Mayfair Witches Season 1 Ending Explained

The season finale of Mayfair Witches is named after a hellish reckoning as Rowan gives birth to the second coming.

Alexandra Daddario as Dr. Rowan Fielding - Mayfair Witches _ Season 1, Episode 8
Photo: Alfonso Bresciani | AMC

This article contains spoilers for MAYFAIR WITCHES episode 8.

Anne Rice’s most vividly unapologetic ambitious creation takes no prisoners as she is finally freed through bondage in Mayfair Witches‘ season finale, “What Rough Beast.” Dr. Rowan Mayfair (Alexandra Daddario) claims her powers and her birthright, several times over, before the guest credits finish running.

Uprooted from her life as a rising neurosurgeon, Rowan learned everything she was raised to believe was a lie, and is the, desperately hidden, foretold “13 Witch” of the old and powerful Mayfair family. As newly appointed designee, Rowan not only inherits the family’s riches, but their curse. Lasher (Jack Huston) is a mysterious entity, increasingly entwined with the family for generations, and Rowan has been evading his advances. Everyone has her limits, in this installment Rowan learns she has none.

“You called on me to do your will,” Lasher (Jack Huston) reminds the stricken Rowan, before she drops from loss of blood from a failed rescue mission. “Let me do it.” Her “Go” command is followed to its ultimate conflagration, with not even ashes left behind as a clue. Written by Esta Spalding, and directed by Alexis Ostrander, “What Rough Beast” burns all its bridges to make way for a new generation.

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At the start of the episode, a rabid pack of fundamentalists who grouped through online media, impose their righteous agenda with implements of torture passing as natural justice. “It just felt really interesting to think what a witch hunter would look like in this day and age,” episode writer and showrunner Spalding tells Den of Geek. “Because they are so religious in the era of Suzanne, it seems more interesting to have it be something different in our era.”

The rogue group of zealous vigilantes resemble the current conspiracy theories readily accepted as factual allegories. “What I find fascinating about our witch hunters is that a lot of what they say is true,” Spalding says. The Mayfairs are conspiring with a demon in order to have all this money. What they do is horrible. We tried to make them people with an outside point of view on the wealth and acquisition of the Mayfairs.”

But the dynamic also mirrors the incel subclass. “There was that article where someone was saying Hillary Clinton and all these women of power, literally, people called them witches. We thought, ‘Who would be the people that would be calling them that, who are the people out there?’ That isn’t a religious thing, that’s an extrapolation into that kind of incel way of thinking. Who feels that threatened by these women that they would call them witches?”

The episode’s title, “What Rough Beast,” comes from a line in William Butler Yeats’ controversial 1919 poem “The Second Coming,” itself a spoiler about the infant Lasher wishes to call home. The poem opens with the line “Surely some revelation is at hand.” The installment reveals several rough beasts, including family patriarch Cortland Mayfair (Harry Hamlin), whose animal cunning is only matched by his predatory instinct, and smooth delivery.

“I had no idea, until I read the episode, that I was the guy who killed the kid and assaulted Deirdre,” Hamlin says. “I was kind of shocked when I read that actually. I suppose there’s incest involved, so it’s kind of interesting to contemplate that.”

A case could be made that Cortland was possessed when he assaulted Deirdre, fathering the 13th witch who would birth his eternal deliverance. “In the second book, there’s a lot of talk about how Lasher – the spirit Lasher, not the baby Lasher – would enter the bodies of various people in the family and go out for a night on the town,” says Spalding. “So, I suppose Cortland could claim that it happened, but I don’t know if we would believe him or not. But that is very much a part of the mythology, that people are being operated on by the demon Lasher, when they do things.”

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But Hamlin believes his character needs no excuses. “No, I think he’s very calculated,” the actor explains. “If anything, it means he can manipulate using his own kind of self-possession. I think he’s a possessor, not someone possessed. Self-preservation is not necessarily an evil motive.”

Rowan discovered she is pregnant in episode 7, and she comes to term much quicker than she comes to terms with the morphing creature in swaddling clothes. The new mother’s accelerated gestation period is not covered by Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, even the most updated editions. “We’re following our guide in Rice’s books,” says Spalding. In the book, Lasher is both conjured and born a full-grown man. “So that baby grows pretty fast.”

