American Horror Story: Coven — “Fearful Pranks Ensue”
“Fearful Pranks Ensue” opens up in 1961 depicting the type of racial incident that is not a prank, but does have dreadfully fearful consequences. A black youth is riding on his bicycle down a tree-lined lane when behind him a dark truck pulls up. It speeds up, getting closer and closer, so the boy pedals harder and harder. The truck’s bumper is inches away from the back tire of the bike, and finally the boy turns into a driveway, jumps off of his bike, and runs down an alley. Unfortunately, it is a dead end, and as the boy turns around he comes face-to-face with three angry looking white men. The scene cuts away to Marie Laveau’s hairshop, still in 1961, where one of the beauticians is saying that her son is starting his first day at the newly desegregated high school. Angela Bassett’s character seems to think this is a bad idea, and the viewer knows what is in store for the previously chased boy. There is a quick montage of a faraway shot of a single, desolate figure hanging from a large tree, a noose being cut down, and the mother over the lynched boy’s body, pushing the white police officer away. Laveau is in the background here looking fierce and plotting a voodoo revenge that she quickly executes with a ceremony involving slicing open snakes and drinking their flaming blood from a large chalice. Then, all of a sudden, American Horror Story turns into The Walking Dead as corpses start rising up from their graves. These living dead ain’t just hungry — they’re armed. There are some Native Americans with tomahawks, a civil war veteran carrying his bayonet mounted gun, and a big dead guy with an axe. The zombies stalk after and find the three men of the lynch mob, whose insides soon come out in a scene of bloody evisceration and dismemberment in what must be AHS’s most graphic scene to date.
Coming back from the show titles is the butler Spalding (Denis O’Hare) having a tea party with a roomful of creepy dolls. This is a very Spalding heavy episode which would circle back to this tea-party motif near the end of the episode. But first there is a quick recap of Spalding witnessing the neck-slashing scene that played out last week between Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). He pours Fiona a drink, and rolls Madison’s body up in the bloodstained rug, while Fiona engages in what she does best — witty quips — saying, “I’ve always enjoyed our little talks together, particularly since you lost your tongue.”
Fiona goes to investigate a crash in the solarium, where she finds Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) having been gored by the minotaur. The beast rises up behind Fiona, but it is never shown how he is dealt with. Instead the next shot is a frazzled Fiona waking Cordelia (Sarah Paulson). While tending to Queenie, the mother and daughter have a spat about both of their meetings with Laveau. Queenie stops breathing, but Fiona saves her, by literally breathing life back into her. Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) is roused out of hiding, and is much more appreciative of Queenie since the black girl saved her life. However, later Queenie says that she’ll have to think about the best way for LaLaurie to really thank her.
The next day, at Cornrows City, a package arrives for Laveau. In it is the severed head of the minotaur, which blinks, so is seemingly still alive. This will prompt Laveau to prepare for an all-out war. Laveau’s second (Dana Gourrier) is against rekindling the animosity against the coven, given the truce that Laveau had signed with former Supreme Leighton (Christine Ebersole), whom Fiona murdered in 1971. Whatever tenuous peace there was between the witches and the voodoo practitioners is now over. The voodoo resurrection ritual from the opening is repeated, and once again the living dead rise from their graves, including the corpses of the lynch mob and (at least one of) Madam LaLaurie’s daughters.
The main conflict that this season is building to — the voodoo sect vs. the coven — has started in earnest in this episode, but there were some other interesting developments that happened concerning Kyle (Evan Peters), Cordelia’s husband Hank (Josh Hamilton), and the backstory between Fiona, Spalding, and witch council member Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy).
Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) finds the FrankenKyle monster beating his head against a bathtub. She gets emotional about the state that this creature is in, and realizes that it was wrong to bring him back to life. He speaks, claiming not to be Kyle and this is all too much for Zoe. She decides to fix him a lunch of tuna salad laced with rat poison and put him out of his misery. There is another complication though, which is that the monster has suddenly disappeared, and when Zoe looks outside to find him, all she can see are the ghouls and goblins of children dressed for Halloween.
