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Ten Horrible Things We Learned From American Horror Story Coven Episode Five, “Burn, Witch, Burn!” (Episode Spoilers)

She had a monster for a mother.

 

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Well, hot damn! This may have been the best episode yet this season. I read that Taissa Farmiga said it was the most fun she’d ever had filming anything – who can blame her? These “Ten Things We Learned on American Horror Story Coven” updates are still behind a couple of episodes (partially my fault, but this season is moving so goddamned fast that new information and events are zipping by as fast as Fiona goes through pills and packs of cigarettes), so let’s light that match fast…

None of us are innocent. No-one.

 

1.  We found out right off the bat, in another amazing cold open (this one taking place in the LaLaurie Mansion during an elaborate All Hallow’s Eve masquerade party), that Delphine LaLaurie’s relationship with her three daughters was not quite as pure as the wholesome, loving picture she painted to Fiona in her monologue at the end of “Boy Parts” back in the day.  After she scared off Borquita’s potential suitor in her Halloween “Chamber of Horrors” with authentic human eyeballs and intestines instead of the usual substitute peeled grapes and sausages, they’d gotten so pissed off they started scheming to kill their mother (“She’s horrible!”). Whether or not they would have gone through with it, we’ll never know, because very unfortunately for Borquita (the eldest, who was the one that brought up the idea of murder) and her sisters,  Delphine happened to be listening outside their door at the time. She ordered them dragged up to Delphine’s slice of Hell on earth, the attic (and true chamber of horrors),  had them chained up and tossed in her horribly small cages, and told Borquita as the ringleader she’d give her a special Christmas gift-a mouthful of shit (and her mouth sewed up after-I can think of worse Christmas presents, but not too many).  They all beg and wail apologies; Marie tells them they’d be dead if they weren’t her daughters, but not to worry–they’ll only be up there for a year!

“Begin.”

 

2. It turns out that it was sulphuric acid tossed in poor Cordelia’s eyes by that hooded figure (more on that later), as the doctor tells a near-hysterical Fiona. According to the closed captions, the first coherent thing that Cordelia wailed in the bar after being blinded with acid was “I want my mother!” They were able to save her actual eyes (even though, as Fiona says, they look like marbles) but not her eyesight. That’s bad enough, but she’s gained a new kind of sight-when someone makes physical contact with her (as far as we know, hands need to be involved) she can see their horrible secrets. Now, imagine you’ve had the worst night of your life, getting attacked out of the blue while you were minding your own business, resulting in horrifying, agonizing chemical burns that blinded you for life. THEN as you lay in your hospital bed (in what looked like a pretty shitty, ill-equipped hospital), and your husband puts his hand on you to comfort you, you get a vision of certain knowledge that he’s recently and enthusiastically banged another young woman (and done it before). Ryan Murphy wasn’t kidding when he said Cordelia would have the roughest Halloween night of any of the characters.Screen shot 2013-11-30 at 4.45.35 AM

3.  Fiona had (and probably still has) the power to bring a mother’s stillborn daughter back to life. In an episode that had more than one scene that tugged our heart-strings, this one made me the most emotional. Fiona–barely holding it together– hears the mother’s weeping and enters the hospital room. tells the young woman to pick up her dead, swaddled infant up and look at her (which takes, understandably, a lot of urging for the poor mother) and hold her close (“they’ll feel safer that way”).  Tell her ‘I love you more than the world’. Tell her how beautiful she is. Say ‘I’ll never leave you’. Tell her ‘I’ll be your mother until the day you die’. Tell her again. Then Fiona runs a hand over the infant’s head, who then turns from Wisconsin Death Trip-blue to a healthy pink, and the baby comes back to life. The woman weeps in shock and relief as she hugs her crying infant close. Loving, grateful words spill out of her between sobs, and Fiona silently makes her way out of the room and back into the hall.

