For the second year running and for its final season, …
American Horror Story
As Joseph Heller wrote in Catch-22, “Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.” The Strain is difficult to categorize. The cynical part of me thinks it was born mediocre and I’ve just been expecting too much from it. Perhaps this was always where we would end up, with Holocaust flashbacks and a sense that this isn’t what we signed up for.
We live in a burgeoning era of horror television. American Horror Story will begin its fourth season in the fall, and The Walking Dead will start its fifth. Penny Dreadful just finished an excellent debut season, and Netflix’s Hemlock Grove just put up its second season. True Blood, Supernatural, Bates Motel, Sleepy Hollow, Grimm. And of course, the most horrifying show currently on television, Hannibal. Horror is all over our TV screens, but if there’s one person who deserves their shot at it (presuming David Lynch isn’t interested), it’s Guillermo del Toro.
It wasn’t a big surprise that Stevie Nicks would kick off the final episode of American Horror Story: Coven, since Ryan Murphy had reported that the White Witch would appear in two episodes this season. The images of Nicks spinning through Miss Robichaux’s Academy while lip-syncing to her Fleetwood Mac hit “Seven Wonders”, left me realizing something important: Coven may be the weakest of American Horror Story’s first three seasons, but this season boasts the best cast – and I’m actually going to miss most of Coven’s characters. With Douglas Petrie helming the script and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directing, tonight’s episode, appropriately titled “The Seven Wonders”, is a strong finish to an uneven but always entertaining season. The reveal of the next Supreme comes not without a price, as some witches die this time around, and never to return.
It only took seven episodes, but American Horror Story: Coven finally injects a bit of three-way necrophilia. New alliances are formed and bonds are broken, as opposing forces and clashing personalities collide. “The Dead” movies the plot forward with some interesting twists, but in the end, it leaves us with a few troubling questions.
“Burn, Witch, Burn! deals with the fallout of last weeks climax which saw Cordelia blinded, when assaulted at a nightclub by a hooded assailant who threw sulphuric acid in her face. Meanwhile, Marie Leveau’s army of dead storm Miss Robichaux’s Academy. The fifth installment of Coven is immersed in the guilt of cruel mothers. LaLaurie is forced to come to terms with the pain and suffering she inflicted on her own daughters who rise from their graves, and Fiona feels responsible for Delia’s attack. On top of all this, two witches display new unexpected powers as Zoe manages to break Laveau’s spell and defeat her zombie army with only a few words, and Delia receives a startling clairvoyant vision of her husband’s murderous and cheating ways.
If there’s one week in which a series entitled American Horror Story simply has to deliver the goods, it’s the one containing All Hallow’s Eve. In that respect, “Fearful Pranks Ensue” falls a little short, particularly if one expected it to step up the freakiness and/or gore quotient. Actually, as it turns out, it belongs to a entirely different sort of tradition: the time-honored transitional episode. Only in its closing moments does it threaten to take its genre elements to the next level of nutty.
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.