Its becoming more and more clear that Coven is just a big ol’ mess, an undoubtedly fun mess, but an utter mess all the same. American Horror Story has never been a source of exceptionally crafted storytelling, it lacks any kind of subtlety and grace, any nuance or pacing, even logic and continuity. Instead it provides an array of fantastical scenarios full of over the top characters and performances that one can’t help but enjoy. Murder House suffered from not so great characters with questionable motivations and sense (did anyone really care about the Harmons? That show was all about Constance and Moira, and Tate to an extent) that just made them make their way through countless horror tropes and clichés. Asylum suffered from two or three too may plot points (insane asylum, evil nun, satanic possession, and a crazy serial killer, and Nazis, and aliens) and, while it has been the most successful season in creating multi-layered and emotionally affecting characters, the story often devolved into insane levels of absurdity that even a show like this struggled to sustain. Now, Coven is probably the most superficial and shallow season of the series’ short history, it is purely a delivery system for an amazing group of actors to chew the scenery and read amazingly bitchy and/or ridiculous lines of dialogue every episode. There is nothing more to the series than that, and while it is a mostly entertaining hour of television every week, it is becoming harder to ignore the lack of narrative in Coven.
Things happen on this show that bear absolutely no consequences on these characters. There has been virtually no character progression whatsoever: Madison died, came back and is as bitchy as ever (though she is cured of her murmur); Cordelia went through a different transformation but is now back in the powerless position where she started; Fiona seemed to have had some life-changing epiphanies here and there but she’s still obsessed with her own mortality; Zoe had shown some growth as a witch but since then the writers have ignored her, etc. Despite some crazy shenanigans, characters and their motivations have remained pretty much intact, ten episodes in and nothing much has really happened. Sure, some people may or may not have died and a threatening opponent has been introduced, but in terms of actual story or narrative it certainly doesn’t feel as if the season is coming to a close. I keep waiting for something to happen. The series has become more of a sequence of loosely connected vignettes that are somehow leading up to some kind of conclusion, than a successful narrative.
Despite the problematic state Coven finds itself in, I can’t help but revel in its shameless, and pulpy style. Because that’s really all there is, style, with witty bon mots and a lot of attitude. Sometimes that is enough to keep an audience’s interest, so while I grumble about the ineffective storytelling (even for AHS’s standards) that plagues Coven, there is enough there to keep me watching, and writing about it. Anyhoo, mini-rant over, on with the recap:
Fiona welcomes Marie at Miss Robichaux’s and gives her an uncharacteristically warm reception. She doesn’t get much rest, though as Papa Legba (a Voodoo saint known as “guardian of the crossroads”) interrupts her sleep and demands she give him his yearly payment in exchange for her immortality. Marie then proceeds to break into a hospital and goes full-on baby snatcher, is pursued by cops and Angela Bassett gets to do another freaky voodoo crazy yell (it’s pretty awesome) to confound the policemen, and escapes them.
The following morning Fiona, Marie and Cordelia convene and talk about Hank. Cordelia is devastated to learn his true identity. And an enraged Fiona lays the smackdown on poor Cordelia, who just takes it like the sad puppy she is. She makes it clear that witch hunters are a serious threat, “Hank was not some lone assassin with a grudge, witch hunters never act alone. They are part of an ancient order of men whose sole purpose is to rid the world of witches, black or white.” Chills. Jessica Lange is great.
Misty Day is atwirling in her customary Stevie Nicks drag and she’s got some attitude for Fiona, who comes in to manipulate the potential ‘Supreme-to-be’ into submission. Misty is not having any of her shit, that is, until Fiona introduces her to Stevie Nicks (squeal!) and Misty just passes out at the sight of her. Ha! Of course, Stevie cannot appear in the show without a musical interlude, she sings “Rhiannon” on the piano as Zoe, Madison, and Nan arrive. Misty is totally fangirling and gets a twirling lesson from Miss Nicks and it’s adorable.
