FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 6: “The Axeman Cometh”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Douglas Petrie
* For a review of the previous episode, “Burn, Witch. Burn!” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dead” – click here
This episode begins with a flash to 1919 in New Orleans. We hear the voice of Danny Huston, undeniable. He types a letter, and talks about being the titular Axeman. He tells everyone via his letter that anyone playing jazz will be safe on a specific night, everyone else will be murdered. The girls at Miss Robichaux’s Academy plan to make sure the Axeman does not kill anyone else. They’re witches, they’re tough, and plan to make their Salem ancestors proud.
No jazz plays on the street around the school. The Axeman walks through the neighbourhood, eventually making his way inside the big plantation style house. Upstairs, one of the witches listens to classical opera. The Axeman does not like that. The trap is set and all the women of the house stab him to death on the floor against the firelight.
So if he died in the house, will his spirit linger? I’m sure we’re going to find out now with new young witches boarding at the academy.
Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) picks around through the old belongings of Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). In the process, she finds old things belonging to the previous schools of witches, as well as a Ouija board – or a Spirit Board. First, to Nan (Jamie Brewer) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), she brings up the fact the number of witches have gone down progressively each year. Now there’s only three of them. So they make a pact over absinthe, agreeing to watch one another’s backs. The three young witches play a game with the board. Soon, they come in contact with – you guessed it – a spirit. It writes out: AXEMAN. Quickly, the whole thing is stopped by Queenie, who knows better than to mess around too hard with the board.
Fiona (Jessica Lange) is having troubles. Taking chemotherapy alongside other patients, she suddenly has the gift of mind reading, attributing it to the medication. It’s all too much for her. A doctor manages to sit her back down, but clearly Fiona does not want to do it for herself, only for Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) who actually needs her for once in a lifetime.
Zoe wants to release the Axeman in order to find out what happened to Madison. Although, nobody else is at all keen on the idea. But Zoe’s stuck on witches banding together, no matter what the consequences. She goes downstairs with the Spirit Board again, except by herself now. Dangerous things at play here. And then, she’s finding her way into the attic where Spalding (Denis O’Hare) keeps his play things: both porcelain and deceased. The air is thick with a deathly reek, dolls lining the shelves. And finally, Zoe uncovers Madison’s body. Only Spalding intercepts her.
Meanwhile, Cordelia is back at home, walking cane and glasses and all. Hank (Josh Hamilton) can’t touch her without flashes in Cordelia’s head of his infidelity; all she can see is the woman he cheated on her with. She has a “different kind of clarity,” as if she’s experiencing the memories firsthand when they come to her. Strong woman, eyes and face burned yet still not afraid to stand up for herself.
Up in the attic, the young witches interrogate the “twisted tea-serving necrophiliac” Spalding, whose arms and legs are tied to a chair. Zoe scalds his chest with a metal spatula, left over a hot burner. He boasts about his first sex was with Madison; disgusting. This whole scene is nasty, in so many ways. But a great, gritty part to a larger story.
Over at the camp of Misty Day (Lily Rabe), there’s a nice big flower bed planted, she’s watering it and making sure it’s tended. Underneath stirs Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). And out of the blue, Franken-Kyle (Evan Peters) turns up, mumbling, filthy and needing a bath, scared as usual. Misty gladly takes him back in, helping him get clean. But memories of his mother come back, he trashes the place and throws things around, smashing the little music player Misty kept. Luckily, though, Zoe shows up – able to take Kyle, also needing Misty.
Zoe chains Kyle up down in the basement, and shows Misty the corpse of Madison. She wants Misty to bring the girl back to life. Although, poor Madison’s been dead for ages. Still after a bit of work, Misty and Zoe manage to pull her back from the afterlife and into the world of the living once again.
Big surprise: Hank is in cahoots with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). His wife’s new second sight is causing problems, threatening to reveal their working relationship. We get a flashback to Cordelia meeting Kaylee (Alexandra Breckenridge), the one Hank killed after having sex with earlier in the season; she was, in fact, a witch. Hank’s helping to kill all the descendants of Salem, a job done in conjunction with Laveau. But now, she wants all the witch bitches dead, their heads for trophies.
The girls are trying to bring Madison back to consciousness. She can’t drink anything properly, even ginger ale. All she remembers from before death was a red blur, nothing more. And at the same time, Cordelia is confronted in her bedroom by none other than the Axeman himself. He wants release, he doesn’t want to be trapped inside those “four ugly walls,” not any longer. He’s been promised release by Zoe, but nothing has come yet. He is one mad jazz-man. Hearing Cordelia’s screams, Zoe, Nan and Queenie rush to help. Stupid Zoe, she’s the one who did this with her lies. Then she finds a spellbook, releasing the Axeman from the house back out onto the streets. Is this any good, at all? To have this maniac out wandering New Orleans? Especially when jazz isn’t exactly as prominent, even in the South, as it once was back in his day.
At a bar where Fiona is lamenting her illness, literally pulling off a handful of hair, the Axeman sits down for a drink. Will there be vengeance to come? And for whom?
Next episode is “The Dead”, directed by Bradley Buecker.