American Horror Story, Season 3, Episode 3: “Replacements”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by James Wong
Airs Wednesdays at 10:00 PM on FX
The best decision show-runners Ryan Muprhy and Brad Falchuk ever made, was to write each season of American Horror Story as a self-contained miniseries. In following a different set of characters and settings, and a storyline with its own beginning, middle, and end, American Horror Story continues to reinvent itself each and every year. Unlike AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead, which is still chasing its own tail, Coven’s revival of classic horror tropes mixed with campy erotic-horror excess seems fresh, even when familiar.
Apart from the dark forces of nature, stylish camerawork, and good sense of humour, Coven is even more impressive when you consider how successful the writers and cast are, in getting us to care for, and/or like these characters. “The Replacements” is all about Fiona (Jessica Lange), opening with a flashback to 1971 New Orleans at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. There we witness a younger version of her murdering the then-Supreme, Annalee Leyton. The scene sets the tone for the rest of the episode, which spends the majority of its time with Fionna’s continued obsession with youth. When Fiona receives some troubling news from her physician – she suspects that Madison (Emma Roberts) is inline to be the next Supreme, and thus, unknowingly draining her powers away from Fiona. But Fiona isn’t ready to take on an unlikely protégé, and history is repeated when she slices Madison’s neck, much like Annalee Leyton. But is Madison really the new Supreme, or did Fiona jump the gun? Chances are, the mystery will drag for most of the season, with the all-too-obvious Zoe, the best candidate to take Fiona’s throne.
Over three hundred years have passed since the witch hunts in Salem and those who managed to escape are now facing extinction. It doesn’t help that Fiona’s daughter, Cordelia, is unable to bear child. After unsuccessful attempts using both witchcraft and science, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) seeks guidance from a familiar, though not necessarily friendly face. Only three episodes into season three, and the writers have done a fabulous job in establishing the ongoing feud between practitioners of witchcraft and voodoo. A visit to Marie Laveau
(Angela Bassett) results in the episode’s highlight – an extended sequence involving a new moon, veves, a jar of sperm, campfire rituals, African dance and goat’s blood spilled over Cordelia’s half-naked body. Only it was all a fantasy; Delia’s request for fertility is rejected due to her blood ties with Laveaux’s arch nemeis Fiona. If Jean Rollin ever directed a film about witches, it would look and feel somewhat similar to “The Replacements”. Sex is vital to an episode about women losing their power as they age. And taking away Cordelia’s natural-God-given ability to have children, robs her of a woman’s greatest gift. Credit to Alfonso Gomez-Rejon who once again does an excellent job directing. This is his seventh episode of the series so far, and his choice of lingering shots, strange POVs, and unconventional compositions makes for an interesting watch, even when excessive (did we really need a fish-eye lens during the dinner scene?). “The Replacements” is a prolonged intrusion on the personal space of the characters and the viewer. And it isn’t just the characters who are always constantly trying to invade on each other’s personal space – but the camera as well. Gomez-Rejon offers little if any privacy and the imagery is both suffocating and schizophrenic.
Sexuality has always had a place in American Horror Story, but “The Replacements” explores the various realms of sexual taboos in extreme ways. American Horror Story juxtaposes sex and violence in images that twists their diametrically apposed aspects together until the appealing and appalling become one. Especially memorable this week, is the image of the minotaur when mounting Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) from behind. Queenie’s suppressed sexual desires are temporarily met by the stud, only to quickly be denied as the scene cuts to black.
Meanwhile Mare Winningham guest stars as Kyle’s grieving mother. When Zoe returns the now re-animated Kyle back home, it doesn’t take long to uncover the deep dark secrets lurking within the Spencer household. The kind, frat boy who came to the rescue in the season’s pilot, transforms into a startling new monster after Mrs. Spencer quickly gets down to the business of molesting him. AHS takes a stab at every single traditional tent pole of security we know, even motherly love.
While Fiona is awarded the most screen time this week, the central theme of “The Replacements” is the female gaze. In television, we are usually offered a male point of view. Women are usually captured as an image to be looked at and fetishised as the object of male heterosexual desire, but not necessarily in Coven. “The Replacements” further shows that in the world of Coven, it is the woman who holds all power. In fact, not only do the men quickly fall under their spells, but most are kept in silence – unable to speak.
– Ricky D
A bit of terrible acting on the part of Gabourey Sidibe this week when confronting Madame Delphine LaLaurie about her crimes. It doesn’t help that she is acting opposite Kathy Bates.
More Denis O’Hare please!
So far the Misty Day plot line an excuse to play Fleetwood Mac’s greatest hits.
Welcome Patti LuPone!
Kathy Bates: “Lies!”
Fiona: “They say when a new Supreme begins to flower, the old Supreme begins to fade. And you’ve been fading.”
Fiona: “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?”
Great editing during the scene when Fiona visits the plastic surgeon and Cordelia visits the doctor.
Fiona to Joan: “You know, I never understood you Bible thumpers and your hypocrisy towards sex. I know that behind close doors, you’re the biggest perverts of all.”
Fiona: “This coven doesn’t need a new Supreme, it needs a new rug.”