[This is a review of American Horror Story: Coven episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]
As far as penultimate episodes are concerned, 'Go to Hell' winds up being a more structured chapter of American Horror Story: Coven than may have been expected. There were still plenty of the season's patented twists and turns, but overall the episode read like it was headed toward a necessary and specific conclusion for the season, rather than simply upping the ante with the kind of craziness AHS normally engages in prior to sending one of its chapters to bed.
In fact, comparatively speaking, the episode came off as a rather subdued affair – which says a lot about the sort of insane shenanigans the series has gotten up to in the past, considering the bloodletting of Fiona and the Axeman in 'Go to Hell.' This time around, however, Coven benefits from having a destination for its characters in mind.
Even though there's no obvious ending to anyone's story, the competition for who will be the next supreme has been one of the primary objectives of the season all along. And while it's almost certain not to wrap up neat and tidy like a bow (though that would be a rather transgressive move for the series to take), having an aim or a specific purpose at this point in the season feels like a different sensation from American Horror Story.
Then again, having a particular destination in mind has been something of a stumbling block for the storyline this season, as many of the episodes (and 'Go to Hell,' despite its determined appearance) have felt a little like Coven was simply twiddling its thumbs, going through the motions, and waiting for the final competition where each young supreme-in-the-making takes part in the trial of the Seven Wonders to prove her mettle.
And, to a certain degree, with Queenie venturing to hell in search of Marie Laveau, Misty being resurrected and promptly throwing Madison a beating, and Zoe returning from her magical escape to Epcot with FrankenKyle, it feels as though the witches have already taken part in the Seven Wonders ritual to a certain extent.
At this point, despite the season's preoccupation with the concepts of aging and fading beauty and power (along with racism and sexism, of course), the setup for next week's finale has a group of young women set to choose a replacement for a woman Cordelia describes as a selfish, ineffectual leader who put her needs ahead of the coven's.
With that setup, it's interesting that the three elder stateswomen – i.e., Fiona, Marie Laveau and Delphine LaLaurie – have all received some sort of comeuppance, the latter two being handed a particularly hellish one. Perhaps it's because the season is so close to the end, but with all the half-baked allusions to social matters having been smattered about haphazardly this season, the idea of generational divides, and the desire of baby boomers to dig in and retain their current positions feels especially resonant, and seems like it might actually have had the chance to gain some traction, had the season chosen to focus more on one topic rather than as many as possible.
Then again, this is American Horror Story we're talking about, so the kitchen-sink approach to social issues is nothing new. Besides, with all the death and resurrection that's occurred this season, chances are, the fate of Fiona, and possibly Marie and Delphine (though it would be disappointing), may yet be undone.
American Horror Story: Coven will conclude next Wednesday with 'The Seven Wonders' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Michele K. Short/FX