The beast of the poem is waiting for its hour to “slouch towards Bethlehem to be born.” Lasher’s reign is in its infancy, as Fielding’s. She is a neurosurgeon who can weaponize her mental facilities with medically and magically informed accuracy. She does not slouch after bandaging herself with torn underclothes, she drags her way to the prophecy. When Rowan accepts Lasher’s help, she surrenders to her power, and all the energies of made promises. Lasher has generations of memories to conjure, and the ability to create mental landscapes, usually the domain of the traumatized, a place for brief escape. But in this case, he invites Rowan in as a test and a historical overview of the book’s lost chapters.

“At the finale, we have these rooms that Rowan is going through,” Spalding says. “That is a nod to that central section of the book, which is so incredibly rich with the history of all of these generations of all of the different Mayfair designees. That we could only nod to them was rather heartbreaking. But we did try to have Rowan experience a taste of each of those generations.”

The newest member of the family is already crawling, inexplicably adept in his familiarity with his parental choices. Players in the poem and series are “vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.” Baby Lasher is a child of several fathers, and Rowan’s maternal instincts are fierce, but her custody battle has no precedent in law books, even though it did begin with a very binding contract. Ciprien Grieve (Tongayi Chirisa) is the father of Rowan’s baby, but has no more rights than his sister Odette (Keyara Milliner) has over the suffragette infant she delivered for a loving same-sex couple with mutual assent.

During the episode, the empath Grieve is throttled from all sides, and some emotions cannot be blocked with patent leather gloves. As the biological father, he is torn between his responsibility to Rowan and his allegiance to the investigative agency he reports to. But he also holds a place in the prophecy, and personal jealousy against a creature beyond his imagination. The sworn agent of the Talamasca broke the first rule of an observational field operative, not to fall in love with his subject.

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“When you see his journey, from the first episode, how Rowan somehow manages to get him to lose his footing,” Chirisa tells us. “Ciprien is by-the-book. He’s very well calculated. He understands. But just the fact that in his investigation work when he’s following her around, Rowan catches him. And this is not like Sip, to be seen, because he’s the master of hiding in plain sight.”

The compromised integrity has been building throughout the season, and cannot be written off as paternal panic. “You start to see the gradual wear and tear that Rowan has on Ciprien,” Chirisa says. “This is unique for him, because he’s never allowed anybody to get that close to him, except for obviously, his sister. So, I think this dynamic that you find Rowan and Sip in is genuine.”

The same statement cannot be made with assurance about the spiritual father of the growing life form. In the series, the entity Lasher functions as a tool of empowerment. He brings each of the special witches of the generations into their power. But whether he loves Rowan, or is merely a cad with just one thing on his mind, to be reborn into the prophesied being, is shrouded in ambiguity. “I always wanted to play it that he does love every witch he was possessed by, or owned by, every witch he was intertwined with,” Huston tells us. “But yeah, there’s obviously always the ulterior motive. I don’t think that they have to be mutually exclusive. I think he can love them and still want what he wants for himself.”

Rowan, as the new designee of the Mayfair Family, retains full power of authority, and settles all family business like don Michael Corleone in The Godfather: during a dark baptism. When she walks away from Ciprien, she is taking on the responsibilities of “The 13th Witch.” The child she is protecting, is the end of the beginning.

“Rowan now is very, very powerful, and has taken that power and is running with it, literally,” says Ashford. “It’s an examination of what does a woman do when she, in fact, does have almost limitless power.” Spalding adds “if the first season was about her recognizing her individual power and choosing to take on that role as a witch, then the second season is going to play out very much in the family of the Mayfairs, and this family will expand to include not just the Mayfairs of New Orleans, but Mayfairs beyond.”

Meanwhile, Ciprien describes Lasher as “the most powerful supernatural being the world has ever seen.” It seems something like that would go to his head. But there appears to be competition. “There are other possibilities of who it is they’re talking about that’s going to be the most powerful supernatural being,” Spalding says. “We’re about to embark on the world of the Taltos, this amazing, magical, and mysterious species. That is very much a part of book two of the series and book three, which is called Taltos. So yeah, we’re going to try to explore exactly what that is and what it means to the legacy of the Mayfairs and to Rowan herself, that she has given birth to this creature.”

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Rowan’s cinematically framed exit from the oppressive masculine choices bullying their way into her newfound dominion promises exciting things from the nightmares to follow.

“I’m really excited to discover more about all of these characters,” Huston says. “I love watching them. We love playing them. It was an absolute riot being with these amazing people, these fellow actors who you’re lucky enough to be looking at right now. I think that’s the best thing about another season, you get to delve that much deeper into all of this stuff. I love to see what they’ve got cooking for the next season.”

Mayfair Witches season finale, “What Rough Beast,” aired Feb. 26 on AMC and AMC+.