Although we've come to the end of the road
Still I can't let you go
It's unnatural, you belong to me, I belong to you.
—Boyz II Men, "End of the Road"
That was a song I just wrote, did you like it? I wrote it because I'm sad. One of the most important things that has ever happened to me, a TV series called American Horror Story: Coven, is now over. A lot of people are going to be like, "That's okay, cheer up, there will be other important things down the road. More worthwhile things. Better things." First of all, shut your mouth. Second of all, no there won't be. Not like this.
Not like this.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's American Horror Story is a national treasure. When you watch as much supposed "prestige" television as I do, you realize just how special and audacious something like this is. AHS doesn't care about coherent storytelling or logic or reasonable pay-offs. (Most shows ONLY care about those things.) This one operates firmly in dream logic territory because guess what? That's where horror lives too. And guess who horror's next-door neighbor is? Comedy. Both genres thrive in that weird subconscious level below rational thought. Explain a joke and it's no longer funny. Explain a villain's motivations and he's no longer scary. Anybody complaining about AHS's lack of coherence is not only judging it by an incorrect rubric, they're really just admitting being uncomfortable without the safety net of traditional storytelling and they're mistaking that admission with criticism. This is the rare show where both plaudits and disdain are accurate responses, but the fact that that effect is intentional is what pushes it into genius territory. Nothing is less cool than using someone's self-deprecation against them, and that's what the worst critics have been doing: "It's stupid, it makes no sense, it's silly." THAT'S THE POINT. Okay phew, glad we could clear that up.
I could probably write another paragraph about how this show is a celebration of the actress; how it casually represents certain types of people who are legit never represented on TV; how its gay sensibility only seems overbearing when you actively ignore the fact that 99% of TV shows are geared toward straight dudes. But all of those arguments would mean I somehow felt the need to defend this thing, and AHS really requires no defense. It speaks for itself whether you like those statements or not. And one of the main gifts inherent in AHS's weekly presence is in its wish for us to simply sit back and take it in without having to stress about it so much. And I have taken it in. Boy have I! It's been a very long while since I've been as mentally engaged and delighted by a weekly TV show, and longer still since basically everyone I know has felt the same way (and have been eager to discuss it at every social event for months). This is what was once known as water cooler television, a concept that may be going the way of the buffalo now that most of us watch things in marathons at different times. But Coven reignited that sense of community for my friends and me, and all because of how brain-blazingly unexpected most of it was. I obviously can't gush enough about this show, its importance, and its quality. Yes, quality. There are tons of reasonable complaints people could make about its various creative decisions, just make no mistake about how MANY creative decisions were made throughout the season. And good ones. Just a truly insane amount of inspiration was poured into this show. Coven was truly a gift.
Okay, as for this finale! It was obviously crazy and upsetting and moving: All the necessary ingredients of a post-climax epilogue, which was what this was. For me the question of who the next Supreme would be has always been a bit of a red herring. That question added structure and a bit of motivation to the characters' actions, but the appeals of Coven had much more to do with chaos and possibility and the infinite power of a casually tossed-off one-liner. So Cordelia's ascension to Supreme might be satisfying for some and outrageous to others, but I simply didn't care that much. What mattered is I was riveted from minute to minute, I was sickened and alarmed by certain moments, and moved to tears by others. That's what this show is really about. It's about the spontaneous and the audacious. "The Seven Wonders" was absolutely a winner for me.
LET'S TALK ABOUT IT?
So first of all, the episode began with a Stevie Nicks music video? I honestly did NOT expect that. And like most things on American Horror Story, my brain went to war with itself over whether this was supposed to be funny or amazing. It was both? It was both.
Stevie Nicks just walked into the academy and started lip-syncing a Stevie Nicks song! First of all, that is why I keep my front door locked. Nothing against Stevie Nicks, she is probably not a robber, but I just don't need people barging through my front door in a top hat and spinning around my living room singing Stevie Nicks songs. I get the impression that this doesn't happen too often at the coven academy but personally that happens to me every few weeks and I wish Stevie Nicks would cut it out. Now that I have installed several padlocks she just sort of knocks and I pretend I'm not home and she stands in my holly bushes singing and I just have to wait it out. It's better for both of us that way.
