John Hillcoat delivers a vision of the Wild West in Australia, by way of Immanuel Kant's moral philosophy.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 12: “Go to Hell”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Jessica Sharzer
“Go to Hell” begins with a nice opening concerning The Seven Wonders. Filmed in black-and-white, looking like a genuine silent film including title cards in between scenes. Such an excellent sequence, which gives us background into the whole Seven Wonders ceremony and what it entails. It’s also a little creepy, too. Even if nothing weird is actually happening. Just a very good homage to the silent film era. On top of it all, one of my favourite classical piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin plays throughout – Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2. A great piece of music to have accompanying this sequence. As well, Fiona (Jessica Lange) comes in near the end via voice-over.
Then we’re back with her talking to Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe). But Queenie knows what the older witch is up to, that she only wants to figure out the new Supreme in order to kill her. I don’t think that has changed, at all. Best of all, Fiona calls Papa Legba a “half–baked Beetlejuice“. I laughed aloud at this line. Such a good one from writer Jessica Sharzer. But even more fun, Fiona announces to Queenie that this coming Saturday she will perform The Seven Wonders, “or die trying“. Looks like a true competition of powers is going to go down eventually between the remaining young witches at the academy. Will Misty Day (Lily Rabe) somehow return to compete? Or will it be Queenie, Madison (Emma Roberts) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) in a trio head-to-head?
Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) is trying to find out about Misty. She tries to touch Madison, to make use of her second sight. However, out of nowhere Madison teleports from one side of the room to the other. Manifesting new powers, huh? Well, Cordelia tells her not to “read too much” into all that. Finally, after a bunch of back and forth, Cordelia lays a hand on Madison. But nothing comes. We know the truth, so is Madison manifesting more powers giving her the ability to block thoughts, to control the thoughts of others?
Down in the basement, Queenie is looking for Marie. She can’t seem to find Laveau anywhere, though. Then she’s back upstairs with a creepy voodo book, on its front is the symbol of Papa Legba (Lance Reddick). She lies back on the bed and chants in a foreign tongue. She finds herself back at Chubbie’s Chicken serving food again, as if gone back in time literally, not just in thought. Outside there’s a seemingly never ending lineup of people around the building, inside. And at the front? Legba himself. This isn’t hell, though. Not “the hell“, he says, but “your hell.”
I love the conversation between Queenie and Legba. It’s sinister, but also pretty damn darkly comical. Reddick and Sidibe are both talented in their own respects, and this brief scene is a lot of fun. When she makes it out of the chicken shack hell, Legba is waiting. He explains all about Marie Laveau and the immortality of both her and LaLaurie; turns out Delphine chopped Marie into pieces to toss around New Orleans. Yowzah. Always a nasty, rough customer, that Delphine.
Papa Legba: “Time moves differently in hell“
Perhaps a favourite scene of mine takes us back to the old stomping grounds of Madame LaLaurie, where now Delphine herself is a guide. She has a different haircut, she wears a green suit jacket and black pants looking very modern. And hilariously, Delphine is now trying to rewrite her own history and past through touring people around the house and setting people straight on the true events; though, all she does is lie. We get a nice flashback to when Delphine has a confrontation with the former tour guide – a superbly eerie moment, as LaLaurie picks up a proper tool and bashes the woman in the head; plus, a little lick of her tongue to clean some of the blood that splashes her face. I mean, what an excellent and gruesome scene! Kathy Bates is a class act and I love seeing her do horror, it’s a true treat. I always thought her performance in Misery was perfect, now she gets lots of true and disturbing horror to work with in this series.
An even better sequence happens when Queenie talks to Delphine about repentance. There’s an inclusion of lots of popular culture controversies, as Delphine is seen watching television with the likes of Paula Deen and others crawling across the screen. Awesome writing.
Then Queenie stabs LaLaurie, who starts bleeding out profusely. What happens next? The formerly immortal Delphine may finally see death, now that she doesn’t want to die anymore.
Fiona’s having her portrait painted for the academy wall. Then her nose starts to bleed out of nowhere, either from the cancer, or the cocaine. Or the cancer and the cocaine in equal amounts, who knows. She continually laments her own face, the way she looks. She’s nearing the end and all she worries about is whether or not she looks youthful. And it’s driving her towards being hateful. Only she and Cordelia have a nice little chat, which shows how much she does care about her daughter. Though, it can’t make up for a lifetime of neglect and hatefulness.
Regardless, Fiona gives her mother’s necklace to Cordelia, as a way of “saying goodbye.” Once it goes around her neck and Fiona touches her, Cordelia’s second sight returns. Only it shows her the thoughts in Fiona’s mind, the intentions – we see a massacre in the academy house, all the young witches dead, impaled, blood everywhere, even Misty returned and murdered. It’s a shocking sight, out of the blue. Even Cordelia is dead in the vision, bullet hole in her head, and Fiona is seen snatching the necklace from her neck. Returning to the light, Cordelia is now aware of what is inside Fiona, what she is really aiming at. Funny how, with the strength Fiona instilled in this scene early on, Cordelia eventually was able to realise her powers once again; all in order to figure out what her mother was actually up to. Love the irony.
