Coven sputters at final episode
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the episodes “Go to Hell” and “The Seven Wonders” of American Horror Story: Coven.
Looking at the track record of FX’s American Horror Story season finales, one expects the finale of the miniseries’ third season to disappoint. The season one finale ended almost like a comedy, while the second season covered several years in two episodes. American Horror Story: Coven’s finale, “The Seven Wonders,” is no exception, concluding what was ultimately a mediocre season.
The third season of the show started off strong with intriguing characters like slave torturer Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) and voodoo queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). Both characters are based on real people who lived in New Orleans during the 1800s, and their feud promised an unprecedented tension for the series. LaLaurie had tortured Laveau’s lover, and in return, Laveau buried LaLaurie alive until she was dug up by Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), the Supreme witch of the coven.
The season faltered when characters began to die only to be brought back to life by swamp witch Misty Day (Lily Rabe), who had the power of resurgence. No death felt final, and there were too many to make any death feel significant.
Co-creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy seemed to turn the season around with the conclusion of LaLaurie and Laveau’s stories in a shared hell in the second-to-last episode, “Go to Hell.” Two other characters seemed to definitively die in dramatic murders in the penultimate episode, and Fiona’s daughter, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), promised for a strong finale with the announcement that the witches of the coven would compete to be the next Supreme.
However, the chaos of “Go to Hell” was replaced by a much quieter finale when the show eschewed a fight to the finish among the potential Supremes. The true Supreme was determined halfway through the episode, and standout witch Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) unnecessarily asked for her own death. The competition also seemed cut short. The witches competed in a 20-minute string of unimpressive tasks, like pulling candles across a table using telekinesis and making the others slap themselves. There were no direct confrontations of power or deadly outbursts.
Despite the lackluster finale, the episode had several fantastic moments, such as when the witches played tag by teleportation, only to end the game with the death of a character. Characters like Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) and Misty Day had satisfying conclusions to their stories, although one of their conclusions may not have been deserved.
Misty Day’s hell was the most striking scene of the episode, in which she repeatedly had to cut through a living frog in a biology classroom. All potential Supremes descended into the depths of hell as part of their competition to see if they could come back to the living.
Madison’s initial refusal to bring a witch back to life, as well as her abuse of Kyle Roberts (Evan Peters) during the mind control task, solidified her bad intentions in a pleasingly terrifying way. The answer to the question, “Who will be the next Supreme?” was even answered with a deserving character, although the reveal was not as dramatic as the creators promised it would be.
Looking back on what was sure to be a five-star season, American Horror Story: Coven failed to deliver a cohesive storyline, with the female leads — witches and mortals alike — attempting to kill each other in one episode before reconciling their differences in the next for apparently no reason. The ability to bring characters back to life took away the fear of death that was consistently present in previous seasons. But despite its downfalls, the season provided viewers with some of the miniseries’s best characters — especially LaLaurie — and reintroduced actresses that starred in the first season but were absent from the second, including Taissa Farmiga and Jamie Brewer.
While the season didn’t offer the thrill of previous seasons, it drew in enough viewers to justify a fourth. Early rumors report that the circus is coming to town.