American Horror Story

American Horror Story /Coven: Episode Four

American-Horror-Story-CovenWe begin with scene of a young African American male child, barely in his teens riding a bike on a nice, residential street in New Orleans.

So????

This was New Orleans in 1961 and based on the racial issues that existed back the , the reasons why this was a scene destined to end horribly are as clear as black is black and white is white. He’s pursued by a truck full of white men, obviously racists, who are hell bent on keeping this lad from riding his bike in what appears to be a white, middle class neighborhood. A couple of the fellows look like inbred rednecks, the other is a Jack Ruby Fedora wearing clone. The teen takes an unfamiliar sidewalk In an attempt to lose Whitey, but finds himself trapped by a dead end.

The next scene is in black and white and it’s a large tree in some field. Anyone with any knowledge of America’s more tragic history knows as sure as a Jim Crow flies, this is a lynching. The large noose confirms it.

His mother runs to the body of her boy and in the crowd stands a very angry Marie Laveaud. Apparently, the child’s mom works for her at her Ninth ward hair salon. This lynching has just been made even more personal.

An angry voodoo queen is a dangerous voodoo queen. Marie goes to the back of her shop, and starts drawing on the floor (we now know that means something bad is about go down) she starts convicting a potion, then sets it on fire in this lovely Horchow urn. She slices and dices up a few snakes, chants as drummers drum and the next thing we know, corpses reanimate from their graves and respond to her revenge spell. They find the lynch mob and kill them all in gruesome ways. And the best part about these AHS zombies??? They’re armed. In fact, they rose from their graves with weapons AND murderous intent. There are zombie farmers with pitchforks, confederate soldiers with muskets, an unscrupulous accountant with a Ponzi scheme.

Well apparently, this starts a ten year war between voodoo witches and the members of the coven, who are all, in some way, direct linear descendants of the original witches who lived in Salem circa 1692.

Then, we go back to last week when Fiona murdered Madison, but this time, we sit unfold from Spaulding, the mute butler, who minutes earlier dropped the needle on his Victrola, so he and his massive doll collection could enjoy tea with background music. He hears a noise, heads downstairs and witnesses Fiona turning Madison into a human Pez dispenser. As he roles up the young witch’s body in a area rug, Fiona hears a noise and goes into the backyard to investigate. It is a very injured Queenie lying in the grass with a bloody, gasping stomach wound. I’m thinking she was gored in the gut by the rutting Minotaur she tried to seduce last week. While still lucid, Queenie rats out her attacker as his silhouette rises out of the ground with ample backlighting and Fiona seems to know what it is and what to do with it without even looking in its direction. She knows it’s Sebastien, Delphine Lalaurie’s slave/houseboy who she killed for bumping stinkies with her horny daughter two centuries ago and Sebastian just happened to be Laveaud’s boyfriend. The Voodoo Witch sent him to the school where Delphine has been staying, working as a maid, in order to exact revenge.

raggedy ann and andyThen there’s a knock on the door and in a hat tip to bewitched, in walks a odd looking trio that comprise The Witches’ Council. They only assemble when there’s trouble brewing in the coven. The council is lead by Mert, played by whacky fashionFrancesConroy_Sml designer, Betsey Johnson. The hair is a chili powder red, rarely seen outside the Raggedy family. It’s actually the actress known as Francis whose last name is something Irish sounding, who portrayed Moira the Older in season one and the black winged Angel of Death last year.

We learn that the council isn’t happy with Fiona in her role as Witch Supreme. She’s a drunk, flakey, vain, self centered and lousy at her job. They believe she had something to so with Madison’s disappearance, just as she did with the missing Supreme she replaced (nice way of saying murdered) in 1971.velma