Anyway, it was all a day-before-the-trials montage in which all four remaining candidates were practicing their witch skillz all over the place. Zoe levitated a bed while learning how to read!
Madison lit candles with her brain and also turned regular bath water into a bubble bath, but don't ask me how because I'm fairly sure the answer is disgusting.
Misty Day (LOL) made a bud grow. Classic Misty Day (LOL) skill. Maybe try BRANCHING OUT more? (Horticulture pun.)
Queenie laid down on the floor where she could practice her voodoo because apparently there was going to be an extra-credit question involving voodoo? I don't know. I guess she just likes voodoo. This was great though:
Nan! I liked this acknowledgment that Nan was an essential part of the crew. And hey those were the paper dolls she made in the first episode! That was a nice touch. (P.S. Nan is definitely in hell, right? I know Papa Legba promised her treats, but is the king of voodoo hell very trustworthy? I feel like Nan is in hell to be honest. Sorry Nan.)
And then Stevie Nicks gave the girls her blessing (was this whole thing a blessing? I mean besides to us the viewers?) and then went on her way!
QUICK SOMEBODY LOCK THE DOOR. You never know who will come barging in next! Knowing this coven's luck it'll be Cyndi Lauper and nobody has time for that.
This looked like a delicious meal. Man, witches are weirdos.
I loved this whole Last Supper tableau. If you really think about it Jesus was definitely a witch. Remember in the original Last Supper when Jesus made Thomas slap himself? Just kidding people who are relidge, I don't wanna make you mad. Laughter has NO place in His kingdom. Anyway, witches toasting to certain death. Intense!
The next morning the tests of The Seven Wonders got underway! Pretty much everybody moved a candlestick because these witches are not so basic as to be unable to move dang candlesticks, you know?
I loved that Queenie seemed annoyed that she even had to do it. Like, duh. "YUP." (Queenie was amazing in this episode per usual.)
Um, so also THIS part made me laugh so much. The mind control tests!
HAHAH gosh I'm sorry. I'm not proud of myself for finding lady-on-lady violence so delightful on this show. (Hold up, I'm just going to take a minute to kick back and reminisce about the time Misty Day kicked Madison's butt ALL OVER THE PLACE. Aaaaahhhh. Nice.) But yeah, Gabourey Sidibe had already delivered one of the most consistently weird/funny performances this season but her self-slaps were especially perfect. Good job.
This just seemed gross to me. It was NOT nice of Madison to get Kyle involved:
But then she made him do THIS?
And then right after he did that Zoe mouth-attacked him?
And then Madison made him strangle Zoe? But I won't lie, Cordelia's intervention was also HIGHLY hilarious.
In fact, Cordelia's supervision of these trials was kind of amazing from the get-go. Just sitting there all blind and stern in her sunglasses and weird librarian couture. And when she casually tossed Kyle across the room it definitely occurred to me that she seemed a little TOO powerful to be sitting on the sidelines for this test. I SO SMART.
So then they all had to go to hell. The hard part was returning, though, and if they didn't do that before dawn they'd die. Queenie, Zoe, and Madison all returned quickly, though we only got to see Queenie's hell because there was leftover B-roll from the previous episode? Madison described hers as having a secondary role in NBC's Sound of Music Live (oh Ryan Murphy you catty B.), and Zoe's was having to break up with Kyle over and over on a loop because teenagers.
Unfortunately Misty Day (LOL) did NOT wake up with the rest of them!
And her hell seemed very terrible! It involved being forced to dissect a live frog, then reviving it, and then repeating the whole thing over and over.
(I really related to this frog btw.)
