‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Review: “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”
‘American Horror Story: Coven‘ returns from its winter break, and Ryan Murphy and Co. have brought a very special guest along with them: the one and only Stevie Nicks! While Misty ponders over what it means to possibly be a Supreme, Madison plots to take the crown for herself. Meanwhile, Fiona discovers the truth about Hank and works with Marie Laveau on a plan to bring the witch hunters to their knees. With her life in tatters and her power diminished, Cordelia struggles to find her place in the coven.
Man, there is something pretty special about watching Marie Laveau and Fiona Goode team up. The few scenes in which Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett have traded fierce snipes at one another have been delightful, but placing them in the same house where these two incredible actresses can really feed off of the energy of one another full time is electrifying stuff. And Fiona’s dark magic working in tandem with Marie’s voodoo is pretty creative, especially the maze with the white mice, meant to signify Hank’s father and Delpha Phi, the business front for his witch hunter’s organization. The weaker elements of this plot, unfortunately, have to do with that very organization, and give us lazily written cartoon villain lines like, “It’s time we take those witches down.” It’s written with such a heavy-hand that I’m surprised Murphy and this week’s episode writer, James Wong, weren’t bludgeoning their laptops to death.
But this week also brings us the highly-anticipated visit from white witch Stevie Nicks, whom Fiona brings as a little treat for Misty, to try and win her over. Nicks sings a couple of songs (“Rhiannon,” “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You”), and it’s enough to make me swoon just as hard as Misty. But as Madison tries to warn our favorite swamp witch, everything is transactional, even the chicken kabob Madison buys Misty for lunch. Fiona will someday want something in return for bringing Stevie by for a visit, just like Stevie might call Madison up one day and say, “Hey, remember that time I gave you that bitchin’ floral shawl? Yeah, I need a little of your magic swamp mud for these concern-wrinkles on my forehead.” All of this, of course, is a ruse. Madison proves that her power is becoming just as strong as Misty’s: she can now revive the dead, and even that’s just a distraction to knock Misty out and lock her up in a coffin. Poor Misty.
This week focuses a lot on transactions and immortality, the latter of which has been a running theme throughout the season. People like Fiona are concerned with an unattainable immortality, and not the reality of it: that our children are what allow us to continue living long after we are gone. When she finds out who Hank really was, her disappointment in Cordelia is a reflection of a disappointment in herself for not being a better mother. Her entire life has been spent trying to prolong her own life rather than passing good traits on down the line, creating an enduring legacy. She has lived a selfish life rather than a giving one, and tonight she ultimately resigns herself to this when she attempts one last desperate transaction.
Apparently there is a voodoo Santa Claus, and if you leave out a plate of cocaine, he comes and takes your soul, and gives you immortality. His name is Papa Legba (Lance Reddick, badass), but he’s not just interested in cocaine. Once a year, he’ll also ask you for the soul of an innocent, and he’s the reason why Marie Laveau is immortal. Tonight we learn more about her tragic history in a beautiful and mournful flashback that lends her modern fierceness even more depth. We also learn that Fiona is so far down the rabbit hole that she’d give up her own daughter for the chance to live as the Supreme forever, free of sickness and aging. ‘AHS’ tries to color this story empathetically with her strange love for the Axeman — but it’s a love I’m not sure I entirely understand given its origins and the bipolar nature of their affair. Still, I like Fiona’s journey this season, as narratively messy as it’s been. She’s an incredibly complex character with violent mood swings who acts selfishly but has the capacity for love, both for her daughter and for this serial killer ghost. It’s weird and it doesn’t always make a lot of story-sense, but it makes sense on an emotive level, and I think sometimes that’s more important, especially on a show like ‘AHS.’
Unfortunately for Fiona (and fortunately for everyone else, especially Cordelia), Papa Legba isn’t making a deal with her because she doesn’t have a soul to sell. I’m not sure if there’s more to this story (did she already sell her soul?), or if we’re meant to conclude that Fiona is soulless in general, but if it’s the latter case I find it hard to swallow, given her erratic bouts of empathy and random acts of kindness.
Meanwhile, Cordelia is having a mental breakdown because she doesn’t have the power of second sight anymore and she had no idea her husband was a lying witch hunter who was just using her. Myrtle suggests Cordelia take up a job as a cruise ship hostess.
And poor, poor Nan. I was really hoping Nan would get more of a happy ending, you guys. Like the other girls in the house, her powers were also starting to increase (I like that she used them to mess with Madison), but when she discovered Luke’s mom murdered him, she snapped and forced the old religious nut to drink herself to death with some bleach, proving that even a kind soul like Nan is capable of breaking. Her story is perhaps the saddest, and I believe her when she said she would have been a good Supreme. Instead of giving Legba the soul of an infant, Fiona and Marie team up to drown Nan (“She was innocent! Mostly… She killed the neighbor lady, but the bitch had it comin’!) and offer her soul to the voodoo demon instead. But at least Nan’s soul seems somewhat content in the afterlife with Legba, and as this is ‘AHS’ and dead people don’t stay away for long, we might still see her again. Maybe her spirit will show up during some climactic moment to save the day, proving she was the baddest witch after all.
FrankenKyle sits this week out, and I’m kind of glad since it’s become pretty obvious that Evan Peters seems to only have been written in to pander to season 1 Tate and Violet ‘shippers. Maybe he was busy learning what the cow says, and next week he can teach us all about it. Zoe is useless set dressing this week, and it seems like any notion that she might be the Supreme is gone (for now) as Madison and Misty hash it out. I never once believed Zoe was the chosen one. Team Misty all the way, witches.