American Horror Story: Coven — The Replacements
American Horror Story has added more horror and depravity to the show’s history with an episode featuring unsavory forms of sex, coupled with its normal dose of weekly violence. “The Replacements” starts with a flashback to 1971 depicting how Fiona Goode became the ‘Supreme’ of the Coven. Some forty years ago Fiona (played by young Jessica Lange doppelganger Riley Voelkel) assumed the mantle as the most powerful witch by slitting the throat of the then ‘Supreme’ Anna-Leigh Leighton (Christine Ebersole). Director James Wong would thematically circle back to this first scene at the episode’s end when Fiona faces down would-be future ‘Supreme’ Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). But inside this ouroboros of echoing moments across the decades, there is plenty of mischief and anguish in store of the other women of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies.
Sarah Paulson’s Cordelia Foxx also shared some circular beats with her mother in this episode, as both were shown consulting doctors due to their bodies’ physical failings. Fiona is still vainly searchingfor youth, but the plastic surgeon says he cannot operate on her because her bloodwork indicates that she has cancer. Cordelia wants to have a baby, because it appears that the ritual she and Hank (Josh Hamilton) performed last episode did not induce pregnancy. In addition to her doctor, Cordelia also visits Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) at her hairshop (Cornrows City) fronted voodoo emporium. The priestess humors Cordelia for a while describing her fertility spell (a dizzying dance involving 2 ounces of ‘baby gravy’ thrown into a fire, the ingestion of a special hotter-than-Hades pepper, and a sacrificial goat’s blood being poured over the desired mother-to-be). Cordelia is prepared to rob a bank for the proffered sum of $50,000, but Laveau laughs her off, saying that she wouldn’t perform the spell for even double that price. Cordelia was born into the wrong tribe, Laveau says, and Fiona is her sworn-enemy.
Fiona though, for all her grudge-holding and murderous deeds, is a liberal woman of the 21st century who rallies against the antiquated racism of Madam Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) and the priggishness of new neighbor Joan Ramsey (Patti LaPone). Bates gave her character a moment of levity as she melodramatically bemoaned Barack Obama’s presidency. Fiona gave her a quick education on how far blacks have come since LaLaurie’s time in the early 19th century, and Fiona heaps more insults on the high society woman by forcing LaLaurie to wear a maid’s uniform as her disguise while staying at the school. When LaLaurie gets uppity about serving African American Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), Fiona again puts the madam in her place and condemns her to be Queenie’s personal slave.
Bible-thumping Joan Ramsey enters the story when she is visited by Nan (Jamie Brewer) and Madison who had been gawking at Ramsey’s shirtless son Luke as they were moving into the estate next door. Nan brings over a homemade yellow cake with butter frosting, knowing (clairvoyantly) that Luke would be unable to resist. The scantily-clad Madison is peeved when Luke rebuffs her overly forward flirtations, and then insults the Ramseys’ beliefs. The cake knife goes flying across the room, Joan demands that the witches leave; they do, but not before Madison lights the drapes afire. Later Joan confronts Fiona about what happened, and while the ‘Supreme’ verbally spars with the Christian woman, she is more concerned about Madison’s newly discovered firestarting abilities.
Fiona seemingly takes Madison under her wing, having her demonstrate her mastery over the flame, as well as teaching her some of the classic Jedi mind trick magic by coercing an unsuspecting pedestrian into traffic. They even go bar-hopping together where, if they were capitalistic witches, they’d use their powers as pool sharks. That’s not shown, but what is hinted at is Fiona’s growing resentment towards Madison as she is the one getting all the ogling stares of drunken barflies. When they return home for the night, Fiona waxes poetically about the history of various Supremes telling Madison that she will one day have her portrait up on the walls as well. Fiona confides that she is getting weaker and slowly dying, as she explains that it is the typical process of the new Supreme absorbing the powers of the old. She gives Madison the very same knife used to murder previous Supreme Leighton, but Madison is reluctant to deliver the killing blow to Fiona. A struggle over the knife ensues, and it is Madison her ends up on the ground in a pool of blood. Fiona triumphantly says, “this coven doesn’t need a new Supreme, it needs a new rug,” and tells the tongueless butler, Spalding (Denis O’Hare), who no-doubt lost that organ after witnessing Fiona’s previous murder, to clean up the mess, and “bury her deep.”
While all of this murder and mayhem is part of the main storyline of this week’s episode, all of the sexual depravity is relegated to the secondary story concerning Zoe and the FrankenKyle Monster, as well as an incident with Queenie and the angry minotaur.
