New Orleans, 1919 and a man types at a typewriter while spookily reading it aloud – a taunting message to the papers in which he describes himself as a demon. He’s the Axeman, an axe murdering serial killer with massively high opinions of his own power – and lots of blood stains on his suit. He will go out and kill people again – but will spare any household that is playing Jazz when he goes prowling
His threat is read at the Academy by the then generation of witches who worry about what to do – many considering how to play jazz or whether records will suffice but one of them protests. They’re witches, they’re powerful and they’re suffragettes and she urges them not to cower and hide.
The Axeman walks down the street hearing jazz loudly playing from every home until he reaches the Academy – from which opera emerges. The door is left open. The word trap is emblazoned in neon lights above the door (not quite but still). Axe in hand, he heads towards the offending soprano. He finds the record playing and a woman dealing a tarot – the death card comes up and he swings his axe. She vanishes and appears behind him and stabs him in the heart with a dagger. Witches come from every corner of the room, each with daggers all stabbing him in a wonderfully dramatic scene – got to admire that visual.
Zoe, doing some random exploring when a series of spooky coincidences lead her to a hidden cupboard. Inside are pictures, a spirit board (oh no, bad idea) and other old artefacts of the school. She takes her find to Nan and Queenie and points to the pictures – the school used to have to sleep girls in bunkbeds it was so full and the numbers declined every year until they are the only three students. Witches are dying out and no-one seems to be doing anything to fix that (Queenie brings up Fiona but Zoe points out she’s less interested in saving witches than burning them) – so they need to stick together and watch each other’s backs. Sealing their commitment with drinking absinthe – though Queenie isn’t so sure how much she needs a couple of white girls to watch her back since she’s been looking after herself for so long.
Then she gets out the spirit board (no no no – 3 girls playing with a spirit board? Nooooo…. Have you not watched just about every horror film ever?!) Queenie has experience and tells them how much of a bad idea it is since it doesn’t just call ghosts it releases them. But she goes along anyway with Zoe’s plan to find Madison – they ask questions and find a ghost, that was murdered – and says they were the ones who murdered them (three guesses as to which ghost they found) He spells out the name Axeman. Queenie kiboshes the whole thing, knocks the glass around and tells Zoe “if survival is so important to you, you need to find out who you’re talking to.”
At least someone has sense here.
Fiona is in hospital getting some heavy duty medication. As she sits she starts hearing the minds of people around her – despite never having the gift before. The noise bothers her but a doctor convinces her to stay – she tells him that her daughter needs her for the first time and that’s why she’s getting treatment – which is apparently aggressive and by the “will I lose my hair” comment, the illness is cancer. Fiona cries and wishes just to meet someone – just to belong to someone and the doctor prattles on about his mum meeting someone on e-harmony. Through her tears Fiona tells the woman opposite her – who is worried about not being alive for her daughter’s wedding – that she’ll make it and to break the bank on an awesome dress for the ceremony
Back at the Academy, research reveals who the Axeman was, what he did and that the witches killed him. Zoe wants to talk to him to find Madison, Queenie thinks releasing the angry spirits of serial killers who may be holding grudges against witches is a very very bad idea. Nan agrees and both refuse – Zoe accuses them of cowardice but, really, in what possible universe is this a good idea.
So of course, she goes and does the ritual herself – promising the ghost release in exchange for Madison’s location. The ghost tells her the attic – Spalding’s little creepy doll room that stinks of rotting flesh – because of Madison’s rotting body. And Spalding drags her.
Back at the Academy, Fiona prepares Cordelia’s room as she comes in with Hank ready to help. Cordelia is now blind after her acid attack and refuses to let her husband or her mother patronise her. She also doesn’t want roses – roses bring in love. She needs strength, chrysanthemums (sounds like she’s being divaish but all of Cordelia’s magic seems to revolve around her garden and potions). Hank touches her and Cordelia has another flash of him cheating on her and demands to know who the woman is; that now she’s blind she can truly see who he is with startling, vibrating clarity. Fiona is pretty happy about this news. Hank tries to blame the drugs but Cordelia kicks them out – and the door opens on its own (could be Fiona, could be Cordelia’s new powers).
Fiona says Cordelia has the Sight – the greatest gift to have and the hardest to live with – but when she tries to help Cordelia with her dress she gets a flash of “auntie” Myrtle burning. Fiona blames Myrtle for Cordelia being blinded and continues to be solicitous as she gives Cordelia some time alone.
