‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Season Finale Review

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Taissa Farmiga and Sarah Paulson in American Horror Story Coven Episode 13 American Horror Story: Coven Season Finale Review

[This is a review of American Horror Story: Coven episode 13. There will be SPOILERS.]

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If the past two seasons are anything to go by, the likelihood of there being some out-of-left-field revelation to wrap up the surprisingly unfussy and yet still imprecise season of American Horror Story: Coven seemed pretty high. That says a great deal about the horror anthology that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have created. Even after twelve episodes of Coven and its specific differences from season 1 and Asylum, the expectations for mind-bending lunacy are about as strong as the expectation for lax adherence to the already slipshod set of conventions the third season used to define its horror niche.

And yet, unlike the previous two seasons, Coven had been imparted with a specific goal, a clear destination for the narrative and its characters to arrive at come the season finale. This straightforward approach had its advantages and disadvantages in terms of how the story of Miss Robichaux’s Academy and its ever-dwindling student base would conclude. For one thing, this idea of there being a road map or particular destination in mind gave the season a much-needed sense of urgency and a prescribed finality to the plot – which, in and of itself, actually felt like a new approach to the series.

Conversely, that destination wound up feeling like a limitation on the expansiveness of the journey between point A and point B. Once it was established that Jessica Lange’s Fiona Goode would be losing her witch-y powers and her life so that a new supreme could rise and take hold of the coven she so selfishly allowed to weaken and decline into near ruin, the middle points of the season (i.e., episodes 2-12, with some exceptions, of course) were shackled by the very end the series was headed toward.

That meant there was time for some twiddling of the thumbs, and for a series so enamored with it’s own kitchen-sink style of storytelling, that could spell trouble. Instead, Coven may just go down as the season with the most to say about the world outside its specific storyline. But with a storyline that included witches, voodoo priestesses, various flavors of maniacal mothers, a guard-dog constructed from a bus full of dead frat boys, sax-playing serial killers, and a secret society of witch hunters, did its message get lost in the din of so many view points?

Frances Conroy in in American Horror Story Coven Episode 13 American Horror Story: Coven Season Finale Review

Overall, it seems that the answer to that question is: yes. But that’s only in terms of there being some kind of weight or purpose behind the message that goes beyond merely pointing out certain societal issues. Other than that, the message was predictably overt, and, in keeping with past seasons, the necessity of social commentary often times felt more than a little tacked-on. There were plenty of powerful examples of what Coven was trying to convey in terms of those who have been marginalized for their gender, race, or sexual preference, but more often than not, that message was lost in the shuffle of too many voices fighting amongst one another.

Perhaps that was the point: to demonstrate how, in the desperate struggle to have one’s voice heard, those in the minority may be willing to stifle others in a similar position in order to increase the likelihood of being heard. The thing is, like everything else, that point (if it even was the point) wound up being obfuscated by all the broad strokes with regard to symbolism and characterization. In the end, much of what Coven seemed to be alluding to wound up, as a result of its muddled presentation, feeling too reductive to result in anything approaching empowerment.

Case in point: Within the framework of ‘The Seven Wonders,’ there is no mention of the marginalization felt by Queenie inside Miss Robichaux’s Academy, nor was there any hint that a lasting impression was made by Marie Laveau or Delphine LaLaurie – they were simply forgotten, banished to the nether realm to endlessly play out a gruesome scene of torture befitting their earthly transgressions.

Marie and Delphine certainly got their due comeuppance and that end was gratifying in the same ironic manner the idea of Fiona spending an eternity with the Axeman and his endless supply of catfish and crude entendres was. But it felt as though the episode just folded Queenie’s issues into the larger context of the season without reconciling her arc as a character – which ended with Coven treating her and her troubles as something of a construct, rather than an individual with specific needs that maybe have gone unfulfilled.

Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters in in American Horror Story Coven Episode 13 American Horror Story: Coven Season Finale Review

This is indicative of the broad strokes the show uses that typically result in certain story elements being ignored, in order to achieve a specific intent. It often produces inconsistencies wherein the show doesn’t play by its own rules – which may actually be fair, considering said rules haven’t been explicitly established. But having rules and forcing the narrative to play within those limitations usually make the story stronger, rather than leave certain situations as nothing more than head-scratchers or hurried attempts to settle the one plot that’s working.

Instead, the audience is left with too many questions like: Why does Madison not turn into a ghost like Spalding, Nan, or the Axeman? Or why, after demonstrating tremendous power, would Madison succumb to an enraged FrankenKyle? Not to mention lingering thoughts about Queenie’s encounter with the Minotaur, and Zoe’s lethal intimacy that have all been brushed away, never to be spoken of again.

Still, those points aside, ‘The Seven Wonders’ – if taken as a single episode, intent on delivering the one promise the season had alluded to from the beginning – is a fairly entertaining way to send the Coven on its merry way. To a certain degree, it’s interesting that Coven wound up focusing on Sarah Paulson’s character – or at least, in looking back over the episodes, that the story could be perceived as focusing on her. That’s a nice trick for the season to have pulled off, as it offers an incentive for a second viewing, wherein the audiences tries to pinpoint specific moments that may have insinuated Cordelia’s rise to becoming the next supreme.

In the end, American Horror Story: Coven managed to deliver on at least one plot point with some sort of dramatic weight. But with so many conversations the show clearly saw as significant being left unanswered, it seems Coven was regrettably content to simply point to problems without wanting to have a deeper discussion of why they persist, what real change might entail, and, more importantly, what it might possibly mean.

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American Horror Story will continue with season 4 in the fall of 2014 on FX.

Photos: Michele K. Short/FX

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TAGS: american horror story

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  1. I personally thought this season’s ending was quite anticlimactic. I found myself disappointed with the season as a whole, actually. It’s story was just not as tight as the story in Season 1, and didn’t have those shocks that Asylum did to at least keep us interested. A lack of actual “horror” seemed to add to the many problems with the season. That being said, loved the style, loved the exposition, and I look forward to Murphy and Falchuk tightening up the screws for next season.

    • +1

      Couldn’t of said it better myself.

  2. Overall I thought Ksthy Bates and the axe man were the best part of this season. I hope they both return for S4

  3. Ryan Murphy announced from the beginning that COVEN wasn’t going to be as scary or twisted as season 1 & 2, so I wasn’t expecting it to be as scary or twisted. But I love witch stories. The Craft and Practical Magic are some of my favorite movies. I think the highlight of this season were the gruesome storyline of Kathy Bates, and the acting ability of Angela Bassett, Jessica Lange and many others. For me, I just always anticipated for the use of powers and the evolution of each character’s abilities as a witch but I do agree that some things that were introduced were forgotten about towards the end. These women faced real trauma. I thought it would be suiting for Queenie and the other girl (forgot her name) to have scenes where they contemplate actually staying in the coven. I thought it would have been more fitting if Queenie decided to take Marie Laveau’s place as the premiere, Black witch in New Orleans. Either way my enjoyment of this season (all thanks to Angela) will allow me to forgive the small plot holes.

  4. I agree with others a blah finale, very anti-climactic.

    Every season finale Lange has this long winded speech that just takes my out of the episode. It’s almost like the have to force me to know she’s a great actress. It pulls me right out of the episode. Season 1 she blabs on to McDermott. Season to she goes on and on to Peters and then this season to Patton.

    It’s funny because I thought they knew this themselves because in the second last episode it’s almost like she about to start one. She says, “When I was young, my mother…” and then the Axe man hacks her in the back. I thought I was saved and then of course she shows up to snooze up the final minutes of the show.

    I don’t hate Jessica Lange but she has seriously bored me to tears in three straight finales now.

