FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 4: “Fearful Pranks Ensue”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Jennifer Salt
* For a review of the previous episode “The Replacements” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Burn, Witch. Burn!” – click here
This episode starts in a flashback to 1961 in New Orleans, a young boy being chased on his bike by white men in a car. Obviously something nasty is about to go down. Then we’re across town with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) at her shop: lots of discussion about integration in schools, John F. Kennedy, et cetera. Though, Laveau isn’t as rosy eyed as some of the hairdressers who look to the future with hope for blacks and whites living in harmony. Marie would rather go on the offensive, it appears.
And with this opening, we’re introduced to some Haitian zombie voodoo. Interesting. Well, we already know Marie can do things for immortality. Makes sense she can reanimate the dead. This is something George A. Romero would no doubt be proud of – zombies coming back from the grave to kill racist white guys. I know I love it. Then there’s great blood and gore, a guy lifted up on the bayonet of a rifle and torn apart by living dead, guts ripped from his body. Nice way to start “Fearful Pranks Ensue” – with an out n’ out bang.
Finally, after Spalding (Denis O’Hare) turns up all the time in the background, specifically when Fiona (Jessica Lange) decides to kill people, we get a better look at his character. We go back to the finale of “The Replacements“, except now from the perspective of Spalding. He walks in on Fiona slitting the throat, semi-accidentally, of Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). So now, the aftermath comes by way of ever trusty Spalding, the silent sentinel of Miss Robichaux’s Academy. More so the sentinel of Fiona, the continually loving servant to her every dangerous and tragic whim. Denis O’Hare is an incredible character actor whose talent knows no bounds; he is always a treat, and this role begins his tenure on American Horror Story.
Then Fiona discovers Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) – she’s been gravely wounded by the Minotaur, nowhere to be found. Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) and her mother are at odds, over everything, but they try their best to take care of Queenie. It all comes out about their respective dealings with Laveau. Regardless, among the arguments and the screaming between mother and daughter, they manage to take care of the poor girl.
Ultimately, Fiona is worn out. She’s got Delphine (Kathy Bates) lurking around on top of everything else, and now that’s pretty well out of the bag anyways with Queenie knowing. I keep feeling a pang of sympathy for Fiona. Time will tell how much that holds up on this second time around watching this season, she is not exactly a heartwarming woman.
Marie Laveau receives a package over at the shop, a big box: inside is the Minotaur’s head. Maybe Fiona isn’t as tired as she seems. Laveau is abandoning the truce set down between the witches, back when Anna-Lee (Christine Ebersole) ran the show as Supreme. So get ready for war.
Poor Kyle (Evan Peters) ain’t doing so well either. Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) found his mother at the end of last episode. Now she finds Kyle banging his head off the bathtub, bloodied from killing mom. This is such a fucked up situation. She wanders between feeling bad for him in a loving way, to wanting to kill him off so as to be done with having brought a monster back to life. It’s an awfully tense place for her to exist emotionally. Doesn’t matter for the time being: Kyle is gone. Who knows where.
Then we’re back with Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton). Apparently he’s not too concerned with faithfulness to his wife. In a hotel, somewhere on business, he meets with a woman named Kaylee (Alexandra Breckenridge). They have a bit of rough sex. Cheater husband Hank is not who he has seemed to be, and not just in the sense of his infidelity. First, he met Kaylee online, they began a relationship from there. Second, he kills her with a silenced gun in the hotel. What’s his deal?
While her husband cheats, Cordelia is still trying to take care of Queenie. LaLaurie is grateful Queenie saved her and feels indebted, which is interesting – such a stark turn against who she once was, and still is, the fiery evil racist.
But Cordelia has bigger things to worry about than her husband, or having LaLaurie skulking around under her nose. The Council of Witchcraft shows up at their door. Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), Cecily Pembroke (Robin Bartlett) and Quentin Fleming (Leslie Jordan) are there for a chat. They want news on Madison, apparently. It’s come to their attention, due to Nan (Jamie Brewer) summoning them, Madison might be dead; Nan “can’t hear her anymore.” Official council inquiry is underway, everyone is questioned. If any witch killed her? “Death by fire,” proclaims Myrtle. Excitingly macabre.
This brings about some history, showing how Fiona emerged as the favourite as successor for Supreme, as well as her rivalry with Myrtle Snow. Nice flashbacks, I dig them. Turns out Myrtle is a pretty great witch herself. We get to see how Spalding ended up a mute, too. It all came about through Myrtle trying to find out what Fiona knew, back in ’71, about what happened to the Supreme. The young Ms. Snow enchanted Spalding’s tongue, so that he couldn’t tell a lie. However, she had no way of determining what was going to happen.
It all comes to light after we find out Spalding’s dedication to Miss Fiona. He cut out his own tongue, all in order to not be able to say ANYTHING; let alone tell a lie.
Even more surprising, we find out Madison had a heart murmur. This eliminates her as a possibility for Supreme: a hallmark of the reigning witch of all witches is impeccable health, in terms of no illnesses from birth (not stuff like Fiona later in life). So that came as a bit of a shocker. Especially for ole Fiona, whose eyes go wide with the revelation coming from Cordelia.
But things have certainly not gotten any better for Madison after death. While Spalding likes to keep tons of dolls around, even dressing as a baby-like, grown doll himself in the creepy upstairs room of his, poor dead Madison has been taken up there with him. Now, she is an eternal Barbie doll for Spalding to pose and play with.
The finale of this episode is even more shocking than ANYTHING ELSE so far. As Cordelia and Fiona, bonding a little closer than ever before it seems, drink at a bar together more of their relationship comes out. Fiona knows Hank is a piece of shit, Cordelia may even know this and just doesn’t want to admit it. They talk more about the next Supreme, only a tiny bit. Cordelia ends up puking in the bathroom. Worse still, an unknown, hooded attacker comes from out one of the stalls and tosses acid right in her face, blinding the eyes and savaging her face. WHO DID IT? WHO IS THE MASKED CULPRIT? MAN? WOMAN? We’ll have to wait and find out.
At the academy, Luke (Alexander Draymon) shows up to repay Nan for the cake. But at the same time, zombies start to come out and shamble towards the house. Delphine opens the door only to find her own dead family, living corpses, right there on the doorstep.
And cue the end. Great episode! This is a two-parter episode, we’ll see its conclusion next with “Burn, Witch. Burn!” so stay tuned with me for another review.