After the slight trough in episode quality around the Halloween point, the past few episodes of American Horror Story: Coven have managed to convince me afresh that it is back on track to being one of the finest TV shows that I’ve seen.
That, of course, hangs by a tenuous thread, never more than another dull or duff installment away from failure.
We’ve now reached a vital point in the story of Coven. Past the midway point, barrelling steadily towards a doubtless blood soaked climax. Secrets are slowly being revealed, and answers eked out to questions asked since the beginning.
There have still been elements that I’m less than convinced on, but on the whole I’m happy. So how did episode nine fit into all of this?
Actually, I have to say, I think it has been the best episode of the series yet.
For starters, I was right when I predicted a third faction in the mix — organised witchhunters led by creepy Hank’s father, under the guise of a financial institution. Which is kind of witty. Anyway, the mercilessness of the “Delphi Trust” is underscored where daddy Hank takes little Hank witch hunting. Hank’s own mild incompetence is underscored by the present day dressing down dad gives him.
The addition of a third faction is a stroke of genius. Truthfully, they’ve been there from the beginning, but crystallising them into a tangible threat ups the ante as we come into the final act of the series.
Meanwhile, the storyline of Nan, Luke and Luke’s mother Joan gave the excellent Jamie Brewster something to do, but seemed to see-saw one way then the other a bit. The shock ending makes clear that it’s leading up to something bigger, but I still feel they could have done more.
For the most part this was a Cordelia-centric episode. The way that clearly damaged Myrtle exacted her revenge on the council and restored Cordelia’s sight was perfect, AHS at its most gruesome best. And the developing siege mentality at the coven — with FrankenKyle gaining a new and improved role as “guard dog” — after Hank’s botched witchhunter attack in the previous episode is palpable with tension.
My favourite part, though, was LaLaurie. Kathy Bates’ disembodied head cracking wise on a table was always going to be a winner, and when at the the end Queenie’s “educating” starts to soften her, it provides her most touching moment of the series so far.
And the ending. We’re back to gut-punch television, as Hank gears up and launches what has to be the most inept offensive ever on the voodoo tribe. He slaughters everyone except the two who have shown magical abilities — Queenie and Marie Laveau. The moment when Queenie shoots herself to kill Hank before he can kill Marie is a jaw dropping moment — and the slump of her head to the floor leaves the question of whether her part is now played.
So we now have a witch/voodoo war with the witchhunters to look forward to. Like I said, best episode of the season so far.