The thing about Ryan Murphy shows, the reason I keep coming back to them like a crazy girlfriend, is that sometimes all the pieces work together and they achieve the quality, if not of the sublime, than certainly of the fabulous. You know that they are going to offend you, confuse you, and play rough with your heart, but you keep holding out for the promise of one more spectacular moment. This episode was one such moment.
We begin with a father and son on a hunting trip. The boy takes his first taste of coffee and worries aloud that he will fail when the actual hunting begins. His father gruffly but tenderly reassures him. Right away we have a fantastic commentary on masculinity, because this act of male bonding is so classically, wholesomely American, in that it can only be achieved when going out into nature to shoot something.
Sometimes I wish we could do this without the firearms, but then I remember that that would make us pussies.
A title screen tells us this is a flashback to 1991, which really threw me off since the boy is clearly supposed to be Lumberjack Dave, and he was definitely a full-grown man in 1991. But whatever, they venture forth into the woods, where they stumble upon a witch, who seems to be suffering from the same affliction as the zombie creatures in AHS: Asylum. Stricken by her humanity, and the powerful impulse not to kill, Lil Dave lowers his rifle. Unfortunately, the witch then shoots a bolt of fire at him and his father kills her himself, shouting “NO MERCY.” American Horror Story is at its most powerful when it touches on fears that are deeply American, and this exploration of man in relation to man/woman/nature is one of the best metaphors they have ever attempted.
In the present day, Fiona makes a trip to Marie Laveau’s hair salon to drop off Delphine’s head. Marie is like “are you seriously trying to re-gift that immortal racist back to me?” But it turns out that no, Fiona is there to propose an alliance between Coven and Voodoo, to band together against the witch-hunters. Marie declines this offer, which is predictable since she hired Lumberjack Dave and his merry men in the first place. Throughout the scene, Delphine’s head shouts exhortations from the cardboard box while a few feet away her body shoos away the flies that have begun to gather. It’s the most satisfying combination of humor and horror of the season.
The ultimate humiliation is that they left her in that sweatshirt.
Okay, you’ve nailed social commentary and comedy, AHS. Let’s see how you do with emotional resonance. At Miss Robichaux’s, Cordelia is suffering from a serious case of “who moved my cheese.” Except in her case it really is serious, since she is blind now and if the cheese isn’t kept in the same place every time she will never find it. Seeing her struggle, Myrtle tries to come to her assistance, and they share a moment where their anguish reflects beautifully on each other. Myrtle begs Cordelia to use her special sight on her so she can be sure that Myrtle had nothing to do with her blindness, but Cordelia refuses, because she loves and trusts Myrtle and doesn’t need her powers to prove it. So not only do two female characters share a scene that is about supporting rather than undermining each other, they reference events of a previous episode? AHS writers, I don’t know what you’re on, but can you send some to Glee?
As indicated by the hunting scene, this is the episode where we learn more about Lumberjack Dave, so we follow him to Atlanta where he visits his father, head honcho at Misogyny International, where the floors and walls are deep mahogany, the couches are fine leather, and witch heads are mounted tastefully on every wall. Basically, Dave (yes I know his name is Hank but I like the name Hank and I won’t let this guy destroy it) has been the black sheep of the family ever since he bungled the camping trip back in 1991. As it turns out, his real mission in New Orleans was to destroy both the Voodoo and the Coven, and he left the playbook behind when he allied himself with Marie Laveau.
Dave: But Dad, I’ve kind of had my hands full trying to figure out who poured acid on my wife.
Dad: Oh that was us. Totally meant to tell you that.
Dave: YOU? YOU HURT HER PRECIOUS FACE?
Dad: Look, I know it’s hard to pretend to love someone who in reality disgusts you and has weirdly even teeth, but try and keep your head clear.
Dave: But Cordelia’s teeth aren’t…
Back in Louisiana, Myrtle decides to kill two birds with one stone. And by birds I mean, the two council members who let her be burned at the stake, and by stones, I mean melon balls. She poisons the balls, rips out an eye from each of them, and gives them to Cordelia, because she is A Really Good Mom.
Her eyesight restored, and her burn scars looking like nothing more than a smattering of freckles, Cordelia implores Myrtle and Fiona to hug and make up. But in the course of the hugs, she discovered that she has lost her visions. I personally don’t see why this is a cause for alarm; in a world where every touch reveals a dirty secret, ignorance really is bliss.