American Horror Story: Coven Review: “Burn, Witch. Burn!” (Season 3, Episode 5)

american horror story: coven

As the second half of last week’s Halloween episode came to a close, American Horror Story: Coven made one thing clear: the show has never forgotten its roots. As sophisticated as this season seems in comparison to last year’s Asylum, it still knows how to have some gory fun, and all it takes is a chainsaw and a few severed limbs flying at the camera. I wanted to avoid making comparisons to Evil Dead, but after watching Zoe saw a zombie in half vertically, I stopped trying.

What’s most impressive about this episode is the fact that the pure awesomeness of Zoe’s chainsaw counter-attack on the voodoo zombies occurs simultaneously to a touching plot concerning the relationships that the mothers and daughters share. I ran through a gauntlet of various emotions before the episode came to an end, and it was eerie feeling sadness while cheering on a hot girl cutting zombies to bits. Zoe hasn’t exactly been an enthralling character, but it was great seeing her take charge and be useful outside of her powers.

Mother/daughter relationships are explored almost exclusively through Fiona’s feelings of guilt as she sits by Delia’s bedside in the hospital. The acid that was thrown in her face will leave her blind and severely disfigured, even though Delia probably deserves it least. Fiona’s drug-induced stumble through the hospital culminates in a beautiful scene that finds her resurrecting a mourning mother’s stillborn daughter after having her speak to the corpse and promise to always be its mother. As macabre as it is, Lange’s performance sells the emotion, creating a genuinely perfect moment.

Kathy Bates finally gets more than a few seconds in the spotlight this episode, serving as another cautionary tale about how not to treat your children. The introductory flashback shows her imprisoning and torturing her three daughters for conspiring to kill her, and after seeing the zombified trio waiting for her, she spirals into regret, trying to atone for her actions even though I’m pretty sure zombies, much like politicians or Taylor Lautner, don’t have emotions. Still, watching Bates stand face to face with a zombie is oddly satisfying.

That’s not to say that the whole episode is a powerhouse, however. The zombie attack on the school, which ended in the coolest fashion possible, definitely couldn’t maintain an air of danger. At one point, Queenie sends Madame LaLaurie downstairs to grab her a coke. In the middle of a zombie attack. At which point, LaLaurie hears a sound and shouts, “Who’s there?!” It’s probably just some wildlife, right? Queenie gets to try out her voodoo powers (which never cease to amaze me) once again, although since she’s fighting zombies, she doesn’t make much of an impact.

After her chainsaw runs out of juice, Zoe uses a new power that somehow snaps Laveau out of her trance from across town, hinting at yet another candidate for Supreme. I’m glad Zoe finally learned a new trick, though, since it’s hard to solve most problems with sex. See the zombie problem, for example.

Cordelia also seems to be discovering new powers as well. Once her husband (the serial killer/cheater) shows up at the hospital, she awakens at his touch and has visions of his affairs. While that’s all we see this episode, the consequences will hopefully give Delia a chance to stop being so pleasant.