 

OK, here’s a side note that can’t wait for ‘Stray Thoughts’. How shitty is your shitty, shitty, very shitty hospital care when you have the tragedy of your baby being stillborn, and they not only leave you alone in the corner of a dank, depressing, dimly lit David Fincher-esque hospital delivery room without a visible IV line in you or even a damn sheet to cover you, but also just almost casually leave the dead, swaddled, stillborn infant– whose face is a blueish purple– on top of a steel table several yards away from you (next to all the steel tools they used for the unsuccessful delivery)?  There was a “code blue” announcement over the hospital PA that sent staff rushing down the hall shortly before Fiona found the deserted room, but still. How did that work? Whoop! plop the dead baby on the table here within sight of the mother, we gotta go! “You’ll be fine on your own for a while lady, and it’s not like your blue, dead baby is going anywhere!”*  Well, on the bright side, the poor woman got her baby’s life back thanks to Fiona’s intervention.

 

This is how it ends–in flames and decay.

 

4. Hank and Fiona really, really hate each other. The insults they hurled when Hank showed up in the hospital room got so loud, ugly, and profane that the nurse stepped in from the hall to tell them one of them needed to leave or get tossed out by security. Fiona (who definitely got in the best verbal jabs) finally told Hank, with no small amount of venom, he had 15 minutes with Cordelia, and then he was going to disappear.  He could either leave on his own… or her way. “I don’t care which –although I prefer the latter,” is Fiona’s great exit line.

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5. While this is going on, “all Hell has opened up upon the doorstep” of the Academy (as a terrified Delphine puts it).  Marie Laveau did the necessary rites and then, after calmly and gracefully lying on her back on the floor, began to levitate. The genuinely horrifying voodoo-summoned zombie pack (referred to by at least one character as an “army”, though there appeared to be closer to a couple dozen of them at most, including the three LaLaurie daughters… not that it wouldn’t seem like an army to me if I’d been in the house they were converging on) stood at what seemed to be deliberate spots, scaring the shit out of everyone but Luke, who went out to tell them to get moving, they’d had their fun. A couple teenage boys picked this unfortunate time to enter the yard and check out the killer “prosthetics”, then one of the best moments of the episode arrived: floating Marie opened her eyes–that awesome white-with-no-pupils look she got in the cold open of the last episode– and intoned “Begin”.  Luke finally got the hint when the zombies started moving (maybe he caught the stench, too) and definitely when a couple of them ripped one of the kid’s guts out. Meanwhile, all the students were doing their best to prepare for the unholy assault to come.**

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6. Zoe has a new power! When her chainsaw stops working just as the heavy-set main hate-crime racist from the early 60s flashback (now in the zombie army of Marie’s) has her cornered, she holds up a hand and blurts out, “Be in your nature.” He promptly collapses, finally dead as a doornail. My speculation is that somehow, this is how Zoe will put Kyle (and maybe even Delphine) out of their misery when we’re closer to the season finale.

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7. …and Marie Laveau (who appeared just as surprised as Zoe was at the result of her words) knows it now; when the big racist zombie dropped, her levitation screeched to a halt as gravity kicked in and brought her body abruptly down to hit the floor.  When she catches her breath, Marie tells Chantal,  “I don’t know what that was, but they got some real power in that witch house now.”

The decision of this council is unanimous and final.

 

8. Delphine might have some traces of humanity left, at least to know she was a horrible mother. She voluntarily opens the door and lets in undead Boquita, murmuring,  “What has she done to you?” then realizes aloud, “No… what have I done to you?”  I’m not sure if she wanted to be close to her daughter, tell her how sorry she was, hoped that maybe Boquita could actually kill her, or some combination of the above. “Boquita… you do know me,” Delphine said with something like hope in her voice when her daughter finally met her gaze… and promptly grabbed her mother’s throat with one hand and lifted her several feet above the floor. When she finally was able to put an end to her daughter by driving a poker through Boquita’s torso before she could hurt Queenie, the way all the life (so to speak) went out of her was a little sad –though I’m not sure if anyone that didn’t have Kathy Bates acting chops could make me feel sorry for (a fictional version of) Delphine LaLaurie. “She had a monster for a mother This last act… was the only kindness I ever did for her,” she told Queenie, then collapsed onto the bigger woman’s chest,  sobbing hopelessly, and Queenie even put an arm around her.

