American Horror Story, Season Three, Episode 2: “Boy Parts”
Directed by Michael Rymer
Written by Tim Minear
Airs Wednesdays at 10:00 PM on FX
Just two episodes in and this season of American Horror Story is already a wicked melange of body horror, black magic and female empowerment. Two major themes prominent so far, are that of resurrection and science versus magic. But Coven is essentially a story about a group of women desperately trying to remain relevant in an ever changing world. In just three seasons, Ryan Murphy and his crew’s employment of heavily atmospheric sets and startling moments of violence combine to create a trendsetting series that has inspired other networks and show runners to take more daring risks. But the stakes here are less primal than that of season two. It didn’t take long for Misty Day (Lily Rabe) and Kyle Spencer (Evan Peters) to return to the show, after dying in last week’s premiere. More so, the witches have already displayed thunderous powers that leave the rest of society nearly powerless to their special magic. When two detectives arrive at the boarding school to question Zoe and Madison about their frat boy encounters, The Supreme (Jessica Lange) quickly resolves the problem by putting the police officers under her spell, commanding them to drop the investigation just before they suffer from short term memory loss. Than there is the issue of this season’s prime villain who is cursed with immortality; and Misty’s ability to bring back the dead. How does somebody defeat someone who simply cannot die, and how does anyone relevant to the series remain deceased? It will be intriguing to see just how (and if) the creators will create a sense of real danger and nail-biting suspense. Until than, Coven is a trippy exercise in surreal pop telemaking extravagance.
“Boy Parts” further expands on Fiona’s quest for youthful immortality – while providing a brief history lesson on the birth of witchcraft. Apparently it all started when a slave girl in Salem educated a group of white women on how to harness black magic – only to have the white witches turn on her, in turn, putting the African-American voodoo founders under lock and key. Fiona and Marie Laveau’s (Angela Bassett) encounter set up what is to be the season’s biggest conflict. Fiona wants the secret to Marie’s eternal youth, though it doesn’t look like Marie is interested in cooperating. But what Marie doesn’t yet know, is that Fiona has the now released Madame LaLaurie under house arrest (so to speak). Fiona seems to be positioning the madame as a bargaining chip, but what Fiona doesn’t realize, is that Marie has a minotaur by her side. The interactions between Bassett and Jessica Lange are the episode’s highlight, with Bassett, dare I say, easily becoming the most fascinating figure (sorry Kathy Bates). Bassett’s brutal revenge (shown in flashbacks) mirrors the cruelties that LaLaurie inflicted on enslaved blacks. LaLaurie’s family is seen hung outside her home, while she is carried away and buried alive. There’s an interesting power struggle forming, with Marie Laveau, Fiona Goode, and Madame LaLaurie. However, apart from the season premiere’s cold open, Bates is still not given much to do. She’s moving like someone who has been trapped in a box for one hundred and eighty years, and it doesn’t help that she spent the majority of the episode tied and gagged. More worrisome is the conflicting emotions behind her eyes in the final scene. As mentioned in last week’s review, Madame LaLaurie was a Louisiana-born serial killer known for her involvement in the torture and murder of slaves. There’s heartbreak coming through in her performance during her last conversation with Fiona. Are the writers planning on humanizing and having viewers sympathize with a real-life socialite? The season’s supernatural trappings ably sustain the story’s all-too-human ruminations on youth, aging, life, and death, but its rewriting or re-telling of American history is what brings some concern.
The last time we saw Misty Day, she was a sweet innocent girl who brought dead birds back to life, but sentenced to death by way of fire for practicing witchcraft. Now she haunts the bayou. “Boy Parts” begins with a recently deceased alligator tearing into the neck of a poacher. The opening gator-chomping scene which displays her powers of resurgence, set to the Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” is as sharp and refreshingly nasty as the fangs of the reptile itself. “This is wrong, all wrong,” she says. “Why would you kill God’s innocent creatures?
On the other side of town, Zoe and Madison continue their gruesome misadventures using a magic spell for regenerating life into dead things — and even parts of dead things. When breaking into the morgue the girls sew up chunks of whatever body parts they find lying around to create a new Kyle. It’s simply the best, funniest Grand Guignol sequence in the series thus far. Not since Stuart Gordon’s masterpiece Re-Animator, have we been assaulted by such a bizzarre and grisly sense of humour. While Zoe and Madison are busy playing ‘weird science,’ Cordelia submits to her husband’s request and uses her powers to help conceive a child of their own. Since nature and science failed them, they resort to a black magic ritual, complete with blood baths, fire, snakes and sadistic religious fanaticism. One has to wonder if their baby will be normal, or, does her black magic come with a price? Wrapping up, we are also treated to a flashback to Detroit, 2012, where we learn that Queenie grew up on white girls like “Charmed and Sabrina the Teenaged Cracker.”
Michael Rymer, who has directed some of the best episodes of Hannibal, does a fine job with the odd mix of risqué shenanigans, callow pranks and dubious gender politics. Still, the series suffers from the excessive use of dutch angles, and fast edits. Note to the creators of the show: We understand this approach is somewhat of a trademark for the series, but these stylistic choices are not needed during simple moments of conversations. It only distracts us, the viewers, from the fine performances, and undercuts the suspense.
- Ricky D
Madison: “For the sake of peace among roommates, I’m sorry I killed your boy candy, okay?”
Zoe: “Did we just marry the Devil? Because I don’t know if I’m down with that.”
Laveau: “The hammer wants the nail’s magic. That is rich.”
Denis O’Hare is amazing, even without dialogue.
I also like the use of “White Winged Dove” by the great Stevie Nicks, who apparently is a witch.