But Cordelia has plans herself. She goes to see the Axeman (Danny Huston). She warns him about loving Fiona, how dangerous it can be for those who fall into the trap. Cordelia also saw more than just the massacre in Fiona’s head, she saw her plan to the Axeman behind, too. He is only a pawn to her, someone she can use to do her bidding, to get the dirty work done. “She used you,” Cordelia tells him bluntly. Will she try and use the Axeman to do away with Fiona once and for all?
At the same time, Cordelia’s also trying to track Misty down, unaware of her fate at the hands of Madison. Poor girl is still stuck down in that casket, singing to herself, over in the cemetery. So Cordelia takes Queenie out to the mausoleum, and the latter proves to have some more impressive powers. She hauls the coffin right out of the bricks. Yet Misty isn’t breathing. No worries: Queenie’s got this, baby. She also can resurrect the dead, it seems. Her voodoo game is strong.
“When the rest of the world sees a wall, we see a window.”
So Misty being back doesn’t spell much good for Madison, though, the young sassy lady is not worried too much. Then out of nowhere, Zoe and Kyle show up again. Clearly not in Florida anymore. On their way they had a confrontation with some homeless guy, which ended with Kyle snapping the guy nearly in half. Most of all, they came back because Zoe displayed a new power of her own: more resurgence. Now they all seem to be able to do intense things with their powers. Better yet, Misty shows up throwing fists at Madison, ready for a real fight. They wrestle around a little while the others watch; mostly, Misty kicks the shit out of Madison.
The Axeman shows up trying to swing his axe at everyone, pissed off and threatening to kill them all. The witches send him flying. But then notice he’s covered in blood already: Fiona’s blood. In a step backwards, we see the Axeman in his apartment with her. He’s on to her now, after his visit from Cordelia. She appears completely unaware until he mentions it. And eventually it comes – the death of Fiona Goode by the hand of her jilted lover, the Axeman.
Back at the academy with the girls, the Axeman has to be punished. His original death at the hands of the academy witches is recreated, and he dies a second, horrible, bloody death. Fitting, no?
Then we see both Madame LaLaurie and Marie Laveau in their own hell, each bound together in their eternity in the darkness. A truly awful, disturbing end for them both. They’re forever spending time with Papa Legba in hell. The two immortals are now dead – released from the chains of life, only to serve Legba for eternity in the same room. Day after day, over and over.
After Fiona’s portrait is hung on the wall, Myrtle alerts the girls: they will all perform, as I guessed, The Seven Wonders that Sunday at dawn. The next Supreme will be revealed, for better or for worse. And some of the others will certainly die.
Stay tuned for the next episode, the finale of Coven, fittingly titled “The Seven Wonders“.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 7: “The Dead”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Axeman Cometh” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Sacred Taking” – click here
This episode begins with a flashback to Kyle (Evan Peters) and his bros at a tattoo shop, back before they were smashed to bits after most of them gang raped Madison (Emma Roberts). Kyle rocks out to Toto, deflecting awkward jokes about his mother – who we now know molested him – as well as shares his aspirations to be an engineer. And that’s why he does not want to get a tattoo: “I got one life, and I’m not wastin‘ it.” Even as a man with tattoos, I respect him for that, wanting to go into a particular career path and wanting to do everything as straight and narrow as possible. Particularly it’s admirable because he wanted to get away from his mother, who caused him terrible pain. Then we flash to the now Frankenstein-like Kyle; he wails after finding the tattoos of his friends on his newly pieced together body.
But will he live much longer? Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) is armed with a gun in hand coming down to the basement of the academy. And it looks as if she intends to put poor Kyle out of his misery.
Madison is back. She doesn’t seem too pleased, though. In a voice-over, she talks about the Generation of Entitlement, supposedly, the Millenials. There is a great sadness in watching her sort of haunt the halls of Miss Robichaux’s Academy, trying to find a way to not “look like Marilyn Manson anymore.” She can’t feel anything, holding a lighter under her palm as it fries. Not a thing, not since coming back from the dead.
Downstairs, Zoe tells Kyle: “You know how this has to go, right?” And he sort of does, cowering at the sight of the gun. The sad part about this is that Zoe doesn’t have any idea what Kyle’s mother did to him, she thinks he’s just gone crazy and that coming back from the dead like this made him into an animal. But deep down she doesn’t want him gone, she doesn’t want him to die.
One of the funniest scenes in this season yet comes when Delphine (Kathy Bates) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) go to a fast-food restaurant. The way LaLaurie reacts to the drive thru speaker is a crack up. More than that, the way LaLaurie talks about Queenie never being a real part of the coven because she’s black, it resonates with Queenie. You can tell this is going to start causing some problems.
Worse problems yet are the ones Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) plans on bringing. He has a ton of guns, he’s drinking. Will it be absolute savagery? Or will someone prevent a massacre?Meanwhile, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) runs into Madison in the halls and discovers Fiona (Jessica Lange) was the one who killed her. Bam. But her dear mother is still with the Axeman (Danny Huston). They’re back at his place listening to some music, having a drink together. Despite being a brutal mass murderer, this guy has style; how could he not, played by Huston? I love him and Lange playing off one another in a scene. They are two incredibly respectable actors in their own rights. To see them as a pair onscreen is like a treat, one of a magnitude we rarely see on television. Plus, it’s interesting to see where this new relationship is headed. To what end will the Axeman’s character play a part? He’s got bodies in the bathtub, she’s the reigning Supreme, a murderer and cancer patient.
