Friday, December 13, 2013

American Horror Story, Season 3, Episode 9: Head

For some reason (and I’ve kind of given up following the whys of this show so I’m just going to run with it) we start in 1991 in some woods on a father son camping trip (awww, never had one of those. Of course, I did threaten my father with multiple stab wounds if he ever tried to drag me more than 10 miles from tarmac). Kid seems about as thrilled as I would be to be dragged out to the woods, but his dad isn’t a total barbarian, he brought coffee. It’s not just a camping trip, it’s a hunting trip – with very shiny bullets. His father goes into the woods and flushes out… a woman who begs the child for her life. His dad screams at his son to “put her down” but the kid hesitates, giving her chance to throw a fire spell at him. The dad leaps in, saving the hunter kid but getting his arm burned in the process before he shoots the witch dead. He growls at his son never to show witches mercy and always to remember what they are

I think we just got a Hank flashback?

At Marie Laveau’s salon, Fiona shows up with Lalaurie’s head in a box. She and Marie talk (Lalaurie’s body in a corner, still moving around and wafting away flies) and Marie asks the question I’ve been wondering – why did Fiona dig up Lalaurie then keep her around? It’s all dismissed even though Marie hits on the real reason – Fiona wanted a bargaining chip. Anyway, Fiona doesn’t want to fix the truce, she wants an alliance. Marie finds that hilarious – Fiona shows her the silver bullets and warns her of witch hunters but Marie calls that “white women’s worry” (especially since she hired the hunter). She notices Fiona’s wig and correctly guesses she has cancer – and concludes that Fiona is too weak to protect her own so is turning to Marie to do it for her. She’s not buying it – and orders Queenie to burn Lalaurie’s head.

Back at the Academy, Cordelia is frustratedly failing to cook while trying to learn how to adapt to being blind and Myrtle just has to be reassured that Cordelia doesn’t really think that she was the one who blinded her (complete with flashback showing how much Myrtle meant to Cordelia) – she asks Cordelia to touch her and use her sight to confirm it but Cordelia refuses – she doesn’t need magic, she knows Myrtle didn’t do it.

In Atlanta, Hank is at the headquarters of the Delphi trust (apparently a big hunter organisation), snarking friendly (honest) to, David, the man who is his dad’s new right hand (his dad is the big boss of the place it seems) when Hank thought he was up for the promotion. Turns out boss-man-dad is Not Pleased with Hank’s plans all falling apart, nor with him hanging around with Marie Laveau. Also, this whole “taking initiative” thing is above Hank’s paygrade – whatever masterplan Hank has, he should be following orders and gathering intelligence – hence the reason he was the man on the inside.

Hank tries to bring up the witch he killed – but that doesn’t earn him any brownie points. He actually booked that hotel room with a Delphi company credit card (Really, Hank? Really) and they had to cover it up, killing a couple of innocents in the process (not including the witch, obviously). He was sloppy and clumsy – and, as David points out, Delphi is also a big business making lotsa money and they need to be afraid of the “liberals in Washington” doing that whole nasty regulation thing. But hey, at least Hank isn’t the only screw up – the Hunters authorised the acid attack on Cordelia to try and make her more dependent on him. Hank is shocked that they disfigured his wife – which is the wrong thing to say, apparently, because he’s forgotten what she is! Hank quickly recites a kind of pledge of hate like a good little soldier. He looks kind of dead eyed and traumatised through it all

And is his dad getting touchy feely there? That’s the problem with this season, I can’t look at a parent touching their child without getting the heebie jeebies.

Back to the Academy and Myrtle is holding a wonderful dinner (with melon balls!) for her two fellow council members who are so very sorry about the whole burning at the stake thing. Myrtle sings Misty’s praises with lots of sly little digs pushed in there. And she’s poisoned their melon balls, as you do, to paralyse them so she can have an epic rant (she won’t kill them until after dessert because it’s key-lime pie and she does like it so) about them plotting against her.

But no, this is not about revenge – it’s about helping Cordelia. Who needs new eyes. And Myrtle has the melon baller. Oh, I did not need to see that.

She gives Cordelia her new eyes, one from each council member, and she can see again. While grateful, Cordelia does rather think Myrtle could have asked her first – and Fiona arrives, shocked that Cordelia can see and that Myrtle has the power and the skill to pull this off. Being burned alive has upped Myrtle’s power. (The rest of the council members bodies have been disposed of in acid). Myrtle and Fiona snark back and forth (Fiona threatening to banish Myrtle to New Jersey). It takes Cordelia stepping in and demanding everyone act like a damn adult so they can face the actual threat to the coven. But there’s a side effect- with her new eyes, Cordelia has lost her visions.

Madison and Zoe go to the hospital to find Nan (while the cameraman loses his ever loving mind. Seriously, are you drunk?) She’s waiting to see Luke but can’t because his mother is standing guard. They go in and Joan instantly flares up, blaming Nan, quoting Bible passages – until Nan proves her clairvoyance by reading Luke’s mind – and allowing her to sing to Luke as he asks her to.

