he saved the coven by dispensing with Fiona but Kyle goes to kill him before Madison and then the other witches finish the job – mirroring his first bloody death at the hands of the coven seen in episode 6. For the first time the witches work together and combine their powers to protect the coven. As Misty says, they really don’t need a man to protect them.

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The witches gather to look at Marie’s portrait and Cordelia announces that a new Supreme needs to be identified immediately. As Fiona had not named her successor, all the witches would need to undertake the test of Seven Wonders so that a new Supreme can take her rightful position as the leader of the coven. Cordelia tells all the witches they will undertake the test on Sunday at dawn. It might be worth noting this is exactly what Fiona had wanted – just a day later than originally planned.

Myrtle and Flowers

Whilst having her portrait painted, Fiona has a nosebleed – bought on by her illness. Just beforehand, Myrtle had bought a vase of flowers into the room and placed them behind Fiona to help ‘balance the frame’.

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Later Myrtle warns Madison not to sniff the deadly nightshade she is arranging in yet another vase. The plant is poisonous and sniffing it can cause ‘delirium’. Of course, this issue with Myrtle and the flowers could be nothing but, what if Fiona’s illness was being made worse by some subtle plant based witchcraft? The close up on the first vase of flowers certainly seems to imply they have some significance.

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Who’s the next Supreme?

As we wait for the final episode, Delphine, Nan and Marie are in hell and Fiona has been fed to the ‘gators. Whether these deaths are final is still to be seen but the next Supreme seems likely to be either Zoe, Misty, Madison or Queenie. It’s never safe to assume anything so Cordelia may well be in the running and, although she’s older and clearly a touch crazy, Myrtle is still alive and kicking so may finally lead the coven she loves. And, as we’ve heard all season, there are other witches out there so maybe Stevie Nicks could have an outside chance and, this being American Horror Story, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the new Supreme could be someone from outside the coven. All of the main contenders have shown a number of powers – but Cordelia says this could just be in response to the dangerous situation the coven finds itself in. Just this week, Madison can add transmutation to her list of powers and both Queenie and Zoe bought people back to life. Queenie also descends into hell (and safely returns). Even though all the eviddence so far points to Fiona being dead, leaving the way clear for her replacement, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Fiona has fooled the Axeman or the witches (or all of them) to believe she’s gone simply to ensure the test goes ahead. One more week to go…

Quote of the Week

Misty (after learning Fiona’s body has been disposed of in the swamps): ‘Well that’s it then. Even I can’t bring someone back once they are gator-shit.’

s@albionmill

American Horror Story Series 3: Episode 11 – Protect the Coven

The opening of episode 11 gives us some insight into the start of Delphine’s blood lust. It is 1830 and, wearing the most amazing puff sleeves, Delphine is annoyed to find herself back in New Orleans. Having experienced the sophistication and glamour of Paris she sees New Orleans as a backwater and she fears her life in America is doomed to be both harsh and boring. She has to kill a chicken for the family to eat but finds the warmth of its blood appealing. She then takes advantage of a wounded slave and uses his body to satisfy her gruesome and murderous curiosity.

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Back in the modern day, the coven are at the cemetery attending Nan’s funeral. Cordelia feels responsible for not preventing Nan’s death but Marie and Fiona show no remorse. They are all surprised when Queenie turns up as it has been assumed that she died in the shooting at the salon. Not only has she survived, but she has also managed to reaffix Delphine’s head (without visible scaring). It appears that her powers are growing and so Queenie is back in the running to be the next Supreme. She is, however, livid with Marie for leaving her for dead but she and Delphine (who she has on a collar and chain) join the others again and they go back with the other witches to the school.

Delphine’s voiceover provides us with an insight into her thought process (as well as implying the passing of time), both as the murderous 19th Century slave mistress and as the women in forced servitude to the coven. She is shown being humiliated and threatened by Fiona and Marie and is clearly alienated form the modern world she finds herself in. She is troubled by the three-way sleeping habits of Zoe, Madison and Kyle; she watches Cordelia obsessing over trying to regain the sight; she worries about Fiona’s nocturnal trips out ‘without her undergarments’ (we later learn Fiona’s noir-tinged affair with the Axeman is still on). 