As it turns out, I believe I am to assume that based on camera dissolves between past and present, Mert and Fiona were classmates at Miss Robicheaux’s school back in 1971. Back then, Mert was mousy, bookish and homely, not unlike Velma, from “Scooby Doo”. She and Fiona don’t like each other and that’s made crystal clear when it’s announced that the old Supreme is missing and presumed dead, Fiona will assume the throne, providing she can pass seven special tests, based on each power a Supreme is supposed to have. At dinner with a menu no doubt consisting of braised bat wings, tangy toad tandoori and eye of newt, young Mert tells a fellow witch seated to her right that she hates the way Spaulding dotes on Fiona and feels sure he knows that Fiona is involved in some way with the former Supreme’s disappearance. So after dinner Mert goes to her room and recites Latin on coins and ultimately, places a spell on Spaulding’s tongue, rendering it incapable of uttering a lie. This will help Mert in her pursuit of the truth since the next morning, the butler is supposed to testify in front of the Witches’ Council investigating the formers Supreme’s whereabouts.

Spaulding overhears this and later that night, summons Fiona to the bathroom where he tells her, his last words will be that he loves her. He grabs a straight razor and cuts out his tongue. There, problem solved. A tongue can’t lie when it ‘s no longer intact. Now we know why he never speaks and why he seems so mindlessly devoted to Fiona.

We also find out what Fiona did with the Minotaur. She cut off it’s head and sends it, a la Don Corleone, to Marie Laveaud. She opens the box, and screams , especially when the the bloody, severed bovine head winks at her. This gets her crazy mad and once again, she goes to the back room and starts drawing on the floor, chanting, slicing snakes and in the end, sends a well- armed militia of zombies to stand and sway ominously in the front yard outside Miss Robicheaux’s school holding everyone inside captive.

At least I think the blinking cow head was the Minotaur….or it was Elsie, perhaps????    Not sure.

Episode four ends back in Spaulding’s room, an audience of dolls witness him in drag, wearing an antique peignoir and night cap. He goes to his closet and pulls out a very old wedding dress that Vera Wang would HATE, and takes it over to the corner where Madison, in a very advanced state of rigor mortis, is seated in a chair, holding a team up.

What comes next? I’ve nary a clue.

A FEW THINGS OF NOTE:

1) Cordelia’s husband is out of town on business. He picks up a chick who he meets on Craigslist, they have sex, he howls upon climax and then in the middle of a post coital of vending machine soup, he shoots her in the head with a very shiny gun. He’d did tell her that he went as a monster last

ahs spaulding

Halloween. Perhaps he’s reprising that role this year. Not all monsters have gills, tentacles, sharp fangs and eight clawed hands. Not sure what any of that was all about.

2) Spaulding was in the front yard decorating for Halloween. He was assembling what looked like an homage to the Burning Man bonfire mascot. He hugged it after adding the arms, and well, call me a romantic, but I thought that was how he took care of either Madison’s body or that of the Minotaur. Well, in the end we found out that it wan’t Madison under all that burlap.

3) After getting pissed drunk on Maker’s Mark at a local bar with mummy, Cordelia excuses herself and goes into the bathroom to yak. As she’s washing her hands, a very short Druid in the next stall exists with a glass in hand but it contains acid, which is thrown in Cordelia’s face. Huh?????? A voodoo warning of disfigurement????

3) But before the acid attack turns her face into a Dali painting, Cordelia tells her mother and the Witches’ Council that Madison might be missing, but it’s not because she’s the next Witch Supreme. Apparently, the new head witch has to be in perfect health which Madison ain’t. Madison had a heart murmur she mentioned to no one. So, who is the next Supreme? Don’t count out Queenie. Remember when she was in bed, bloody and gored and Cordelia lost her pulse? Fiona breathed life back into her and felt very weak afterwords. The big deal about the transition between Supremes is that the old one feels her power weakening. Keep an eye on Queenie in upcoming episodes. Nan, (Addie from season one), as well. Cordelia could be the right full heir to the throne. Spaulding too.

4)  Zooey goes back to Incest Manor and finds Kyle the Human Quilt still bloody and zombie eyed from kill his mother lover last week, so he’s banging his head against the toilet.    She decides that’s a fine time to go in the kitchen and make him tuna salad.   Just as she’s adding enough Hellman’s to make it nummy, she looks up and spies a big ol’ box of rat poison.    She will kill the very thing she helped bewitch and stitch together.   When she brings him a bowl of the tainted tuna, he’s gone.  She runs to the front porch and sees nothing, just a bunch of people   in costumes.   It is Halloween, after all.    Kyle will just fit in with everybody else.