And then she couldn't escape! And then this happened:
Her body turned into ash! So just to get this straight, Misty Day (LOL) the gentle swamp bohemian not only WENT TO HELL, she died permanently in a way that prevented resurrection. OUCH. That one hurt. But it's not called American Good Times Story, you know? It was a tough break for such a wonderful character. But we knew there would have to be fatalities in this episode and she was merely the first.
Then everybody agreed to forget about Misty Day (LOL) and just play teleportation-tag on the lawn!
Obviously this shift in tone was completely out of nowhere, but I really liked seeing them cut loose like this. They'd been under a lot of hateful pressure recently and this was a delightful reminder that they're all just kids. And how cool to see everyone smiling!
BUT THEN WHOOPS! Oh Zoe, you went and did it good this time. (BTW what on EARTH?)
Fortunately one of the trials involves resurrection, so Queenie and Madison were tasked with doing that. (It was only fair, seeing as Madison and Queenie had both died previously. Zoe still had at least 1-up left.) Unfortunately Queenie just could not breathe the life back into Zoe, so that was it for her test. Which left only Madison! Except she did NOT want to revive her only remaining competition.
She passed the test anyway by reviving a dead house fly. Which, in my opinion that seems easier than reviving a human being, but I don't make the witch rules. Take it up with the witch refs.
Poor Kyle. His main lady and resurrector and bedmate and mouth-buddy was now dead! I bet NOW he was really starting to regret not going to Epcot.
So at this point it looked like awful Madison was the only remaining candidate for Supreme, and she was already mouthing off about how she planned to follow in Fiona's awful footsteps. That presented quite a conundrum for Cordelia!
Because NO DUH. Cordelia was going to have to challenge Madison for the title. So she did!
She basically breezed through the trials! Then came this one, the divination one, where she had to scan some pebbles and find a trinket hidden in the house. Something like that.
Cordelia did it NBD but Madison had HELLA problems. So she quit!
It was fantastic. She told everybody off and then threatened to report them to TMZ and then stormed out of the room. It was all very classy. I've definitely left rooms that way. But it also meant Cordelia was the new frontrunner for Supreme!
Anyway, then Kyle murdered Madison.
Then Spalding was like, "I'm BOUT IT." He didn't say that. But for a ghost he sure was nosy. Just kidding, all ghosts are nosy. Ghosts are jerks. 'Bust them ALL, in my opinion. But let's not lose track of things: Madison died! I really liked Madison. She was very mean and terrible but boy was she funny. I really hope Emma Roberts comes back next season, she was a very good addition to this show. R.I.P. Madison.
Oh, so that meant Cordelia was the last remaining candidate and she had one test left: resurrection!
And remember that whole thing about the Supreme being in perfect health? That suddenly happened too!
Her eyes grew back all of the sudden! And they had makeup on them! And her hair was looking real good even though she'd been lying on the floor for a few minutes. Man, being a witch isn't ALL terrible. Anyway, CONGRATS GIRL.
Coven was American Horror Story's second season in a row that ended with Sarah Paulson giving an interview. In this case one of the detectives from Homicide: Life on the Street was interviewing her about her decision to "come out" as a "witch" and openly invite other witches to come stay at the academy. I guess this was supposed to be a landmark, watershed thing for the coven, that they're coming out of hiding finally. But in real life aren't there constantly women claiming to be witches and everyone just assumes they have mental problems? Anyway, in this world that kind of thing is cool, so it was a victory for everybody.
UP NEXT: Liza Minnelli talks about her hip.
(That is the mega-clue about Season 4, right? Something Judy Garland related? Or maybe it was just a random Liza Minnelli reference because this show decided to do something gay FOR ONCE.)
Then Myrtle walked in and harshed Cordelia's vibes by reminding her that Myrtle was a legit murderer and needed to be executed again.
Haha Myrtle. She truly is an eccentric. Anyway, Cordelia eventually relented and agreed to murder her adoptive mother-figure. So suddenly we were back at the quarry stake!
Myrtle was careful to tell Cordelia how proud she was of Cordelia, in case there was any question about whose call this was. And then came Myrtle's most famous last word, another instantly quotable/.GIF-able line that only American Horror Story could pull off: She shouted out the name of her favorite bag designer.