Our sympathies are stretched however when we hear Delphine found pleasure in mutilating animals and then moved on to humans. However appalling Delphine undoubtably is, there is a perverse pleasure in the fact that she may be getting her own back in a small way by serving the witches ‘dirty’ food. Interestingly Myrtle seems to be the only person who appreciates the work Delphine is doing – she is particularly enthusiastic about Delphine’s cooking. The injury of a garden worker gives Delphine an opportunity to go back to what she enjoys most and she captures the man and takes him to the doll-filled attic. Here she indulges her desires and she ‘experiments’ on the hapless Gardner and ends up eviscerating him. It is at this point that she realises that she is not alone and Spalding is in the attic with her. He tells her he is the spirit of the murdered butler and manages to persuade Delphine that he can help her kill Marie if she does a small (but costly) favour for him. She buys him an ‘authentic 1890’ china doll and he returns the favour by giving Delphine a potion to that will undo the magic making Marie immortal – he gives her Benadryl!

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Image from: http://www.pinterest.com/princessmelalee/american-horror-story/

Zoe uses a spell to discover that Fiona and Marie murdered Nan and the gulf between her and Madison grows larger as Madison is disinterested in what happened and when Kyle rejects Madison’s sexual advances, Madison attacks Zoe launching a lamp at her head. The violence is ended by Myrtle but Madison, confident that she is to be the next Supreme, dismisses the idea of Myrtle’s authority and vows to change things when she takes over. As she leaves she threatens Kyle saying, ‘putting you together was fun but taking you a part is going to be even more fun’. Later Myrtle summons Zoe to give her a Rosenthal piece of jewellery that she is to sell as Myrtle insists that Zoe and Kyle escape the coven giving them a pair of tickets to Epcot.

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Cordelia tries to make peace with Queenie but her apology is rejected. Queenie accuses Cordelia of putting the coven in danger and reminds her that it was her husband who shot Queenie in the stomach. This clearly pushes Cordelia into a dramatic decision. She has realised that if he is able to see, she cannot have ‘the sight’ so she blinds herself with a pair of secateurs. Fiona rushes in and Myrtle tells Fiona that Cordelia has regained the second sight and so Fiona will risk being ‘read’ if she goes to her daughter. Fiona decides to wait and says she’ll be back once she’s had a drink!

Hank’s part in the salon shooting is covered up by the Adelphi Trust who are struggling under the pressure of the SEC investigation. Renard recognises the need to attempt to get the witches on-side but intends to kill them once the Trust has a chance to recover. His plan, however, comes to nothing as he underestimates Fiona and Marie as the Axeman infiltrates the meeting set up between the witches and the witch-hunters by posing as a waiter. He brings the meeting to a bloody end after Fiona rejects Renard’s offer of a century of peace with the gleeful slaying of the representatives of the trust. He does most damage with his axe but is not so inflexible that he is unable to use his enemy’s gun even when it is still in his dismembered hand. The axeman gives Fiona the pleasure of dispensing with Renard herself and, with that, it seems that the threat from the witch-hunters has been removed.

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After having a drink together to celebrate, Fiona leaves Marie at the school as she goes to reward the axeman for his services. Marie has been drinking and Delphine believes that she has been mortally weakened by the capsules provided by Spalding. Delphine stabs Marie through the heart. Marie is upset but nowhere close to dying of course. She chases Delphine but, at the top of the stairs, Spalding hits Marie on the head with his china doll and she tumbles unconscious to the bottom of the stairs. Delphine realises she’s been duped and Spalding suggests Delphine gets rid of Marie by burying her and ensuring that she wouldn’t be able to dig her way out. Spalding said he wanted Marie out of the way and it appears that protecting Fiona and the coven may not have been his main motivation. He takes the baby Marie stole for Papa Legba to the attic. In perhaps the most disturbing scene of the series so far, dressed in his nightgown and bonnet once again, Spalding takes a creepy pleasure in having a ‘living doll’ of his own.

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Taking Myrtle’s advice, Zoe persuades Kyle to leave the coven with her even though he worries that he will be danger to Zoe given his propensity for violent outbursts. They make their way to the bus station and, whether it is the upbeat music, the beaming smiles on the faces of love’s young dreamers or the fact that the last time Kyle was on a bus things didn’t go well for him, something in the final shots of the episode seem to indicate that this story may not get a happy ending.

Threats to the Coven

Throughout the series the nature of the threat to the coven has changed – from Marie, Hank, the Axeman (briefly) and the Adelphi Trust – all these external threats have either been eliminated or assimilated into the Coven. With the swift dispatch of the Trust this week it is clear that these external threats have been distractions, MacGuffins even.

