Friday, January 31, 2014

American Horror Story, season 3, Episode 13: The Seven Wonders

Why am I watching a Stevie Nicks music video?

Everyone does some magical practice before going to Myrtle’s carefully prepared “last supper.” Cordelia helpfully recaps us all – Fiona failed to identify her successor so everyone has to go through Supreme testing.

Lots of dramatic speeches until the next day and the actual tests. At last!

Telekinesis, moving a candle stick, they all manage – no surprise since we’ve seen them all do it repeatedly and Madison came with the power.

Consilium (mind control), they pair off to control each other – Queenie and Misty both succeeding in controlling the other(smacking and hair pulling), while Madison faces off against Zoe and forces Kyle to kiss her (because she’s classy like that) and lick her shoes before Zoe steps in and makes Kyle kiss her. Madison turns the kiss into strangulation – and Cordelia breaks it up with telekinesis

Since when does Cordelia have that power?

Netherworld descent next – with the real challenge being getting back. Queenie, having experience, returns to her fried chicken hell before quickly returning. Followed by Madison (her hell being playing Liesel on a Network version of the Sound of Music), Zoe, whose hell is breaking up with Kyle (oh please). Misty’s personal hell is being forced to dissect a frog at school. Being forced to kill a living thing (hello, quick reminder of the hunters she killed, to say nothing of the axeman). Bringing it back to life only to kill it again.

Over her body, Cordelia cries and holds Misty, asking her to follow her voice back… the last of the sand in the hourglass pours through, Misty missed the deadline – and she dissolves into dust. Cordelia sobs. She tries to take a moment for Misty but Madison is Madison (Queenie calls her out on her heartlessness) but Zoe also wants to get on with things

Transmutation (teleportation) next – something all three of them handle easily and play a game of tag with it - actually having fun. There should have been more of this. Cordelia teleports around with them (wait, she can do that?) telling them to take it seriously – until Zoe accidentally teleports on top of the spikey railings

They take her body inside – but Queenie cannot bring her back with Vitalum (but she managed with Misty last episode?) Madison has no wish to bring Zoe back – instead killing a fly and then resurrecting it, proving her power. Myrtle protests she won’t deserve to be Supreme – but as Madison pointed out and Fiona proved, “deserve” has nothing to do with it.

Cordelia and Myrtle retire to angst about the fate of the coven and Madison being Supreme – when Myrtle has a sudden inspiration: what about Cordelia? She was powerful, related to the last Supreme but constantly repressed by her – as well as her expressing her powers through her students. She begs Cordelia to perform the Seven Wonders (worth nothing that Cordelia is the only one to demonstrate mastery of Divination. It also goes a long way to explaining Cordelia’s own, subtle, power creep).

So to test Cordelia: Pyrokinesis she lights a candle and a fireplace as well. She makes Queenie dance with Consilium, lifts a piano with Telekinesis (worth noting her demonstrations of power are flashier than theirs). She enters hell – and returns, albeit not quickly. He hell was constantly trying to win Fiona’s approval – and she uses Transmutation to teleport out of their helping hands.

5 wonders down, it’s on to Divination and competing again – treasure hunt, finding objects belonging to past Supremes. Unsurprisingly, Cordelia passes, being a seer and all. Madison acts out when she’s asked to divine. She makes 2 guesses then starts ranting, accusing them of cheating and storming off back to Hollywood, saying she will expose them all to TMZ (because, y’know, a celebrity out of rehab ranting about magic is really going to “expose” witches).

She goes to her room to pack and Kyle grabs her round the throat and forces her down on her bed for letting Zoe die. She sobs and claims she loves him – and he tells her she’s not that good an actress (ouch). He strangles her. (Madison just showed us telekinesis and pyrokinesis – we’ve seen her flip and entire bus over, killing Kyle the first time. Why, in the name of common sense, is he not splattered on the nearest wall and being slow roasted?)

Cordelia goes to the greenhouse and resurrects Zoe. All Seven Wonders have passed.

Madison is dead, Zoe is alive, Cordelia, the new Supreme, faints. Spadling arrives to be creepy over the body and tells Kyle she’ll be easily disposed of since she already started packing: no-one will wonder where she went.

Cordelia wakes up and we’re reminded that the hallmark of a reigning Supreme is glowing, radiant health – her eyes are healed.

Cut to a TV interview where Cordelia is asked about her “cult” and she counters that they’re born as witches with inherent powers, that it’s not a choice: yes she’s revealing witches to the whole world. She wants all witches who have hidden their powers and suppressed them out of fear to reveal themselves – there will always be hate crimes, but not hiding in the shadows means more visibility and protection. She asks any girl who thinks they may be a witch to contact them

Of course they get a gazzilion applicants and files that Cordelia plots them on a map. Myrtle congratulates her and Cordelia plans to put Zoe and Queenie on the council (aren’t there many older witches out there who may be annoyed by this?). And Myrtle is awesome – and she also insists on being executed. Cordelia’s reign cannot be tainted by Myrtle being around, a murderer who killed the last Council. Cordelia objects, but Myrtle insists – her being alive would make Cordelia a hypocrite and she won’t stand for it.