  5. This season was just okay. It was gruesome, disturbing, horrifying at times, but it wasn’t SCARY. First season was definitely freaky and scary before you knew what exactly was going on in that house. Second season had some very terrifying moments. I did like this season’s relatively straightforward storytelling, and I had read Ryan Murphy’s interviews before this season aired, so I knew it would be lighter in tone. But with such a creepy new title sequence, I thought we’d at least get a few real scares.

  6. The cold open with what seemed like an 80′s Stevie Nicks video was not a smart way to start.
    As for the Seven Wonders test it had it’s moments but for the most part it felt like they ran out of money in the budget so everything had to be taken down a notch.

    I’m not going to bash the season anymore than I have before. One bad season IMO doesn’t really change how I feel about the show. As next season draws near and we learn what it’s about I’ll grow more and more excited and I’ll hope that the show gets back to what I loved about it in the first two seasons.

  7. Meh, two bad seasons out of three (1 and 3) mean I’m not gonna bother now. Been bored too many times by AHS, Asylum was the only season that actually kept me not only shocked and surprised but also interested and excited about the upcoming episode. Murder House and Coven just didn’t do it for me so I guess it’s fortunate that I have The Following to watch and True Detective to look forward to for a real horror fix on TV that holds my interest.

    It’s a shame Lily Rabe felt underused this season and both Bates and Bassett had to try and make the most out of terrible characters that never really grew and could’ve been left out of the season completely without anybody noticing.

    All of the young witches annoyed the hell out of me, Peters seemed to be there purely to try and unbalance the “girls only” scenes, the axeman did nothing for me or the story other than to help eradicate witch hunters (who didn’t get much time for viewers to feel anything for them), Cordelia’s husband betraying her and the coven seemed throwaway with generic scenes between them early on that didn’t make the subsequent betrayal mean anything.

    Spalding too, he seemed to be there for exposition purposes only.

    Lange got to chew scenery now and then but her Fiona character didn’t seem to have many layers to her compared to Lange’s character in Asylum.

    I’ve given AHS three seasons to impress me, they only did it with season 2 (although I wish they’d explored more of that alien subplot).

  8. Although a more focused season than last year, one that was completely convoluted and contrived, this year was far from horror. An example…the personal “hell” experienced by each witch. Seriously? One of them, who was both burned at the stake and buried alive, was more horrified by cutting frogs open in science class? Eyes rolling. No need to discuss the rest.

    Jessica Lange, as always, kept me watching, but after next year, when she leaves the show, so will I.

  9. This would have been a pretty good series… back in 1954. But, boy, was it boring and that young lady who played Zoe got on my nerves in ways that I can’t explain. Otherwise, I agree with Dazz.

    • I’ve tried to enjoy AHS. Really. I have. I like horror. I like America. And I definitely like stories . . . so what’s not to love? The first series had great ideas and I really cared for the characters and although the story was a bit bumpy, I enjoyed it overall. Even watched it again. The second series – for me, my own personal, personal opinion – was a g****** mess. They threw everything at the wall and watched it slop into the bucket, then they threw the bucket. I watched three episodes in disbelief (as did all the people I know) before switching off and not returning until season three. Don’t tell me it get’s better, or that . . . “I need to see it first to judge” I don’t. I’ve seen enough TV over the years to know when something’s irrevocably lost. So, Season three: I’ve tried to like it, I really have. I like witches. I like sexy black girlies being all “Stay outta my way sista!” Or, something like that. Kathy Bates was great, Jessica Lange was . . . great, (although in some episodes I wanted to strangle her, or gag her. I’m not sure which). The actual witches themselves were just incidental, I never bonded with any of them. In fact, i actively disliked them all except for Queenie. Because she was a fat black woman who was actually cool and in a major part. I liked that. But the show just didn’t gel and I think it’s in the writing. There was no (coherent, or consistant) story arc. They even chucked in the 7 Wonders, unless I wasn’t paying attention, relatively late, so they could finish it with a flourish. The whole “Supreme” rigmarole to try and keep us guessing left me cold. Plot lines came and went. Characters were brought back to life so many times it became boring. I didn’t even watch the end of the convoluted and completely unbelievable final episode when Lange’s character offered up exposition as to why she was still alive . . . . dull. And then Off. I’ll probably watch season four – maybe. But only in the same kind of way that I’ll watch, say, hmmmm – most American horror films: because I like horror, because there’s nothing better, and because I’m lazy. And that’s why they keep making this s***. Because people watch it and rate it a thousand percent on IMDB, when it was just average.