Myrtle identifies the location of the real threat to the Coven and it’s been present since the first episode. There are ‘no enemies from the outside perhaps, but danger lurks within’. The biggest threats lie within the Coven itself. Fiona’s desperate attempts to avoid death have led to her murdering her own (Madison and Nan) and she has vowed to ‘kill them all’. Madison’s belief that she is the new Supreme means that she threatens the safety of other witches she perceives as a threat and Queenie harbours huge resentment for the Coven and foe Marie. Even Kyle recognises he’s a loose cannon as he has little control over his violent urges and, although she’s more in control of her emotions, Delphine is a psychopath with a grudge. Even Zoe has shown she can kill when it is necessary although, like Cordelia, she tends to act to protect the Coven. Finally, as death is never the end, being bashed unconscious won’t be either. Both Marie and Misty are likely to be back and neither is likely to be very happy! With two episodes left it is anyone’s guess which of these threats will rise and be at the heart of the final battle. Even after this episode’s high death count and the fact it was awash with blood, no doubt a fair bit of blood is yet to be spilt.

Asides

American Horror Story and Hats

Pilgrim, pillbox, beanie, turban, trilby and cloche. When out and about the residents of Miss Robichaux’s Academy know how to wear all manner of hats!

Nan’s funeral gave us the best collection of hats so far this season.

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Here is some great hat wearing from an earlier episode.

‘Wear something black…’

 

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Season 4 Clues?

Ryan Murphy hinted that clues to the location of AHS: Series 4 would be offered in this and the following episodes. He has let on that it will be set in 1950 and Jessica Lange is practicing a German accent.

Several late 20th Century references were made within the episode – here’s a list of some of the theories. 

My own feeling at the moment is that there may be something in the fact that Renard says ‘sometimes I feel like I’m trying to rid the State Department of Communists’ during his meeting with the witches. Perhaps a Cold War setting is on the cards for series 4? It’s certainly a period that can offers all sorts of American Horrors!

Some fans have come up with their own ideas – like this creepy ‘trailer’ for AHS: Circus.

Quote of the Week

Myrtle (extolling to joy of figs): Ah figs! Mother nature’s brown diamonds. In the fall the rotting leaves smell like an Olympians ejaculate.

There aren’t many other TV programmes that offer lines of dialogue like that!

s@albionmill

American Horror Story Series 3: Episode 10 – The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks

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Alliances and Deals

This episode begins almost immediately after the last one finished. Marie has lost her home and her community after Hank’s attack on the salon and she seeks refuge in the school with the witches. In a beautifully framed shot with Fiona shown in the mirror on the wall behind Marie, we a placed right back into the action with both Fiona and Marie back-tracking and burying past animosities to make a new, if slightly fragile truce. (Although how much er can trust the two women’s assertions of friendship is yet to be seen.) That night Marie is visited by the magical Papa Legba and we learn that her immortality has come from a bargain made with the voodoo spirit which means she has to pay a price for this ‘gift’. Marie steals a baby from the maternity ward so that she can present the voodoo king with an innocent soul and she uses a high pitched voodoo scream to glamour the security guards into killing themselves and allowing her to escape.

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Marie tells the witches that she had paid Hank to kill the witches and Fiona realises that he was not acting independently but was part of a group of witch hunters. Fiona blames Delia for bringing him into the coven and putting them all in danger and even Marie is shocked by Fiona’s anger and the fact that she strikes her daughter hard enough to knock her off her chair. Fiona declares her desire to attack the hive and destroy the threat to the witches. Delia makes the link between Hank and the Delphi Trust identifying that the Trust’s CEO was Harrison Renard, Hank’s father. It appears that the Trust’s history can be traced back to Salem at the time of the trials. Fiona and Marie cast a spell to attack the Trust by destroying its financial strength. The company is raided and investigated. After casting the spell, Fiona collapses and is revived by Marie. Fiona asks her for the gift of immortality and, whilst she cannot give it without condemning Fiona to an eternity of cancer, she tells Fiona that she sold her soul to Papa Legba for an annual gift which included giving up the soul of her own baby.

Politics and Deceptions

In an attempt to tempt Misty into taking the tests to see if she is the Supreme, Fiona tells her about the power and influence the role would give her and introduces her to the white witch, Stevie Nicks  – played by Stevie Nicks. Meeting her idol is too much for Misty and her first response is to faint! The younger witches return back to the school to find Stevie playing Rhiannon for a smitten Misty and a blissed out Fiona.

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Madison is jealous that the focus is now on Misty and she can barely hide her annoyance as Stevie gives Misty one of her trademark shawls. Madison and Nan clash as Nan once again gets annoyed because no one seems to think she could possibly be a candidate for the Supreme. Nan demonstrates how her powers are developing but Madison reveals that since she was bought back from the dead her heart murmur has been cured and so she is back in the running for the role. Madison claims that being the Supreme is her destiny and that she intends to challenge Misty for the role.

