American Horror Story: Coven has a problem with dialogue. There are just too many clichés. This week’s opening includes an ever-ripe chestnut: Queenie telling Zoe and Madison, as they try to bring her back to the coven, “War is coming. And you’re going to lose.” War (or a storm, as it’s referenced later) coming may be bad writing, but it’s an accurate assessment of what’s happening among New Orleans’ witches. A war is coming, people are choosing sides, battle lines are being demarcated, and everyone is aiming at each other.
The most common element in the conflicts is Fiona. One of Fiona’s major battles this episode isn’t with a character; rather, it’s with cancer. Her cancer—of the spine, we learn—has advanced rapidly and her time is running out. Fiona fantasizes about what her future holds: hair loss, wasting away, being abandoned by the Axeman (whom she’s still seeing), dying alone. She may surrender—“I’m scared of living like this, with the constant pain and ugliness,” she tells the Axeman. It’s either suicide, or finding the latent supreme whose presence, she reminds us, is causing her illness.
The other conflict Fiona must navigate is with her coven, led by her daughter Cordelia. At the end of the last episode, Cordelia enlisted Zoe, Madison, and Nan in a plan to kill Fiona. When Misty brings Myrtle Snow back to life, and the pair show up at Miss Robichaux’s, the anti-Fiona force is fully marshaled. The new Supreme—who Myrtle assures us is Misty, due to her success as a resurrectionist—can only ascend when the old one is dead, so the group undertakes The Sacred Taking. This ritual involves the Supreme killing herself to allow the new Supreme to rise. The crew rightly assumes that Fiona won’t go gently and therefore conspires to play on her cancer fears to convince her to kill herself.
The coven’s regicide fails, thanks to the ghost of Spalding, but this failure doesn’t splinter the combatants. Instead, the scheming, backstabbing behavior unites Fiona and Cordelia as mother and daughter. “What you and your girls demonstrated last night was real grit. I finally have hope for the future of this coven. And you, my dear, I’m so proud of you. You really are my daughter,” says Fiona, bringing a flush of emotion from Cordelia. They’re bonded, allied, like never before—which is good, given the other forces arrayed against them.
The most notable of these forces is Marie Laveau, who has tempted Queenie into her coven and plans to use spells to increase Queenie’s powers, which will no doubt result in some violence. Speaking of Laveau and violence, this episode also finds a man in a hoodie with a silver-bullet-loaded shotgun stalking the witches. His attempt on Misty’s life drives her to the coven. A later attempt to assassinate Nan results in the death of the uber-Christian neighbor and the possible mortal wounding of her son. The man in the hood is presumably Cordelia’s husband Hank, the witch-hunter working for Laveau. It seems there is no more confusion for him about his mission.
“The Sacred Taking” featured some wars for control, too. Before her death, the Christian neighbor exerted her, and the Lord’s, control over her son’s body and thoughts (she can’t keep herself away from cliché, though: “I made you, and I can unmake you,” she says to her son). Accusing him of spending too much time with the coven and engaging in unclean activities, she forces him to take an Ajax enema to purify himself inside and out (mothers sexually abusing their sons is a theme, between this and Kyle’s incestuous mother). The other major struggle must have been for show creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck, who managed to wait until the 8th episode to use “Season of the Witch” as music.
Towards the end of the episode, the most dangerous conflict of all is alluded to. Since the climactic threesome in the last episode, Zoe and Madison have been sharing Kyle for their mutual pleasure. At the same time, Zoe has been trying to help Kyle learn to speak again so he can have a more normal life. When he is finally able to form sentences, he tells Zoe that he loves her. Madison, overhearing the exchange, is crushed. Could it be that when the war reaches some of its crucial battles, two of the coven’s key witches will find themselves opposed, with Kyle as their disputed territory?