Friday, December 6, 2013

American Horror Story, Season 3, Episode 9: The Sacred Taking

Queenie is walking through a bad section of town at night, past the homeless and destitute until one man accosts her. Some voodoo powers later and a large stick to the head and he’s unconscious on the floor. And Madison and Zoe arrive to try and talk her back into the coven. Queenie’s not having it, Marie Laveau has opened her eyes and she sees Fiona’s talk about a new Supreme as exactly what it is – manipulation. She then draws a knife and cuts out the heart of the man at his feet – Madison and Zoe are shocked that she “killed an innocent”, though Queenie points out the man has raped 3 schoolgirls, and Marie Laveau needs a dark heart. With the heart in hand, Queenie threatens the others that war is coming between Voodoo and Witchcraft – and the witches will lose.

Fiona, meanwhile, describes in stark, heart-breaking poignancy how she is dying from cancer and the horror she has to endure. Cordelia is less than sympathetic with her wishing that her mother dies before thanksgiving and spares them her awful stuffing – yes, Cordelia’s become edgy since losing her sight. Her comfort is the Axeman, though she doesn’t want him to see her change as the cancer takes her; she has no intention of killing herself though, she intends to stay alive out of spite if nothing else. And the reason why the cancer’s so aggressive is because one of the girls is coming into their power as the next Supreme – and Fiona just needs to find out which.

Next door, we have the super-Christian neighbours (remember them?) With Joan condemning her son Luke for being involved with the evil devil women next door – he needs cleansing! And this cleansing apparently involves a chemical cleaner enema…

Ok… now you’re just trolling, American Horror Story. And how come both the guys on this show have abusive mothers? (Sexually abusive at that – and stripping your son near naked in the tub for colonic irrigation certainly feels like it has a sexual element).

Nan hears his thoughts from the next house and rushes in to Cordelia who has set up a meeting with the three remaining young witches; but Cordelia isn’t interested. She calls losing Queenie her failure – but now she is lost she is officially dead to Cordelia. She wants to return to her ultimate plan of killing Fiona (she’s dying, you can’t be patient?) and getting irritated because no-one’s answering the door. Well you will keep killing off the help.

At the door is Misty, desperate for help – she was trying to hide in her little swamp paradise, but something found her. Flashback: newly living Myrtle wakes up from her muddy grave to warn Misty about a man walking around her shack with a gun – who stepped on her face (Myrtle is delightfully calm about the whole death and rebirth thing. Take note, Kyle and Madison, here’s how you zombie with class). The man bursts into the shack and starts shooting – Myrtle and Misty sneaked out and hid in the swamp. Cordelia arrives to find out who is there – and touches Misty’s hand, instantly seeing everything that she went through. Cordelia welcomes Misty into the house and promises to protect and shelter her – sure but can she bring a friend?

They go to the greenhouse and find Myrtle – she’s back and looking a lot better, all her hair has regrown as well (or, it seems, she has been buying in bulk from North Korea). Cordelia sums up the wretched state of the coven – Cordelia was blinded, Myrtle burned and the Supreme murdered one of the young witches. Not really a happy family, is it? Myrtle is sure they’re entering a new age though – because Misty, able to restore the dead, must be the next Supreme.

Kyle is still stashed upstairs, Zoe is using children’s computer programmes to teach him how to speak again. She and Madison are still sharing him and still snarking at each other. Keeping him amused they can go down to the big ritual the coven has planned – the Ceremony of the Sacred Taking, to allow the ascension of the new Supreme. Madison encourages some snark between the girls about who the next Supreme is but Cordelia steps in – the Supreme isn’t a gift, it’s a burden; no Supreme has had a happy life.

The Ceremony hasn’t been done often, but is apparently a holy sacrifice by the Supreme to ensure the coven’s continuation (we get a story of the Supreme in Salem killing herself in the ritual because she was too ill to make the journey south with the rest of the coven – Myrtle is horrified that they made that long journey with no charcuterie. I quite agree – long journeys without proper pancetta are horrific). Notice the flaw in the plan? Yes that “suicide” part – Cordelia intends to give Fiona a little push.

That push? Well Fiona is upstairs feeling awful and she emerges from her bathroom to find… Madison. It’s quite a shock to see your murder victim walking around, and even worse when she starts sizing up your room and claiming to be the new Supreme because she raised herself from the dead. And then Madison tells Fiona she’s already told everyone that Fiona killed her; giving her a choice – suicide or burning at the stake.