Nan and Zoe go to visit Luke in the hospital and on the way we learn that neither Nan nor Zoe want Madison as the Supreme and Zoe believes Nan would be a better Supreme given Zoe believes Nan doesn’t have a ‘mean bone in her body’. When they arrive at the hospital Nan senses something is wrong with Luke as she cannot hear him anymore. The two witches visit Luke’s mother as Nan wants to see his body and they plan to ask Misty to reanimate him. She is furious to learn that he has been cremated as there is no way he can now be bought back. Nan also knows he was killed by his mother and in a fit of rage she forces his mother to drink bleach mirroring the cleansing forced on Luke in episode 8.

Meanwhile, Madison and Misty have joined a funeral parade (apparently for the barbecue) and Madison tries to make Misty doubt Fiona and Stevie’s motives by showing how their kindness is only intended to put Misty in their debt. Madison demonstrates her power by bringing the dead man to life and she claims this proves her own motives are purer than those who may need something from her. As Misty considers what Madison has said, Madison knocks Misty out with brick and watches her body sealed in a crypt.

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Fiona’s second spell of the night seems to be going well as she manages to summon Papa Legba and he agrees to a deal giving Fiona an immortality that would allow her to avoid ageing and illness. Fiona promises to sacrifice a loved one in return but when it comes to finalising the deal she is disappointed. Papa Legba discovers that she has no soul. She is visited by the Axeman and swears to kill all the young witches to ensure she removes any possible threat of a replacement Supreme draining her of any more of her power.

Nan discovers the baby that Marie has stolen from the hospital (hidden in a wardrobe). When challenged by Marie, Nan declares herself to be the next supreme and she threatens to kill the Voodoo Queen. Fiona arrives and sends Nan away but seeing how attached Marie is to the baby she suggests that another innocent soul could be offered to Papa Legba to save the baby. Marie and Fiona work together to drown Nan in the bath. Papa Legba accepts the offering and takes Nan’s soul to ‘the other side’ but not before observing that ‘you two together, big trouble’.

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It’s been a busy day for the coven with Nan and Luke’s mother dead, Misty buried and Fiona having to accept her own mortality. The episode ends with a ballad from Stevie providing the soundtrack to Fiona’s self-piteous grief.

Asides

  • There was no sign of Kyle, Queenie or Delphine this week. We appear to have seen Queenie die in Hank’s attack – although Madison does point out that the names of the dead have not yet been released and death has yet proved to be the end in AHS: Coven. We also need to see if cremation stands in the way of reanimation. Luke’s mother was reanimated before so it seems likely she has gone for the final time but it feels pretty safe to assume that we won’t have seen the last of Misty or Nan. There are three more episodes to go after all.
  • Delia has internalised Fiona’s criticisms and receives little comfort from Myrtle who retreats into the playing of a Theremin.
  • Myrtle’s use of language becomes more and more eclectic and poetic. She shows she’s up to date by asking Cordelia not to be a ‘hater’; demonstrates a poetic talent for using alliteration by suggesting Cordelia changes career and sells ‘Cordelia’s Conjured Coriander Condiment’; she throws in some French when she offers her a ‘demitasse de réalité’ and then goes on to make a pointed political analogy when she acknowledges that being in the shadows of power causes problems… ‘what are your options when your mother is Hilary Clinton?’. Myrtle remains the most brilliantly written, visually interesting and insane character on the show.
  • In a brief scene we see that Fiona’s spell against the Delphi Trust has been effective and the Trust is on the edge of collapse. Renard suspects the witches are responsible and says it is time to deal with them. Presumably this is an indication of where at least one of the final threats to the coven will come from.

After playing two tightly wound, uniformed characters in two excellent US dramas Fringe and The Wire it was great to see Lance Reddick as a coke-snorting, top-hat wearing, soul purchasing, debauched spirit.

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Quote of the Week

  • Madison (annoyed at Fiona introducing Stevie Nicks to Misty): Im a huge Eminem fan. When does he get here?
  • Fiona: Marshall? You’re not his type – and more importantly, you’re not the next supreme.

s@albionmill

American Horror Story Series 3: Episode 9 – Head

image 5The episode begins with a flashback once again – this time providing us with some information about Hank’s background. It seems that Hank comes from a tradition of witch hunters and we meet him on a hunting trip in 1991 being taught hunting skills. He is given his weapon and with his father’s help goes out on a hunt. Hank is nervous and doesn’t want to fail his father who clearly has high expectations of his son. As the hunt progresses, Hank’s father flushes a witch out for Hank to shoot. She begs for her life but Hank’s reticence allows the witch to fight back and the boy needs to be saved. Hank’s father pushes Hank to safety and kills the witch. He is burned in the process and reminds Hank why witches should never be shown any mercy.

