American Horror Story: The Replacements

Posted on October 24, 2013


Denis O’Hare and Patti LuPone in FX’s American Horror Story: Coven


We’re afraid there were so many fantastic lines in this episode that we’re all going to have to stop what we’re doing and immediately vote on the best. We’ve narrowed the list down to four entries, but it wasn’t easy. Please vote. In Jesus’ name.

  1. “This coven doesn’t need a new supreme. It needs a new rug.”
  2. “He’s so backed up, all I’d have to do is say “panties” and he’d jizz in his jeans.”
  3. “On the day of, bring two ounces of your husband’s baby gravy in a Mason jar.”

Wait. Hold up. We’re suspending the voting. Delphine LaLaurie’s poisonous hiss at the news of a black Poet Laureate was the line of the night, not because of how it was written (obvs) but how it was delivered: with grand relish. We actually clapped, because Kathy Bates is so clearly having the time of her life in this role. Of course, she’s not alone in that regard. Angela Bassett seems to be enjoying the hell out of herself (and should get an Emmy in the category of Bone-Chilling, Innard-Shriveling Laugh of Evil Intent) as well, and we’d bet Patti LuPone has not yet begun to chew scenery. Jessica’s never anything less than delicious, of course. It’s Ryan Murphy playing with all his diva dolls this season and to be perfectly honest, we can’t think of one thing on television we love more right now.

And with this episode, we enter the “shit is really fucked up” phase of an American Horror Story season, when Murphy and Co. reveal to you just how far they’re willing to go this season. Last season, it was all, “Pfft. Satan? How about Satan PLUS aliens PLUS mutated zombie freaks PLUS killer Santa PLUS a serial killer psychiatrist, bitches?” With this episode we got, “Witches? As if. How about witches PLUS immortal infamous racists PLUS Frankenboyfriend PLUS minotaur sex PLUS goat-blood-soaked panties PLUS a boiling jar of jizz PLUS pot smoking molesting mom? Oh, and how about three gruesome murders? How about THAT? Episode THREE, fuckers.”

And yeah, let’s get this out of the way: there’s still an issue with how Ryan Murphy shows depict women; the way he reduces them all down to bitchy caricatures, like drag queens. The main plot arcs all still revolve around women feverishly pursuing beauty, boys, and babies, to the detriment of everyone around them. Silly, vain, dangerous women. This is in direct opposition to the underlying theme of this season, which is specifically about womanhood in a patriarchy and the ways in which subtle power is grasped and wielded by the disenfranchised. If you think about it too much (which we don’t recommend), you come away with an indictment of the concept of women with power (How much death has resulted from it in just three episodes?) rather than a celebration of its subversiveness. You come away with the idea that the story is telling us that women wielding power will use it to pursue socially and culturally supported ideals of womanhood – beautiful, young, sexually desirable, in love, and maternal  – and they’ll destroy anything in their way to achieve those ideals; killing and mutilating people to hold on to an idea of youth, stitching together a boyfriend out of bodyparts, slaughtering a goat to get a baby.

Like we said: drag queens.

But then again, drag queen witches. As much as we might furrow our brows at the conflicting messages here, we can’t help but enjoy the spectacle of it all. And besides, conflicting messages is what Ryan Murphy’s pretty much all about, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Glee where everyone momentarily stops being utterly horrible to everyone around them to dramatically intone how important it is not to be mean to each other, you know what we mean.  That fundamental contradiction between wanting to be a witty bitch and wanting to say Something Important is pretty much in the DNA of Murphy’s work. You have to accept it going in.

Anyway, enough pointless navel-gazing. Was Madison the new Supreme? That seems too easy. Then again, she’s dead so that does tend to muddy things up a bit. But while the story seems clearly set up to position Zoe as the new Supreme, and since dead people don’t necessarily stay dead in this story thanks to shawl-wearing, Stevie-spinning swamp witch Misty Day, it looks more and more like the main arc of this story will be the battle over the throne, so to speak. So far, it’s looking like the contenders are Zoe, Misty, and possibly not-dead-for-long Madison.

But won’t it kinda suck if the battle for the Supreme comes down to the three skinny white girls vying for the throne of the skinny aging white woman while the plus-sized black girl and the developmentally disabled girl watch? Or is this all heading toward Nan gaining the title of Supreme in the end? After all, Fiona mentioned she might be the smartest in the coven. And where does Marie Laveau fit into all this? Or Cordelia, for that matter? A lot of major players in and around this coven.

Bottom line: we’re just loving the hell out of it right now, flaws and all. If there’s one image that could sum up the sublime lunacy of this season so far, it’s Marie Laveau, perched on her voodoo throne in the back of her hair salon, an iPad on her knee as she plays solitaire and says things like “baby gravy.”

How can we not love the shit out of that?





[Photo Credit: FX]

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