“American Horror Story: Coven” recap (3.4): The Wicked Witch of the South


Happy Halloween, horror fans.  I know we’ve all got candy to eat and parties to attend so let’s cut straight to the action.

We begin in flashback mode, to 1961. A black boy is riding his bike through a Louisiana neighborhood. We don’t know his name or his story, we just know that his presence on this show necessitates a car full of racists cornering him and murdering him, with nary a word of dialogue exchanged.  And right away, we hit upon one of my main problems with AHS: its needlessly breakneck pacing.  The horror I enjoy—of which The Shining is probably the most well-known example—is built on a pervasive feeling of dread, which is allowed to grow in long, drawn-out scenes. We come to know and fear Jack Torrance for a long time before he becomes violent, and that anticipation is part of what makes the payoff so genuinely scary.  But AHS doesn’t give its viewers credit for that kind of attention span.  The scene with this boy would have been a perfect opportunity to slow down; to let us know, care about, and fear for a young black man in the deep south. But he is just a prop for a larger story, which is: zombies!

When the boy’s grieving mother comes to Marie Laveau, she conjures up a zombie horde to kill the men who lynched the boy.

AHS4.1I told y’all the south would rise again.

Back in the present day, we finally learn more about Spalding, the mute butler (unintentional allusion to Wilson, Tom Hank’s mute companion in Castaway?).  He’s up in a room, holding a tea party with his collection of creepy vintage dolls.

AHS4.2If you really wanted to scare me, this would all be My Little Pony merch.

He is interrupted in his frankly adorable little quirk by the sound of Fiona murdering Madison downstairs. He dutifully rolls her body up in a rug and serves Fiona glass of sherry. She thanks him by saying “I’ve always enjoyed our little talks together, particularly since you lost your tongue. Makes you seem wiser, somehow. More thoughtful.”  Which I think is a rather more deliberate allusion to the main character in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Fiona can’t savor her sherry or the impact of her verbal barbs long, because she is called to the greenhouse by the sound of moaning. She finds Queenie sprawled out on the floor, barely conscious and bleeding profusely.

Queenie: I couldn’t stop it.

Fiona: Stop what?

Queenie: Stop myself from offering myself to a minotaur.  I didn’t want to do it, it was totally out of character for me, but it was as if I was following a stupid, horrible script.

Fiona dispatches the minotaur and brings Queenie into the house, where she chastises Cordelia for going to Marie Laveau and making the coven appear weak.

The next day at Marie’s beauty shop, the ladies are talking, in that totally regular, non-forced way black people have of talking in scenes written by white writers (sarcasm is my fearful prank).  They are interrupted, thank God, by the arrival of a box which contains the disembodied, but still blinking head of Marie’s minotaur lover, Bastien.


Marie is incensed, and declares the long-standing truce between coven and voodoo to be over.

As much as this season suffers from some of the same problems of its predecessor, I do enjoy the comic relief provided each week by Zoe’s remarkable ineptitude. When we find her this week, she is initially pleased when Kyle learns to say his own name, thus bringing his total vocabulary up to two words. But, like many an exotic pet owner, Zoe is forced to accept that ZombieKyle may be too much for her to handle. So with a heavy heart she poisons his tuna fish, but when she goes to kill him, she finds he has escaped, and is now running amok in the Ninth Ward.

Okay, so remember how I was hating on Cordelia’s husband, Lumberjack Dave, a couple weeks ago?  Well as it turns out, my feelings were motivated by a powerful sense of intuition, and not a simple suspicion of any man daring to put his parts on Sarah Paulson.

AHS4.4Your teeth are too straight. I don’t trust you.

This week we catch up with him in Baton Rouge, where he cheats on Cordelia with a lady he met on “an online community dedicated to collecting Thomas Kincaid paintings.” After sleeping with her, and confessing his secret wish to be a monster, he dispatches her with a bullet to the head.

Back at Miss Robichaux’s The Witch Council arrives, to great fanfare.


There is Frances Conroy’s delightfully batty Myrtle Snow, Quentin the Queen, and Pembroke, the gayest witch in christendom. You can tell a lot about them by the way Fiona tries to play them.  She gives a Regina George-style backhanded compliment to Myrtle, jokingly asserts her dominance to Quentin, and totally ignores Pembroke, apparently because she can’t think of a way to manipulate her. Which is really a shame, because I bet you anything Pembroke could totally be swayed by some feminine wiles. Anyway, the Council was summoned by Nan, who is concerned since she can no longer feel Madison’s presence, and worries she is dead.

No one else seems too upset about Madison’s disappearance, which makes sense, because at Queenie delicately puts it, “Madison Montgomery is a stone-cold bitch who loves hard drinking, big dicks, and trouble. If she’s dead it’s probably because she got wasted and offered the grim reaper a hand job.”

But the Council—particularly Myrtle—is suspicious of Fiona, which takes us back to flashback land. It seems that in the direct aftermath of the old Supreme’s death, Myrtle was the only young witch who suspected that Fiona killer her way to the top. Knowing how loyally Spalding served Fiona, Myrtle devised a spell that would force the reticent butler to tell the truth. But before she could execute the plan and keep Fiona from the throne, Spalding cut out his own tongue.

In the present day, Myrtle assumes that Spalding will be eager to inform on the woman who led to his disfigurement, but she fails to understand that Spalding is, and has always been, in love with Fiona. Even without evidence to support it, Myrtle airs her theory that Fiona killed Annaleigh because she was the last Supreme, and Madison because she was the next one. But here Cordelia steps in to disprove her.  According to Cordelia, Madison had a heart condition she kept secret, and everyone knows that a rising Supreme is the picture of health.

Fiona wants to celebrate her close scrape with justice and Cordelia’s unexpected defense of her, so they go out for drinks.

Cordelia: Let’s play a game, called Truth or…never mind, let’s just call it Truth.

Fiona: HAHAHA sure.

Cordelia: Okay why do you hate Lumberjack Dave?

Fiona: Two reasons. One is his teeth are unnaturally even. Two is that frankly I always thought you’d end up with a woman.

Cordelia: Well that was refreshingly honest. So did you kill Madison?

Fiona: Of course not. I wouldn’t kill anyone unless I thought they were the next Supreme. Who do you think is the next Supreme, BTW?

Cordelia: I’m gonna answer that right after I vomit up all this whiskey.

In the bathroom, Cordelia gives herself a long, hard look in the mirror, treasuring the exquisite lines of her face, when a hooded figure approaches her with a mason jar full of acid, and throws it all over her.


Back at the school, the newly cuddly Madame LaLaurie is giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, when some rather unexpected visitors show up: the reanimated corpses of her dead daughters. Yes, Marie Laveau has created a zombie army and it is currently surrounding the house.

We won’t know until next week, but I really hope Kyle shows to be their leader, and gives them an inspirational speech entirely in zombie grunts.

Til then, have a very happy Halloween.

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