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The Head

After the titles, Fiona is shown taking Delphine’s head back to Cornrow City, Marie’s salon. She is disturbed to find Delphine’s decapitated body in a cage at the back of Marie’s room and she deposits Delphine’s head, still in a box, on the table.

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Fiona tells Marie that the witches and the voodoo queen need to create an alliance as Fiona believes that the witch-hunter who shot at Nan and Misty will turn on the voodoo tribe once the Coven has been annihilated. Fiona is, of course, unaware that Marie has sent the witch-hunter to destroy the Coven and so she refuses Fiona’s offer of an alliance – and there is a rare moment of agreement between Delphine and the Voodoo Queen (Delphine: ‘You can’t make deals with a darkie’). Marie sends Fiona away. She also gives Delphine’s head to Queenie and instructs her to burn it.

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Queenie decides not to burn the head after all but takes it to her room. She has taken it on herself to educate Delphine in an attempt to sensitise her to the history of African Americans by showing her a Hollywood history of slavery and cultural integration, starting with the TV series Roots and to be followed with The Color Purple, Mandingo and B*A*P*S(!)

Delphine is appalled and sings ‘Dixieland’ to try to drown out the ‘jungle music’ but Queenie leaves her alone with the movies and a hope in the redemptive nature of Hollywood representations!

It’s All in the Eyes

Cordelia is struggling to adapt to her blindness and she struggles to complete simple tasks like cooking for herself. Myrtle offers to help her and reminds Cordelia that she has always loved her as a mother. Cordelia trusts Myrtle absolutely and says she does not need the second sight to know that Myrtle was not involved in harming her but she regrets losing her sight just as the sniper has put the Coven under threat.

Myrtle invites Pembroke and Quentin from the witches’ council to dinner and they say they are pleased that Myrtle has been bought back to life by Misty. Mid-way through a toast, Pembroke and Quentin begin to ‘freeze’ and Myrtle tells them they are suffering from human statue syndrome caused by the monkshood poison she has given them. She tells them she is not after revenge but she wishes to help the Coven and she uses a melon baller to remove their eyes – we later see that she has killed and dismembered the leaders of the council.

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Myrtle restores Cordelia’s sight by using one of Pembroke’s eyes and one of Quentin’s giving Cordelia a striking look as she now has one blue and one brown eye. Fiona is astonished to find Cordelia ‘cured’ but she still accuses her of blinding Cordelia in the first place and she threatens to have Myrtle banished for the crime. Cordelia loses her temper with the arguing women and tells Myrtle to respect Fiona as her Supreme and she tells Fiona to stop accusing Myrtle of her blinding. Cordelia also realises that now she has regained her sight, she has lost the gift of the visions when she touches people.

The Delphi Trust

This episode introduces the audience to The Delphi Trust – a corporation based in Atlanta that is the base for a collection of witch-hunters led by Hank’s father. Hank has been overlooked for promotion within the Trust and his father is clearly disappointed in Hank’s slow progress in New Orleans and his alliance with Marie Laveau. Just as in the first scene, Hank fails to win the respect of his father who reminds him that he is part of a long tradition. Hank’s father sees him as weak and accuses him of having feelings for Cordelia that are stopping him from completing his task. Even his murder of Kaylee is described as ‘sloppy’ and the Trust have to go in and clean up the evidence Hank left at the hotel. It transpires that the Trust was responsible for Cordelia’s blinding and it was an attempt to make her even more dependent on Hank.

Having been undermined by his father, Hank later finds himself racked with sudden pain and with wounds causing bleeding from the wrist and the stomach. Marie has cursed a voodoo doll and is attacking him from a distance. She calls Hank to tell him that the witches must be killed that night or she will kill him with one final needle.

At the Hospital

Zoe and Madison go to find Nan at the hospital where she is waiting to see Luke who is in a coma after the shooting. Luke’s mother Joan had been keeping the girl away from her son. Madison and Zoe take her to his bedside and Nan is able to communicate with Luke telepathically. Joan is slow to believe this is true until Nan mentions a song she sang to comfort him when he broke his arm as a small child. Realising that Nan is able to communicate with her son, Joan allows her to stay at her son’s bedside.