The latter incident first: while Queenie and LaLaurie are alone at night, they hear some strange banging on the door and a shadowy figure outside. LaLaurie is rightfully fearful when she realizes that it is her enchanted houseboy-turned-Minotaur, back for revenge. Queenie says that she will handle things, and goes out after the beast with a rag soaked with LaLaurie’s blood. This entices the bull-headed man to follow her into Cordelia’s greenhouse. Queenie tries to connect with the minotaur claiming that they are both misunderstood and only want love. She lowers her hands down to her sides in what initially comes off as a bit of hocus pocus, but then she hikes up her dress and starts fingering herself. “Don’t you want to love me?” she asks. The beast stalks behind her, and then seems to mount her with one hooved-hand on her shoulder, before another normal hand clasps over her mouth. The shot cuts away before there is any definite depiction of bestiality — if indeed bestiality is what happens when one gets fucked by minotaur. Perhaps Queenie was killed, but she was more-likely kidnapped by the minotaur and other members of the voodoo sect.
American Horror Story may be too timid to show a depiction of potential bestiality on our TV screens, but it does not shy away from a portrayed depiction of incest. Zoe is still distraught about the state that Kyle is in. Although loner witch Misty Day (Lily Rabe) has managed to work her magic and heal most of his wounds, Kyle is still mentally more monster than man. Zoe thinks that it will help if she takes him back to his mother Alicia Spencer (Mare Winningham). Mrs. Spencer had been distraught over the loss of her son, smoking his marijuana stash and contemplating suicide. Of course, this is because Mrs. Spencer has not just lost a son, but a lover. Zoe drops Kyle off on his mother’s doorstep, and later, after barging in on him in the shower, she realizes that he is not the same person that was her son. Mrs. Spencer confirms this when she joins Kyle in bed in a tender motherly moment turned cringe-worthy under the sheets sexual escapade. As a woman who had known every contour of her son’s body, she knows that this creature, though possessing Kyle’s head, is not the same boy she had carnally known before. Her chastising about keeping Zoe a secret, as well as her continued advances reaches a breaking point and the KyleStein Creature beats in his mother’s skull.
Well, there has been plenty of murderous mayhem and salacious sex in this third episode of American Horror Story: Coven. Next week seems to be the start of a showdown between the coven and the voodoo sect. I can’t wait, but before then, here are some random thoughts:
This is a school that has lost 50% of its enrollment, but I’m not sure that is too big of a concern considering everything else that has been going on. Plus, what the hell are the pupils learning anyway? Cordelia and Fiona are more concerned about their own problems, while Nan only reads all day, Queenie is stuck in the kitchen, and Madison and Zoe have man problems.
In this episode we learned why Spalding lost his tongue, but that bit wasn’t depicted on-screen as AHS had filled up its graphic violence quota with this shot of the dead Mrs. Spencer.
We learned that it is relatively easy to kill a witch. All you have to do is slit their throat. Maybe you have to be a witch yourself to do that though, or maybe it is only so easy for a ‘Supreme’ like Fiona. Still, in measuring up the coven (youth-obsessed Fiona, baby-obsessed Cordelia, and Kyle-obsessed Zoe) against immortal Laveau’s voodoo sect, I’d give the definite advantage to the Cornrow City folk.
I laughed when Cordelia told her doctor that Hank was off on a consultation about a construction job. Having such an insignificant husband just makes Cordelia all the more insignificant herself.
When Misty Day was mounted on Kyle in the bed, with Zoe right there next to them, I played at a scene in my head where they had a weird three-way relationship, akin to Evan Peters’s two wives in last season’s Asylum. If any two witches were suited for polygamy, it would be Zoe, who’d kill the man, and Misty, who’d bring him right back. It turns out that more revolting sexual activity was in store instead.
Perhaps having sex with a minotaur wouldn’t be bestiality, but the whole situation brings to mind a Christopher Walken Saturday Night Live sketch mentioning centaur pornography. But you’ve got to remember that, at some point, there’s gonna be a horse penis in there.
A friend of mine told me that he thought the dialogue in episode one “Bitchcraft” was laughable, especially concerning Kathy Bates’s speech said ancient Greek minotaur. While I’ll admit that this show does turn toward campiness, I thought that the writing in this episode was great. Bates, Bassett, and especially Lange are superb actresses, but their work is all the better when given lines like Fiona’s “I’ve lived a disreputable life, but I’ve done it in style, and I’ll die likewise.”