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‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Review: “The Replacements”

American Horror Story Coven The Replacements
FX

On tonight’s new episode of ‘American Horror Story: Coven,’ Madison discovers a new power that leaves an already weakened Fiona feeling extra threatened, while Cordelia continues to try and get pregnant. Meanwhile, Zoe’s still trying to make things right with Kyle — and while she means well, she may be doing him more harm than good. Also: Nan bakes a cake and Delphine LaLaurie discovers television!

Just when you think “The Replacements” is a rather tame hour of ‘American Horror Story,’ here comes a heaping dose of incest to spruce things up a bit. Poor Kyle — resurrected from the dead as a modern Frankenstein’s monster, unable to communicate his feelings (and man, Evan Peters is knocking it out in the eye-acting department), and sent back home to an incestuous mother. What I find fascinating about Zoe is her naivete, and the way that her good intentions often backfire. Her selflessness is merely self-serving, but she doesn’t quite understand that yet. It’s only three episodes in, but I look forward to seeing her become a little more worldly.

Another zany element of tonight’s episode: semen in a mason jar! Apparently it’s the key ingredient to Marie Laveau’s fertility spell that will, hopefully, enable the barren Cordelia to conceive a baby, since her snake sex magic didn’t seem to do the trick. (Can we talk about how majestic Laveau looked upon her voodoo throne? She is a profound bad-ass.) But of course, Laveau isn’t willing to help Cordelia after Fiona’s little visit, and I’ve got a feeling we’re watching Cordelia being slowly pushed over the edge into much darker territory.

Then there’s Madame LaLaurie, who is astounded by television (“the magic box”) and grief-stricken that our president is a black man. This is where ‘AHS’ slips in some lines from Fiona about how she hates racism, which seems like an obvious way to affirm to the audience that it’s okay that Ryan Murphy and Co. are addressing racial tensions because our main girl hates racists, and she’s turning the queen racist into Queenie’s new slave. Speaking of which, our old pal the minotaur makes his return, with Queenie’s idea of scaring him off involving masturbation … it’s a little confusing, and of all the things on tonight’s episode, seems like the most absurd attempt at being provocative.

But let’s get to the meat of the episode: the battle between new and old, and youth and age. Madison is manifesting some new powers, and Fiona believes that the young witch is the new Supreme — she could be right, given that her health is spiraling downward at an alarming rate, and that Madison is getting stronger as she’s getting weaker. This storyline beautifully illustrates some sad realities about women, namely the way that youth goes from being a powerful weapon to a threat turned against us. It also speaks to the way that actresses in Hollywood are put out to pasture, so to speak, so that new blood can reign supreme. As Fiona ages, her powers diminish, while Madison’s youthful state empowers her further. Madison discovers her new power for the first time while paying a visit to the new Bible-thumping neighbor and her handsome son (and Nan baked a cake! I love her most of all), which is an appropriate stage for exploring how a woman discovering her magic powers imitates the power a young woman like Madison holds over men. It’s no coincidence that men are the focal point of so much of the Fiona and Madison story tonight.

The ending, however, was a total shock, and a great bookend to the opening sequence, in which a young Fiona slits the throat of the reigning Supreme to solidify her new status and powers. While I find it hard to believe that we’ve seen the last of Emma Roberts’ Madison (if she is the new Supreme, and I’m still leaning toward Misty — unless there can be two, and what amazing, rowdy fun that would be!), the stand-off between her and a drunken, deranged Fiona, obsessed with ending her life — and her power — on her terms, was intense. Goodbye for now, Madison.

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