Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: American Horror Story: Coven "Fearful Pranks Ensue"

Non Spoiler Review:
Fearful Pranks Ensue continues the tradition of fun American Horror Story Halloween episodes, focusing on the outbreak of hostilities between the school and Marie Laveau. Bastian's attack leaves Queenie at death's door, leading Delia and Fiona to search for answers as Maddie's disappearance draws attention from the witch's council.

Fearful Pranks left the Kyle and Misty plots in favor of witch politics. Angela Bassett continues to shine as the focus shifts to her voodoo magic and much of her past in New Orleans. Frances Conroy's Myrtle Snow finally gets to step into the storyline and the mysterious Spalding receives an equal amount of attention.

I really enjoyed this one, and it was full of interesting twists and turns, and some great new character additions. With the series breaking into high gear and on solid legs, the episode concludes with the usual cliffhanger that promises an exciting conclusion.

Spoilers Now!
In 1961 Henry, a black boy attending an integrated school for the first day, is chased on his bicycle by some men. His mother works in Marie's salon, and they later find him lynched, so Marie sets about on a revenge—summoning some zombies to kill—and dismember—the culprits.

Spalding is enjoying a tea party among his vast doll collection when he's interrupted by voices from downstairs. It's Fiona and Maddie's heated discussion in the gallery where he finds Fiona cutting her throat. As he rolls the girl up in the carpet Fiona muses that Maddie would have made a lousy supreme, and it's her duty to stay vital. She confesses she always enjoyed her little talks with Spalding, particularly since he lost his tongue. 

A broken window sends Fiona outside to investigate, and she finds the doors to Cordelia's lab broken and Queenie bloodied on the floor. Behind them Bastian rises. Later, Fiona gets Cordelia and brings her to Queenie's room where she has the wounded girl. Fiona berates her daughter that she allowed one of their girls to be attacked by Marie Laveau, who obviously sent them some dark art voodoo. Delia retorts that it's Fiona's fault for provoking her. Fiona realizes her daughter was searching for a voodoo fertility spell. Fiona went there to show strength and Delia undermined her, she scolds.

Queenie's heart stops, so Fiona uses her magic to breathe life into her. Queenie starts breathing again, but Delia suggests a hospital. Fiona refuses and advises her the council would question her daughter's competence.

Weary, Fiona returns to her room and tells the cowering Delphine to get out of the closet. Delphine admits Queenie saved her, and the monster was Bastian. Fiona already knows that, but suggests she keep it to herself. It won't be coming back. The next day at the salon Marie receives a very large package and finds a severed bull's head (still blinking) inside.

Kyle, covered in blood, finally speaks to Zoe, saying her name. She apologizes for all that's happened to him and goes to make him some food. She notices some rat poison in the cupboard, something she slips into the bowl, but she returns to find Kyle gone.

It's Halloween, and Delphine warns that spirits will be walking the earth. She comments that Fiona looks beautiful as she prepares to go out. Fiona has no use for Delphine's superstitions. She plans to let the world in tonight.

In the back room Marie prepares to exact revenge, but her coworker warns her not to start a war with the Salem witches. In the previous war Marie made peace and sat across from Anna, both women vowing no more bloodshed and outlining their territories. Marie declares the truce over. 

Hank has taken a job out of town (he's a USDA agent), but in reality he's meeting a new girlfriend he met online—Cayley. After they have sex she admits she really likes him and hopes he doesn't break her heart. He takes out a gun and shoots her in the head (!).

Queenie finally wakes up. As Delia goes to get clean towels Delphine thanks her for saving her life. Nan walks in telling them they're here. Delia goes downstairs to find the council—who only assemble under the gravest of circumstances. It's composed of Myrtle Snow, Quentin and Pembrooke. Myrtle wasn't aware of Queenie's assault, a fact Delia inadvertently reveals. Delia then confesses to going over to Marie Laveau's, which is something else the council didn't know. Fiona arrives and tells her daughter to stop talking. 

Myrtle explains they were summoned by Nan because she can't hear Madison anymore and thinks she's dead. The council begins the inquiry into Madison's disappearance, adding that the guilty party will suffer death by fire. Delia testifies first, unsurprised Madison would stay out all night or run off. The council is curious if she was manifesting new powers before her disappearance, and it's Nan who mentions that she set the neighbour's curtains on fire. The council then interrogates Fiona, and Myrtle berates her way of running things. The supreme is more than a figurehead and must be present, and her absence has not gone unnoticed. So Myrtle wants to know why she's back now, adding that Fiona was present was when Anna went missing, as well.