5) And lastly, why were the members of the Coven dressed in various shades of black and white throughout the entire episode? Was this to stress the age old concept of good (white) versus evil (black) and that each member can at any given time, possess their share of both traits???

See ya next Wednesday for episode five. As previews indicate, there’s a lot at stake for one witch….literally. She’s tied to one and Cordelia looks poised to light it, with a cigarette. Please oh please, let the ciggie be a Salem.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY III: Coven Episodes 1 & 2

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Let me describe in my own words, what I think of season three of the AHS saga so far:    style over substance.

I can take that one step further by admitting I fell asleep twenty minutes into this past Wednesday episode.

While still better than last season’s bouillabaisse of silly badness (Nazis, aliens, zombies, serial killers, sadistic nuns, Anne Frank, homosexual rehab sessions, demonic possession,  microcephaly, evil Santas, caning,  murder, suicides, asylums and more gore than any politician named Al) I still find it in dire need of ……in need of….well, I’m not quite sure.

But with just two episodes in, I’ll give it till Halloween to win me over.  I am nothing if not fair.

It’s got a great premise:   it’s all about black magic and witches in the witchiest city of all–New Orleans.   And acting wise, its got major star power.  Jessica Lange is back, this time as the Witch Supreme.   Sarah Paulsen returns (she was Lana the Lesbian Reporter last year.   Taiisa Farmiga is back.  She was Violet of the Bad Attitude in season I.  This go round she’s a witch, with a killer vagina.

Literally.    More on that in a bit.

Evan Peters returns.  He played Tate in season one and an accused wife killer last season.  In reality, wifey had been inducted by aliens in episode I and returned later just in time for the season ended. I don’t know.  Season II was largely forgettable.    This time, Evan plays a Tulane frat rat named Kyle, with a fairly decent portrayal of an Orleanian diphthong,  BUT….he dies in a horrific bus accident in the first episode.     But like Frankenstein’s monster, he’s returning for more action.    As we learned in episode II, this was a horrible, horrible accident.    He was terribly dismembered, as was the rest of the occupants.     They were in a rented party bus hightailing it away from a mixer at the Frat House after gang banging Madison, an actress witch with telekinetic powers (played by Emma Roberts, daughter of Eric and niece to Aunt Julia).  When  revived from the Roofie  she’d been given, Madison ran  out to the street and willed the bus to crash, killing all the rapists, including Kyle who never touched  her.    In fact,  he was the only who attempted to stop the assault and was dragged on board the bus prior to the escape to keep him from ratting out his randy brothers.

Taiisa Farmiga’s character Zoe, fell for Kyle earlier at the party.  Because Madison killed her boyfriend in the crash,  she promises to do Zoe a solid, so they  break into  the morgue and found the section where the dead frat boys were kept on ice and realized that the victims had all been terribly dismembered in the accident.   So, like an old fashion quilting party, they decide to create the perfect boyfriend, using the best parts of each victim. Kyle’s head, someone’s bitching torso, another guy’s arms, legs, hands, etc. and  and other parts I’m sure and they sew all the bits and pieces together, while performing  an ‘incant’ over him and voila!    Kyle is slice once again—-Uncoordinated and mono syllabic as hell, but alive.

Mary Shelley would be proud.

And Addie is back.    Jamie Brewer, the Texas actress with Down Syndrome is back this season playing Nan, a witch with incredibly well honed psychic powers.  Hats  off to the writers and producers for allowing this actress to just portray your basic witch with all knowing abilities. No mention of her “handicap” in terms of this role.  Nicely played, Hollwyood.   Dennis O’hare was Burned Guy is season one.     He’s back this year as Spalding,  the school’s mute butler/man servant/factotum with long, stringy  Edgar Winter-ish hair.

