Note: Do not read on unless you've seen "American Horror Story: Coven," Episode 3, titled "The Replacements."
The obvious focus of "American Horror Story" this season is aging and the passage of time; nearly every character is grappling with some element of growing older, whether it's the young 'uns figuring out their magical powers and appropriate path in life, or the older generation trying to cling to whatever youth they have left. This episode in particular zooms in on "replacements" -- being replaced by someone younger, faster, or better.
Portraits of the witches and Supremes of times past line the walls of Robichaux Academy, a blatant reminder of what has been and more importantly, who's been. In a couple of beautifully shot sequences, we witness Fiona (Jessica Lange) drinking with the portraits, conversing with them, or chastising them. She's absolutely haunted by Annaleigh, the woman who was acting Supreme in her youth. We're even treated to a delicious 1971 flashback of Fiona as a young adult, impatient and precocious as always -- so much so that she slits Annaleigh's throat. She can't wait to be Supreme, and kills her mentor in order to ascend the throne. Poor Spalding (Denis O'Hare, who we haven't seen very often so far) witnesses Fiona's act, so now we can be pretty certain about how he lost his tongue.
Following this extreme move, we're shuttled back to the present, and we get another wonderful, rather eloquent Fiona scene in a bar. Her "It's a dance..." monologue is as beautiful a piece of TV writing as I've heard in a while. Sad and pathetic, Fiona laments her aging, and rues the day "the dance would end," meaning that men no longer find her sexually attractive. Unfortunately for her, the dance is over now, and she feels her powers departing her body. She even visits a last-resort plastic surgeon, who tells her that her immune system is failing and he can't perform any surgery. This means that there's a new Supreme on the horizon, whose magic can only be growing stronger. But who is it?
As you probably suspected, Fiona believes that Madison must be the Supreme-in-Waiting. We get a display of Madison's burgeoning powers when she and Nan go to visit the new neighbors, after the girls see the boy next door (Luke) moving boxes with his shirt off. It's super-adorable (and strangely satisfying) when Luke basically ignores Madison in her full-on streetwalker dress and favors Nan and her cake offering. The power of clairvoyance is definitely useful when picking up strangers, eh Nan? When Luke's religious zealot mother Joan Ramsey (Patti LuPone) barges in on her son talking to the girls, Madison nearly sends a knife through her face, and then leaves a parting gift of flaming curtains. Housewarming is apparently not her specialty. Welcome to the neighborhood, Ramseys! (This subplot requires a major suspension of disbelief. Are we really to believe that a fundamentally religious woman and her ridiculously attractive son would unknowingly move into a house next to a mysterious young girls' school? C'mon, "AHS," this is contrived to the extreme; we know it's a set-up to have epic faceoffs between Fiona and Joan -- of which we got the first tonight.)
Back at Robichaux Academy, Madame LaLaurie has become the maid, assigned by Fiona to dote on everyone, especially Queenie. Consider that some penance! The master has become the slave. Then, right out of left field, The Minotaur shows up at the Academy and tries to break down the door to get at LaLaurie. Queenie inexplicably takes the heat off of LaLaurie, who runs upstairs. And then, when Queenie lures The Minotaur into Delia's greenhouse/sunroom, things just get weird. I'm not totally sure what happens and why, but all I know is Queenie starts masturbating ... which means The Minotaur feels it, right? And she wants him because she apparently identifies with the fact he's called "Beast" ... or something? Last thing we see is him putting his hoof/hand over her mouth, and her screaming. Your guess is as good as mine here.
Over in the D-plot, Zoe visits Misty's place in the bayou, where she's slowly nursed Kyle back to ... some sort of health. He's not speaking, but he seems more cognizant. Misty talks about her "tribe," and how she's been searching for the right people for a long time. She falsely believes it to be Kyle and Zoe, but when Zoe comes and takes Kyle away to "return" him to his mother, that tinge of evil emerges in Misty. It's only a matter of time before she hooks up with the wrong crowd. But for now, she'll just keep twirling to Fleetwood Mac in her shack.
And of course Kyle's mom (Mare Winningham) is sexually abusive and incestuous -- we should have realized that when she ripped open the shower curtain on him -- and he mashes her face in with an athletic trophy when he can't take her gross "love" talk anymore. Thank goodness, because neither could I. Zoe, expecting a lovely family dinner, instead finds a flattened Ms. Spencer on Kyle's bedroom floor. Zoe and Kyle run out, hand-in-hand.
After we finish watching Zoe's Adventures With Kyle, we dart back to the highly enjoyable storyline with Fiona and Madison. The two women are out on the town in New Orleans, getting drunk and manipulating men with their minds. Fiona feeds Madison alcohol all day, and when they get back to the Academy, she's stumbling around and laughing. Fiona whips out the knife she used to stab Annaleigh, and begs Madison to slash her throat, just like she did to her Supreme in 1971. Of course she doesn't do it, but whoops! Fiona "accidentally" slashes Madison's throat. Once again, Spalding sees, and gets to work on getting rid of the body. Part of me thought this wasn't intentional. That is, until I saw Fiona's knowing glance at Spalding. She'll remain Supreme for now, but something tells me Madison won't be dead for long.
On "American Horror Story: Coven," replacements are woefully insufficient. FrankenKyle is not Kyle; Zoe and FrankenKyle are not the right "tribe" for Misty; Fiona's self-imposed rule won't be the same as the real, now-deceased rightful Supreme's rule. Sometimes nothing can substitute for the real thing.
Witch, Please: (every week I'm going to award the witchiest witch of them all) Fiona loses out on a three-peat and is superseded by the rightful next Supreme. Madison whipped a knife at Joan Ramsey, lit curtains on fire, made a man walk into traffic (I think it was her), and was just all-around evil. A shame she's dead (for now), since she grew on me this episode.Other Random Thoughts:
- Delia can't get pregnant, or so the doctors say. Guess that sex circle of fire and blood didn't help in the long run.
- Marie sitting on that throne was possibly the greatest thing I've seen on "AHS: Coven" so far (and playing FreeCell no less!). Forget the Iron Throne on "Game Of Thrones," this is the best. Also love that alligator skull in between the legs of the chair.
- What was with all the bizarre and gross sex this episode? You'd think I'd be used to weird coitus on "AHS" at this point, but at no time am I a fan of watching a mother try to seduce her son (ick!) or a woman spontaneously try to tempt a Minotaur.
- What are the Seven Wonders that a Supreme must master? I really want to know.
- LaLaurie may as well have been a representative of the GOP as she sat there crying at the idea of Obama as president. Sorry, girl, them's the facts!
- LaLaurie: "Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiies." GIF it, please. HERE IT IS!
Follow Chris Jancelewicz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CJancelewicz