Friday, October 25, 2013

American Horror Story, Season 3, Episode 3: The Replacements

Fiona is having a hard time sleeping and makes her way to the drinks cabinet and has a little flashback to 1971 – when she was in New Orleans with the last Supreme. Young Fiona asked the old Supreme how she knew she was Supreme – when she was young the old Supreme manifested several powers, which is apparently not unheard of and doesn’t make you Supreme (you have to master the “7 Wonders” for that).  Young Fiona wants to prove it but the Old Supreme mocks her as a foolish child who isn’t ready.

Young Fiona hits back – when the new Supreme appears the old Supreme fades, she pulls out the old Supreme’s pills for illnesses commonly associated with old age and says how she’s weakening. The old Supreme slaps her and says Fiona will bring the coven to ruin – and young Fiona cuts her throat

The whole scene was watched by their butler – who is still the silent, tongueless butler Spalding now.

Move on to modern Fiona in a club talking about the dance – her long practiced dance of seduction which has now come to an end. She goes to a plastic surgeon and insists on seeing a video of the surgery, crying quietly as she sees what they do to tighten the skin.

Zoe has gone to visit Kyle’s mother, who is deeply grieving for her son. She describes how wonderful Kyle was and how he stepped up to help when his father left. She also tells Zoe how she was ready to commit suicide before she rang – Zoe interrupted her and saved her. Zoe assures her that she will see Kyle again, which his mother ascribes to religious belief not necromancy.

Back at the school, Queenie, Nan and Madison watch the new neighbours moving in next door, including the good looking young man without a shirt; before his mother arrives to lecture him for his lack of modesty.

Inside, Madame LaLaurie is in inconsolable tears at the news that America has a Black president.  Fiona has no sympathy for LaLaurie’s racist tears and is happy to tell her she voted for Obama twice and then list all the other high ranking positions Black people have held; and LaLaurie can now embrace her new role as the new maid. Her outrage does not impress Fiona one tiny iota.

At the dinner table Madison mocks Nan and Queenie for being virgins (to which Nan protests that she isn’t – why assume that and Queenie says she’s “saving herself”, alas it sounds defensive) and the new maid arrives. Queenie recognises her as the woman who hit her with a candlestick – and LaLaurie responds with racial abuse. She throws Queenie’s plate rather than serve her – Queenie stands up to slap her and Fiona arrives. Madison sums it up with “Ms. Aryan sisterhood got between Queenie and her food” (because we had to have a fat joke in there). Fiona makes it clear that “Delphine” (LaLaurie) is to be Queenie’s personal slave and Queenie can ask her to do whatever she wants. Fiona says how much she loathes racists – uh-huh, not the tune you were playing last week Fiona

To the shack in the woods with Misty with her slightly concerning obsession with Stevie Nicks and zombie!Kyle. While she uses Stevie Nicks to make a point about finding your people, Kyle remains still and unresponsive – even when Zoe arrives and Misty opens his shirt to show off how all his incisions – except around the neck – have completely healed. (The neck hasn’t because it was “really deep”, since all the cuts are from limbs being reattached, I think they were “pretty deep” as well).

Zoe wants to take Kyle to see his mother to try and help her grieving – but Misty is upset and possessive. She seems possessive of Kyle and desperate to spend more time with Zoe – she’s tearful when Zoe and Kyle leave. She tries to keep Kyle and stop him leaving – but he lashes out and Zoe leads him out, promising to come back for Misty. Misty doesn’t believe her and starts crying.

Back to the Academy with Madison and Nan visiting their new neighbour. Nan brings a cake, Madison brings very overt, heavy handed interest in the guy’s buns. The guy, Luke, seems far more interested in Nan and her cake than Madison’s not-so-subtle flirting. He also doesn’t recognise Madison despite her being a celebrity – they don’t have TV or internet. His mother, Joan, swoops in to summon Luke to Bible study. Madison, being Madison, calls their beliefs a “crock of shit”. This does not endear her with Joan who takes the cake knife off her – and Madison telekinetically launches it across the room. Joan bans Madison from the house or talking to Luke.

As she leaves she sets the curtains on fire – Nan is astonished, that isn’t Madison’s power – even she didn’t know she could do that.