Lilly Rabe returns.    She was Mrs. Montgomery is season one, the possessed nun last year and this go round, she’s a witch with the powers of necromancy.    She brings the dead back to life.   A re-animator, if you will.    Lilly has always been one of my AHS stable of actors.     She’s spunky.    Plus, her mother was none other than the late,  great  Jill Clayburgh.    A talented

actress who’s star rose and fell in the late seventies, early 80′s.    Back then she was most ubiquitous.  In every movie, or so it seemed, paired up on theater marquees with Burt Reynolds and other A-listers of the era.    Her stock fell in the early 90′s.   Yes, she had the gall to age and well, Hollywood frowns on natural body processes. Her last film was “Bridesmaids” in which she played Kristin Wiig’s mother.    She died from a lengthy bout with cancer shortly after the film wrapped.

Kathy Bates joins the cast this year who plays New Orleans socialite Madame LaLaurie (love the last name, by the way),  a very real New Orleans character who back in the early 1800′s, treated her slaves and servants with a form of sadism that would make Dr.  Mengele cringe.   I like La Bates in most roles and hope she can pull this off.

Angela Bassett is given a co-starring role as well.  She comes on board as Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. Apparently, Voodoo and witchcraft are like big rival union bosses in the magic underworld of New Orleans, so we can expect lots of story lines about pins stuck in dolls vs. bubbling cauldrons.

Speaking of Bassett, she has never looked better.   She’s absolutely stunning in this role.    The woman’s skin is incredible.   Still beautiful.

Gabourey  Sidibe rounds out the cast as Queenie.    Remember her from the movie, “Precious”?    She too is a witch,  and her powers involve being a human Voodoo doll.   She can shove her arm into a frying pan filled with breaded shrimp just a bubblin’ away and she wouldn’t feel a thing—but her intended victim would.   His arm would–out of the blue–turn beet red and blister up.   Next thing you know, it’s goodbye arm, hello charred cinder stick.       As for the others, Zoe kills during the act of mating.    Nan is psychic,   Madison has telekinetic powers (you know, like Carrie)  and Cordelia (Sarah Paulsen) is the school’s Headmistress.   She’s a witch too but so far, her only power seems to be having a green thumb.  She’s a bad ass gardener. We’ve yet to see her mojo. Cordelia is also the daughter of Fiona (Jessica Lange), the witch Supreme, who possesses all the powers combined, including some pretty bad ass saliva.

Queenie is a direct linear descendant of Tituba, the slave girl was the very first person in Salem to be accused of consorting with the devil.    She was arrested and jailed for her crimes, but never convicted.    After she was released from prison after squealing on several other young girls in the community who were tried and executed (read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible or watch a few episodes of “Bewitched” circa 1972…the season which they learn son Adam also has powers) everyone lost track of old Tituba.    It was never really discerned if she was actuslly practicing witch or not, but I think every time the Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots have a bad season, the answer becomes clearer.   Payback’s a bitch.

In fact, all the young sorcereses have connections to the first American witches in Salem circa the late 1600′s.   After the first few were executed, the sourcing witches remained anonymous as best they could before seeking the safety of asylum in New Orleans. Behavioral problems forced the families of these young women to end them to a very special private boarding school in New Orleans.  It’s like a Hogwartz for girls to help them use their powers wisely and to perpetuate witches and witchcraft for posterity. Seems like in being born a witch was an abortion stimulus in the world of Coven:  Season III.   Self-hating witches  wanted the buck to stop with them so they either elected not to procreate in the first place or aborted the babies before being born, named Tabitha and given the chance to turn a toy horse into Thomas Edison, thus forcing daddy Darren to convince a potential  client AND boss man, Larry Tate that their firm,  McMann and Tate had their best  advertising interests at heart and should be given the account.

Lilly Rabe’s  character, Mist Day,  will eventually join the girls at the school.   Just for bringing a pigeon back to life in the middle of some uber religious strychnine drinking service outdoors, she was  burned by her fellow church members.  Guess she did a number on herself lilly and mombecause she was popped up and surprised Zoe after she piled Mr. Piecemeal Kyle into the car  to escape the morgue.    They had to because shortly after Kyle came back to life, he and Zoe were  discovered in the morgue by an employee.  A fight ensues with grunting and screaming and bing, bang boom,  Zombie Kyle suddenly becomes a murderer facing 20 to life.