Flashback to 1971 when young Fiona testified to Anna's disappearance. She tells the council she noticed the supreme took a bottle of wine with her, and they conclude it has something to do with her recent truce with Marie Laveau. They reveal that Fiona is the new supreme and she will soon begin the tests of the seven wonders. Young Myrtle is not happy at all to hear that and believes she murdered Anna. 

Myrtle knows when a lie is being told and goes on to cast a spell. At dinner she confides in her friend that Spalding always cleans up Fiona's messes. She's enchanted his tongue so he's incapable of speaking a lie, and he's been called to testify before the council. That night his screams wake the house and Spalding lies writhing on the floor of the bathroom with his tongue cut out.

In the present, Myrtle warns Fiona she will pay for all the crimes she's been committed. No witch has been tried and burned since 1926, but Myrtle is dying to light the next one. She calls Spalding as their final witness. Myrtle tells him justice is near and all he has to do is write the name of the witch who is responsible for cutting out his tongue. Spalding writes Myrtle's name.

In the flashback, Spalding actually overheard Myrtle talk of the enchantment at dinner. He met with Fiona in the bathroom afterwards and tells her he will speak his final words—He has always loved her. Then he cuts out his own tongue in front of her as she screams.

Myrtle is furious, declaring Fiona's gotten away with two murders. Delia interrupts for her mother's defence, telling them they're wrong. Madison wasn't the next supreme. The hallmark of a supreme is glowing health and Madison had a heart murmur she kept secret. Fiona is the supreme for a reason.

Marie closes shop for the night and begins her ritual—summoning more zombies from their graves. At the school trick or treaters come to the door while the girls debate whether Madison is still alive. Though Nan can't hear her in her head, Zoe still wants to look for her, but Fiona told them all to stay inside for the night. Upstairs, Spalding, wearing a nightgown, chooses a dress that he brings to Maddie's dead body. He has her sitting at his table with a teacup. 

Fiona and Delia enjoy a night out at the bar. Delia wants them to ask each other three honest questions. She wants to know why she hates Hank. Her mother tells her he reeks of bullshit. Delia asks if she killed Madison. Fiona says no. Fiona wants to know who Delia thinks is the next supreme, but her daughter knows she's obsessed because she must feel her powers weakening. Later on Delia's drank too much and throws up in the bar bathroom. As she cleans up a hooded figure comes out of the stall and throws acid in her face.

Luke comes to the door to drop off cookies for Nan, wanting to pay her back for the cake. As Delphine answers the door to more trick or treaters, she finds three corpses standing on the porch. She recognizes her dead daughters. Horrified, she shuts the door as a horde of zombies begins to bear down on the house.

The Verdict:
Fearful Pranks Ensue was a fun and lively episode—Who attacked Delia? What the heck is up with Hank? Will the students be able to defend the school from a zombie attack, including Delphine's daughters? And who is the supreme? Add to that the new war (and historical rivalry) between Marie Laveau and the New Orleans witches, and I'm loving where the series is heading.

Kyle's plot line is the weakest for me at the moment, and thankfully we got just enough of that to further it along a bit in favor of expanded insight into Myrtle and Spalding, supplemented by her cohorts Quentin (the first male witch we've seen) and Pembrooke.

The flashbacks remain a highlight of the series, though much of what we saw here didn't hold many surprises. Spalding's doll collection remains a creepy addition, though, and Maddie's ultimate fate provided a satisfying bit of creepiness.

It was also unexpected to see the young maid from the first season making a (brief) appearance. I don't know what to think of Hank yet, because that was truly a weird development. And it appears he's more than just a crazed killer given the weapon he used on her.

As expected, Delphine is beginning to grow on me, especially now that she's demonstrated she can be grateful to Queenie for saving her life. How she will react fighting off her own daughters next week will be interesting, as well as who among them might exhibit the powers of a supreme.

I'm left wondering what kind of power structure the Salem witches operate under—if the supreme is the best of them, how does the council exert any sort of authority over her? It seems they've allowed Fiona to do whatever she liked as long as she didn't interfere in the school. Hopefully it gets fleshed and doesn't become one of those sketchy hierarchies like we've seen in True Blood. But on a final note, it's curious, given from what we saw of Myrtle's history, that she was there to escort Zoe to the school—might she think Zoe is the chosen one?

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