From Frances Conroy

American Horror Story – Apocalypse, Episode 4: “Could It Be… Satan?”

A look back at the past of the outpost, Michael Langdon, and a post-witch+warlock world.

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American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 7: “Test of Strength”

Stanley and Dell come together tenuously. The unthinkable happens to Penny at the hands of her father.

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American Horror Story – Coven, Episode 13: “The Seven Wonders”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 13: “The Seven Wonders”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Douglas Petrie

* For a review of the previous episode, “Go to Hell” – click here
* For a review of the first episode of Season 4 “Monsters Among Us” – click here


The finale of Coven is upon us!
Fitting enough, Stevie Nicks shows up singing “Seven Wonders” by Fleetwood Mac. There’s a nice montage of all the young witches preparing for the big ceremony. In her room, Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) levitates the bed while studying. In the bathroom, Madison (Emma Roberts) plays it cool and bubbles the water, lighting candles and a fireplace with the snap of her fingers. Misty Day (Lily Rabe) dances in the basement and practices in the small garden Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) keeps. Then there’s Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), who studies up on voodoo, and even keeps a little picture of Nan by her books. Love this opening and it works so well. This has been a very feminist type season, which I dig. And this opening for the finale gives us a nice bit of equal time with the young witches, highlighting them all and including each in a sort of happy light. Not something we often get on American Horror Story. Plus, it’s fun that Nicks has been kicking around singing Fleetwood Mac songs and being cool as hell.
Picture 7Consistently I get a great kick out of Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) who shares her belief that Leonardo da Vinci was a warlock. She serves up a beautifully rendered meal for everyone. Then Cordelia talks of the start of The Seven Wonders by telling all the girls: “Kick ass tomorrow.”
We start with TELEKINESIS. Kyle (Evan Peters) lights a bunch of candles, with all the girls lined up in front of the table. They’re meant to haul the candle via mind control, which each of them do without much trouble.
CONCILIUM is next, or MIND CONTROL – they pair up and have to make the other do what they wish, prompting slaps, hair pulling and all sorts of stuff you might expect from a few catty young women who want nothing more than to outdo the other. Fun moment sees Kyle being forced to lick Madison’s shoe, being tossed around the room by her and Zoe in a bid to be the best and meanest of the two, but finally Cordelia breaks it all up.


DESCENSUM or DESCENT INTO THE NETHERWORLD comes afterwards. “If your soul hasn’t returned to your body by sun up, you die,” Myrtle proclaims before readying the hourglass to start. The ladies all chant together and then head down into hell for their test. Queenie is back at the chicken shack again just like her encounter with Legba, easily bringing herself back first. Then Madison returns from a “live version of The Sound of Music“. Zoe does too from a breakup hell she barely escaped. But only Misty does not come back yet, she’s stuck in school being forced to dissect a frog; of course, she keeps bringing it back to life. She’s made to dissect the living frog, taunted by the other children, and then the cycle begins over again: over and over. Honestly, this vision of hell returning to your worst moments is terrifying, very great representation of the afterlife. Sadly, though, Misty is not coming back. She lies on the floor, her body limp, as Cordelia hugs her tight. But the sand in the glass runs out, Misty disappears into a black smoke and she’s dead, gone forever. Didn’t see that coming when the tests started out.


Not much mourning before TRANSMUTATION begins as the next challenge. The three remainders don’t seem to be too trouble by it all, quickly zipping around the property. That is until one of them mixes things up and transmutates to the wrong spot. Zoe finds herself impaled on the academy gates high above the ground. They take her corpse down to the basement in hopes of bringing her back. Queenie can’t resurrect her, putting her out of the competition. Cordelia wants Madison to bring Zoe back, in effect proving she must go on and finish The Seven Wonders. But of course, the young mean bitch Madison doesn’t want to do that and jeopardize her position as the next Supreme. She leaves Myrtle and Cordelia, and Zoe dead.


But all is not lost. Myrtle convinces Cordelia she ought to test herself on The Seven Wonders. Finally, someone with sense. Cordelia does several of them pretty quickly. When it comes to DIVINATION, Madison and Cordelia face off; Madison loses, packs up to leave and threatens to expose the witch coven to the outside world. However, Kyle makes sure that never happens: he strangles Madison to death for not reviving Zoe and in turn gives Spalding (Denis O’Hare) a new doll to keep. In the end, Cordelia’s last test is bringing Zoe back – VITALUM VITALIS – which she does. Then promptly passes out hard. But once she’s back, her eyes work again and she is the new Supreme; the one, the only.
After all the wonderful and grim events, Cordelia emerges as the queen witch of them all. She goes public to the world about the academy, about witchcraft, and now many young witches around the world begin to seek her and the academy out. Furthermore, Queenie and Zoe are a part of the new regime, aiding Cordelia in steering the coven correctly.
But then Myrtle, oh Myrtle! She wants to be punished, and I supposed ought to be, for killing the other Council members, Cecily and Quentin. She insists, even with Cordelia refusing to do such a thing. Finally after everything is said and done, Myrtle is resentenced to being burned at the stake, as she already had been earlier in this season. So they trot back out to the dunes where Myrtle is strapped to a stake, set ablaze, and burned, blackened once more. Vicious, yet highly noble on Myrtle’s part: her dedication to the coven is more than evident, time and time again. Her final word? “Balenciaga!” -y’know, for the fashion conscious folk.


I love the end with Fiona (Jessica Lange), as we see her own version of hell. She is forever stuck with the Axeman (Danny Huston), in a little mediocre house down by the river, eating fish for dinner every night. A perfectly normal everyday life, something absolutely unspeakable for a woman like Fiona, a needy narcissist and a woman who needs fame, fortune, who needs extravagance. It’s fitting, and brutal in its own way. Love the writing involved with this finale, it works quite well for Fiona and her final resting place in hell.


With the end of Coven, we see another happy finish. There are still losses, deaths to mourn, and so on. But as Cordelia tells a television interviewer: “We are strong women.” This whole season had a great feminine vibe, and if some male viewers can’t accept or handle that it’s their loss. I found it incredible, and the writing really shined every chance it had. Lots of strong female characters. Plus, there were several excellently placed male characters, even Kyle who Evan Peters played so well almost virtually silent in each episode until the end. Overall, I loved this season. And as Cordelia, Queenie, Kyle and Zoe welcome newcomers to the academy, I almost wish there were more episodes to this season. When I first watched it as it came on FX a couple years ago, I didn’t take to it hugely, though I did enjoy all the episodes. Now when I go back through, I realize how good the writing was, how fun the characters and situations were, and above all else how intricate the plots themselves came off. Great work all around.

American Horror Story – Coven, Episode 12: “Go to Hell”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 12: “Go to Hell”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Jessica Sharzer

* For a review of the previous episode, “Protect the Coven” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Seven Wonders” – click here

 


“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 “halfbaked 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

Picture 8Perhaps 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“.