      • I agree with you about much, but most of all about Season 2. It was an utter mess, overly convoluted and contrived in composition and style. I was surprised they did not attempt to make a killer out of a kitchen sink in that season.

        • Which is hilarious because season 2 gets the most hatred but I personally felt it was the only entertaining season, purely BECAUSE they threw everything they had into each episode.

          It genuinely surprised me in a good way, kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting more, the characters seemed to be three dimensional with some even being likable and others really oozing evil and “please, hate me” vibes.

          I normally like things with solid structure and things that make sense but season 2 was brilliant because it did the opposite of that and as we saw with Murder House and Coven, when AHS goes for solid plot structure, it ends up becoming a completely dull, boring and shallow mess with nobody to relate to or like and not much happening as far as the plot because they’re spending too much time on something unnecessary rather than bringing in themes that will be explored more fully later on in the season, like the Seven Wonders.

  10. To be short: I love American Horror Story but this season was not horror at all and it was barely a story.

  11. As with others, I watched this season and while it had its moments, all in all it didn’t live up to the previous seasons. Lots of potential with a voodoo priestess vs witch thing, zombies, hunters and the like but ultimately it kind of went nowhere. It also often times felt rushed and almost episodic with little to carry over from one week to the next.

    The thing that got me while watching last night though was, the opening credits piece was creepier than most everything this season with KKK-esque figures, skeletal devil and a vibe that reminded me of The Blair Witch project.

    I still feel it was a missed opportunity to not set this season in Croatoa. Would have given us rampant paranoia, witch hunts, trials, period interest and oddities, and a chance to come up with a possible reason for the village’s ultimate disappearance.

    • Yeah, it says something when the opening titles were more interesting than the actual episodes because of the glimpses of the Jersey Devil opening its wings and hooded figures lurking in the background.

  12. I was really disappointed in this season overall. The first episode was very interesting, but I wish there had been more focus on Zoe as she was one of the few characters introduced to us in a first-person manner. I was happy to see that Evan Peters–making his third appearance in AHS–was able to really shine with a completely new kind of character. A young man who acts like any normal young man…just with an added dash of charm and charisma….

    That is, until he dies. Then he is essentially a dark, hollow shell throughout the rest of the series. One that seems to take up more of the role of a servant in the coven, rather than a respected companion of Zoe’s. I fell in love with the pairing of Evan and Taissa in the first season and was hoping that their passion and romance would be left just a little less tainted in this series. Of course, AHS is famous for making its audience cringe, even during moments that are supposed to provide us with some comic relief [such as the essentially 'innocent' game of tag that ends with Zoe impaling herself].

    I found the most likeable characters throughout the whole series to be Nan and Misty. They met nasty ends and there is no true indication of what really happened to them. Did Misty stay in her own personal ‘hell’ forever? Was Papa Legba (sp, sorry) kind to Nan or did he send her to her own personal hell as well. Did she perhaps meet with her crush in the afterlife? This lack of resolution makes the ending all the less interesting for the other characters involved.

    • Another thing introduced in episode 1 and not explored after episode 2 was over, Zoe’s “power” to kill someone through intercourse.

      Was it just an excuse to show the actress simulating sex on screen? It just seemed like a completely pointless thing to introduce for just 2 episodes and then never mention ever again, like what the hell its purpose was.

