American Horror Story - S3, E7 (2013)

"The Dead"

GENERAL INFO:
Creators:  Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Producers:  20th Century Fox
Channel:  FX
Starring:  Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga,  Gabourey Sidibe, Kathy Bates, Sara Paulson, Angela Bassett, Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, Dennis O'Hare, Danny Huston
TV Rating:  MA LSV
Genre:  television, horror, thriller, drama, witches, magic, ghost, Voodoo
Scare score:  C-
Rating:  A-


Plot overview:  Zoe (Farmiga) deals with the confusion and stress of the regenerated Kyle (Peters) and Madison (Roberts), who are struggling to fill the emptiness within themselves.  Fiona (Lange), physically and perhaps emotionally weaker than ever, begins a romance with the recently released spirit of the Axeman (Huston), who admits that he has been watching over her ever since she arrived at Miss Robichaux's.  As the rift between (black) Voodoo practitioners and (white) witches grows stronger and more volatile, confused Queenie (Sidibe) wanders into Marie Laveau's (Bassett) store and later questions her allegiances to her 'sisters' as well as to her 'true friend' Delphine LaLaurie (Bates).

This really wonderful episode was all about revelations and realizations.  Not only were we as an audience treated to some major plot progression (so many questions answered!), but many of the characters themselves were taken out of their darkness and shown the light.

Primarily we have FrankenKyle and Madison, two lost souls filled with indescribable, dull pain and questions that they expresses either through flashbacks and muted fits of rage (Kyle) or very vocally and even, go figure, sexually (Madison).  I thought Madison's soliloquy at the beginning of the episode was extremely beautifully written (reminiscent of Fiona's monologue from several weeks ago) both with connections to young viewers (Generation Y represent) in a very real world, as well as to her own life of witchcraft and vice.  Either way, it put into perspective that some things that seem like life or death to teenagers today really are life and death for the recently revived Madison.  Our starlet reveals to us why she turned to drugs, sex, and alcohol during her lifetime, and why she continues searching for fulfillment in Round 2.  This search leads her to Kyle, who seems to manage to fill that hole.  Zing.

*SPOILER ALERTS*

As she continues to grow in power, self confidence, and even wrathful capabilities (apparently murder means nothing to young witches), Zoe simultaneously learns more about herself (and the Coven) while feeling more isolated and alone.  It doesn't help that Madison quickly beds Zoe's unlikely crush, and who knows if all three of them becoming bedfellows together will help anyone.

Fiona continuously realizes her own mortality, what with her hair falling out when she least expects it (or least wants its to).  To be perfectly honest, I must have missed the part where that became a thing; I know she was doing cancer treatments- but why?  If she has cancer, I missed that part.  I remember seeing her in the chair in the clinic, and I thought she was just doing it to get the drugs and enjoy that high, but now she's suffering these consequences.  When she whipped out the razor I was pretty shocked, and even though it seemed weirdly placed within this episode, according to the preview for the next episode, the hair will come off.  Our Supreme also realizes her need for companionship, and strangely enough her pairing with the reembodied spirit of a serial killer seems to be the right guy for her "final love affair" that she expressed a desire for before her time comes to an end.  One thing is for sure, and that's that Fiona is a complex character filled with both good and bad.  Unfortunately, as we the audience begin to see more of that good, it seems her own Coven is discovering the bad and wanting to kill her off for it.

Speaking of which, Laveau and her followers aside, this Coven is undoing itself.  Several witches have said so far that the Coven's biggest threat was right there inside the group, and they were right - only it might not be an individual person but rather a scared, vindictive attitude within each of them.  This frightened and fading democracy that is the Coven is faltering amid their own petty quarrels and differences, therefore allowing the autocracy of Laveau's Voodoo to grow stronger and stronger.

It comes as no surprise to me that Queenie has, for lack of a better term, come over to the dark side.  Queenie has always had an obvious connection to the Voodoo practitioners based on her being a scion of Tituba (read here), exemplified by her power of being a human voodoo doll (in case we weren't already convinced).  Unfortunately, Queenie seems to have showed us her true colors here by turning over her slave-turned-friend Delphine, who we've seen grow and even modernize a little bit since her excavation.  There was a lot of interesting talk about "true friendship" this episode, and a lot of examples of it being broken: e.g. Fiona promising to be a friend to Delia (Paulson) only to have Delia realize just what her mother is and has done; Madison taking Zoe under her wings and Zoe helping bring Madison back to life only for Madison to sleep with Zoe's crush; Delphine coming to create a equal relationship with Queenie, only for Queenie to trade her in to the Voodoo girls for a spot in their clan.  This might superficially be a critique of our own society, about the favors we try to gain with people and the relationships we try to maintain with people for our own gain.  It is also the very foundation of the growing fissure between the bonds of the Coven that will surely bring the sisterhood to its knees or otherwise towards some great change.

Do we think Laveau will fully accept Queenie now?  In terms of realistic horrors, this season has clearly had a lot of emphasis on racism, but not only vocalized and manifested racism, but subtle, unspoken, and ignored racism shown in small ways by the disconnect between Queenie and her white classmates and in big ways by the reminder of Katrina and all the truths it revealed about modern New Orleans and the situation in the 9th Ward.  Horror Buff still doesn't trust the Voodoo Queen, he just admires her beauty and respect-demanding nature.  Angela Bassett is easily one of the coolest actresses to grace this season.  Still, I think Queenie's role in this war between witchcraft and Voodoo has yet to be seen, whether it be as a doll subjected to the pains and horrors of either side or as a strong leader like her ancestor Tituba must have been.

As in the previous episode, Delia continues having her strong and shocking revelations in moments of sight and clarity.  Unfortunately, her sight might just be coming a little to late, and as it only comes in fractions, the whole truth becomes much harder to understand.  Justice may be blind, but the audience of AHS is not, and surely we are all rooting for Fiona to come to terms with her crimes and vices in order to save this Coven.  Delia seems to have embarked on her own witch hunt though, much as her loony hubby (Josh Hamilton) remains engaged in himself.  Who knows where she'll stop?

Are our witches realizing what's truly important in their own stories a little too late?  Where is Nan (Jamie Brewer) to save them all?  Will Myrtle (Frances Conroy) be vengeful and evil when she returns (next episode?)?  Will the unstable Misty Day (Lily Rabe) be an asset or hindrance to the Coven as it undoes itself?  Will Voodoo or witchcraft prove stronger this time around?

Final critique:  I love this show.  The horror has been subtle this time around, unless you're unnerved by things like 'blood' and enchanted, disembodied tongues.  This time around, the true horror seems to lie more within our characters, in their motives, their confusion, their need to fill the very human, very emotional emptiness within themselves in physical and material ways (not surprisingly, there are religious motifs in this season as well).  The biggest threat to the Coven at this moment is the Coven itself, and as tensions mount with Voodoo, it's only a matter of time before these great feminine forces find themselves in a confrontation of epic proportions.