‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Review: “Protect the Coven”
On tonight’s new episode of ‘American Horror Story: Coven,’ Fiona and Marie have a long-awaited showdown with the witch-hunter corporation, while Cordelia makes a desperate sacrifice to protect the coven (yeah, saw that one coming — no pun intended). Meanwhile, familiar faces return both to our delight and disappointment because no one stays dead on this show, and Myrtle talks a lot about fashion and love and uses words that she may or may not have made up.
The witch hunter corporation is the worst — I’m not talking in the adversarial sense. I’m talking in the narrative and tonal sense. Their dialogue is awful. Their acting is atrocious and doesn’t gel when pitted against the likes of Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett. Am I wrong to believe that Gina Gershon’s Cristal Connors character from ‘Showgirls’ would fit right in ordering drinks alongside Fiona and Marie — the latter of whom I loved to watch as she drank her Diet Sprite with royal sass.
Anyway, back to the witch hunters. I get that there was promise to this idea of a bunch of men undermining and subjugating the power of women for centuries, as a reflection — albeit heavy-handed, as if Ryan Murphy and Co. know any other way — of very real and ongoing sexism throughout history and modern culture. I get it. It seems reasonable. But the execution is so tone deaf, even for this show, which is tonally more all over the place than the Axeman’s jazz. And yet it’s kind of pretty much worth it just to see Danny Huston’s Axeman whip out his axe and cartoonishly slaughter an entire room of witch hunters, firing a gun still clutched in the dead hand of a dismembered arm. It’s the kind of thing that feels like, well, of course that’s what this was building to. What else could have happened here? And I laughed and laughed. But here’s the thing: where my laughter at the witch hunter scenes before felt like an unintentional result, at least laughing at the Axeman’s gleeful massacre seemed right. And I love/hate that the scene takes place on a set that feels ripped straight from one of those medicine commercials where a guy at an important afternoon meeting has the telltale rumblings of explosive diarrhea and his whole vision of the boardroom becomes skewed as he starts pouring sweat and desperately searching for an exit.
But hey, at least the witch hunters are gone, and it seems Fiona learned a lesson from her failed truce with Marie, since she opted to just murder these guys instead of signing some ridiculous “100 years of peace” treaty.
Meanwhile, over on Tumblr, all the Violet and Tate ‘shippers from season 1 are probably losing their damn minds over tonight’s ridiculous finale. Don’t worry, only the best and brightest 14 year-olds are hard at work creating hundreds of GIFs of Zoe and Kyle from tonight’s episode, delicately hued in beige and violet and captioned with cursive font quotes celebrating their epic love. It’s strange that Zoe was introduced as our perspective character, only to be awkwardly shuffled around like wilted vegetables on a dinner plate. I learned a long time ago that there’s no use in speculating about what goes on behind the scenes with ‘AHS’ because it’s about as useless as Kyle himself, so I have no clue what the original intention was for Zoe, but her introduction seems to indicate that she was meant to be a more primary character from the get-go.
Tonight Queenie comes back, and on the one hand I’m pleased because I do enjoy Gabourey Sidibe, but on the other hand I feel like it undermines the nobility and beautiful sadness of her sacrifice. That’s one of the ongoing problems with ‘AHS’: while it’s fun that people can die and then just come back whenever because everything is supernatural and wacky, it eliminates any real stakes and takes the horror out of the ‘Horror’ story. While it’s nice to know that our beloved Nan will probably return, it takes the punch out of her death. All of this warring becomes meaningless because no one is really going to die.
Like Delphine. Oh boy did I roll my eyes when she came back, even if it was kind of funny to see her on a leash. And yet, instead of this absurd ongoing attempt to make us empathize with a deplorable racist murderer, we go even further into the depths of her sadistic mind to find out how she became so twisted: turns out, she’s just like every other serial killer, which is actually pretty interesting given that most serial killers are average white men. I wound up being pretty intrigued (and simultaneously disgusted) by the ongoing nastiness of Delphine tonight, who encounters Ghost Spalding in the attic. And while, okay, their little side story is super silly, I couldn’t help but laugh at Delphine thinking Benadryl was magic or how all Spalding wanted was this really rare doll and for Laveau to get out of the damn house. And so ‘AHS’ mythology is weaving its way into real history, as I assume Delphine will bury Marie in a cement tomb, much like the real Marie’s grave.
I just wish we hadn’t spent so much time this season looking through Delphine’s perspective, while the show makes Marie an antagonist. Even when Delphine is at her worst, like tonight, the show still paints her with a somewhat empathetic light, allowing her to tell her story as if she’s downtrodden and put-upon. I suppose that’s part of what makes her even more horrible, but I don’t feel like ‘AHS’ has tried hard enough to explore Marie’s background or to really help us understand who she is or where she comes from, aside from last week’s encounters with Papa Legba.
Speaking of perspectives and seeing, Cordelia stabs her eyes out in an effort to regain her second sight, which should hopefully help put an end to all this witch-on-witch nastiness going on in the house. It might also help her figure out who the real Supreme is. I hope it’s Nacho Supreme.