‘American Horror Story: Coven’ recap: ‘The Replacements’

10.23.13 4 years ago 11 Comments


While this season’s murdering vagina storyline does not rank as one of my favorites (though I do think it could be the basis for an awesomely twisted romcom), I’m willing to go along with the non-stop crazy in this season’s “American Horror Story.” Though the grab bag of horrors can often seem slapdash and strikes about as many discordant notes as a cat walking across a piano, the good news is it’s a funhouse subway ride — wait a few minutes, and chances are the next stop will be more to your liking. 

This week, the storyline most to my liking was Fiona’s (Jessica Lange), whose struggle with the cruelties of aging and a gradual loss of power would ring true for third world dictators or Beverly Hills housewives. Lange whispers and purrs as she elegantly (and often drunkenly) walks us through Fiona’s harsh realization that she is now standing in the footsteps of the previous Supreme — whose throat she cut in order to take power. It didn’t hurt that Christine Ebersole, a diva in her own right, stepped into the role of Fiona’s ’70s-fantastic Supreme (Those sleeves! That dress!).

In watching evil young Fiona get her way, we also found out why Spalding (Dennis O’Hare) has no tongue, as Fiona cut it out so he wouldn’t tattle. I never really understand this idea (it was also a key part of the “The World According to Garp,”), as I’m assuming Spalding was capable of writing stuff down. Like, give the guy a Post-It and the gig is up. 

Anyway, Fiona (like everyone in the cast of any of the “Real Housewives” shows) is not happy that she’s aging, and she’s even less happy that she’s no longer considered hot enough by random douchebags to get picked up at a bar. I would argue Jessica Lange is still plenty hot, but then, I’m not a random douchebag.

Still, watching her become invisible to the semi-pretty young things around her as she has an entirely unnecessary internal monologue about how she’s a great “dancer” and she’d had lots of “dancing”partners and “never expected the night would come when the dance would end,” still manages to be moving despite the yammering. God forbid Murphy and Falchuk ever let a moment just play without beating us over the head with it.

Poor douchebag-hungry Fiona decides it’s time to go under the knife, even though watching the helpful video of some doctor peeling the face off of a victim, I mean patient, clearly makes her skin crawl. I was wondering why we didn’t get to watch the gore along with Fiona, but maybe that would be too gross for even “American Horror Story.” Kidding! Nothing’s too gross for this show! Alas, the doctor gives her bad news — her blood work is a mess, and no doctor in his right mind would cut her open.

This scene is cut together with Delia also having an unhappy visit to another doctor, who informs her that she can never, ever, ever get pregnant, witchy-poo snake sex or not. I realize this is a lovely piece of editing, but logically I can’t understand why Delia’s doctor didn’t run whatever this test is before, as she’s been trying for a while and this seems like information she might have liked to have before she had sex on a hardwood floor.

Alas, when Delia goes to Marie Laveau for help, she is assured she’s come to the right place — except Laveau isn’t going to help her because she hates Fiona. I’m half expecting Delia to pop to her feet and shriek, “I do, too! Let’s kill her! Then give me a baby!” but I suppose that’s to come later. It’s a horrible moment, though, watching that single tear slide down Delia’s cheek as she realizes she’s sitting thisclose to her cure, and it looks like she’s never, ever getting it. 

Because it isn’t “American Horror Story” without a lovelorn teen pining, the episode unfortunately spends an inordinate amount of time on Zoe, who looks like a sad-eyed puppy in a black velvet painting circa 1975 and seems incapable of keeping her fool mouth shut. She goes to visit Kyle’s mom, Mrs. Spencer (Mare Winningham), who almost committed suicide but stopped short when the phone rang. Zoe saved her! She’s an angel! Gee, Mrs. Spencer seems nice! Yeah, about that…

Zoe, who seems to possess no other witch skills or insight other than a murderous vagina, decides it’s a great idea to pick up Kyle from Misty’s place and drag him back to his mom. This doesn’t go over so well with Misty, who’s really happy to have a big, hunky blob of a guy who has no choice but listen to her Fleetwood Mac albums and can’t resist her hugs. She tries to convince Zoe not to drag Kyle away like a floppy Ken doll, but no way. Zoe has a plan! It’s not going to potentially freak out Mrs. Spencer at all! Zoe is like a well-intended kindergartner who decides the best way to help a wounded deer is to find some nice hunters to take care of it, then invite everyone to a pretty princess tea party. Needless to say, Zoe is making me nuts. 

Unfortunately, Zoe (who is so very clearly not a mind reader, even though she knows one and hey, I bet Nan would be thrilled to take a field trip but NO, that would be far too easy) dumps Kyle at his house, where Mare Winningham promptly gets down to the business of molesting him as he cries. Yeah. Not so nice, this Mrs. Spencer.