Later, Nan tells Joan that God has seen all her sins – including the murder of Luke’s father who, seriously allergic to bees, was killed when she arranged for him to be stung by bees to cause anaphylactic shock as retribution for his infidelity. Luke’s mother is incensed but the accusation and throws Nan out of the hospital room.

Protecting the Coven

Cordelia and Misty are working together in the greenhouse and Cordelia is helping Misty develop her skills when Hank returns to the Coven. He claims to be living in ‘a hell of regret and remorse’ but Cordelia is not at all sympathetic. She tells him she is filing for divorce and that he should collect his things and leave. On his way out he encounters Fiona and her new guard dog bought, she says, to protect the Coven seeing as Hank has failed to do so. She, like Marie and Hank’s father, mocks Hank’s masculinity and he leaves the Coven. The dog senses someone in one of the bedrooms and Fiona discovers Kyle, who is still playing with the toy Zoe left. Kyle seems pleased to see the dog and hugs him. As Fiona leaves the room we hear the sound of the dog’s neck breaking.

Later, Madison, Nan and Zoe return to the Coven to find Fiona playing cards with Kyle. At first Zoe thinks that Fiona ‘cured’ Kyle but she has only spruced him up ‘just a touch’ in order to turn him into a guard dog. Kyle again being used at the whim of one of the witches and Fiona intends to use him to attack on command.

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Attacking the Salon

Back in Queenie’s room at the salon, Delphine has kept her eyes closed throughout Roots and so Queenie tries another medium, music. Delphine cannot cover her ears given the fact she has no hands and so she is forced to listen to Odetta’s Oh Freedom! which Queenie has set against a montage of images from the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

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As she listens and is touched by the music, Hank bursts into the salon and shoots the women there, including Queenie and Marie. She is bleeding from the stomach but finds the strength to uses her human voodoo-doll gift, puts a pistol into her own mouth and pulls the trigger, causing Hank’s brain to be blown out.

The episode ends as we see Hank’s father distraught to see images of his dead son, Luke’s mother smothering Luke as he wakes from his coma and accuses her of murder and Marie swallowing her pride by approaching Fiona at the school – presumably to discuss the possibility of making an alliance.

Quote of the Week

  • Hank (surprised that Fiona has got herself a guard dog): … but you hate dogs, and all other living things.

Themes and Issues

Gender

With the inclusion of the Adelphi Trust into the story, the gender binary has been stated explicitly. (Adelphi was the mythological centre of the earth, (sometimes called the navel of Gaia) and the location of the Oracles). The Trust, reminiscent of the Watchers Council in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (where the Slayers were, of course, female rather than male) appear to be reinforcing a traditional idea that women are able to tap into nature, instinct and powers that cannot be defined by the rational and so need to be controlled by powerful and rational men.

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The witch-hunters seek to remove all women who exhibit their own power and this power is considered (and depicted) as a threat to males. This irrational power is found in the magic of the witches, the spells of voodoo as well as the belief systems of the religious in Joan’s Christianity. Despite her apparent morality, she (like Kyle’s mother Alicia) abuses her own son. Later she murders the men who threaten her – her husband and her son.

Other than Quentin (a camp and, presumably, gay male), the community of witches is a male-free zone and in the school itself men are either imprisoned (the Axeman), temporary (Hank), subservient (Spalding) or expedient (Kyle). The women have power within the Coven but most of them find themselves in a weaker position when it come to the men they interact with in the ‘real world’. Men don’t offer much more than either sex or protection and many of the witches use their powers to take power from men or to assert themselves from a position of subservience.

  • Fiona – killed the doctor who refused to make her young again
  • Zoe – kills any male she sleeps with and murdered Spalding
  • Madison – killed a bus full of frat boys as revenge for her gang-rape
  • Kaylee – burned her ex-boyfriend in response to being rejected
  • Queenie – used her powers against a male customer in the chicken shop, Spalding and the rapist with a ‘dark heart’

Being seen as powerful is important to Hank and the constant attacks on him threaten his masculine identity. Hank is perceived as weak and ineffectual by his father and the Trust. He is vulnerable and shown to have no defence against Marie’s attacks and both Cordelia and Fiona mock him and reject his offers to protect the Coven. As Hank can’t man up sufficiently to attack the witches, he attacks the voodoo tribe having first gained a sense of masculine power in the locking and loading of an arsenal of weapons. The attack on the salon is one white man opening fire on a collection of black women set against the music and imagery of the civil rights movement but can be seen as less about race and more about gender politics and what happens when patriarchal power is thwarted.