To Cordelia – it seems her fertility ritual has failed. She goes to speak to her doctor who tells her that her bloodwork is alarming – and shows that she cannot possibly have a baby. Cut this with Fiona talking to her plastic surgeon who says her bloodwork is also alarming – and her immune system is in freefall.

This leaves Fiona rather despondent when she gets home – and gets a visit from Joan her new neighbour. And she’s brought a Bible! She always brings a Bible when visiting someone’s house for the first time (Fiona is WAAAY nicer about this than I would be). Joan is sure that Madison’s scandalous clothing will warp Luke for life and tells Fiona that Madison threw a knife at her head that just missed her! Fiona’s response:

“She has to work on her aim.”

Fiona is far more interested in hearing that Madison lit the curtains on fire – and proves it by having Madison light her cigarette when Joan storms off. She calls Madison to sit and talk. Hmmm.. a second power, looks like Madison may be the next Supreme. Fiona takes Madison out for drinks and waffles and we learn about Madison’s mummy issues, having to work as an actor as a child to support the family and the general awfulness of her drug using/stealing mother. Fiona adds that she was a terrible mother too and regrets it and wishes another chance – someone to mentor and teach. Like Madison – Madison leaps at the chance and Fiona shows her how to make a man walk into traffic.

From there it’s off to play pool, where Fiona notices the many male admirers Madison gets with a slightly sour look on her face. They drink, Madison getting drunker and drunker – and Fiona carefully pouring her drink away

Back to the boring ones: Zoe takes Zombie!Kyle to see his mother. Well she carries his almost comatose body up the steps and props his inert form against his mother’s door, rings the bell then runs away. His mother is shocked and ecstatic and takes him inside – but he looks out at Zoe with something like fear in his eyes.

His mother takes him inside and later that night talks to zombie!Kyle about his concerns. When she burst in on him in the shower (uh…) she noticed his body was completely different (double uh… ) she then gets really close to him in bed (oh… no no no). And she kisses him and no, not in a maternal way. And groping him while Zombie!Kyle sobs. Oh gods no.

Moving rapidly on, Cordelia goes to speak to Marie Leveau (kind of have to love how all these all powerful witches are going to Marie for help – especially after Fiona’s condescension last episode) for a fertility ritual – one that is ornate, involved, with lots of blood sacrifice and drama. Marie plays solitaire for the duration of the conversation, which is truly excellent, and warns that she charges $50,000. Or would – if Cordelia wasn’t Fiona’s daughter; she has no wish to help anyone of Fiona’s bloodline.

Zoe briefly stops by the Academy and is annoyed at Nan reading her mind, Nan snaps back that she doesn’t like hearing people’s thoughts and that it’s noisy; and Zoe gets a call from Kyle’s mother who is concerned that Zombie!Kyle isn’t the same Kyle she knew.

She goes to Kyle’s room where he rocks back and forth in trauma and she monoligues about how possessive she’s been and she never meant things to go along “for so long”. I think the line that gets through is the “I think you needed it as much as me” that brings him to his feet. She adds some more near hysterical confusion about why his body is so different (because she really knows his body – ew ew ew ew ew ew) then presses him to her because “mama knows how to please you” (oh dear gods EW). He grabs a trophy, screams and beats her in the head with it.

Zoe arrives and finds the door open, Kyle’s mother well and truly dead and Kyle himself covered in blood

Elsewhere in the Academy, Queenie is making LaLaurie cook for her and LaLaurie makes a crack about Queenie’s weight – and Queenie hits back that it’s not food that’s her problem, it’s love; using food as a comfort since she’s from a broken home (or so says Dr. Phil) when LaLaurie sees something moving outside. She checks the window and sees… Bastien, the Minotaur.

Madame LaLaurie reveals who she is to Queenie after saying too much about the Minotaur outside – and Queenie remembers her portrait from the LaLaurie museum. She grabs LaLaurie and says she deserves what she gets. LaLaurie begs on her knees for Queenie to help her – Queenie tells her to go hide, but not before cutting her hand and coating a towel in her blood.

Queenie goes out to the Minotaur, leading Bastien with the bloodstained cloth. She leads Bastien to the greenhouse where she says she too has been called a Beast – but that both of them just want love and deserve to be loved. She then starts masturbating asking “don’t you want to love me?”. He strokes her face with his horn (not an innuendo), touches her shoulder – then grabs her.

