05 “Burn, Witch. Burn!” (American Horror Story: Coven) [SPOILERS]


We’re drawing near to the halfway point in the season now, and so far I’ve loved the latest round of American Horror Story. Its usual simmer and sparkle has been only enhanced by the New Orleans vibe which it has wrapped around itself like a mantle.

The last episode, though, I wasn’t as thrilled by. As I said at the time, it felt like half an episode, going through the motions and incorporating shades of seasons gone by too readily and too completely in place of innovation. Put simply it wasn’t as delightfully baffling as I’ve come to appreciate.

So it falls to episode 5 to bring back the sparkle.

Which makes it all the more disappointing that it didn’t.

The end of “Fearful Pranks Ensue” had a lot of promise. It ended with a couple of cliffhangers, chiefly Marie Laveau making zombie-flavoured war on the coven, and Cordelia getting acid to the face thanks to a mysterious robed figure. Plenty of scope for shenanegans.

Firstly, Cordelia. The acid (yep, that is what it was) has blinded her, and Fiona is distraught. In a typically weird scene she wanders in a haze of alcohol and drugs through the hospital, stopping to bring a woman’s stillborn baby back to life in her arms. Aside from the worst-staffed hospital in the world, this was a pretty good scene — though it does jar slightly that Fiona can raise the dead but not heal Cordelia.

As for the zombie attack, Zoe tries to lock everyone in the safety of the school, but for reasons best known to themselves everyone else seems to want to go outside. Where the angry zombies are. Also, the change between evil nineteenth century Lalaurie and her present day counterpart I suppose is explainable through seeing her family die and spending some hundred and fifty years in a box, but still…

When the council turn up again (I’m pretty sure that it is the council — the matron, the vicious queen, and the charity shop explosion) so that Myrtle can have another stab at getting rid of Fiona, it backfires on her a little too easily. Coupled with the least surprising final scene twist in AHS history, I’m very much hoping that there’s something bigger at work. It’s still unclear precisely what happened with Cordelia’s blinding, but that doesn’t make me care more about the witchy politics.

There were highlights. The ongoing hints of a relationship between Nan (I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again Jamie Brewer has been an excellent discovery by AHS) and Luke is just the sort of thing I want of this series — though it will undoubtedly end badly.

So too, the Spalding-interludes are transforming into something sad and deeply unsettling, a lingering pathos which was never quite achieved with Larry Harvey in Murder House.

But the ongoing hints that Zoe will be the next supreme are starting to disappoint. Her chainsaw wielding defence against the zombies wasn’t the series’ highest ebb, but I could appreciate the wacky and the homage. But she’s the most obvious choice for supreme, and I was hoping for something a bit more…unexpected. Which I may still get, for all I know.

(Part of me is hoping that a Cordelia scene was the actual supreme-hint, and Zoe is a red herring which I’ve willfully fallen for.)

Also, where is Kyle? Has everyone forgotten about him now? Or is he still trick-or-treating around? Because, ah, Halloween’s done now.

The biggest problem that “Burn, Witch. Burn!” had was that it again didn’t feel like it contributed much. A multitude of storylines were advanced, but so microscopically that I wasn’t sure why they’d bothered. Far from concluding a two-parter feel of “Fearful Pranks Ensue”, it seemed to cap off the clliffhangers and wander aimlessly around for the rest of the run time.

It felt, very disappointingly, like the previous episode had been some fifteen minutes too long, so they lopped off the extra, and padded it out to a full forty minutes. Must do better next week, AHS.

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