  13. it wasnt a good season… there didnt feel like there was a goal. i thought its was gonna be witches vs the voodoo people but that ended, then i thought it was gonna be them both vs the hunters and that didnt happen the way i wanted… i just dont think there was a big pay off at the end. i wasnt satisfied. i was expecting a real war.

    i have a feeling next season will be about vampires and werewolves but im personally hopeing they go back to paranormal stuff. thats always the scariest thing for me. but instead of ghosts i hope it will be the real evil stuff like demons. if not that then i would like more aliens. i loved them last season. 2 and 3 werent scary for me, gore doesnt scare me like paranormal stuff but last season was really interesting because of the asylum and alien side plot.

  14. they had telekinesis, could light things on fire, teleport, and had mind control…but she couldn’t do anything about being strangled??

    • She made him kiss her boots earlier in the episode, but he couldn’t make him stop chocking her. Yep, kinda lame

  15. My favorite is still Asylum, but Coven is second. I was really hoping the seven wonders would have went for the worst and gone thru with the vision Cordillera had. I was thinking they were going to end up killing one another out of greed for power and then Fiona would then arrive on the scene to claim back her thrown but it is what it is. Honestly tho, I liked the way they chose to go with it, probably would have wanted their personal hells more horrid and in depth. (I really liked their concept of hell) I still don’t understand why Cordillera couldn’t have a baby? that still goes unanswered, shouldn’t that have disqualified her? but any who I’m sure she wouldn’t have a problem having one now if she wanted to. But what I really like about the ending is she finally makes somewhat peace with her demon, which happens to be her own mother. Fiona reveals that she knew all along her daughter would be the supreme. I think towards the end when it actually came down to killing Cordillera, she couldn’t bring herself to do it, and deep down she knew what was best for the coven not that she cared for it or maybe she just simply didn’t have the strength. I loved how she tried to suppress her from discovering her true power all along, and Cordillera was the weakest character from the beginning and with each episode she grew stronger and fierce while her mothers powers drained. Toward the end when her mother dies and she is on the stairs case, greeting all the new witches, I don’t think she truly acknowledged that was now finally (fully) supreme until Queenie addressed everyone that she was their leader. Cordillera then gives that great smile! I loved the characters that lived! They weren’t as corrupted as the other bitches in the household. What I mostly enjoyed is that the story was simply about a woman who feared death, greatly played and a lot of style. On the other hand what I disliked the most was the climax kept rising throughout the entire series yet nothing peaked until the very end. like they made it seem as if the voodoo queen and her people where gonna go to war and battle with the witches but that didn’t happen, then the witch hunters where supposedly gonna fight but that didn’t happen. What these series missed was some magic fighting, I feel like it was a waste to kill off Madison the way they did, missed an excellent opportunity for a witchvswitch,Finding out who the next supreme was fun ^,^ I feel bad that Misty got stuck in hell and I liked that Myrtle dies, because it shows that she accepted her fate and the only reason she stuck around for so long after misty brought her back was because she believed her assistance to the Coven was called upon. So once the new supreme was named she could finally go back to rest (she did what she felt she owed, to protect the coven) and I also feel for Zoe at the end Cause now there is gonna be some hard ass competition with all those new girls walking around and Kyle being the Covens personal Frankenstein, Sex Slave. Sorry, my thoughts are all over the place! xD

  16. I gave up on this season with the thriller remake around episode five. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel… horror? Camp? Comedy? It was just corny and dumb and I dropped out.

    • where can i watch this ?

  17. I have a question/comment: Technically, all the (living) witches passed the Seven Wonders; so shouldn’t all of them be considered the supreme?

    • They couldn’t resurrect. Queenie tried (on Zoe), but it didn’t work. When Cordelia brought her back, that’s when they knew.