You don’t mess with the Supreme.

 

9.  Myrtle Snow may or may not have been the one to blind Cordelia, but the Council believed it, and that along with her hidden agenda and hidden identity (which Fiona had proof of) and verbal attack on Fiona that only made her look worse, got her sentenced to be burned at the stake. Myrtle finally realizes she’s outnumbered and outgunned, and defiantly and proudly announces she accepts her sentence to be burned at the stake (good for you, Myrt, for refusing to beg like Fiona predicted you would).  She walks to her death with the dignity that only Frances Conroy can project when inhabiting a character (though she’s dressed in a plain white robe, without her  trademark cats-eye glasses and tartan/red ensemble, even losing the crimps in her red mane of hair when they’re dampened by the gasoline). Myrt burned mercifully fast before her screams abruptly came to a halt …but not fast enough for her, I’m guessing.

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10. Queenie felt very guilty about her role in the above. She went to see Fiona, who was in a reasonably good mood (for her, anyway) and told her that she helped Fiona when she asked because she owed her one (a pretty big one), but she thought Myrtle was just going to be exiled or something, not burned at the freaking stake.  Queenie’s ‘role’ in revealed after the burning; Myrtle Snow needed to have sulphuric acid burns on her hand (under her gloves, so Fiona could point it out for maximum dramatic effect at the crucial moment), so Queenie did her Human Voodoo Doll thing and burned her own hand when Fiona cued her. But hey, Queenie, don’t feel too guilty. Misty Day made a surprise appearance in the final minute of the episode, put her healing hands on Myrtle’s charred black (and red) head, and the older woman’s eyes FLEW open. She’ll be back, probably with a vengeance!

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Stray Thoughts:

  • In the opening flashback, when Delphine asked Borquita’s suitor (who was the Governor’s son–is anyone good enough for her daughters?)  if he was man enough brave a visit to her chamber of horrors, I thought she was going to take him to the SERIOUS chamber of horrors in the attic for a second. Also, one of the slaves –in fact, the one who smashed  Borquita’s leg in the door or the cage when Delphine ordered him to was Bastien (who later became Marie Laveau‘s Minotaur).
  • I love that Luke (brave and so far, a good kid) went out to scare off what he assumed were trick-or-treaters playing a prank (one that would have involved days of preparation) before it dawned on him, when he saw them rip a guy to pieces, they were blood-thirsty voodoo zombies… and ended up being rescued by the girls.
  • You didn’t throw that acid, but you might as well have, a lumpy, half-naked creepy male patient (more echoes of Asylum) tells Fiona after he grabs her while she wanders the hospital halls in a pilled-out state.  There are theories out there that Fiona was the real culprit, but that makes no sense for her character–she was clearly still sitting at the bar, and her genuinely heart-broken reaction to Cordelia’s tragedy was the real thing. Also, she had absolutely no motivation. There’s a chance it wasn’t Myrtle, but not a chance in HELL it was Fiona’s doing.
  • Zoe has some serious balls. If a horde of zombies were swarming towards your house, would YOU be brave enough to run outside banging pots and pans together yelling, “HEY! OVER HERE, YOU DEAD PIECES OF SHIT!” repeatedly at the top of your lungs to distract them? Unless it were my immediate family in danger,  I’d be hiding under a bed or something. Since she didn’t have an exit plan in place when her gambit worked, she lucked out and found a chainsaw… and kicked some serious ass; especially impressive when one considers she probably only weighed about twenty pounds more than the large chainsaw.
  • Question: why is it the tradition of the witches and The Council (even though they’ve made clear this is a rare occurrence among themselves) that convicted witches are put to death via the same method that their hate-mongering enemies have always–and continued to–use to kill them (especially when the many of them were innocent, and especially in Salem)? It’s more dramatic to watch, I guess, but it still strikes a slightly discordant note. If it’s been explained why and I missed it, feel free to fill me in, because something about it seems off.
  • I guess Madison really was the first ‘real doll’ that Spalding kept, since about the only things he knows how to do to not get caught with a dead body are to A. hide the body and B. spray Lysol all over to cover the stench of rot.  He sure doesn’t understand rigor mortis; though he was able to put her in the wholesome vintage lace dress he had picked out for her at the reveal towards the end of ‘Fearful Pranks Ensue’, he was clueless enough to jam her in a trunk before she got really stiff, then put all his weight behind pulling her out for his latest little tea-party*** by yanking on her arm (which was skinny and already looked slightly fragile before she was dead). Crunch. Riiiiiiip, OOPS! Murphy said after The Replacements episode aired that this scene (he didn’t reveal the specific scene at the time, but gave so many hints he may as well have) this was the most shocking thing they’ve shot for American Horror Story ever, and even equated it with Grand Guignol (if you’re not familiar with the term, start Googling, and you’ll have some very interesting and entertaining reading to do).  It was a good– and grotesque– moment, but sorry Murphy, I disagree on both claims from the interview.
  • Of all the hilarious lines everyone got in during the whole zombie attack on the Academy, I liked this one best:
    Zoe: (frantically running around to make sure all the windows/blinds are closed) Hey! Turn off all the lights!
    Queenie: Um, I think they already know we’re home.

