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FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 3: “The Replacements”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Boy Parts” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Fearful Pranks Ensue” – click here
This episode starts with a Fiona (Jessica Lange) who’s getting sicker with each passing day. She subdues all the pain with medication, prescribed and otherwise. Little drop of liquor here and there to take away the edge.
Nice flashback to Fiona’s younger days in 1971 New Orleans, during her time at the academy. Young Fiona (Riley Voelkel) has a conversation with the Supreme during her time, Anna-Lee Leighton (Christine Ebersole). We get more information about what the Supreme is, who she can be – turns out, witches can exemplify many powers at once, but that does not a Supreme make. What it takes is mastering “the Seven Wonders,” supposedly. Furthermore, we get insight into Fiona’s current life. Why she is so afraid of getting sick. It’s not just death: she is being succeeded. The stronger a new witch gets as Supreme, the more strength is zapped out of the current one. So naturally, Fiona is worried about being overtaken. Plus, Spalding (Denis O’Hare) witnesses a young Fiona kill Anna-Lee, so there’s a deep connection between them stemming from those old days. Something we’re without a doubt going to get a deeper explanation for at some point. For now, intrigue. Excellent opening.
Even past the credits we’re still following along with Fiona. She is an important character. More than that, she has much to do with the storyline of this season. Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk & Co. are going into themes of the old relinquishing power to the young, something always evident in society from one generation to the next. So Fiona is naturally a great example of that: like some of the more ignorant Baby Boomers, for instance, she refuses to go into the long night quietly.
Watching Fiona listen to her doctor about surgery options is almost heartbreaking, except there’s already only three episodes into this season not much sympathy for her character. She seems very cold. We’ll find out more as the episodes wear on.
Then we find our way back to Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) who ends up tracking down the mother of Kyle (Evan Peters), Alicia Spencer (Mare Winningham). She’s pretty broken up about her son dying, though, a call from Zoe was able to save her life; she had her head almost in a noose at the time. Not sure how her character will work into things, but soon enough we’ll find out (I actually know because I’ve watched every season already; just playing the part for now).
Over at the academy, Madison (Emma Roberts), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nan (Jamie Brewer) check out a handsome man moving in next door with his mother – Luke Ramsey (Alexander Dreymon) and the uptight, religious Joan Ramsey (Patti LuPone).
Inside it’s another story. LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) is their maid, weeping over Barack Obama on the television, hating having to serve Queenie, a “nigress” her food. Then eventually Fiona shows up to put things into perspective for racist Delphine: she’s now Queenie’s personal servant. Ouch for the old racist bitch.
At the same time, Misty Day (Lily Rabe) lies in bed with Kyle back at her shack. He’s been healing pretty damn well, though, the scars are evident in his skin. Still, the guy looks a lifetime better than he did in the previous episode. He doesn’t have the Frankenstein’s monster look going on anymore, just a bit of a rough exterior. Then there’s the fact he doesn’t speak much, or at all, outside of a little grunting and groaning. Kyle has a ton of rage issues, now a reanimated brain in a totally different body than he once inhabited. Of course he’s going to be slightly messed for a while.
Nan brings a cake over to the Ramsey house, along with Madison who sluts it up once they meet Luke. He seems incredibly impressed with Nan, as well as the cake. Madison, the famous stuck-up bitch, is not impressed with this at all for her part. Then mother Joan shows up, flaunting their religion at the witches. Very fun contrast seeing a bit of witchcraft dropped in contrast with the religious nature of the Ramseys. On their way out, Madison discovers a new power: lighting things on fire. Pyrokinesis. Interesting – does this mean she may start vying for the spot of Supreme? Or just a red herring?
A nice sequence cuts mother-daughter duo of Fiona and Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) back-to-back. Each of them receives bad news from their doctor, each with their respective problems – Fiona basically dying, Cordelia unable to have a child. It’s all sad. Though, I feel worse for Cordelia who only wants a regular life, but has been burdened with the fate of being a witch. It’s certainly not all that they crack it up to be in the brochure.