The series is on a mid-season break until the New Year. Old enemies have been removed and power relationships are shifting. The last ‘act’ of the series will see the true nature of the threat against the Coven but it could come from a number of fronts and there are many questions still to be answered:

  • Will the Trust attempt to avenge Hank’s death and purge the witches from the Coven?
  • Can there be an alliance between the Coven and the voodoo tribe?
  • Will Queenie and Luke remain dead? Or Hank for that matter?
  • Has Fiona abandoned her search for the new Supreme?
  • Who will be the new Supreme?
  • Will the Axeman and Spalding be back?
  • Will Kyle ever be a real boy again or is he doomed to be a plaything for the women of the Coven?

s@albionmill

American Horror Story Series 3: Episode 8 – The Sacred Taking

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There’s a slightly Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel to the opening scene as we find Queenie in the back streets of New Orleans on a hunt. Nan, Madison and Zoe confront her and ask her what she is doing and Queenie makes it clear she is working for Marie now, rejecting Zoe’s invitation to return back to the school and mocking the idea of them all waiting to find out who the new Supreme is.

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The girls are shocked when Queenie kills the man she has been chasing but she tells them he is a rapist and she is taking his ‘dark heart’ to Marie as she is making a potion to give Queenie more power. She warns the witches that there is a war coming and that the coven will lose.

An Attempted Coup

After the titles, Fiona’s voiceover provides an insight into how she feels and how she is dealing with the fact that she is dying. We see that Cordelia has no sympathy for her mother and their relationship seems damaged beyond repair. Fiona has continued to see the Axeman and finds solace in his company. She admits she is the afraid of the pain and decay the cancer will bring and she is driven by the fact that she knows a new Supreme is coming and she is determined to find out which witch is draining her power away. Fiona has not lost the desire to fight her demise and knowing that the coven wants to see her dead gives her extra motivation to stay alive just to spite them.

Cordelia dismisses the potential of any form of reconciliation with Queenie and the witches continue to plot against Fiona. Cordelia tells the girls that there is an ancient ritual called ‘the sacred taking’ that can be used to protect the coven. Misty turns up at the school and is distressed as she says her someone is trying to kill her. Cordelia ‘recognises’ her immediately and offers her the protection of the coven. Misty surprises them all as she has bought a newly risen to the coven with her. Myrtle was ‘awoken’ by someone circling Misty’s cabin with a shotgun and managed to warn her in time for them both to escape before a hooded gunman breaks in and shoots up the room. Myrtle has been disfigured by the fire but she offers hope to the coven as she identifies Misty as ‘the next Supreme’.

The witches prepare for the ‘sacred taking’ and Misty seems afraid at the prospect of being the Supreme.  The ceremony involves the suicide of the reigning Supreme when she has become too weak to protect the coven. The death of the Supreme allows for a new, younger, fitter Supreme to rise but, as Madison points out, Fiona is unlikely to volunteer to sacrifice herself for the coven. Cordelia says they will need to give her a push.

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Fiona’s cancer is taking hold and in her drug induced haze she is becoming disoriented and she is surprised to find Madison dancing to  The Season of the Witch in her room. Madison tells her that everyone knows Fiona killed both her and Myrtle and she encourages her to commit suicide to avoid being burned at the stake. Fiona is then visited by Myrtle who repeats Fiona’s options – death by fire or suicide. Fiona wants to stay alive believing that the Axeman is her final great love and will be by her side to the end. Myrtle tells Fiona that her lover won’t stay with her and that she is destined to die alone.

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Fiona prepares herself for her death and tells Myrtle that she has no regrets about the choices she has made in her life as she has lived for the ‘thrills of the roller coaster’ rather than playing it safe. She asks Myrtle to look after Cordelia and, dressed in her best fur, Fiona takes a handful of tablets and lies down to die.

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She is woken by the ‘ghost’ of Spaulding who offers her an antidote to the drugs she has taken. He refuses to let her die and tells her about the witches plan to get her to kill herself. Fiona vomits up the drugs and swears vengeance on the members of the coven. Fiona comes downstairs to find the coven waiting to see who it is that will become the supreme believing she has died. As Fiona makes her entrance, Misty vanishes.

Delphine and Marie

Delphine remains locked in a cage at the back of Marie’s hair salon. Marie is bleeding her for her beauty poultice. Queenie clearly feels guilty about what she has done and she takes Delphine a burger. Sensing her guilt, Delphine tries to persuade Queenie to free her but she is found by Marie before she can act. Delphine taunts Marie as she feels that her immortality means that Marie has limited options in terms of what she can do to her. Delphine’s imprisonment seems to have revitalised the racist within and Delphine throws insults at the voodoo queen. In a display of her power, Marie chops off Delphine’s hand.

