07 “The Dead” (American Horror Story: Coven) [SPOILERS]


Apparently, the up-and-down rollercoaster of American Horror Story‘s abusive relationship with its fans is nothing new. From what I gather that was the view of people watching week by week with Murder House and Asylum too.

Given that I watched both series after the fact, if not in one sitting then in substantial chunks, I didn’t get that experience. I saw the stories as a whole, and even with all of their flaws there was never the lingering sense of “Huh…” after the credits rolled because I would just roll straight onto the next one.

Box-set style viewing. It’s the future, apparently.

Which is my long-winded way of saying that this Russian roulette thing where you never know if you’re getting a brilliant or mediocre episode is a bit of a bitch, isn’t it?

Thankfully, this was one of the chambers with a bullet. Erm…I mean it was a good episode. I think I may have overworked that metaphor.

But yes, we’re back on track with “The Dead”, little by little making up for the dull nothing-y-ness of “Fearful Pranks Ensue” and “Burn, Witch. Burn!“.

The opening flashback shows us Kyle with his college buddies, talking about what he hopes to do with his life — only to be immediately juxtaposed with present-day Frankenstein’s neanderthal Kyle. It’s a good injection of…well, life which Evan Peters’ character has been sadly lacking, and leads into a moving attempted suicide, which is hampered only by some of the most wooden acting in the series so far, from Taissa Farmiga.

The resurrected Madison getting her claws into Kyle was also a good touch. Her absence from the last few episodes — being dead ‘nall — has dimmed my memory of what an awful person she is, so seeing her back with a vengeance as it were was a bit of a shock — albeit a good one.

Not to mention that Zoe being unable to have what she wants — Kyle; due to her cursed vagina and all — means that spoilt child Madison getting everything she wanted was a doubly effective. It was slightly undermined by the dead-dead-living threesome at the end, but since I have no idea what backs up Madison’s claim that Zoe can’t hurt Kyle now, maybe the next episode opens with him re-deadified.

Who knows?

Elsewhere, the witchy politics is back in full swing, particularly with Queenie. After feeling left out at the coven, she approaches Marie LaveauAngela Bassett is in fine form here — and after learning a little more about how unpleasant LaLaurie used to be, turns her over to the voodoo queen. File that under “things she’ll regret later”.

And when she learns that Fiona did indeed kill Madison (how can that be a surprise to anyone?), Cordelia enlists Zoe to help her kill her mother. It’s a nice set up, which I imagine will tie in with Myrtle’s return, but it didn’t do much this episode.

Fiona’s character, meanwhile, keeps getting deeper. After going home with the released Axeman, she’s surprisingly nonchalant about corpses in bathtubs. Somewhat less nonchalant, though, about the Axeman having ghost-stalked her throughout her years at the school. But she is still battling with her age, and the ravaging effects of her cancer treatments.

The poignant scenes in front of mirrors where she is forced to face down her own mortality really do use Jessica Lange’s acting range to its potential. Particularly the scene where she backs down from shaving her head. In the end, Fiona embraces the creepy whispering Axeman as the source of the devotion she needs to sustain her personality, if not her physical form.

As I said, this was much better, even with its flaws. With the number of dead people wandering around the coven is starting to look a little like Murder House, but all the plotlines have visible direction, and what’s more a clear convergence point. Unlike some of the previous episodes, this picked its characters and stuck to them, eschewing a grab-bag of everybody. I appreciate that, and I appreciate the properly-paced build up.

In the end, I don’t need answers right now. What I do need is to be able to believe that they are coming.

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