By Rakesh Satyal
Thank Hecate our “American Horror Story: Coven” is back, because I was about to put a hex on someone out of sheer restlessness. Allons-y!
Queenie makes a nighttime trip under the bridge — not to get Anthony Kiedis’s autograph but to extract a homeless man’s “dark heart” for Marie Laveau. Zoe and Madison come upon her and are shocked to see her murderous rage, but Queenie assures them that the man, a three-time child rapist, deserves it. Plus, Laveau is apparently making a special voodoo potion to give Queenie more powers.
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Back at the Academy, Delia admits that the loss of Queenie stings but, all the same, declares their erstwhile voodoo doll dead to her. She demands that Madison stay hidden to Fiona so that their attack on her can be “flawless.” She also wonders, in light of Spalding and Delphine’s disappearances, where the hell the wait staff is.
However, the Academy soon has visitors. Of course, the greatest performance in this episode is Frances Conroy’s Myrtle Snow, resurrected with the complexion of bun-headed Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dragging herself out of the swamp, Myrtle wakes Misty and tells her that a man with a gun is circling their cabin — a man who causes the cicadas to stop singing and whom we assume to be witch-hunter Hank.
Misty and Myrtle seek refuge at the Academy. “I had my Stevie, my garden. I tried to disappear into nature,” Misty says, a perfect candidate for a job at Things Remembered. Nan asks Myrtle how her hair grew back so quickly, and Myrtle admits that she’s been buying it in bulk from North Korea for years. Delia offers the new arrivals the protection of the coven, and Myrtle, wowed by Misty’s necromancy, insists that Misty is the new Supreme — an announcement that Delia meets with an implacable expression.
Delia emphasizes that “being a Supreme is not a gift; it’s a burden … All bowed under the weight, except my mother, who ran from it.” Misty says that she doesn’t want to be the Supreme, but Delia clarifies that “Nobody gets to choose. When Fiona dies, whoever it is, will be.” Totes existentch.
For the sake of the coven, the witches, costumed as The House of Bernarda Alba, perform the Sacred Taking, a ceremony that has occurred only thrice — the first time’s having been when Prudence Mather, ailing Supreme of the Salem witches, took her own life so that the new Supreme could take power and lead the coven to New Orleans. Myrtle: “Can you imagine those poor Salem witches traveling all the way down here in covered wagons without a proper charcuterie platter or a bidet? Absolutely savage!” How did Myrtle take refuge in Miss Robichaux’s and not Restoration Hardware?
By her own admission, Fiona is becoming “less Samantha and more Endora with every day.” She worries that Delia will be bereft at her loss, just before Delia says, “Do me a favor: Die before Thanksgiving so that none of us has to suffer through that mess of raisins and Styrofoam you call stuffing.” To be fair, raisins do ruin everything. The Axeman asks Fiona to spend her last month alive with him traveling to Paris, Rome, and Marrakesh (That’s almost my name!), but Fiona doesn’t want him to watch her die. When he asks if she would consider suicide, she says, “I wouldn’t give anyone the satisfaction of me killing myself.”
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But oh, that gets tested tout de suite. The coven decides to use Madison as bait, trotting her out in front of Fiona, who is duly baffled by her presence. Madison lies and says that she resurrected herself because she’s the new Supreme. Now that everyone will know of Fiona’s transgressions, Fiona can either burn at the stake or swallow the gigantic passel of pills that Madison pours on her bed. Fiona starts to pack a suitcase for Patmos, but then Myrtle appears, too. “Is everybody back from the dead, or have I died and gone to heaven?” Fiona asks, admitting that hell would be a likelier destination.
Fiona says that she won’t take her own life, that she has finally found someone, but Myrtle admonishes her that men always leave in the face of such illness. Fiona envisions herself, Gollum-like in bed, as the Axeman tires of her bodily functions and departs.