Zoe is trying to teach Kyle to talk again, almost as if he were an infant. They use little cards like a child might. But he gets angry, smacking them out of her hands. He’s frustrated, naturally. I love the interpretation of the Frankenstein type story of Kyle, how he learns to be a person again after coming back from the grave. Because there’s a juxtaposition with others who come back to life, in particular Madison. Whereas she has her own troubles, Kyle is really fucked up because he’s only partly himself; other bits are made up of other people, friends he once knew sadly. So I thought this was great writing, the way each person depending on how they died/how they come back has a different sort of disposition. We’ll see more of this to come with another character.
Over at the hair salon, Queenie shows up to see Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). Of course more of the racial divide shows up now, with Marie stoking the flames – as well as making what looks like awesome gumbo. However, she makes sense at times. While Queenie isn’t exactly mistreated over at the academy, nobody truly appreciates her. She takes a backseat to the other white witches, when I’m sure Marie could easily integrate her into the house of voodoo she has going over there. Still, might take more than that to completely convince Queenie. You can see she wants to go. Yet some reservation, though. Either way Marie wants her to bring Delphine back to her. Not saying why, or what she’ll do. But she wants that old racist woman in the palm of her hand.
Cordelia’s new sense of sight has brought her more assertiveness. She and Zoe have a frank chat, as Cordelia tips a bit of liquor in her own tea. A little more of a lax type Cordelia now. With all the threats to the coven, and from Fiona no less, she’s finally making sure these young witches are ready for what comes next. Or what’s coming for them. Then there’s more tension between the witches, after Zoe finds Kyle violently humping Madison. Two walking corpses having sex, wow.
“Kill her once. Kill her good. Kill her dead.”
More romance for Fiona and the Axeman. He reveals to her how long his admiration has been growing. Ever since Fiona was a little girl, he watched her in the house and looked out for her. His fondness for Fiona began so long ago, now the Axeman grew out of a fatherly sense of love for her into one of romantic intention; seeing her become a gorgeous young lady, a bonafide woman, he had to have her. So in a sense it’s an eerie, creepy type of voyeur relationship on his part. At the same time, he doesn’t creep on her. He is very charming. Especially considering she’s at the end of her days, Fiona might consider this a good thing. Only she takes it all as insult, as if he “watched her grow old.” Though, he tells her in such a loving way. But she believes he haunted her life.
Up in the attic of the academy, Zoe seems to have found a tongue – belong to, of course, Spalding (Denis O’Hare). Now she has him tied up to his bed in that creepy little room he keeps, his tongue back in working condition. In fact, it was in a box belonged to the recently crispy Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). Only Myrtle couldn’t bring it back. Zoe’s powers are stronger and she managed to put it back in place; a very neat and weird little sequence, which I loved. Except after the tongue is back in Zoe compels Spalding to say only truths, looking for information, and he gives it up – Fiona killed Madison. Then he gives up his life. Not willingly, though.
Queenie asks Delphine what the worst thing she ever did was, which prompts a story about one of the slaves who used to serve in her home, back in the day. Turns out LaLaurie had an unfaithful husband whose extramarital affairs involved a servant. A super unsettling moment where Delphine has a new batch of bloody makeup, revealing exactly where it came from to her frightened servant girl; this prompted the poor girl to commit suicide the next morning, jumping off the balcony. Hearing all this, as it would, disgusts Queenie. LaLaurie tries to justify it as being in a “different time” and a “different world.” She genuinely seems to be repentant in how she talks to Queenie, but still. She did atrocious things.
Then there is the new problem between Zoe and Madison. Although, Madison doesn’t seem attached to Kyle. She only wanted to have sex, I guess. It makes her feel something, as opposed to nothing else making her feel anything, at all. She proposes they share Kyle. He’s basically meat in this season, which is fine. There’s always a great powerful female vibe in each season, but I dig how Coven most of all has a very female-centred plot and how the men sort of play these peripheral, yet at times important roles. Overall, it’s all about the ladies and I find it refreshing.
The episode’s end comes with a finale that shocked me, in a great way. Queenie brings LaLaurie out on the town – dressed in a hilarious bedazzled tiger shirt – except they end up at Laveau’s place, in the salon. Now we can see Queenie is giving herself over to the voodoo queen. There are genuinely terrible things about to happen to Delphine, not that I can say she doesn’t deserve it. She does. But it’s sad to see her and Queenie fall out, I thought somehow, some way, Queenie might take a higher road. All the same, I don’t blame her really. Further than that it makes things interesting heading into the next episode. Where will this lead? What more intensity will this bring? Well before the episode finishes, Laveau is applying her own bloody makeup, made from the drained essence of LaLaurie herself. How the tables have turned.Stay tuned with me for the next episode, “The Sacred Taking.”