American Horror Story: Coven – “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks”
It seems Coven is finally turning its back on the magical race war, and we’re all better off for it. “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks” is as close to “classic American Horror Story” as the season has gotten, a good balance of insanity and silliness that takes the story into new, potentially interesting places.
Probably the most notable aspect of this episode are its two guest stars. First, Stevie Nicks shows up as a “fictional” version of herself—because if anyone actually is a witch, it’s Stevie Nicks—to give Misty Day some clothes and perform not one, but two musical numbers for us. Also appearing is the nigh-unrecognizable Lance Reddick as Papa Legba, an actual voodoo figure the show reimagines as a cocaine-guzzling, soul-buying, innocent-soul-sacrifice-requiring demon in creepy-ass makeup. Turns out he’s the reason for Laveau’s immortality, as she sold her soul to him for it. His innocent soul requirement is also annual, meaning Laveau has to steal a baby for him early in the episode. Fiona tries to sell her soul to him, even offering some primo blow and to murder the people she loves (a reasonable offer, if you ask me), but he turns her down because—surprise surprise—Fiona doesn’t actually have a soul. Poor Fiona.
With the magical race war off the table thanks to Hank, the world’s worst witch hunter, Fiona and Marie Laveau are now teaming up against… everyone? In this episode alone, Hank’s dad and his witch-hunting cover business are shut down due to some bizarre spell involving a rat maze full of rats and traps and surrounded by wads of cash and the two drown Nan in a tub as a switcheroo sacrifice to Papa Legba in place of the baby Laveau stole. While this story is moderately confusing and difficult to follow, watching Lange and Bassett play off each other more is worth whatever contortions the plot must go through.
Madison spends her part of the episode with Misty Day, as the two tag along to a jazz funeral and discuss the politics of being Supreme. But things go sideways in a fun scene where Madison, in a show of her own budding powers (more on that in a second), traps Misty Day in an empty coffin minutes before it goes into its tomb. Zoe, on the other hand, accompanies Nan (pre-drowning) to the hospital, where they finally learn of Luke’s death. The two then hop over to Patti LuPone’s house, where she reveals that Luke is now a vase of ashes and therefore un-resurrectable. Nan immediately knows Patti LuPone murdered Luke because clairvoyance, then uses her new-found mind-control powers to force LuPone to down a bottle of bleach.
The battle for Supremecy is one of the more confusing elements of Coven. Of course, simply revealing who it is would be too simple for Murphy and Falchuk, but the rules of the young witch’s powers and how the Supremecy is determined—just like the rules of life/death/resurrection—are basically nonexistent. Misty Day, Nan, and Madison all started show new powers, which is exciting, but they’re all the same powers, which is too easy narratively and lessens the uniqueness of their individual powers. Besides, it seems more and more it’s just going to end up being Zoe anyway, which would be a disappointing and predictable end to the story.
And speaking of disappointing, both Queenie’s physical absence (Gabourey Sibide is one of the most electric performers of the season) and the rest of her sister witches’ complete lack of interest in whether or not she’s still alive was an odd element of the story that I couldn’t just ignore. Sure, it creates “tension” to keep a character off-screen after a possibly fatal moment, but it’s not like the events of the salon are completely ignored here. Laveau doesn’t just move into the school, her presence is known and accepted by those living there. And yet no one is worried about poor Queenie? I call bullshit.
But for the little problems, “The Magical Mystery Tour of Stevie Nicks and Lance Reddick’s Rob Zombie Cosplay” delivers the kind of fun, creepy energy American Horror Story can at its best. The changing tides bode well for the end of a shaky season, and a good ending could save even the most problematic parts of Coven.
Some solid laughs courtesy of Frances Conroy: we cut to Fiona working in her greenhouse, creepy theremin music in the background, only for the camera to pull back and reveal Myrtle Snow playing an actual theremin in the greenhouse. When Fiona insults the instrument, Myrtle replies with one of Conroy’s best lines of the season: “Don’t be a hater, dear.”
Besides Queenie, Kathy Bates’ head is also notably absent from this episode. Poor gal is probably tired of the DVD menu from that Civil Rights documentary.
The logistics of almost all spells used in this season make zero sense, though I admit that my knowledge of various types of witchcraft is very small. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon did a bang-up job filming that mouse spell though.
I’m taking bets on how far into next week’s episode we get before Misty, Nan, and Patti LuPone all reappear. Heck, I’ll throw Luke and Hank in there for good measure.
Oh yeah, no Evan Peters this week either. Probably too busy humping something wildly.
Fuck you, Axeman.