After taking a break for Thanksgiving, American Horror Story: Coven returned this week, reminding many fans to be thankful for their weekly dose of campy, gory thrills. This week’s episode begins the homestretch to the finale and that fact seems apparent from watching this place-setting episode. The latest installment was not completely devoid of action, but it was noticeably lacking the urgency and pace of the last three episodes. Still, American Horror Story: Coven remains well worth the watch.
This week began with a cold open that didn’t quite work for me, which is odd because usually the show starts off on a great note. We find Queenie under a bridge in a decidedly seedy part of New Orleans, not where we left her, in Marie Laveau’s hair salon. After a showdown with a nasty hobo, Zoe and Madison appear to try and persuade Queenie to rejoin the Coven.
It’s not explained how Zoe and Madison were even aware of Queenie’s switch of allegiance or how they found her in such a derelict setting. Also, Zoe’s battle call of “there’s a war coming” is dull and lifeless. This little catching-up scene may have seemed necessary due to the week off, but the show acts as if the viewer doesn’t remember where we last saw our protagonists at all and offers us an opening reminiscent of the first scene of a sequel to an action movie, with our hero reminding a secondary character with some vague battle cry that there’s still work to be done. I was disappointed with the cold open for the first time this season and it left a sourer taste in my mouth even after another watch of the riveting credit sequence.
The episode spends a lot of time on the Coven rallying around Cordelia’s strength and guidance in her effort to off her mother, Fiona. To make up for the absence of Queenie, the writers devise a way to have Misty Day come strolling into the school for protection. With her comes Myrtle, an old friend of Cordelia and someone who definitely has a beef with Fiona. I was happy to see the character back in the fold, but it further proves that the show has issue making major status quo changes and definitely lowers the stakes. Why should I worry about the safety of any of the characters if no one on this show ever stays dead?
Instead of taking a violent approach, the Coven decides to try to convince Fiona to take herself out of the picture. They prey on Fiona’s ailing health and use scare tactics and intimidation to nudge Fiona towards suicide, the most entertaining of which is Madison’s efforts. Madison dresses in the same red dress Fiona killed her in and appears in the Supreme’s room claiming to be alive because she is the next Supreme and was never able to be killed in the first place. She dances around the room, throwing barbs and insults Fiona’s way, finally using that mean girl cattiness to great effect. The best part of the scene is Jessica Lange’s awe-stricken, horrified face. It’s not due to Fiona being visited by someone she believed was dead, it’s because Fiona is facing her mortality and a reflection of her youth, with her beauty beginning to fade for good. The fear of becoming withered, old, and obsolete is common among a lot of people, but I think it is definitely a bit more prevalent for women. This scene was another great example of Murphy playing with the themes of womanhood this season.
By the end of the episode, Fiona escapes her suicide attempt with the help of Ghost Spalding, who somehow is able to deliver some ipecac. When Fiona confronts Cordelia, she does so without anger and instead tells her daughter how proud she is that she took such drastic steps to protect the Coven. Apparently, this is all Cordelia needs to hear to have a change of heart, and Fiona is once again accepted back into the Coven, in a war against Marie Laveau and a mysterious Witch Hunter, who is most likely Hank. The only other major event in the episode comes at the end to provide a cliff hanger. Laveau leaves the school a box on their front door step which contains the severed, but still very much alive head of Delphine. It’d be more shocking if we couldn’t guess the contents of the box from a mile away.
Overall, the episode is a bit of a drag. Fiona is demonized and targeted only to be accepted back into the Coven by the end, rendering the reindeer games pointless, and all the other points of action were just unexciting compared to episodes past. Hopefully, next week this war that Zoe is selling starts materializing a bit more.
Den of Geek Rating: 2.5 Out of 5 Stars