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‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Review: “Go to Hell”

American Horror Story Coven Go to Hell
FX

Tonight brings the penultimate episode of ‘American Horror Story: Coven,’ as Cordelia regains her power and her latest visions foretell a troubling future (or lack thereof) for the coven. Queenie takes a trip to the underworld to search for Marie Laveau, while Kyle and Zoe’s vacation is short-lived (sigh, of course), and Misty finally returns. Also: Delphine gets a makeover and a new job! 

The more I think about last week’s episode, the more annoyed I am that Marie and Fiona used the Axeman to slay the witch hunters. For a season (and show) that’s largely been about strong women in all their shapes and forms, good and bad, it’s pretty lame for them to rely on a man. On the one hand, I can see the motivation behind it: they’re above having to get their hands dirty with these creeps, and by using Axeman, they’re showing their dominance over men. On the other hand: they’re badass witches who don’t need to get their hands dirty at all, really, so what’s the point? I mean, other than Danny Huston’s awesomely cartoonish murder spree, obviously.

So tonight’s episode makes up for that a bit when the ladies of ‘Coven’ pull a Manson Girl Slasher Gang Bang (patent pending) all up on poor, heartbroken Axeman, who’s just discovered that Fiona was going to leave him after she used him to help her slaughter all the witches, her own daughter included. This is a show that wanted to make us feel bad for Delphine early on, so it’s no surprise that I actually did sort of feel sad for Axeman in the end. But what really seals the deal is when FrankenKyle offers to kill him as the coven’s guard dog is shooed aside by Madison and Misty, the latter insisting that these ladies don’t need a man to protect them. See, Fiona’s out now, and the times, they are a-changing.

Let’s back up a bit.

The Seven Wonders test is approaching, and we get a really superb old-timey opener that shows us the test as it was done back in the Salem days. I honestly would not have minded if this season had devoted an entire episode to Salem using this faux vintage footage. But with the test approaching and things reaching a head with Fiona, times getting more dire and needs being more crucial, etc., the girls are all developing new powers. It seems any of them could be the new Supreme. But Queenie’s the main focus tonight, as she goes down to Hell to try and find Marie, who’s been chopped up into pieces by Delphine.

Speaking of which, Delphine has taken up a new job as a tour guide in her old home, trying to “set the record straight” about history, and with that new haircut and that sharp suit, you’d think she’s running for president of Fox News.

With Laveau out and her deal with Legba squashed, Delphine is finally vulnerable to death, but Queenie offers her one last chance, sensing — like many of us — that maybe her appeals to Delphine’s conscience were at some point getting through. There’s this great speech from Delphine about the falsity of public apologies from politicians and public figures (Anthony Weiner, Paula Deen, et al.), and how repentance is a lie, a tool to manipulate people so you can keep selling them what you’re selling them. There is nothing Delphine could do that would redeem her as a character or as a human being, and she knows this, and the writers (THANK GOODNESS) know this. I was getting worried there for a while that we were going to see some last-act moment of redemption, but these last couple of episodes have steered Delphine into full-fledged, unrepentant psycho territory, so my only concern was with how they would address delivering the proper comeuppance: and oh boy does she get it — sent to her personal version of Hell, her own attic, where she’s imprisoned with her daughter to be tortured by Marie Laveau for eternity.

And that’s where we get a sad twist: although Marie used her power and her immortality for good for much of her life, she still killed innocent babies once a year for Papa Legba, and although she was acting under orders as part of an agreement, a sin is a sin — she too must suffer. Delphine’s personal Hell is also Marie’s, where the latter works as Legba’s servant, torturing Delphine’s daughter, who never did Marie any harm.

I’m also a bit bummed that Axeman did Fiona in, though it seems fitting for her since she’s spent her entire life priding herself on her strength and self-sufficiency. Love is weakness to Fiona, and she did love Axeman, which is why he was able to kill her in the end. Love is the reason Cordelia couldn’t bring herself to kill her own mother time and again when she knew she should, and Fiona’s used that to her advantage for a long time now. I’d also really like to hear her story about the calico cat.

‘AHS’ has established a bit of a pattern where things get a bit wobbly in the middle of the season. The nature of the show has always been this maniacal, convoluted beast, like a mad scientist with a pop culture blender — and while a lot of it often works in ways that are charming, endearing, or even mystifying, we always get to that spot mid-to-late season where so much crap has been shoved into that blender that some of it’s just bound not to work out. (Like Delphi.) That doesn’t mean it’s still not fun to watch. Unlike ‘True Blood,’ which is overburdened with plot, ‘AHS’ has a more contained narrative; it just has more fun elements and better dialogue to distract us if something about that narrative isn’t clicking.

But the last few episodes are when things all seem to come together and the show really goes all out. We still have one episode left, and while this season has been tons of fun, I’m still partial to the themes and tone of ‘Asylum.’ We’ll see what next week brings. As Cordelia tells us: SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY! The Seven Wonders: might as well be a monster truck rally.

 

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