That was a touching scene, time for American Horror Story to ruin it and rejoin – Queenie! Who has saved Lalaurie’s head to become a whacky sitcom! Oh dear gods, why?! At least Queenie has some window dressing on why she won’t kill Lalaurie – she won’t let her leave this earth ignorant of the people she tortured – of Queenie’s people. Which means a film festival: Roots, Mandingo, the Colour Purple, B*A*P*S. Lalaurie sings to try and drown out the sound from the TV

Marie sends a little message to Hank to get a move on killing the white witches. This message involves a voodoo doll and Hank messily rolling around in agony.

Back at the Academy, Cordelia teaches Misty her herblore and continuing to play the team!Fiona card when hank shows up. Hank wants to come back to Cordelia and he feels soooo guilty (he tries to speak to her alone after recognising Misty as another witch he failed to kill). Cordelia isn’t interested in anything Hank has to say – he’s to collect his shit and leave.

When he’s leaving with his stuff he also runs into Fiona who also verbally tears him a new one. Fiona has a new dog – that also sniffs out Kyle, much to Fiona’s surprise. And zombie!Kyle does something to the dog that involves nasty bone snappy sounds (this says all you need to know about TV censorship. We can see eyes removed with a melon baller, Kyle molested by his own mother, but harm to an animal? No way are we having that!)

To the hospital and Joan and Nan are having a wonderful bonding moment, why Nan is just a miracle. Until Luke’s ghost/mind/hallucination tells Nan how god has told him that his dad didn’t die of natural causes. Flashback – his dad wanted a divorce (he was having an affair) so Joan put a load of bees in his car, knowing he was allergic. Joan reacts by kicking Nan out, denying she can possibly be in Luke’s head

She goes back to the Academy with Madison and Zoe holding her and finds Fiona playing cards with Kyle. A fully restored Kyle (behold girls, you may be powerful, but Fiona is still the Supreme). In addition to playing cards, he’s her new guard dog.
Hank loads up his arsenal

Queenie is continuing her attempts to educate Lalaurie. This time making her listen to Black spiritual music about freedom… and to that backdrop Hank bursts into the building shooting people inside. Including Chantal and… Queenie. He holds Marie at gunpoint, she jerks back holding up a hand in horror – and Queenie, managing to drag herself after him, shoots herself in the head, killing Hank with her voodoo doll power.

Upstairs Lalaurie cries over the music and the Bloody Sunday Selma to Montgomery march footage Queenie has left on the TV.

Music still playing, we cut to Hanks’ dad weeping over Hank. And Luke wakes up. The first thing he says is “you murdered dad” to Joan – who promptly tries to smother him with a pillow.

At the Academy, Marie knocks on the door, much to Fiona’s amusement.

What. A white man, breaks into a Black hair salon, killing Black people to the background a Black liberation spiritual music? While Lalaurie has a whole redemption scene and Hank is the one who is grieved over?

There are some scenes where I think they must have been INTENDED to offend.

And with all the people who have come back from the dead on this programme, Queenie had BETTER be getting back up.

It ends with Marie obviously having to bite her tongue and ask Fiona for help.

In some ways it’s a perfect hot mess mid-season finale to an absolute hot mess of a show. Let’s have a look so far:

First of all there’s Queenie – who was a terribly usedcharacter even before this episode. And her constant “whacky friendship” with Lalaurie is just nauseating

Then there’s Marie. While even the most vile of characters have been redeemed and humanised on this show – Fiona, the Axeman even Lalaurie (which is a nasty piece of historical appropriation of an actual atrocity as well), Marie has not. She has been the angry, angry, angry, vengeful, angry, savage, angry, malicious, angry villain who has used, manipulated and lashed out. Complete with sexy minotaur Black man-beast just for more awfulness.

The one vague hope we have is that with them working together Marie will be humanised now. Which will mean she gets to be a character when the white characters find her useful

Frankly with this hot mess it feels almost wrong to criticise anything else. After all, it seems off to complain about standing in dog shit when stood under the arse of an elephant, but still:

Cordelia is blind and gets “the sight woo-woo”. Now she’s cured. And loses her woo-woo – these tropes are so tired a double espresso couldn’t perk them up. Blind person with special sight? Making one of the characters disabled then reversing it because it’s awkward? Check 2!

Then we’ve got older women resorting to greater and greater lengths to pursue their lost youth (presented as some of Lalaurie’s motives for her general evil, as well as Fiona’s) because OLD WOMAN = HORROR. A whole lot of rape and some molested children because we’re just grasping for shock value now

And the whole season itself has been ridiculously unfocused and lost. We’ve never been given a good reason for Lalaurie being kept around since her very presence fed so much of the conflict – it felt clumsy. And while elements of her character were funny – just using this person as comic relief is nauseating. Zombie!Kyle – pointless storyline. The religious folk next door – pointless storyline. The Axeman – pointless storyline. None of these added anything of real value to this show and made the slightly-distracted-but-still-necessary elements of the story feel more confused and lost.