But Misty Day can  bring Khim back to life where he’s able to speak and walk and the best part of all?    If he and Zoe decide to date, sex will be a breeze because he’s already dead!!!

In other AHS Season III news, Madame Lalaurie kills a slave who happens to be a boyfriend of Marie Laveau, so with the help of a lynch mob of current and former slaves,  she drugs Lalaurie with a potion that gives her eternal life.   She’s then wrapped in chains, placed in a coffin and buried alive  on the Lalaurie estate.   She lived through wars, racism Katrina and Huey long!!!

Back to present day…

On a field trip with the young witches, Fiona (Jessica Lange)  takes them on a tour of the notoriously haunted Lalaurie House.   Nan looks down psychically under some bricks and realizes there’s a casket buried below.     Fiona, who’s obsessed with eternal life and beauty, realizes it must be Madame Lalaurie down there somewhere.    She hires some guys to exhume the coffin and when it’s opened, out plops a very alive, but very dirty Madame Lalaurie.    Fiona wants to know what her secret for eternal life is.  So she kidnaps Lalaurie, takes her back to the school and ties her up and gags her.    I’m not sure why this is important to Fiona.  In the opening sequence of episode I, you can see her in the crowd at a witch’s execution in 1692 Salem.     I’m no  Pythagoras,  but wouldn’t that make her something like…..321 years old this year????  She still looks pretty good to me.

Then there’s a scene from episode II that pits old rivals Marie Laveau and Fiona exchanging words on a battle field that that comes in the form of a black hair salon in the Ninth Ward.     Fiona goes there, perhaps seeking a process, and perhaps, seeking chance encounter with her old nemesis, Marie Laveau, who just happens to look great in cornrows AND also owns the shop.

I’m leaving out a lot and this review is rambling.  My apologies.

In closing,  I’m not in love with season III.   Not yet, anyway.    I’ll give it a few more episodes,  but it better hurry and congeal into a solid form of entertainment.    I don’t think I’m asking for much.   I’m just a viewer who likes a cohesive script.  I hate Swiss Cheese story lines, those with gaping holes that lack logic. Especially the ones that are never addressed.  In season I, we never learned why Murder House had become Murder House and why dying on property guaranteed your ghostly return.    In season II, we never knew the reason why the Nazi doctor created the zombie creatures that lived in the woods behind the asylum or the relevance of the aliens being in the story line or why they abducted hot chicks only to return them pregnant before the season ender.

Wait…that might actually be fully explainable.

This  year,  I’d like to see less of Fiona’s version of Krav Maga.   When pissed or threatened, she can body slam people by teleporting them against the wall. Not impressed. I want more intrigue.   And more magic that makes sense.    Thank God for special affects.   If we are to witness magic performed in Coven, I for one, am most grateful that  special effects have improved   since the days of flying ash trays courtesy of very visible fishing lines in the days of  “Bewitched”.

We shall see what the coming weeks will bring and I will continue to bring to you my take on the latest episodes of the newest season of American Horror Story.      But if the producers and writers really want to make me happy, insert a character like Aunt Clara from Bewitched.   You know, an older, kind hearted, but eccentric witch who’s magic has run a foul, a victim of her years.    Well kids, I wouldn’t be surprised if I get my wish.  I have a feeling that perennial AHS actress, Francis Conroy (she was milk-eyed Moira the Older maid in season I and the black winged Angel of Death in season II)  will fill that bill.     She had a brief part in the first episode when she (in a carrot orange wig wearing Dark Shadows chic) was in the scene when Zoe was taken by black-suited Albino thugs in RayBans and forced into admission at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies in New Orleans,  set at a lovely, very large, all-white Greek Revival home adjacent to the tracks of the St. Charles line, who’s front gate some friends and I tee-tee’d near, one very drunken night while partying in the Garden District of New Orleans.

A streetcar named Pissoir.

Indeed.