Zoe, Kyle and Madison

We have seen that Zoe is still attempting to teach Kyle and whilst she may be treating him like a child she is trying to find a way that he can integrate into the world. Madison on the other hand is still treating him like property and Kyle’s body language indicates he’s aware of this. Zoe later goes to Kyle and they declare their love for each other. Madison is eavesdropping and is upset by what she has heard.

Nan and Luke

Meanwhile we had seen that Luke’s mother, who has already been shown to have a serious case of religious mania, was prepared to go to exceptional lengths to protect her son’s soul. The extremeness of her ‘morality’ is shown as she berates Luke for interacting with the girls in the coven and he passively accepts the fact that she feels the need to cleanse her son from the inside out. In an extreme example of the exertion of maternal control she insists he undergoes a bleach enema.

The Shooting

Nan has heard Luke’s cries of pain from next door but Cordelia tells her to ignore it. Nan is upset further as everyone seems to be dismissing any possibility that she might be the next Supreme. In anger she goes next door to find Luke bound and bundled in a closet but whilst Nan is rescuing Luke, his mother finds them and calls the police. Luke notices the lights from a gun sight but before he can do anything, shots ring out and his mother is killed. To Nan’s distress Luke is also shot as he pushes her out of the way of the gunfire.

Fiona finds Misty at the neighbours house at the bloody scene of the shooting. Luke has survived the shooting but has a serious head wound and Nan goes with him to the hospital but his mother’s body lies dead. Fiona challenges Misty to use her talents and she brings Luke’s mother back to life.

Cordelia finds a blessed, silver bullet from the shotgun and is able to ‘see’ that the shooting was not a robbery gone wrong but an assassination attempt against the coven by a witch hunter.

Fiona and Cordelia appear to go some way towards a reconciliation the next morning with Fiona saying that she is proud of the way Cordelia attempted to ensure that the coven had a chance to survive. Given her conversation with Spalding it seems likely that Fiona may not be totally honest about her feelings here but given that Cordelia is being acknowledged by her mother she doesn’t seem to be questioning what she is being told. Was it significant that Fiona would only touch Cordelia on the shoulder so that she could not be read? Fiona answers the door to fins a parcel on the porch. She takes it into the dining room and the final scene of the episode reveals the contents to be the head of Delphine who manages to gasp one syllable – ‘help’.

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You can’t find a good servant when you want one!

Cordelia and Fiona are aware that Delphine and Spaulding are missing but at the moment they do not seem overly concerned about the coven’s loss of serving staff!

Line of the week

Cordelia (learning of her mother’s terminal illness): Do me a favour. Die before Thanksgiving so none of us have to suffer through that mess of raisins and styrofoam you call stuffing.

Themes and Issues

Uglification

The older women (through the use of some excellent prosthetics) have all been disfigured.

  • Cordelia has lost her sight and her facial scarring runs across her face like a mask. Still beautiful, despite her puckered and discoloured skin, Cordelia has found that the acid attack has made her more powerful. She has to compensate for the loss of sight and so she is able to ‘see’ into people and learn the truth about them through the sense of touch.
  • Myrtle has returned from the grave and it might be assumed she was ‘awoken’ a little too early from her regenerative sleep in the swamp mud as, unlike Misty whose burning left her physically untouched, she had lost her hair and her face appears creased and crumpled by scar tissue. She has her shocking red wigs made form hair purchased in bulk from ‘North Korea’ so she is fully recognisable even if her appearance is a little ‘wretched’.
  • Fiona has gone through the most dramatic change as she has been loosing her hair and can be seen to be physically deteriorating as the cancer takes hold. Flash-forward scenes show a balding and weakened Fiona who reeks of death and every last shred of her previous beauty has been eradicated. Living through her worst fears seems to be the Supreme’s punishment for her past failings.

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The Impermanency of Death

Misty is described by Myrtle as having ‘bought more people back to life than Jesus Christ’. Death in this series does not mean that we have to say goodbye to a character but coming back is not always a totally positive thing. The ‘undead’ count so far (not counting the Halloween zombies) is:

  • Delphine, Bastien and Marie are immortal;
  • Kyle was bought back by Zoe and Madison;
  • The Axeman was bought back by Zoe;
  • Zoe killed one further person – Spalding – but he is able to speak to Fiona from beyond the grave and his death allows him to see everything – including the coven’s plot against Fiona;
  • Misty has bought back 3 people – Madison, Myrtle and now Luke’s mother.

s@albionmill