Time for the burning of Myrtle mark 2

After the burning, the Academy is inundated with new witchy candidates and Cordelia tells Queenie and Zoe about being her new Council.

And then Cordelia walks off to find Fiona. Yes, she’s there. Cordelia checks her new improved sight again to see what happened between Fiona and the Axeman. This time Fiona convinces him she’s only going to Paris while Cordelia and the girls do the Seven Wonders so she can see who the new Supreme is: she plants a vision in his head, making him believe he’d killed her. And yes, she sacrificed him quite happily.

Plan changed a little though, Cordelia turns on the light and Fiona has deteriorated dramatically – Cordelia wonders if Fiona hated her because she knew on some level, but Fiona hated Cordelia because having a baby, and seeing that young face, constantly reminded her of her own mortality. Fiona is ready to die and they talk motherhood, childhood and Cordelia’s life seeking Fiona’s approval as well as Cordelia being a much better Supreme – and Fiona wanting Cordelia to kill her and end it. Cordelia treats her with compassion, wisdom and love – with excellent advice – they hug…

And Fiona wakes up in a bed – looking her old self again. It looks and sounds like a rural setting – and the Axeman showing her some catfish which she’s revolted by. He tells her every morning she wakes up, not knowing where she is and then they fight. She staggers for a drink and he makes a crude comment – she slaps him for it and he slaps her back. Across the room, Legba laughs

I guess this is Fiona’s hell. It’s actually not that far from mine.

Back at the academy, Kyle (the new Spalding) opens the door and Cordelia gives the tour to the mass of witch-hopefuls – and her new philosophy for witches; not to survive, but to thrive.

Ok, as a season finale goes, it wasn’t bad, in fact it was kind of satisfactorily happy ending in a rather-too-neat kind of way. Cordelia was probably by far and away the best choice of Supreme, it was a twist but not an entirely unexpected one (I do think Queenie was unfairly robbed, though – because she was quite able to raise the dead Misty last week. But AHS has never let their rules get in the way of the story – see Madison being strangled to death, for example. This is one of the reasons why it’s good AHS changes every season because it’s not SOLID enough to have multiple seasons of the same setting), the nasty Madison got hers after ramping up the nasty, the ultra nice Misty died tragically so it could be all bitter sweet and Queenie (yay) and Blandy (sorry, Zoe) got nice secondary roles which nicely left us content because neither of them would be especially excellent Supremes.

I was wrong about Fiona dying last week. I stand by my point that Fiona’s character was excellently concluded last week and didn’t need more – but Cordelia did. That closure, that last scene to show she had defeated her demons, to show she had moved on, to show she wasn’t just magically powerful but wise, compassionate and strong (similar to Myrtle’s sacrifice as well).

Considering there were no GBLT people this entire season of American Horror Story that “not a choice, don’t hide in the shadows” is one of the most appropriative scenes I’ve seen in a long time.

One of the ways this episode could be so neat and satisfying was because all of the messy had already been taken care of –so let’s look at the season.

First of all, from a pure story standard, I think the season was a bit messy. The storylines weren’t awful – but they were unnecessarily plural and none of them developed to a great degree. We had a conflict between Laveau and the witches of the Academy but no real explanation, history or development – to an extent that we only kinda sorta had one associate of Laveau named. We had odd moments of them snarling at each other – then resolve by the hunters

Speaking of, the Hunters arrive, hang around for, what, 3 episodes? BIG DRAMA happens. Then resolved.

We had the religious family move in next door and do… I’m not even sure what they do. They’re just there. Then there’s zombie Kyle. Or Spalding… well, Spalding entirely. There were too many storylines, some of them could have been cut to make the rest more meaningful.

And then there were things thrown in just for pathetic shock value – Kyle’s molestation by his mother, Madison’s rape, Zoe’s Abstinence-Only-Magic, Luke’s molestation, Sebastian in general, Queenie masturbating to the minotaur. There was no reason for any of this except attempting to shock, like a 6 year old who has just discovered naughty words and wants grandma to gasp and lose her false teeth.

Then there was the isms. The obvious being race: wediscussed Queenie though I am shocked she lived to the end. LaLaurie has been a problem from the beginning which we have mentioned repeatedly in reviews – appropriating the horror of this woman for entertainment and then making her both comic relief (even if “liesssssss” still makes me crack up) and humanising her while making her Queenie’s friend was gross. Sure she got hers which was great to see and helped a lot, but helped a lot doesn’t mean “made it all magically alright.”

And then there was Laveau and the standard Hollywood depiction of evil Voodoo with a bonus crack snorting loa (and I still think they used the wrong loa) who was perhaps the only one of the main characters who wasn’t humanised – Fiona, Cordelia, the 4 students, Lalaurie – all humanised. Laveau is the eternal angry woman.

There was a lot of patching towards the end of the season that made things better… but only better

We also have an underlying theme attached to Fiona and Lalaurie – the uber terror of the aging woman! It was the underlying nature of the season, the foundation on which the whole thing was built

So, A good ending episode on the back of a fairy dubious season with lots of dubious gender and race issues around and even a lot of potential that wasn’t quite realised.