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*One of my favorite all-time authors lives in New Orléans, and in an article, stated that New Orléans had one of the worst health-care systems in America and ranked lowest on patient care. I don’t know if that’s an actual statistic that’s been verified, but good LORD, that scene (though it was fiction) didn’t do much to sway my opinion in a positive way. That place looked about one or two steps away from Briarcliff Manor in American Horror Story Asylum, for Chrissakes!

**Nan was the one who insisted on carrying the wounded Luke out of the car and to safety when the zombies –remember,  these old-school Voodoo zombies can use tools, which Dr. Herbert West could tell you means “fuck it all and get the hell out of Dodge”–made it through the windshield. “I’ll just wait it out here,” he muttered when Nan told him they needed to hastily exit the car and run.  Go, Nan!

***For the record, I don’t believe that Spalding performed any necrophilia-related activities on Madison’s corpse – the nasty stuff he said in the most recent episode was just to try to sell his story to the girls.

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Ten–No, Fifteen Spooky Things We Learned From American Horror Story Coven Episode Four, “Fearful Pranks Ensue”

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Better late than never. The reveals and new characters have been coming so quickly, we picked a really bad season of American Horror Story to slip behind in our episode coverage! So, without further ado, let’s dive into the list, which we tried to pare down to ten but would have left out too much information, so the hell with it… fifteen it is.

Who doesn’t love a surprise?

 

1.  Well, so much for The Minotaur being “this season’s Bloody Face”* At the very least, the Minotaur–or Bastien, as Marie Laveau called him–is out of commission for a while. Fiona dispatched him in the greenhouse …off camera. Took care of him pretty goddamned fast, too; in the scene where she’s asking for Cordelia’s help with the badly injured Queenie, Fiona wasn’t any more rumpled than she’d been when she discovered Queenie. His head –still living– got delivered to Cornrow City in a cardboard box by Spalding (“Some freak dropped it off and didn’t say a word”). This did not have a beneficial effect on Marie Laveau‘s already-serious resentment towards Fiona.

2. Kyle’s not home. No Kyle. Zoe realized, sadly, that he’s just a collection of sewed-together frat guy parts, with Kyle’s head on top. With a heavy heart, Violet Zoe makes him a snack with rat poison in it… but in the time she took to put his last meal together, he vanished. On Halloween night, where he’s going to blend in.

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3. Fiona was able to somehow breathe life into Queenie when Cordelia told her that Queenie’s heart had stopped. If this is one of “The Seven Wonders” that a Supreme must demonstrate before it becomes official, Zoe and Misty are definitely in contention.

Me? I was a monster.