When Madison leaves, Fiona grabs a suitcase – and now it’s Myrtle’s turn (it’s like a Christmas Carol remake with the ghosts of witches you killed horribly!) also claiming to be have been resurrected by Madison. Fiona is choosing option c – run off to a Greek island with the Axeman now she’s finally found someone to love. Myrtle dismisses the idea that the Axeman will stay with her until the end, caring for her, conjuring the image (either magically or just verbally) of him leaving, repelled by her as she dies.

On the stairs the girls wait and Nan storms off when it becomes clear absolutely no-one things Nan could possibly be the new Supreme. She leaves and goes next door (watched by Cordelia’s murderous husband Hank) and opens it with her mind – since when was Nan telekinetic? She goes through the house and finds Luke – bound and gagged in a closet. She tries to sneak him out of the house, they plan to run off together. Joan moves in to try and stop them but Luke stands up to her – and then Joan is shot. They hit the floor as more bullets fly, Luke trying to protect Nan – and Luke takes a bullet.

Myrtle helps Fiona get dressed and prepared for her presumed suicide, with Fiona reminiscing about her regrets but refusing to regret them, asking Myrtle to look after Cordelia (her most terrible failure) and generally acting her socks off. She takes the pills and lays on the bed, posing. Myrtle leaves, after helping herself from the jewellery box.

She left a little too soon – because as soon as she’s goner, the ghost of Spalding appears with an emetic for Fiona and, more importantly, the truth behind the lies the other witches have been selling her. One trip to the bathroom later and Fiona plans to avenge Spalding’s murder – right after she avenges her own.

Across town to Queenie seeing LaLaurie in a cage – bringing her food and feeling awful because they’re not feeding LaLaurie. She asks why Queenie betrayed her and begs to be let out so she can stretch her legs while Queenie looks more and more guilty. She runs off when Marie arrives. Without Queenie present to impress, LaLaurie launches into a racist tirade against Marie and mocks her for not being able to do anything because LaLaurie can’t die – she hopes to be buried again so she can come back 100 years later when there isn’t racial inclusion. Marie Laveau cuts off LaLaurie’s hand – see there’s all kinds of things you can do between “putting someone in a box” and “killing them.”

At the school, everyone’s sat around waiting for Fiona to die and wondering how they’ll know when the next Supreme is born – when Fiona waltzes in and tells them all (it starts with a migraine apparently). Misty’s no fool, she’s got the hell out of there as soon as Fiona makes an appearance.

She’s gone next door – where Nan is leaving with the ambulance carrying a still alive Luke. Fiona follows her; she uses her powers on the police to get a recap of what happened in the house and to ensure they don’t get turfed out. Fiona wants to see Misty use her powers on the dead Joan. While Misty uses her power to bring Joan back to life, outside Cordelia touches one of the bullets and sees that the attack was an assassination attempt against witches.

Zoe rushes to Kyle planning to get her to safety but after fumbling around with the new vocab he’s picking up, he tells her he loves her. Madison overhears and cries.

Fiona and Cordelia have some mother daughter time; Fiona totally won’t try and have Cordelia burned – in fact she’s impressed, damn proud at how good the assassination attempt was! Who’d have thought her daughter would have had it in her! They laugh over how the way to a mother’s heart is through attempting to bump her off – and then talk about the blessed silver bullet Cordelia found: witch hunters. Cordelia confesses that she’s actually glad Fiona’s alive – because they need her and her power to face off the new threat.

And they get a delivery. A box. Inside of which is LaLaurie’s head – still alive

We have some interesting pokes at disability here. Nan is, rightly, angry with her fellows for assuming that she couldn’t possibly be the Supreme (and it’s pretty clear why they assume that). It actually does a good job of exposing their abelism in also showing Nan’s anger – though some reinforcement, perhaps from Cordelia, would also help. Then we have Fiona’s battle with cancer and we have a true sense of the whole pain and endurance of it – though it is definitely a pity narrative with a side-order of just deserts, there’s a stark display there that has a lot of power.

They have no staff in the school any more – then who cooked Fiona her breakfast? Who is doing any of the chores for that matter?

Madame LaLaurie is a pitiable figure – and we’re expected to pity her and she has been humanised immensely. Fiona, with some truly epic acting, is portrayed as truly, gloriously tragic. And then we have Marie Laveau – angry angry angry, vengeful, angry, cruel, angry – did I mention angry? There’s zero attempt to humanise her. And Queenie? No, she’s not joining people who may understand her who she may actually be able to connect to! No, she’s being manipulated by the big bad Marie – and even she is feeling guilty about the treatment of LaLaurie. The contrast is glaring – it really is.

And what the hell is going on with these abusive mothers torturing – sexually – their sons?