  18. I finally got around to catching up on AHS, and I began Coven immediately after Asylum. I’m thinking that was a big mistake, now. I thought the whole aliens thing from Asylum was bad because it had me sighing occasionally, but Coven’s dialogue and “she’s dead, lol jk no she’s not, isn’t being a teen witch so grate guise?” had my eyes nearly rolling out of my skull. It’s like they threw disturbing elements for 20-somethings together with the dialogue meant for teenagers and thought, “Awesome, now this will appeal to EVERYONE.” How in the world is it possible that among 5 (semi) persecuted witches, not one of them had a personal hell worse than a campy “oops got pantsed in gym class”-esque vision? When they began that scene, I was so ravenous for something actually terrifying as a last-ditch effort to make me care about these dumb girls, but was I left starving instead. Everything past episode 4 left me starving, to be quite honest. I’ve seen worse things in my nightmares, and my life is on the far end away from “tortured.” I expected better from writers who’ve shown us so much worse before without even lifting a finger. The breastfeeding scene from Asylum could be described as a personal hell for Lana Winters, and that was tastefully and chillingly-well done.

    They took this season out back and shot it full of plot holes about seventy thousand times. And the outlandish stuff that -technically- made sense was so ludicrous that it held no merit anyway. I began watching this with my boyfriend, but he ended up missing a couple episodes in the middle. Trying to explain to him what he missed was absolutely maddening. I never thought I’d have 5 different conversations to the tune of, “Didn’t she die?” “Yeah, but she got resurrected,” in the span of a week. If you think this season was good or even okay, please try explaining it to someone who’s never seen it before – episode by episode. You’ll start realizing just how pathetic an attempt at storytelling it is.

    That. Intro. Though. My god, I was waiting for SOMETHING from the intro to make it into the episodes, but was so utterly blue-balled. Great actors, and some pretty sick stuff made it interesting, sometimes moving, and even ultimately watchable, but I wish I didn’t have to wade through pages upon pages of preteen script and “left, right, left, ‘no just kidding’ right,” plot turns to get to those parts.

    When they started introducing the voodoo aspect of it I got excited, thinking that they would finally invite the viewers on a tour of some real horror and terror, but all they did was allow you a quick peek in the windows. They clearly tried to cover too much at once but however noble an attempt, it should never be done with character development. No matter how mortal and relate-able your characters are, if you keep bringing them back from the dead (ie. treating them as immortal objects in the story), the viewer isn’t really going to care the next time one of them dies, and if you make the viewer feel like they -should-, they’re going to laugh at your attempts at emotional coercion. That’s pretty basic to understand. By the end, I was praying they would all die and Kyle would be the Supreme.

    I’m a fan of the series, because they’ve done what little (no one?) else has done before, but I am really hoping the next season is a bit more polished and if it’s not too much to ask for, actually horrifying.

    • Excellent comment Lydia.

  19. where can i watch this ?

  20. I would like to tell my dissatisfaction about this season to the makers of it… What were they thinking???

    Can’t believe if season 2 gets more s***, because season 2 was actually like a horror story and interesting. This one was like some children’s show mixed with gore elements.

    It had some entertaining moments, but i have to say especially the ending was total crap… I was naturally hoping that it would be good, it starts bad… ends even worse, even the slightest atmosphere of this season was killed by them “going on national tv” and making the place a public school for witches…????

    Seriously didn’t that bother anyone, this season was ridiculous by having some teenage girls who seemed totally empty in the head have suddenly such great powers… The crackhead one flips a freaking bus for the starters uh i was already at that point like “umm, okay well lets see where it goes”

    This one just lacked all the mystic and horror atmosphere by just throwing s*** everywehere, i have to say the first minutes i was excited when they showed things from the past … but then i had to discover its some kind of ridiculous wizard school drama…

    I’m mostly so pissed about the last episode, maybe i was waiting too much from it.

    • Personally, i like the show. I havnt have any season that i like more than another however, the season finale are always such a disapointment ! Especially Conven it felt as if the show was chopped. Im going to watch Freak Show because im a fan of the franchise