 

4. We saw in the heartbreaking cold open that Marie Laveau can summon and command the dead, if some serious revenge is called for. These aren’t your mainstream zombies that want to eat you and then you wake up wanted to eat people. They want to rip their master’s enemies apart limb from limb when summoned. They can also use tools, unlike mainstream standard zombies. This season, the cold opens just keep topping each other; the scene where Laveau gave those evil, racist assholes the fate they deserved was not only satisfying, but perfectly executed. I especially like the confederate soldier voodoo zombie with the bayonet – and the shot of Laveau in the featured image for this piece.

I must confess, I’ve always enjoyed our little talks together… particularly since you lost your tongue.

 

5. According to Cordelia, Madison couldn’t have been the next Supreme; one of the hallmarks of a rising Supreme is excellent health, and Madison had a heart murmur. If you didn’t catch Jessica Lange’s oh shit! facial expression the first time you watched, it’s priceless enough to re-watch for that alone.

6. Hank is not only a cheater, he’s a cold-blooded killer. In an extremely upfront way.

Yeah, their blood. I used it to paint my day room brick-red.

 

7. The Council is in town! The council is composed of Myrtle Snow (you remember her- she didn’t have much screen time, but definitely made an impression in the season premiere), Quentin (who Fiona greets, not unkindly, as a “vicious old queen”), and the plain, monotone Pembroke. Nan summoned them because she couldn’t hear Madison anymore and was afraid she was dead.

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8. The first rule of Witches Council is never talk about the Wi- whoop, sorry, wrong secretive group!  We find out that the Council on Witchcraft assembles “only under the gravest of circumstances”.

9. We learned another very important law of The Counsel: the penalty for inflicting grievous bodily harm on a fellow descendant of Salem is …death. By fire!

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10. Spalding’s batshit rituals (ar the start of act one. he was hosting an elaborate tea party in the attic, with just him and what looked like 100  at last china dolls dressed to the nines).** just seemed eccentric (and hilarious) at the start of the episode. It started being not even mildly amusing when they gave us the reveal that Spalding had NOT in fact buried Madison as Fiona instructed him to, but had added her body to his doll collection. Forget the fact that he’s wearing a baby bonnet; creepier yet was the fact that though he’d obviously dressed her up (with a strategically-placed, pretty scarf to hide her slashed throat), she was just wearing her bra and panties.

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11. Myrtle really, REALLY hates Fiona. Fiona’s not too fond of her either, but Myrtle has hated her for roughly 40 years – mainly because she figured out Fiona did something terrible to Anna Leigh (murder, specifically), back in 1971, followed shortly by Spalding being discovered with his tongue laying on the bathroom floor a couple of feet away from him as he lay yelling in horrible pain (and a spray of blood on the mirror …after Myrtle enchanted it to speak only the truth. Also, Fiona was a mean-spirited little bitch to Myrtle. Fiona also sort of took off (all over the world; I think the word Myrtle used was “jet-setting”) after being officially named the Supreme, and didn’t do any of the paperwork (three unsigned ‘Winter Petitions’) or participation in official witch duties and meetings that a Supreme is supposed to.  The last forty years she’s thought that Fiona didn’t deserve to be the Supreme, and now she want to get her convicted by the council and burned at the stake ASAP.

Tonight I’m gonna let the whole world in, get a good look at me.

 

12. We also learned via flashback (1971) that  Spalding voluntarily cut out his own tongue to protect Fiona. The night before he was to testify officially, he sent young Fiona note to meet him in some upstairs bathroom. He thanks he politely for coming, then told her, “These are my last words, Miss Fiona. I have always loved you.” Then he used a straight razor to slice his tongue out. Maybe Myrtle should have looked around at dinner earlier that night to make sure that Spalding wasn’t, oh, standing directly the fuck behind her before confiding to a friend that she put a spell on his tongue so he could speaking nothing but the truth.