When Mrs. Spencer starts talking to her blob of a son about how she isn’t really a possessive molester, and Zoe will never be able to love him like she can, then wonders why his body is all different now (because obviously, she would know), Kyle decides to beat her head in with a trophy.  This isn’t terribly sad, but it is just one more thing Zoe can add to her “monumental oops” column. 

Because Madame LaLaurie is entirely and wonderfully loathsome, she gets her comeuppance this week. While I think the show’s handling of racism is pedantic  and condescending (and an obvious attempt to reassure viewers that, despite the show’s tsumani of guts and gore, the creators wear a white hat when it comes to Big Issues), I can’t roll my eyes when Kathy Bates is the one chewing the scenery on her way down. Yes, it seems ridiculous that Fiona, who is contemptuous of everyone and everything, would take a stand against racism, but I guess someone has to do it.

Fiona informs LaLaurie, after watching in disgust as she rails against the very idea that Obama is President, that she will be working as the house maid — and that means serving Queenie. When LaLaurie (wearing a cute little maid’s uniform) tosses Queenie’s plate against the wall, she’s further demoted to playing personal “slave” to Queenie. Though the scenes between Queenie and LaLaurie are short, I have hopes there are more to come. Watching Bates as LaLaurie frown and pout over the indignities the modern world (and Fiona) are placing upon her are great fun. 

What could make a Queenie/LaLaurie face-off in the future less likely is that Queenie decides to come to LaLaurie’s defense when the minotaur shows up. I’m not quite sure why she’d bother, given that there’s no love lost between these two. But I suppose it’s necessary so we can see Queenie try to comfort the minotaur, then logically try to seduce it with a kind of “people think I’m ugly and you’re a minotaur, so let’s do it” argument. I know it’s hard to find dates and all, but I think it’s a little desperate for Queenie to throw herself at a man-bull before getting to know it first. 

We don’t know Queenie well enough to know if masturbating while talking to a mythical creature is out of character for her, but it doesn’t make much sense for any moderately sane person to do. And no, I don’t look for “American Horror Story” to deliver any degree of verisimilitude. Hello, it’s horror and loopy, crazy, funhouse horror at that. I get it; that’s part of the appeal. I just ask that occasionally the show try to stick to the implied rules of the universe and characters it creates. When it doesn’t (and really, there aren’t a lot of rules here), it just makes the writing seem lazy. That explanatory monologue from Queenie? Also lazy. The moment when Queenie discovers the minotaur might not be that into  her? Terrifying. I get it. I just wanted to get to that point a little more smoothly.

Anyway, in the “throw the spaghetti at the wall and see what makes people scream” mindset of “American Horror Story,” it’s entirely the right move for Queenie to get it on with man-beast. Hey! If Mrs. Spencer could molest her drooling Frankenstein monster son, let’s bring on the minotaur! He’s hot from the neck down, too!

In the show’s attempt to cram every revered actress of a certain age into this series, Patti LuPone( joins the cast as Joanna Ramsey, the bible thumper who moves next door with a hot teenage son and a death wish. Of course Madison and Nan show up with lemon cake and raging hormones, which doesn’t seem to impress the newfound hottie and is even less appealing to Joanna. Madison declares religion a crock of bleep, she and Joanna get into a fight, a knife is thrown and Madison sets the drapes on fire. Welcome to the neighborhood! Hope you have good insurance!

After all that excitement, you wouldn’t think that Joanna would visit Fiona to drop off a Bible and tell her to keep her nasty kids away from her, but I foresee at least a little fun being had by Fiona with the squeaky clean newcomers. These are two great divas who will fight to the bitter end, and LuPone is a more than worthy match for Lange.

The finale, and it’s a big, bloody one, is a culmination of Fiona’s struggle against the dying of the light. Upon learning that Madison set Joanna’s drapes on fire, she’s pretty sure she’s met the next Supreme — and now knows exactly who is messing up her blood work with her growing powers. As Fiona tells it, she has cancer. “I won’t last the year,” she whispers to Madison, before lamenting about her lost opportunities and her crappy run as a Supreme.

At first, it’s not really clear what Fiona’s end game is — though she clearly has one. She takes Madison under her wing, gives her advice, and tests her skills without revealing the truth. But that end game is obviously not entirely clear to Fiona herself. When she tries to get Madison to kill her the way that she killed her own Supreme, Madison resists — and in the struggle, Fiona cuts her throat. Whether it’s truly an accident or self-preservation, the end result is the same — and yet again, Spalding is around to clean up the mess. 

And thus we get our best line of the episode: “This coven doesn’t need a new Supreme. It needs a new rug.”

Do you think Delia will ever have a baby? Do you think Kyle will ever be okay? What do you think is going to happen with Misty? 

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