With no more American Horror Story episodes until the New Year the writers made sure to end the year with a great episode. “Head” moves the plot forward a considerable amount, provides the required amount of camp and dark comedy, and even attempts an emotionally driven ending, even though parts of it don’t work. It is a great mix of all the elements that make the show fun to watch and does a good job setting up the major conflict in the last three episodes. Though we’ll be missing the weekly dose of bitchery, this is the perfect not to leave us in for the break. Enough with this, on to the recap.
The episode opens with a flashback to a young Hank out hunting with his father. Except, as it is customary on the show, the quaint idea of a father/son bonding ritual is completely twisted and turned into quite the disturbing ordeal. Of course, they are hunting witches and while the idea is not surprising (we already know of Hank’s true identity), it is sufficiently sinister and unsettling. Any eight year old would struggle with killing a bunny or quail or whatever, let alone a woman desperately pleading for her life. As little Hank hesitates the witch seizes the opportunity and unleashes her fire power upon him, but daddy Hank hurriedly shoves baby Hank out of the way and kills her. The scene ends with Hank’s dad dramatically and ominously warning his son, “No mercy, never forget what they are.” Hank never did learn that lesson.
After the credits, Fiona arrives at Cornrow City with intentions to broker an alliance between the Salem and Voodoo witches. Oh, and she also wants to return Delphine’s head. Marie dismisses Fiona’s counsels, “Don’t concern me a bit, witch hunters is white women’s worry.” Why should she worry when she was the one who hired Hank? More importantly, how amazing is Angela Bassett in this scene? Her line readings are revelatory; she totally steals the scene, no easy feat when you’re acting with Jessica Lange. She is clerarly having the time of her life with the character and it is a joy to watch. Marie makes it clear that she is not interested in any kind of alliance, “Shiiiit, come down here cause you weak, can’t protect your own, expect me to do it for you,” Fiona warns her that the hunter will eventually attack her tribe. Marie is defiant and orders Queenie to burn Delphine’s head and makes it clear she doesn’t want to see Fiona again. Fantastic scene.
Meanwhile, at Robichaux’s Cordelia is preparing to cook herself some eggs, but she knocks over the carton and obviously frustrated exclaims, “Goddamn it, could people please not move things? Some of us are blind,” which is hilarious. Delia, hunny, just have some Special K for breakfast. Myrtle watches on with concern and approaches Delia. She wants to show her that she did not attack her and urges Delia to use her sight to see the truth, but Delia refuses stating that she never believed that Myrtle would do such a thing. There is a brief flashback to when Fiona drops off Delia at the academy and Myrtle essentially became her surrogate mother. “Darling, if I could pluck my own eyes out of my head and give them to you, I would,” says an upset Myrtle. Might I add that Delia appeared to be about twelve years old in that flashback, much too old to be weeping like that, as Zoe would say, “Witch up!”
In “Atlanta, Georgia” as the title card reads, Hank finds himself in the offices of the ‘Delphi Trust’ the shady ‘witch hunting’ corporation owned by his father. Hank meets with his father and gets reprimanded about how shitty things are in New Orleans and how reckless he’s been. We learn that Hank’s true role is to be a mole inside the coven, responsible only for gathering information and that his deal with Marie is of his own doing (as is Kayley’s murder), also that the hunters are the ones behind the attack on Cordelia. Hank is none too happy about that, showing his feeling for her, but he ultimately gives in to his father’s views.
The show moves on from that mostly dour and grim scene to one of the most ridiculous, over the top, and wonderful scenes this season. Myrtle has invited her old pals Pembroke and Quentin over for an extravagant dinner. The scene opens with Myrtle taking a melon baller to a honeydew and admiring its craftiness and we can all guess what’s coming next. Myrtle serves her melon “palate cleanser” and her guests gobble it whilst they talk about the fabulous Misty Day and how sorry they feel about their past mishap. But their conversation comes to a halt, literally, because Myrtle has put a paralytic on the balls and monologues operatically, “Enough chit-chat! You both wanted to eliminate me for years so you could dominate the council... I’ve invited you here not to chastise you or exact revenge, but to help out the coven, to help out my beloved Cordelia.” She then proceeds to, (gasp!), scoop out one of “Pemby’s” eyeballs, and plop, right into the bowl of mellon balls, ouch. Next thing you know, Delia’s got a new set of unmatched eyes with which to see. Frances Conroy absolutely kills it, a remarkable performance full of the humor, camp and melodrama that makes Coven so much fun.
Fiona arrives home to find Delia cured of her blindness and Myrtle gloats that it was all her doing. Fiona and Myrtle get into a bitching match, but Delia puts an end to it and points out that there is danger outside their walls and they can’t afford to have such discord within the coven. Delia realizes that her visions have gone, now that she has her sight back. Boo-hoo.
