American Horror Story: Coven Watch: The Soap Opera Where Heads Explode Literally And Figuratively

By Nick Venable 2013-12-12 06:19:54 discussion comments
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So here’s what I think happened: A real-life witch of some kind slipped an herbed concoction into Ryan Murphy’s drink that spun his thinking so violently that reading a single 15-year-old Internet user’s comment about “not understanding the plot” threw him into a tizzy whereby he forced the talented writer Tim Minear to grind the series to a crushing halt by burying it beneath exposition and characters speaking at others instead of them, and in a manner so dead on about themselves they may as well have been reading their Wikia page. But then Kathy Bates’ disembodied head was forced to experience Roots and the lesser moments were temporarily forgiven.

But now those same feelings are rearing back up as I watch the show again as I write. Certain beats hit like a public access soap opera, where mountainous overacting can still sneak in bits of somewhat ironic humor, as when Cordelia’s taxing trip to the kitchen ends with her saying, “Goddammit. Could people please not move things? Some of us are blind!” In and of itself, it’s a pretty bad line, especially the way Sarah Paulson delivers it, but it’s also wildly hilarious that it exists as it does, with director Howard Deutch certainly accepting this wholeheartedly, despite its inherent awfulness, especially when it’s followed by a painfully syrupy exchange with Myrtle. Bits of pieces from the first half could serve as proof in court that American Horror Story is never afraid to push the boundaries of what is acceptable to people who watch this show because it has “horror” in the title.

I could go on in a negative fashion for longer, but I…no, I think I will. Let’s talk for a second about Josh Hamilton’s subservient Hank and his non-relationship with his father, defender of all things in the name of witch-hunting. While I could go on until the show’s return in January about how B-movie the acting in these scenes are, both in the past and present, I’ll instead question the mental fortitude of said father and his insistence of using Hank as his pawn to gather intel on witches in this coven. I hate to side with Hank’s murderous ways here, but hunters can only gain so much information from studying their prey before the only thing left to do is kill it. I understand that Hank is clearly terrible at killing witches that he doesn’t cheat on his wife with – though he’s good at shooting murderers who use bees and pillows as weapons – but this Fiona and Cordelia have been in this coven a long time and this organization should have had somebody more capable than Hank taking the double agent bullet for the team.

But he did take that bullet, as an exploded-headed victim of both Queenie’s special power and one of the strangest violence-driven sequences on television. Hank walks through Laveau’s salon shooting black people as LaLaurie’s undying head weeps to the sounds of a gospel choir seeing “Oh Freedom.” I have no idea what the subtext of all this is supposed to mean. Because the song clearly isn’t talking about Hank, and the literal lyrics pertain more to Luke’s post-coma murder. The whole thing felt uncomfortable and just made it all the more obvious when Hank switches guns back and forth for no reason and hesitates too long instead of immediately killing Laveau, which never would have happened anyway.

Enough of that downtrodden talk and onto dessert. “I do love a key lime pie even more than an ile flottante. Call me a Philistine!” Color me crazy, but I didn’t take Myrtle’s line about giving Cordelia her eyes with any realization that the episode would include the melon balling of two Council members’ eyeballs. It should have been obvious, but not knowing made it all the more glorious. There was something very Bond villain about Conroy’s performance in this scene, but with so much more seething rage buried beneath the flamboyant pride. “I bet you thought, ‘Oh, she left the melon baller in there. She’s growing old and forgetful.” That was an astounding line reading. I don’t take comfort in Myrtle and Fiona now being on good terms again as the conflict now shifts to “supernatural people vs. normies,” but I’ll live with it to see all these actresses all together filling up these rooms with their huge performances.

I have no idea what will become of LaLaurie’s head now that Queenie has been shot. (I assume Laveau’s team-up with Fiona means the craft-honing Misty will be performing yet another resurrection.) Honestly, it feels like the character has done all she was going to do in this series, namely play a stubborn old lady head racist. Seeing her finally break does not in any way give her reprieve for her heinous actions, but the build-up tonight was pretty hilarious – B.A.P.S! – and it serves as enough of a character coda that she can just burn up in a fire now without anyone on the show getting affected. I’ll miss her though, if she doesn’t happen to survive the next four episodes.

It’s going to be a long month until American Horror Story returns on January 8, when we can look forward to a cameo from the witchiest witch of them all, Stevie Nicks. It’s not like there is anything to care about in the meantime except homemade eggnog. And that Christmas day or whatever. Happy holidays, readers! Hopefully none of the boxes under your tree contain the decapitated head of a bigot.

Things Stirring in the Cauldron

“I got six more heads waiting for me up front. That one, you can keep.” This is the kind of line that Bassett kills, and one that contextually could only exist on this show. I so love when the writing suits her performance, rather than watching her force less natural dialogue.

“Coffee?”
“No thanks. Never acquired a taste for it.” What the fuck kind of a dialogue exchange between a father and son is that? A real dad would know his son doesn’t like coffee, originating from that dumbass childhood experience with a witch that should have just set them both on fire immediately, thus saving viewers of the future the pain of watching this family exist together.

While we’re at it, How was Hank’s father not played by Dylan McDermott??? The acting and character thinness on display here was right on par, and then we could have seen McDermott in old people make-up. It could have been amazing, AHS.

I thought you had to go to a certain back alley in Thailand to get monkswood in my balls. Apparently I just have to be a fatuous and foolish drunk around Myrtle.

Almost more uncomfortable than the salon massacre was the zealot neighbor singing a hymn into the camera as the young witch trio stood in the background. It’s a damned good thing the uplifting music faded in, because I would have been watching through my fingers. I can’t believe I just said it was a good thing the music kicked in. Sigh.

“What fresh hell is this?”

It was nice to see Fiona up to no good, particularly when dropping out the bottom of Hank’s box, rather than watching her moon over the Axeman.

So Hank was married and living at the Academy and only had one box of stuff with barely anything in it?

In the same way that Myrtle foreshadowed the eyeballs, I wish a character had been watching the Wicker Man remake during the Nicolas Cage “Bees! Bees!” scene to foreshadow the husband’s gruesome allergic reaction to bee stings.

Here’s how you know Hank wasn’t right in the head. He put on all black clothing to go and kill a bunch of people indoors! You’re not breaking into a high-tech security lab, moron.
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