Last night I was laid low with a migraine and didn’t live tweet American Horror Story: Coven, though I was watching and shrieking right along with everybody else. So I’m thinking maybe now, as we go into the long dry spell that is the holiday break, might be a good time to stop and take stock of where we are in more than 140 characters.
Regular readers of the blogness might recall that I started off the season after the premiere saying that I loved this new story of the New Orleans witches and the voodoo queens who loathe them even though it punched nearly every button on my hate list for horror. Poisonous poontang, crazy church ladies, rape rape and more rape, and anal atrocity when all else fails to shock – those tropes are all still there in almost every episode, and I don’t like’em any better now than I did in October. But the good still outweighs the bad, and even if it didn’t, I couldn’t give up this story without finding out how it comes out to save my sanity.
So, the bad:
- When Queenie begged the Minotaur to “love” her in the garden shed and ended up with even lower self esteem and obvious internal injuries. They almost lost me with that one. Queenie deserved better as a character, and though she did a fantastic job of playing the scene without flinching, Gabourey Sidibe deserves better as an actress. In a recent episode when Queenie slaughtered a would-be rapist, I saw what they did there, contrasting the old Queenie with the new. But it still felt clumsy, cruel and unnecessary.
- All those damned crazy mamas. What. The. Fuck, Y’all? Did Mare Winningham lose a bet? And unless she’s going to rise up with something brilliant in the final act, the Patti Lupone character is a waste of space put in for no better reason than to make mean fun of Christian fundamentalism in all its repressed, Lysol-wielding glory. All I can say is bleah.
- The way nobody on the voodoo side of New Orleans has any personality except Marie Laveau. Over at Miss Robichaux’s Academy, even the portraits hanging on the walls have an intricate backstory. At Marie Laveau’s, people just come in to get their hair done and get shot.
- The pacing on the witch hunter plot. While the writers may have known about Hank’s family history and the big bad Delphi Trust from the beginning, it felt like this was a great big daemon ex machina brought in last night to push everything to a crisis for the final act, a brilliant notion that occurred to somebody over their Thanksgiving turkey. I like it; it works; it just seems like too big a plot point to have been a secret until this point in the story. But I’m willing to be talked out of this one; this may just have been a slow reveal on Hank.
But enough nitpicking; on to the Very, Very Good:
- Kathy Bates, Kathy Bates, and ever more Kathy Bates. No other actress could have played the character arc of The Education and Dismemberment of Delphine LaLaurie and made it not only make sense but be genuinely moving. We know she’s a monster, the worst on display here, and yet we’re rooting for her; we want her to get better; we want Queenie to save her soul. Last night watching her disembodied head weep to hear Odetta sing about freedom should have been Grand Guignol comedy, but it wasn’t. Intercut with the horrific images of Hank’s massacre in the hair salon, it made me cry. And that’s the thing about this whole story, the thing that makes it better than the first season. It’s not just cool and edgy and scary and shocking – it’s human and heartfelt, too.
- Every little thing about Fiona. Speaking of touching scenes, nothing has gotten to me more all season than Fiona helping the grieving mother in the hospital resurrect her stillborn daughter. I love her twisted love for Cordelia; I love her desperate love for herself; I love the way she loves the Axe Man and the way he loves her back. This part was obviously written purely as a love letter to Jessica Lange, and she’s proving she’s worth every word.
- The weird-ass love triangle between Zoe, Kyle (better known at our house as Frankenwiener), and Madison. It tickles me to see these two teen-age girls, one outwardly shy and inwardly certain, the other just the opposite, create their own version of Prince Charming and share him like a toy. Extra points for the way Fiona has taken him up as a pet.
- Every moment between Queenie and Delphine.
- Every shot of Angela Bassett’s exquisitely beautiful face which somehow manages to be stony and expressive at the same time.
- Myrtle, the most specific and cuckoo version of the classic crone figure I’ve ever heard tell of.
- All the incredible visual details and layers of gorgeous horror, from Madison’s outfits to the sight of Myrtle burning at the stake – this is what gothic should always look like. For once, a piece of art lives up to its title sequence.
So now we wait until January 8. Truth be told, I don’t really care who the new Supreme is; I just want to know what happens next.