Bye Myrtle! You were truly special.
Oh but then came a twist:
Fiona wasn't actually dead! She'd faked her own death by implanting a fake memory in Axeman's head by spitting in his mouth!
Apparently her plan was to bring herself close to death in order to see who the next Supreme was, and then murder that Supreme and then suck all the life back out of her again. Or something? It did not seem like a great plan, particularly when Fiona realized that her own daughter ended up being the Supreme! So that plan was off and it looked like Fiona was here to basically just say goodbye and sorry.
Because this is American Horror Story and Jessica Lange's on it, you were right to expect a final, tear-jerking speech and this one really worked on me. Fiona basically just explained why she'd been a bad mother: Having a child is just a ticking clock on your own life. But "I loved you plenty," she added. The expression on Cordelia's face confirmed that was news to her. Devastating stuff. Then Fiona kindly asked her daughter to finish her, Mortal Kombat-style.
And after a stirring speech by Cordelia that Fiona should face her death bravely for once, Fiona fought back tears, hugged her daughter (for once), and finally, finally passed away.
It was very sad, guys.
But then WHOOPS! Guess who went to hell?
The joke was that Fiona went to hell that was actually Axeman's heaven. So every morning she wakes up in a crappy cabin with Axeman shoving fish in her face and then they slap each other and she scream-cries about being in hell.
And she was NOT happy about the building materials.
Haha Papa Legba, you rascal. So yeah, fierce, independent, glamorous woman Fiona will now have to live in a hell where everything is low-rent and a man slaps her around. Yikes! Serves you right, I guess? Fiona did some very terrible things and a little last-minute redemption doesn't really erase them. Oh well. Literally enjoy hell, lady.
Whoa, check out the new butler! Something tells me the new students will prefer this butler to Spalding. What do you think? Sorry to be controversial.
And then we got the closing scene in which Cordelia cordially welcomed a gaggle of new witches! She made Zoe and Queenie her personal council, so they got promotions or honorary degrees or whatever it is this academy gives out. (They are still uneducated though, right?)
Yeah, I'm not going to lie, this probably isn't a happy ending. Remember how, over the course of the season, everyone had fights and tried to murder each other? Don't tell me that Cordelia being in charge will fix all that. She's probably only a few days away from somehow poking her eyes out again and then everything will devolve into a battle royale situation. But for now, though, everyone was hopeful.
And that was it! Cordelia was the Supreme, the academy's enrollment was robust. All the loose ends were tied up.
Well, all of them but THIS one:
WHO WAS THAT GUY? Why was he in the credits? Why didn't we learn more about him? Is he the Season 4 clue? What was UP with that bony demonbaby? He was adorable. Get out of my nightmares, though! Man I am going to miss him.
Well, that's that. This season is dunzo. I loved it with all of my heart. What a true celebration of actresses and comedy. Don't listen to bozos who complain about it being "a mess" or "it didn't add up" or "it was not as good as previous seasons." Those are FALSE COMPLAINTS. Television doesn't have to conform to some kind of formula. It doesn't have to set things up nor pay them off. It merely has to set off dazzling fireworks in our brains. I don't know if I've seen a drama as brave and hilarious as this one, nor something that trafficked so heavily in dream logic and, uh, nightmare imagery. I am always suspicious of people who think "it made no sense" or "it was unsatisfying" is a legit criticism. What they are really doing is stating a plain fact of a certain kind of storytelling: Few things are as unsettling as surprises, and that's what this show is about: Going its own way. Wait, isn't there a song about that? I can't remember. Anyway BYEEEEE
I love you very much and I hope to see you in voodoo hell.
LET'S DO THIS AGAIN IN OCTOBER!
... Are you mad about Misty Day's fate?
... Did Cordelia deserve to be Supreme?
... Did Fiona deserve her particular voodoo hell?
... Do you think Queenie will still think about the minotaur?
AIRED ON 1/13/2016
Season 5 : Episode 12