The girls argue over who the next Supreme is, naturally, Nan shows off her new mind control power, and Madison is bitchy.
Cordelia digs up information about Hank and his family and tells Fiona and Marie all about the Delphi Trust. Which leads Fiona and Marie to join forces against the organization and do some magic together and cripple their opponent. Poor Delia is unceremoniously booted from the process by her dear mother. These two got some issues. Fiona works her magic to sabotage the Delphi Trust and passes out.
Nan and Zoe go to the hospital to visit Luke, but are informed that he has died. Sadface.
Fiona wakes in her bedroom and Marie voodoos to make her feel better, Fiona asks her bout how she gained immortality. “I sold my soul to Papa Legba,” says Marie, and she goes into the whole spiel about how it all came to be. Fiona wants in on that.
Madison and Misty walk behind a funeral procession and Madison does her best Fiona impression to manipulate Misty and bring her down. Despite Misty being able to see through her initially, Madison gets in her head and is able to trick her eventually locking her in a coffin and entombed.
Zoe and Nan pay a visit to Joan Ramsey who welcomes them (wait, didn’t she hate Nan?) and tells them she’s cremated Luke. Nan is pissed off and knows Joan killed her son, so, naturally, she mind controls her into downing a gallon of bleach and kills her.
Sad Delia is in her basement (?, greenhouse?) doing some potion work as crazy Myrtle plays a theremin. Delia feels sorry for herself, and Myrtle doesn’t do much to make her feel better, she basically tells her that she is pretty useless, but she does make delicious salad dressing. Cordelia, obviously frustrated, throws a tantrum, smashes a bunch of shit and admits that she is a failure and that Fiona is right about her.
Over at the Delphi Trust, the corporation has been basically destroyed. And Harrison says, “it’s time to deal with those witches.” Enough talking about it, do it already.
Fiona summons Papa Legba with an offering of cocaine, of course. He totally wants her soul and she is all up for it, after a few terms are established (she is willing to cripple Cordelia), but as they go in to seal the deal with a kiss (how original) he calls it off. Apparently Fiona has no soul to sell, shocking, the woman who just agreed to cripple her daughter or kill a loved one if need be has no soul. Sucks for her. The Axeman shows up (where’s he been?) and kind of comforts her, “All we gotta do is find the young girl that’s taking you down,” and Fiona responds “Haven’t you heard? I have no soul, I’ll just kill them all.” Snap!
Zoe tells Nan that she might be the Supreme and Nan says that she’d be a nice one. Good luck with that, Nan. She hears something in the house and goes to investigate. She finds the baby Marie snatched in a cupboard. Marie confronts her, but Nan stays strong until Fiona shows up, she hands the baby over but remains defiant.
Marie tells Fiona that the baby is her offering for Papa Legba but shows trepidation in the idea, so Fiona proposes that they kill Nan and have her be the innocent soul Papa demands. They drown poor Nan in the tub, and Papa shows up, unhappy with the swap. “She’s innocent, mostly. She killed the neighbor but the bitch had it coming,” says Fiona trying to sell the exchange. Papa relents and accepts Nan, not before letting Fiona and Marie know, “You two together, big trouble.”
Stevie Nicks plays the piano; I guess they had her on retainer for the entire day, and Fiona listens to the melancholy tune.
“The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks” is an ok episode, it doesn’t do much in furthering story, yet sets up the inevitable battle between the witches and the witch hunters and builds upon the ongoing Supreme mystery. It is full of great character moments and line deliveries that make the show what it is. What did you think?
Quotes & Observations:
- “You were my sworn enemy!” – Marie
- “Marshall? You’re not his type.” –Fiona
- “Both of you skanks, enough!” –Zoe
- No Kyle! That’s an improvement.
- So, Cordelia is the next Supreme, right? With all the anguish she’s going through and the tension between her and Fiona building up, she seems like the likely candidate. It is always the person who wants it least.
- “Don’t be a hater, dear.” –Myrtle
- What’s up with Queenie? Where is Delphine?