Part of what makes American Horror Story such a dizzying TV experience is how the show deals with the whole idea of a status quo. On one hand, this is the TV show that has become famous for its pedal-to-the-metal storytelling: Characters die, get possessed by Satan, reveal themselves as serial killers, and tear their own eyes out with gardening shears. It’s kitchen-sink acid camp. And Coven has been the most mostest American Horror Story yet.
Generally speaking, the fantasy genre works best when the storytellers construct certain rules to define their fantasy worlds. We implicitly understand, say, the difference between magic in Lord of the Rings and magic in Harry Potter, and we assume that the authors understand it even more. On American Horror Story, magic can do everything and nothing, until it can’t, but then it can. On the antepenultimate episode of Coven, Delphine told Spalding that she wanted to kill Marie, but she couldn’t, because Marie is immortal. “No, you can kill an immortal!” said Spalding. “Just feed her some Benadryl!” Delphine did so – and Marie remained invulnerable. “Oh yeah, you can’t kill her,” said Spalding. “She’s immortal. Duh.” On a show built to last for years this might get maddening, but the single-season story arcs of AHS actually encourage logical liquidity: You don’t want a boring little thing like continuity to get in a way of the latest bout of cheeky madness.
And yet, American Horror Story’s fast-paced rep implies that the show never pauses for anything, that the chessboard keeps on getting knocked over. But the latest episode was a relatively slow-paced affair. It briefly reestablished the closest thing this season has ever had to a status quo, before proceeding – once again – to burn it all down.
Once again, the Coven found themselves mourning one of their own, although I think that Nan is the first deceased witch this season to actually stay dead long enough for a funeral. Fiona said that Nan “fell in the tub,” and then looked at her flock, daring anyone to say anything different. The witches all agreed that it was too bad Misty wasn’t around to bring Nan back to life. Nobody seemed too concerned about Misty, who in all likelihood was doing her best Uma-Thurman-in-Kill-Bill-Volume-2 impression in a mausoleum nearby.
There were a couple of unexpected visitors. Queenie showed up at the funeral, leading an un-decapitated (recapitated?) Delphine. Queenie had Delphine on a leash, just like how Bob Hoskins had Jet Li on a leash in that movie where Jet Li gets unleashed. The traitor witch and the immortal racist quickly took up their old places in Miss Robichaux’s.
The onetime Madame LaLaurie was back at her maid chores. And oh, how she despised her lot in life. Delphine kicked the show off with her very own Meredith Grey narration, describing the wild antics at the Witch Academy from her own perspective. The Mistress of the House, slinking out with no underwear on. The little blonde witches re-enacting Wild Things: Diamond in the Rough with their corpse husband. At one point, Delphine chastised Madison for forgetting to flush the toilet. “You flush my s—, bitch,” said Madison.
I’m not sure if Emma Roberts has purposefully turned her performance into the modern incarnation of Nomi Malone, or if it was just fate, but I like it. If she sticks around for another season of American Horror we may have to radically rewrite the current standings in the Roberts Family Sweepstakes. (ASIDE: Julia Roberts was in Ryan Murphy’s Eat Pray Love. Eric Roberts will do anything for a dollar, bless him. Is there any ambient chance that American Horror Story could just be a Roberts Family Reunion? Throw in Tony Roberts as the randy grampa! END OF ASIDE.)
Delphine had her little victories. She took Madison’s leavings and cooked it into a fine soup and served it straight to the witches. I have to believe that was a razor-sharp homage to The Help, which is still the only movie featuring fecal pastry to receive a Best Picture nomination. (Besides It’s a Wonderful Life, wherein all of life is really just one big symbolic fecal cake.) But Delphine was troubled. In a prologue, we saw what amounts to her origin story: The day she chopped a head off a chicken and first became obsessed with blood. Blood in all its forms, but most specifically the blood of her slaves. In the present day, a gardener cut his hands with gardening shears. Delphine offered to help him. She tied him upstairs and played This Little Piggy until there were no more little piggies, and she had to play This Little Intestine.
Spalding the Friendly Ghost appeared to her. He could tell she was troubled. But he wanted to help her. If she would just get him a very special object from outside, he would tell her the secret to killing an immortal.
NEXT: Further proof that someone’s always the third wheel in a threesome