The Pretty Little Witches take a page out of Mary Shelley by way of The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Delphine LaLaurie is set loose in the modern, integrated Big Easy; and Fiona gets the most sinister haircut since Keri Russell chopped off her locks and got FELICITY canceled — and it’s all in a week’s work for AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN.
The story features three different kinds of immortality: Delphine and Marie Laveau living agelessly, Kyle being revived after death by a mixture of science and magic, and Misty Day resurrecting herself. How ironic that practically everyone around Fiona is immortal when she’s searching for the key to eternal life.
The story began with the return of Misty Day (Lily Rabe), the young witch burned in last week’s premiere for having the power of resurgence. Obviously, she brought herself back to life. She wandered into the camp of a pair of alligator poachers and revived the murdered gators to take revenge on the hunters. Misty then wandered off in the direction of the city morgue.
At Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, Queenie (Gabourey Sibide) is recounting her origin story — she was working in a Detroit chicken joint in 2012 and when confronted by an unruly customer, used her “human voodoo doll” power to punish him by sticking her hand in boiling french fry oil. Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) brought her to the school. Then detectives Sanchez (Lance E. Nichols) and Stiles (Sam Malone) arrive and ask for Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) and Madison (Emma Roberts). In the office they easily get Zoe to crack and confess that they’re witches and killed all the frat boys, forcing Fiona (Jessica Lange) to spit into two glasses of water and magick the cops into forgetting the interview and surrendering all their evidence against the girls. Fiona then hurls the girls against a wall and warns them to close ranks against outsiders — and to fear her.
Later, Madison brings Zoe to the morgue, where she announces she has stolen a resurrection spell and plans to use it to bring Kyle (Evan Peters) back to life to reward Zoe for killing her rapist. Madison and Zoe gather the best parts from the other frat boys and attach them to Kyle’s head, then recite the incantation. When the Coroner (Ben Matheny) arrives just as Kyle wakes up, Madison flees and the patchwork man beats the coroner to death. Kyle is only calmed by Zoe, who hustles him into the coroner’s car speeds off. Misty pops up in the backseat, and directs Zoe to the poachers’ cabin, where she applies swamp medicine to Kyle and soothes his pain. Misty offers to look after Kyle while Zoe returns to the school. Kyle doesn’t want her to go.
At the school, Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) recounts how she woke up in 1834 after drinking the drugged tea to learn that Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) had lynched her family and gave Delphine immortality, but then buried her in the coffin. Fiona leaves to get her hair done in the Ninth Ward, where Mme. Laveau has a salon. Back at the school, telepathic Nan (Jamie Brewer) senses someone mentally screaming for help and releases Delphine, letting the old witch flee. As Marie does Fiona’s hair, the pair exchange threats, then Fiona asks for Marie’s secret of eternal youth and offers something Marie wants in exchange. Marie scoffs, so Fiona sets the salon on fire and leaves. Later, Marie summons Bastien the Minotaur (Ameer Baraka), telling him they have work to do. Meanwhile, Fiona finds a dejected Delphine sitting on bench outside her old home, which is now a museum of horrors.
Obviously, the most important long-term development here is Zoe and Madison bringing Kyle back to life through necromantic means, and the way it played out was more H.P. Lovecraft than Dr. Frank-N-Furter — even if Madison did practically say “I can make you a man” (and in less than seven days!). The resurrection scene was properly lurid and felt like Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West — Re-animator.” And subsequent scenes paid homage to Stuart Gordon’s 1985 film adaptation of that tale, Re-Animator. It was easy to imagine that the parchment with Madison’s spell on it was page from the Necronomicon (and Madison is certainly a shallow enough bitch to have literally torn a page out of that ancient, cursed book). Surely Ms. Robichaux’s was able to acquire a copy of Abdul Alhazred’s classic. But did Zoe really resuscitate Kyle with a kiss? How very Sleeping Beauty of her!
Kyle’s violent reaction to the Coroner — beating him to death — was horrifying and fit right in with modern zombie mania. I’m pretty sure Kyle is meant to be a scientific abomination that owes more to Dr. Frankenstein than necromancy, but we will doubtless see true zombies of the voodoo variety once Marie Laveau gets her act together.
However, the do-it-yourself boy toy wasn’t the only important groundwork laid for the future. There was also Fiona’s visit to the hair salon operated by Madame Laveau. Fiona says that the two sorts of witches, hers and Laveau’s voodoo variety, have been at war for ages, and yet that beauty shop encounter was their first meeting? Laveau apparently has been alive since the 19th century, so how did she not run into the Supreme before now? Perhaps Fiona really has spent way too much time away from the school.
Marie claims the slave Tituba taught the girls of Salem, Mass., magic (but Fiona doesn’t believe it), and separately, Queenie claims to be a direct descendant of Tituba. Coincidence? Or a clue that Queenie will be the next Supreme?
Headmistress Cordelia and hubby Hank (Josh Hamilton) are an interesting case. They’re having trouble conceiving and she wants to use scientific methods to boost fertility, but Hank convinces her to use magic. She warns him that that type of magic is “dark” and dangerous, but he’s down with it. What could go wrong?
We didn’t see Madame LaLaurie’s doubtless-horrified reaction to all the… uh, “emancipated” people in present-day New Orleans — let alone her thoughts about a black president — but I suppose just showing her sitting forlornly on a bench depicted her abject defeat and hopelessness. We really didn’t need to see her insult any African-Americans (beyond calling Queenie a slave) because we know that’s what she would have done. Better to see her broken by her new circumstances, drained of all the piss and vinegar that characterized her previous life — or should I say, earlier life.
When the alligators were brought back to life, one of them scored my favorite kill of the week — a week that included watching THE WALKING DEAD, mind you — when the beast chomped on the head of a poacher and dragged him, kicking and screaming, into the dark bayou waters. And then director Michael Rymer (HANNIBAL, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) showed his macabre sense of humor with the victim’s trail of bubbles in the water.
Two Stevie Nicks songs — “Edge of Seventeen” and “Rhiannon” — were used in Misty’s scenes, and she called the iconic singer a White Witch. “Rhiannon” — about a Welsh witch — was written by Nicks for her band, Fleetwood Mac. I wonder if Nicks can be coerced into a cameo?
The story was another win for the executive-producing writing trinity of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear, loaded with enough death, clever dialogue and interesting characters to make Joss Whedon proud. Plus a minotaur. How very Cabin in the Woods of them! Yes, Joss would be very proud.
“Look, for the sake of peace among roommates, I’m sorry I killed your boy candy, okay?” — Madison
“I’m Fiona Goode. I’m in charge everywhere.” — Fiona
“Did we just marry the Devil? Because I don’t know if I’m down with that.” — Zoe
“You could offer me a unicorn that shit $100 bills and I’d still never give you more than a headache.” — Marie