Upstairs in the attic, Spalding manages to hold Zoe for all of 5 seconds before Zoe knocks him down with one of his creepy dolls. Nan and Queenie join them and Nan uses her mind reading power to question Spalding after Zoe presses a red hot spatula to his chest. Spalding confesses to killing Madison, to being a necrophiliac (horribly graphically) and that there’s nothing any of them can do to him without exposing the coven; Queenie uses her voodoo-doll power to burn his face until he passes out with pain. Queenie intends to kill him, painfully. Zoe doesn’t buy his confession though – a man who has lived all his life around witches knows how to keep secrets
Over to Misty’s happy little zombie home in the swamp. She’s buried Mytles resurrected body and is using swamp water and mud to heal her. Zombie!Kyle has found his way back to her, stinking, so Musty bathes him – but he reacts badly to her touch while he’s naked in the water, probably because of the abuse he suffered and goes on a rampage breaking things and screaming, even breaking her radio. The radio she clings to that always plays Stevie Nicks – Misty collapses into despairing tears. Zoe arrives to find the whole mess and decides to take them both home – because she needs Misty (what, to resurrect Madison? Having one irrational, violent zombie isn’t enough?)
Zoe takes them home and chains zombie!Kyle up and tells Misty he murdered his mother. She asks Misty what she can do for Madison and she says “I can help you dig a hole”. Madison is too far gone to raise – but Zoe insists. With Zoe’s help (pushing the death out of her – yes it’s ucky, of course it is) they raise her from the dead
Queenie wants to know what Fiona will say but Zoe wants to keep it quiet – and Misty is out of there (after raiding their kitchen for food); she may be looking for her tribe but the Academy isn’t it, it’s full of bad vibes (and, y’know, murders).
And Hank goes to see… Marie Leveau. They’re working together – he blames her for the acid attack which she mocks – she wouldn’t have to leave her room if she wanted to blind Cordelia. Apparently Hank is a witch-hunter, hired by Marie to hunt down all of the Salem descendants – and the woman he slept with and killed? She was a Salem descendent, she had the power of fire. While he’s been using Cordelia’s research he has killed 9 witches. Marie won’t have it – she has an epic rant of how he hasn’t killed enough and all the ways she sees them as having disrespected her this season (including LaLaurie and Bastien) and demands Hank go back and kill everyone.
At the Academy, Nan, Zoe and Queenie ask Madison about the Otherside (black, nothing there) and Cordelia sees… the Axeman. He demands release, the jazzman isn’t happy that he was trapped in a school while all the New Orleans partying happened outside; seems Zoe reneging on her deal has left him stuck betwixt and between.
Cordia screams and struggles, jazz music plays and Zoe & co rush to find a spell to release the Axeman before Cordelia is killed. Using some random new power, Zoe find the right book and the right spell. They cast it – and the Axeman is released and leaves the building
He walks out into the night – and pulls up a bar stool next to Fiona.
For all of American Horror Story’s many many problems, the acting quality is always second to none. Fiona’s scenes were full of emotion and really powerful.
I’m glad to see Queenie as the voice of reason to Zoe’s naïve foolishness. Zoe… this woman deserves to die. Harsh and normally I wouldn’t go that far – but it’s almost offensive that she can do something this mind bogglingly ridiculously stupid and survive it – after being warned repeatedly by Nan and Queenie who thankfully have sense enough not to poke a rabid tiger. Often when people are confronted by the gore and tropes of AHS we hear “it’s an homage to horror stories.” Fine – Horror Story rules – when someone is fool enough to summon the spirit of a revenge driven axe murderer KNOWINGLY then they deserved to be chopped up into teeny tiny pieces. Instead other people suffer and Zoe gets to prove how special and powerful she is?
And is there a reason why Cordelia is running from the Axeman in her underwear?
Hank and Marie seems to be tipping the narrative – from Marie being repeatedly insulted by the Coven (Fiona) and having a damn good reason to go to war over LaLaurie, it now shifts and puts Marie as the long term aggressor. I don’t like this – it turns her from someone with a legitimate beef trying to protect herself and her people to an angry, bitter woman just seeking death and destruction – she’s being turned into an unambiguous villain
And the Axeman was actually a thing and his letter is one he actually wrote.