Reanimated Kyle is dropped back at his mother’s doorstep. But a dreadful look on Kyle’s face speaks wonders, as dear ole mom brings him inside: should Zoe have held onto him, maybe left him with Misty? We’re soon going to discover what it’ll be like for Kyle, and his mom, now that he’s back to… normal.
Distraught over the “long term effects” of Madison’s choice of dress while visiting their home earlier, Joan Ramsey talks with Fiona, who obviously does not care much. This brings the current Supreme together with Madison. Uh oh. I can see where this is headed. Just the look in the eyes, the way Fiona stares at the young and virile witch in front of her, you can tell she is up to no good calling Madison over to sit down and hang with her at the table.
The trouble for Kyle starts at home, not long after his arrival. Mom clearly has no trouble opening the shower curtain on her naked son. Then she climbs into bed with him, commenting on his body. She snuggles up to him, a little too closely, then plants a more than motherly kiss on her son. So that earlier fear we saw in Kyle when she brought him inside, it had a heavy, horrible weight to it. Something Zoe could never have known. But it’s no wonder he didn’t like what his frat brothers were doing at the party; he knows the other side of assault and rape.
Cordelia’s gotten desperate enough in the quest for fertility she finds herself over seeking the help of Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). There’s a sly conversation between the two. Cordelia wants a fertility spell performed. We get an awesome cut to a wild sequence. It shows us the ritual – including the husband’s “baby gravy,” two ounces to be exact. Plus there’s a ton of dancing people, unbelievably hot peppers, blood, and Bassett giving her all as a shaman-like voodoo conjurer, dancing around a fire, bringing out the spirits. The entire thing is pretty awesome, maybe the best large sequence yet so far in Coven. Because it’s not the typical witches dressed in black stuff. Something more akin to Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow than to a traditional witchcraft film. But this is only imagery: Laveau will never perform the spell on a daughter of Fiona Goode, Marie’s “sworn enemy.”
Elsewhere, Fiona is drawing out the powers of Madison who is oblivious to the older witch’s true intentions. Can we be sure Fiona won’t do the same thing to Madison as she once did, in 1971, to Anna-Lee?
Lots of spooky business at the academy. Queenie eats in the kitchen while LaLaurie cooks. But the old woman sees the Minotaur outside, growling and lurking in the shadows. He’s come back for Delphine, let loose by his eternal master Marie Laveau. Now, he’s laying siege to the house trying to get in, smashing his horns against the door to hopefully bust in. LaLaurie reveals herself to Queenie, her true identity, and tells her how Fiona brought her back; naturally, a strong black woman such as Queenie isn’t too impressed with this immortal racist. And yet still she tries to defend the woman, offering to have a hand at confronting the Minotaur. Outside Queenie tries talking gently to him, and lures him out into Cordelia’s greenhouse building. Instead of calming the Minotaur, she has a violent sexual encounter with him.
At the Spencer house, things with mom and son aren’t exactly right. No surprise after what we’ve seen so far. Mom is sick, she’s not only attracted to him but has a strange love for him, real romance. It’s nasty. She doesn’t expect what’s coming, though. After trying to turn him on – gross – Kyle ends up beating her to death with a trophy off his shelf. Lots of bloody flying, wet, smacking sounds against the meat of her dead body. I can’t say she doesn’t deserve it.
Speaking of unsuspecting, Madison is out on the town with the older version of herself, Miss Fiona. They’re both having a great time. Only not so much for the older of the pair, she sees how men are drawn to Madison, almost like magnets. There’s a great edit where Fiona sees Madison morph into the young Fiona, right before her eyes. Just another great instance where the editing in this series is spot on, something you can easily see throughout any given episode.
The finale was a shock to me when I first watched this one, back as it aired the first time. Now, I still enjoy it. Such a brutal and great scene between two excellent actors, each of their own generation; two strong women. Lange and Roberts compliment one another so well, this whole episode with them together is a treat, but especially at the episode’s close. I won’t spoil it any further, most of you will have probably already seen it, anyways. Just a solid finish for “The Replacements”, a full, grim circle of an episode.
Next episode is titled “Fearful Pranks Ensue“, directed by Michael Uppendahl.