'American Horror Story: Coven': A Fate Worse than New Jersey?

[This is a review of American Horror Story: Coven episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]


One thing that's easy to admire about American Horror Story: Coven is the unapologetic way it randomly vacillates between what it wants to focus on. Rather than end things by segueing out or inserting a suggestion that there's more to come on a particular topic, the show favors the ellipsis as a means by which it welcomes new threads into the narrative.

That's not to say this season of Coven hasn't been hinting at some sort of war on the horizon (it seems some sort of supernatural war is always on the horizon in AHS) involving the witches of Miss Robichaux's Academy and Marie Laveau's voodoo priestesses, but its sudden importance – along with the introduction of even more characters – means practically everything that was central to the narrative last week goes unmentioned.

Now this isn't necessarily good or bad – in fact, with American Horror Story, it's kind of par for the course – it's just that after spending most of 'The Sacred Taking' watching Fiona lose her hair, and, very nearly, her will to live, she's suddenly up and about, trying to negotiate an alliance with Marie Laveau. Apparently, the presence of a witch hunter with horrendous aim is suddenly more pressing than dealing with her cancer or finding the next Supreme.

It's so pressing, in fact, that the word cancer isn't even brought up – instead it's given only the smallest bit of lip service by Marie, taking note of what is apparently the shoddy craftsmanship of Fiona's wig.

Not that Coven needs to suddenly turn up with Fiona's oncology reports and let the audience go over her medical charts, but considering she was virtually on death's door last week, this sudden vitality feels like a rather abrupt and distracted shift in a character who the show has repeatedly suggested is on her way out. And speaking of lip service, the Axeman is nowhere to be seen in the episode either – and that's after only making the briefest of appearances last week – so hopefully things haven't cooled off entirely with those two.

At any rate, now that Fiona's apparently well enough to broker deals with her sworn enemy and make FrankenKyle smart enough to play cards and become the house's new guard dog, 'Head' manages to turn its sights toward Hank's backstory and Cordelia regaining her, well…sight, thanks to Myrtle's fondness for paralytic agents and melon ballers.

With Cordelia's sight back, her visions may have ceased, but she's still able to see through Hank's miserable claptrap about loving her, although there's no indication that she's aware of the Delphi Trust, or Hank's father (played by Michael Cristofer, Ray Donovan). That tiny factor points to Hank's former aptitude at intelligence work, since that's the last time he used his brain for something better than coating the walls of Marie Laveau's hair salon.

And while the role that Hank has played was nominal at best, it raises an interesting question about the permanence of such things in the world that Coven has created. With all these characters dying horrible, gruesome deaths, or otherwise suffering some dreadful disfigurement (let's go back to the melon baller for a moment and cringe), only to have their life - or body - restored, one has to wonder whether Fiona's fear of aging, loneliness, and death are simply unfounded, as she's just an afternoon with Myrtle or Misty Day away from being good as new.

So with the threat of death or bodily harm ostensibly off the table, are the witch hunters of the Delphi Trust really the worst thing any of these witches has to fear, or is it the real threat simply banishment to New Jersey? If the Delphi Trust can make that happen, then the women of Miss Robichaux's had better look out.


American Horror Story: Coven will return with 'The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks' on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 @10pm on FX.

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