We move on to Zoe and Madison who arrive in the hospital looking for Nan, who has been waiting to see Luke all night. All three of them enter his room and Joan angrily orders them to leave. Luke, who is in a coma, communicates with Nan and tells her what she needs to say to convince Joan to stop acting like such a shrew. Also Zoe and Madison stick up for their fellow witch-sister, it is nice to see them show some solidarity. And, of course, Ryan Murphy couldn’t pass the opportunity to have Broadway legend Patti Lupone sing. Though a well-acted moment from Lupone, it doesn’t necessarily fit the campy and acerbic tone of the series; it is a little too earnest and overly sentimental. There’s no room for genuine emotion on American Horror Story. Dont they know?
The scene that follows, however, fits perfectly with the absurd tone of the show and is another awesome moment in the episode. Queenie arrives at her apartment (?) where Delphine’s head sits atop a shelf and she is determined to teach Delphine the error of her ways, “Time for some sensitivity training… I’d like nothing more than to melt your ugly face right off your skull but you are ignorant and you are not leaving this earth until I educate you about those people you tortured, my people. So we’re gonna have ourselves a little film festival…first, based on the best selling novel by the great Black writer Alex Haley, one family’s epic story from slavery to freedom, Roots.” Delphine protests as she starts the movie, ”No, no, no, not that jungle music… Turn it down,” and goes into a hilarious rendition of the song “Dixie” in attempts to tune out the television. Absolutely golden. Queenie and Delphine have become quite the amusing duo, despite what a despicable character Delphine is, their dynamic always entertains. And that is some comedy genius coming from Kathy Bates, so wrong, but so, so funny.
Cut to Hank getting the voodoo doll treatment from Marie. She threatens to kill him if he doesn’t kill the Salem witches by morning.
Later, at Robichaux’s, Cordelia is actually teaching Misty Day some witchery, it is absolutely shocking to see actual lessons being taught in this academy. Delia and Misty are being all kinds of adorable together when Hank ruins the mood coming in and wanting to reconcile, but gets rebuffed by Delia. Oh, and she tells him she’s divorcing his ass. Snap!
Hank is trying to leave the house with his stuff but is impeded by Fiona’s new guard dog. She, of course, doesn’t waste time in kicking him when he’s down. Hank leaves and the dog scratches at a door, Fiona opens it and finds dear old Franken-Kyle, “Another goddamn boy, Jesus, these girls,” he wastes no time in snapping the poor doggie’s neck.
At the hospital Nan’s surprisingly amiable relationship goes wrong real fast when Nan confronts Joan about her murderous past. God is communicating through Luke and says that Joan will pay for her wrongdoings. Joan kicks Nan out of the room.
Hank prepares to take some witches down.
Zoe, Madison and Nan arrive at Robichaux’s to find Franken-Kyle playing gin with Fiona. “I took the liberty of sprucing up your boy just a touch… What we need is a guard dog, one who’ll attack on command.” Maybe now Kyle will actually have some kind of purpose in this story.
Queenie gets back to Delphine who sneers at her and mocks that she kept her eyes closed the entire time. So Queenie goes on to plan B, and plays the civil rights anthem “Oh Freedom” on the radio. Now this is when things get dicey, the song quickly amplifies and becomes the soundtrack to a disturbing sequence in which crazy Hank ambushes Marie’s salon and basically slaughters everyone inside, right before he is able to kill Marie, Queenie enacts her voodoo power and shoots herself in the head, killing herself and Hank in the act. This is all interspersed with Delphine watching civil rights era footage of black protesters and weeping at the emotional song. So, Delphine is cured of her racism? I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it and refuse her redemption. As for the rest of the sequence, it could be seen as a not so smart or subtle social commentary, but lets face it, American Horror Story has always been about the crazy shockers and shameless exploitation that borders (and sometimes crosses over into) the line of bad taste. I mean, this season alone has had incest, gang rape, torture, etc. all featured in varying levels of success, but this is a touch too, “Look at us and how subversive and clever we are.” To top it all off, the episode closes with the last remaining black witch seeking refuge in the white coven. Sigh. At least she still looks fabulous and badass.
Oh, also in that montage we see Hank’s father crying over pictures of the massacre and his son’s dead body as well as Joan suffocating her son with a pillow after he wakes from his coma. Damn, Joan isn’t just a narrow-minded religious zealot, but is totally and completely batshit insane. Fun!
Despite my misgivings for the ending, this episode is one of my favorites for the season. It definitely contained some of the most entertaining and deliciously ridiculous dialogue and scenarios. The lack of the dreaded love triangle and minimal use of the student witches is a definite improvement. No amount of bitchy cattiness slung back and forth between Zoe, Madison, and Nan can compare to the sublime fabulousness of Fiona, Myrtle, and Marie. I mean, Myrtle is freaking gouging people’s eyes out for god’s sake. It is the veteran actresses that make Coven worth watching, and the writers know it.
What’s gonna happen next? Is Queenie staying dead? What’s next for Joan? Will Hank’s father plan to avenge his son’s death, if so, how? What’s awaiting Delphine? Is it January already?