I still feel a little residual surge of dread every time I sit down to watch American Horror Story. It’s a feeling left over from last season, when viewers were dragged to a dank, rotten insane asylum each week, but the dread is lifting a bit now that the setting has changed to Louisiana, where beauty and death are friends from way back. And now, for the second episode in a row, this show has actually been a pleasure to watch. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of problematic issues to deconstruct, but it is progress.
So it’s not a surprise, but still a relief, to see Lily Rabe at the top of this episode.
A couple of backwoods poachers are snaring gators on the bayou when they hear the sound of Stevie Nicks, and they know trouble is afoot. When Misty appears, she is a very different woman, post-stake. Gone is the virginal white dress; it has been replaced by the black of death and the fecund green of eternal rebirth. Swamp colors. She calls the poachers out on their murder of the innocent alligators (sorry Misty, but once you’ve seen those shining eyes surround you from a rapidly sinking paddleboat at 3 a.m., tell me how sympathetic you feel. Long story.). She pulls the nearly-dead gators back to life and sets them upon the poachers, reminding me that Lily Rabe in vengeance mode is one of the few things I liked about last season.
Back at Miss Robicheax’s, Zoe and Madison have developed a little Glinda/Elphaba frenemyship wherein Madison orders Zoe to stop mourning Kyle in exchange for unlimited clothes borrowing. Down the hall, Fiona is hiding the extremely pungent Delphine LaLaurie from her daughter, in an amusing reversal of authority roles.
From there, we are abruptly thrust into a flashback of Queenie’s origin story. A year ago, she was managing a fried chicken restaurant, when a loudmouth customer tried to con her out of a free thigh. Resenting the insult to her intelligence that this implied, Queenie stuck her hand into a vat of hot oil, which ended up scalding the customer.
I feel like this scene is a pretty direct reply to the scene in Precious where Gaboury Sidibe‘s character steals the bucket of chicken. This scene refutes the idea that she is pathetic or deserving of pity, merely because she is a large black woman. She’s taken calculus, her name indicates her royalty, and she’s not the thief: she’s the manager. We also learn that she is a descendant of Tituba, the Salem slave who was the first to be accused of witchcraft. More on that later.
Queenie’s story is interrupted by the arrival of two detectives, here to question Zoe and Madison about the frat house bus crash. Madison coolly employs her acting skills and denies everything, but Zoe cracks like an egg in an earthquake after .00005 seconds of questioning. She just starts screaming hysterically about how all the girls here are witches but, like, mostly good witches who don’t deserve to go to jail. And I normally try to put myself in the shoes of characters before I judge them, but even I have the good sense to know that these cops can’t prove shit because THEY ARE MUGGLES.
Luckily Fiona swoops in and Jedi mind tricks the detectives into forgetting everything. She also spits in their water, either for magic reasons or just because it’s been that kind of morning. Afterwards, she dispenses two valuable pieces of advice to her pupils.
1. When committing mass murder, one must act with style and subtlety. Bus flipping is sloppy technique.
2. Magic is might. Being a witch means the only thing you have to fear is a more powerful witch. (She means herself.)
In an effort to strengthen the bonds of sisterhood and to repay Zoe for killing one of her rapists, Madison takes them both on a field trip to the New Orleans morgue. There they find Kyle. Well, most of Kyle. The only thing they can really be sure belonged to him is his head. Showing some unexpected enthusiasm for her craft, Madison decides to make lemonade from this morgue full of lemons, and proceeds to assemble the choicest “boy parts” in an effort to craft the perfect boyfriend. Zoe is torn between desire to resurrect Kyle, disgust at the carnage, and lameness, because she is lame.
Also attempting to bring life into the world are Cordelia and her husband, Lumberjack Dave. They’re trying to have a baby, but, according to Lumberjack Dave all that happens is that Cordelia sweats through the fertility drugs while he “stands there like an asshole.”
Cordelia wants to try in vitro fertilization, but Lumberjack Dave thinks they should use the blackest arts to make a baby, on the grounds that it is organic and free. Cordelia tells him to STFU because she is the expert, and he is just some dude with scratchy facial hair. Just kidding, she does exactly what he says.