Cordelia, perched on the edge of the bed like a smitten schoolgirl, talks on the phone with her husband Hank. He is off on a construction consultation job and says that the foreman is at his hotel room door. Only Hank isn’t meeting with a foreman. A woman (Alexandra Breckenridge) drops into his hotel room, and they engage in some intense lovemaking that culminates with Hank screaming like a madman. This girl is in love with Hank — he has her completely wrapped around his finger. She does have a good line though, and one that strikes a beat in Hank: “I think Halloween gives people permission to be who they really want to be.” Lest we think that Hank is only a cheating scumbag, things get much more interesting when he pulls out a silenced pistol and shoots the girl in the head in a big WTF moment. So who the hell is Hank exactly? He was obviously lying to this lover when he claimed to be a USDA inspector. He is also obviously lying to his wife Cordelia as well. While ready to write off Hank since his introduction into the show, this character kink makes him an interesting addition to the web of witches.
Nan (Jamie Brewer), no longer being able to read Madison’s mind, summons the Council, three witches including Myrtle Snow, Quentin (Leslie Jordan), a small, but flamboyant fedora-clad man, and Pimbrooke (Robin Bartlett), a frumpy grey-hair whom Fiona scoffs at. They set up an official inquiry into Madison’s disappearance and interview all of the women of Miss Robichaux’s Academy to find the whereabouts of Madison. Interviewees are informed that the punishment for inflicting grievous bodily harm against a Salem descendent is death by fire.
Each woman states what they know about Madison.
Cordelia volunteers way too much information about other matters (Queenie’s attack and her consultation contact with the voodoo sect), but little of consequence about Madison. She does blurt out that is her rug (the one in which Madison was wrapped up) is missing, but fails to realize the importance of this information.
The younger women have a bit more to say. Zoe says that Madison has a movie starlet charisma. Nan informs the Council of her burgeoning pyrokinetic ability. Queenie drops the best line with: “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 handjob or something.”
Once the Council gets Fiona in the interrogation seat AHS viewers learn much more about the past relationship between her and the red-headed Snow. It seems that when Fiona took over as the Supreme (in 1971) she blamed Marie Laveau for the death of former Supreme Leighton. However, a younger (and ambitious) Myrtle Snow suspected that Fiona had killed Leighton. To find out the truth Snow put an enchantment spell on Spalding’s tongue (whom Snow suspected was hiding Fiona’s secret). Unfortunately, before Spalding could be coerced into telling what Fiona had done, he is found on the floor with his tongue removed. In the present day Snow asks Spalding to write on a piece of paper the name of witch who was responsible for severing his tongue. On the paper he writes ‘Myrtle Snow’ as Spalding was (and presumably still is) in love with Fiona. He did not want to implicate Fiona as a murderess, and since he couldn’t deny the truth, he instead cut out his own tongue with a straight razor.
Snow then has a screaming fit and is unable to contain her rage against Fiona. She claims that Fiona has twice gotten away with murder after killing the old and future Supreme. Only Cordelia confesses that Madison had a heart murmur and couldn’t have been the future Supreme with her poor health. The scene cuts away after this, but one suspects if there is to be a death by fire next week, it will most likely be Myrtle Snow tied to the burning post.
“Fearful Pranks Ensues” wraps up with a few short scenes likely to be continued next week:
Spalding, wearing a nightgown and bonnet, has another dolly tea party, only this time one of the attendees is Madison’s corpse, for whom he selects a frilly dress from the closet.
Cordelia and Fiona share some mother-daughter bonding time at a bar with Fiona lying about not killing Madison. Later, after retching in the bar toilet, Cordelia gets acid thrown into her eyes by a figure shrouded in black.
Neighbor boy Luke (Alexander Dreymon) brings over some cookies for Nan, but before any of the witches can enjoy them, the house is besieged by the undead.
Some random thoughts.
Lily Rabe’s Misty Day was missing from this week’s episode which is a shame.
Spalding hugged the scarecrow! (It’s little things like this that make AHS so great.)
Kathy Bates had a cute moment with the trick ‘r treaters at the door. However, I fear that her character may be progressing into a modern racial sensibility too quickly. Not that I’m advocating she be more racist, I just remain unconvinced that she would change so much in such a short time.
Apparently Nan (or any of the other witches) can’t read Spalding’s mind.
The show has reached that oh-shit-everything-is-crazy-now-point that it seems to attain every season. Already there has been the minotaur (and possible minotaur bestiality-ish sexual activity) and the FrankenKyle Monster sewed together from various body parts, but now there are zombies, a weird tongueless manchild having tea parties with his dollies, and a seemingly boring husband moonlighting as a murderous madman.
I am looking forward to next week’s episode which will have more zombie action (always a plus), although these voodoo corpses don’t seem to follow the same rules as the Romero-influenced Walking Dead geeks, so it will be interesting to see how the witches fare against them.