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13. Unfortunately for Cordelia, she has a low alcohol tolerance (though more than three shots of Maker’s Mark and I’d start feeling like I might need to run to the nearest ladies room to puke, too).  She was enjoyed a nice Halloween night out for cocktails with Fiona, and they were even getting along fine. After she was done being violently sick she went to splash some water on her face, and got taken off guard by a hooded, robed figure in black who tossed sulphuric acid at her face… right in her eyes. She shrieks in horror and pain at the top of her lungs, as loud as… well, probably as loudly as any of us would if we were minding our own business in what we thought was a safe restroom and had blinding acid tossed directly in our eyes. Eeeeek.

14. In yet another stunningly-lensed flashback, we learn that after over a decade of bloodshed and heartbreak, Marie Laveau  (Angela Basset ROCKING a Pam Grier-style early 70s ‘fro) sat down across from Anna Leigh Leighton and an actual peace treaty was brokered between the Salem Witches and the Voodoo Witches in 170, 1971 at the latest. “They had their territory, we had ours,” says Chantal, Marie’s closest (human) friend. Neither side crossed into the others. “No more bloodshed at one another’s hands. The rest of the world was cruel enough.” (Hear hear).

Is your seatbelt fastened?

 

15. Chantal was telling Marie Laveau this because Laveau was going to do something that shattered the decades-long truce (apparently sending them the Minotaur’s/her former lover’s head in a box, probably no good to her without his corresponding body –which I assume the witches burned, dismembered, or otherwise destroyed–was the last straw). This plan involved elaborate chalk drawings on the floor,  baskets of extremely substantial snakes,* what looked like an old noose or series of knots, and the sacrifice of one unfortunate snake (we saw a blood-soaked rooster head in the next episode in a continuation of the same scene).  Yup, she’s summoning what looks to be at least twenty her zombie slaves to attack her enemies again. This time they include the fat racist from the prologue, a decayed bride, and in my favorite reveal of the night–actually, maybe the most frightening sight so far of the season– Delphine LaLaurie’s three (un)dead daughters. Marie opens the door to what she assumes to be trick-or-treaters and is greeted by the sight of their swaying, absolutely ghastly corpses standing on her doorstep.

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Stray thoughts:

  • The Academy sure had a lot more students back in 1971.
  • If you were in charge of handling the trick-or-treaters on Halloween night… well, I don’t know about you, but I’d damn sure check the peephole after an ominous, measured pounding on the door like that.
  • The last official witch-burning decreed by The Council was in 1926.
  • The final shot of the episode where the camera tracked back and back to reveal the veritable army of Laveau’s shambling zombie slaves just took my breath away, and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Halloween cliff-hanger.
  • Ryan Murphy has very recently teased that the season finale will include the “Test of the Seven Wonders” that a Supreme must demonstrate to the Council in order to officially be declared. In this episode, we heard during a dinner conversation that two of the seven wonders were pyrokinesis and transmutation (Fiona “aced” them both).  You’re probably already well aware the first is the ability to start fires with your mind; the second is defined by Google as “the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form”. That sounds like it’s going to be quite interesting to see…Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 3.07.47 AM

*In several interviews to promote the season, Ryan Murphy said that Season 3 would feature two “Big Bads” – The Minotaur and The Axeman. The jury’s still out on The Axeman – we do have a theory that connects The Axeman to something shocking Fiona did, but that’s for later.

**There was something about that first scene that just made me giggle; maybe the matter-of-fact way Denis O’Hare played it, like it was a completely normal way to relax after he was off duty and in his quarters. Put on antique, quaint record of innocent little music? Check. Pour tea carefully for dolls at table? Check.  Get out fancy lace napkin and prepare to–hey, is that someone arguing downstairs? Guess I should get dressed and go see what’s up.

***Wonder who in the cast has a phobia of snakes (if anyone)? For Angela Bassett’s sake, I sure hope she’s not scared of them (since she seems to have all the snake-handling scenes). If she is scared of them (say, the way I’m scared of spiders; unless the job paid well enough for me to retire very comfortably on, and involved a large supply of Xanax, I’m not even sure I could pick them up, let alone let them crawl on any part of me) then my respect for her acting ability just hit a new high, because she remains regal and composed in all her scenes with live snakes.

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