Therefore, Fiona sits before her vanity and makes herself up in preparation for her suicide. In a hilarious swan song part Sound of Music, part Hair, Fiona talks about life’s being a carnival and a roller-coaster; her having had a fling with Levon Helm in Woodstock; and her steadfast rule of never leaving a party too late. Fiona’s “last” request: “Make sure they hang my portrait in the place I chose. Don’t make them store me in the basement with that disgraced Russian witch.” I assume she means the Sochi Olympics. Then Fiona takes the pills and lies down to die.
But Spalding wakes Fiona and urges her to take some ipecac syrup to expel the pills. Fiona is startled that Spalding can talk; he informs her of his murder, then, because this is AHS, divulges that he is now part of the spirit world. Fiona says that she’s doing something decent for the coven, but Spalding calls her out, saying that she’s simply being tricked. He reveals to her that Madison and Myrtle were brought back by “some dirty little swamp bitch.” Fiona throws up the pills and vows to avenge Spalding’s death — right after she avenges her own.
Patti LuPone is going bonkers up in this piece. While attending to shirtless Luke’s injuries from the zombie attack, she calls Nan a bitch and tells Luke that he brought the attack on himself. She makes him take off his pants — revealing his best boxers from JC Penney — and proceeds to put him in the tub and pour a hot water bottle over his balls. It’s Mommie Dearest starring Vera Drake.
Later, Nan, spurned when she suggests to the other girls the idea of her being the Supreme, heads next door and finds Luke locked upstairs in a closet. They try to escape — Luke saying that he wants to run away with Nan – but are stopped by Joan, on the phone with the police. Suddenly, by way of Hank, who has been on stakeout outside the house, a barrage of shots rings out. Joan gets shot twice — fatally! — and Luke, while trying to shield Nan, suffers a “grievous head wound.” Nan calls out for the Supreme.
Moaning Myrtle is busy being the worst hostess ever, playing Schubert’s last sonata while the witches observe if the Sacred Taking has had any effect on Misty. Misty’s stomach is queasy, but Myrtle says, “I’m told it starts as a tingle in the cooch.” Enter Fiona, who upends their evening by saying that she got a migraine when she became Supreme.
She is, of course, in search of Misty, who seems to have been summoned by Nan’s plea for a Supreme. Fiona goes to the Ramseys’ house and, deflecting the cops with her magic, asks Misty, at the behest of every gay on Earth, to resurrect Patti. Misty succeeds — but summarily passes out. Meanwhile, Delia, after having found a silver bullet in the bushes outside the Ramseys’ house, learns via her Sight that the attack was intentional.
At Cornrow City, Queenie takes Delphine a Jumping Jack with Cheese. Laveau intercedes, chastising Queenie for “feeding the animals.” As soon as Queenie is out of the picture, Delphine, bitingly racist, shows that she is not as contrite as she has led on. Immortal by Laveau’s hand, Delphine teases that the voodoo witch can either kill her or throw her back in the ground. “The mistake you make is having a lack of imagination,” Laveau says before slicing off Delphine’s hand.
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Real talk: I’m sorry, people, but I just can’t with FrankenKyle. Zoe gives him a learning game and headphones so that he can learn how to speak and thereby convey his feelings. Later, FrankenKyle, newly verbal, says that he loves her; she says that she loves him, too, and their third, Madison, overhears in anger. Ugh. Can Grace Gummer come back and stab him, too?
In maybe the most touching scene of the series so far, Fiona and Delia finally bond in the kitchen over their witch hunter/stalker. Fiona thinks that the coven’s plan to kill her showed “real grit.” When Fiona touches Delia, there is no flash, only love. Delia replies, “If I knew how easy it was to win your approval, I would have made an attempt on your life way before now.”
The doorbell rings. There’s a box on the front porch! IT’S GWYNETH PALTROW’S HEAD, we all scream. But no — it’s Delphine’s head, which cries, “Help!”
Where do we think this witch war is going? Do we really think that Misty is the Supreme? All I know is that I want the first thing out of Patti LuPone’s revived mouth to be “Rose’s Turn.”