‘American Horror Story: Coven’ recap: ‘Burn, Witch, Burn’

This week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Coven” took a step in the right direction by reminding us that Zoe, for all her faults, can be proactive. She knows how to use a chainsaw. More importantly, she knows how to use her natural talents as a witch even more effectively than a chain saw (when your chainsaw runs out of gas, might as well toss it). Alas, she’s been too busy saving lives and chopping up zombies to chase down Kyle, who’s probably beating his head against a wall or eating someone, but all is forgiven… at least until next week.

It seems pretty clear that Zoe’s the next Supreme (which Fiona probably realizes, as I’m guessing she’s just dangling that carrot in front of Queenie to win her loyalty). I could be wrong, of course, and I hope I am. I don’t really see Zoe, with her big doe eyes and frequently blank stare, being an interesting combatant for the crown against Fiona. But then, it’s early in the season yet. I’ll leave it to Taissa Farmiga to find more colors in this character’s palette than seem to be on the page.

After all, we know Kathy Bates has done more with Madame LaLaurie than I would have imagined possible. When she begs, “Come back to me, child! I will make amends!” to her zombie daughter, it’s hard not to root for this deeply messed-up woman. Bates somehow manages the swooping highs and flashback lows of the character without making either extreme ring false. Still, watching her gloat as she encourages her daughter’s latest suitor to unwittingly stick his hand into eyeballs and innards (in a flashback, of course), it’s hard to reconcile her present-day ability to sob into Queenie’s chest about her poor mothering. Sure, she has had 180 years to reconsider her chamber of horrors mindset, but still. 

The character whose arc intrigues me most, though, is (as usual) Jessica Lange’s. Fiona, hopped up on God knows what, staggers through the hospital after Delia’s attack. She attacks a doctor. Gets advice from a guy in a diaper (safe to assume that was in her imagination unless she has really lousy medical coverage). Then, she brings a stillborn baby back to life, just because. Thus far Fiona’s moments of humanity are infrequent and random. I’m hoping they’ll start to feel more connected to the storyline (I really don’t get the impression she’s trying to win over Queenie for any altruistic reason). Maybe as much as Fiona seemed thoroughly uninterested in being a grandmother, the baby she revived might represent a desire she doesn’t consciously realize yet. Or, hey, maybe she was hopped up on drugs and it was something to do. Right now, it could go either way. 

I do love that Delia’s new ability (when one door closes, an inner eye opens) throws her future with Hank into question. I’m pretty sure baby making is off the table, as is holding hands, touching, and snake sex. The real question is whether her visions will give her enough information to take to the police, and whether or not Hank will realize she’s a liability sooner rather than later. 

Though I’m sad the zombies have been dispatched (you can never have too many “Night of the Living Dead” references), the good news is that we now have a reason for Luke to be stuck at the witches’ digs until he suitably recovers. Of course Fiona doesn’t want to call Joan, as it’s much more fun to let her pace the floor in a panic instead of stomp around in a righteous rage that those darn witches have almost gotten her son killed. I foresee a battle between two fearsome actresses ahead, which will be great fun to watch, even if I’m pretty sure Joan hasn’t got a chance against Fiona.

The fast, ugly trial of Myrtle Snow might have been deserving of an episode all its own, but maybe the speed with which Myrtle goes from Council member to burnt toast allows us to wonder if Fiona concocted all or just some of the evidence against her. The downside of burning through this plot line so quickly is that there’s very little tension leading up to the big burn — and we have a sneaking suspicion Misty will show up to reverse it long before she wafts across the site. 

I don’t mind the rapid fire spaghetti against the wall storytelling approach of “American Horror Story.” This week, zombies! Next week, something else! But when the show stumbles across something meaty, I’d love for it to be explored with a clearer focus. I guess if I start questioning “American Horror Story,” I might as well question zombies, witches and a hundred other horror conceits. What fun would that be? Well played, Murphy and Falchuk. Well played. 

Do you think Myrtle will get even with Fiona? Will Delia kick Hank to the curb? Do you think Fiona senses Zoe is the next Supreme?