Back at the Academy, Madison and Fiona return and Fiona remarks on getting a portrait done while young because all of the portraits of powerful witches in the Academy are of old women. Madison doubts she’ll be commemorated and Fiona drops the bomb – she’s the next Supreme. Madison asks how she knows and Fiona says because she’s the old Supreme – and she’s dying. She says Madison is killing her, her powers are growing because she’s draining Fiona’s life. She adds that she has cancer – Madison suggests an oncologist but Fiona refuses. She doesn’t want to die after the debilitating effects of chemotherapy and needing morphine “I led a disreputable life but I did it in style and I’ll die likewise”. She regrets that she came into her gift so young and how she squandered her powers, taking them and pouring them back into herself. She was a shitty Supreme.

It’s scenes like this that remind us what an incredible actor Jessica Lang is.

She talks about the last Supreme, how she was so much better and how she failed her – and how she slit her throat – right where she and Madison are standing. She even still has the dagger she used to do it – and she tries to give it to Madison who refuses it. She tells her to use it, kill her for the sake of the Coven. Madison refuses. Fiona screams at her to do it – as she did it to the last Supreme. Madison screams she can’t – and Fiona “accidentally” slits Madison’s throat. Actually the shock on Fiona’s face suggests she really didn’t intend it, she even briefly tries to stop the blood flow before Madison collapses to the floor.

Spalding appears with a cloth so Fiona can wipe her hands. She tells him to bury her deep “god knows what the shit in her body will do to the lawn” and finishes with another classic line

“This coven doesn’t need a new supreme, it needs a new rug.” Madison’s body has bled on the rug.

The terrible horror of women getting older is writ large in this season of American Horror Story – what with Madame LaLaurie and her evil potion, Fiona’s ongoing obsession with aging and the grasping for Marie Laveau’s immortality. Grasping for immortality is fair enough – power and life ever lasting – but this terror of getting old, this contempt for older women and this ongoing meme that a woman’s life is over once she gets old – and, linked to that – is no longer beautiful is a particularly sexist meme. We rarely see men in the media worrying so about aging – and when they do it has a distinctly different tone: because while Fiona occasionally refers to weakness and lack of energy, her true concern is always at the forefront – her looks. Her appearance. Aging isn’t about health or energy or power or even death – it’s about beauty

And look at Fiona. Quite possibly the most powerful woman in the world with incredible magic, vast wealth and seeming no small amount of intelligence – but it’s her looks that define her?

While these are important issues to look at and challenge, it does need to be challenged. There needs to be a counter message and, no, “old women become evil and unstable in their efforts to look young” isn’t a counter message. Especially since, as much as Fiona feels threatened by the new Supreme, she’s equally jealous of the attention Madison gets from men.

As much as I like moments like LaLaurie’s face being rammed into the changes of the modern world, her whole character is appropriative and unnecessary and used as a vehicle to say terrible things because of who she is. And then we can all be shocked and outraged by her racism which is so blatant – upholding the constant media meme that THIS (the open useage of slurs etc) is racism; this is the racism we see presented as awful, not the, for example, general awful treatment of POC in a show that has run for 3 seasons.

I’d also quite like Queenie to be something other than a target for abuse, over and over again. Fat jokes, racism, fat jokes, racism. Fat jokes, racism, fight with other Black person over fried chicken. Can she appear in one scene without someone commenting on her weight?

Queenie and Bastien… Queenie starts well about seeking love and how they’ve been demonised as beasts when they both seek love – and then, with nary a blink, that changes to her masturbating to the minotaur? What? So we have the sexual Black man who is literally a beast, a monster that Marie keeps chained; and the fat Black woman is so desperate for “love” that she feels herself up to attract a MINOTAUR to have sex with her? The fat Black woman is desperate, needy,  unloveable, unhappy, tortured and reduced to having sex with a minotaur for the sake of any “love” or attention. There are so many tropes about fat women being undesireable, Black women being undesireable AND jezebel-sexual and the whole bestial Black person and beast-like, savage Black sexuality. Was this scene written to hit as many tropes as possible?

I don’t see why Kyle and Zoe’s storyline is needed or adds anything to the plot except more SHOCK HORROR which goes nowhere because it’s American Horror Story and this show loves rape and sexual abuse so much that a mother molesting her own son just feels like the writers got together and brainstormed how they can make rape even more shocking. A parent raping their child – with, of course, a strong inference of child molestation? How much further will this show actually go?