As you likely know, Ryan Murphy confirmed on Tuesday that Stevie Nicks — the White Witch herself — will be guest-starring on AHS: Coven later this season. If someone knows a good necromancer in the New York City area, please let me know, because I died twice upon learning this nugget of stunt casting.
But on to last night’s episode, which saw the introduction of an eagerly anticipated character: Danny Huston’s dashing, demented Axeman of New Orleans, who begins by reciting an infamous letter left by his real-life counterpart in 1919. The letter announced to the townspeople that the Axeman would spare any house playing big-band jazz music that particular evening.
Flashback to 1919: The young witches at Miss Robichaux’s academy plan to defy the Axeman’s wishes in honor of their suffrage efforts. When the Axeman — in a Zatarain’s commercial from hell — comes upon the academy later that night, the Renee Fleming version of Norma’s “Casta Diva” is magically playing in 1919. He is met by Lily (Grace Gummer!), the candlelit, Tarot-playing ringleader of the group, who draws the card of Death. (Is this the Lily who was Anna Leigh’s predecessor?) The Axeman goes in for the kill, but he is set upon with knives by the entire coven, in fabulous mimicry of the Grand Guignol scene from Interview With the Vampire.
Zoe has time to put a front-braid in her hair but no time to wonder where FrankenKyle is. While going through Madison’s makeshift hope chest, she spills its contents and, by way of an errant mini-bottle of vodka and the trusty flashlight of her iPhone, comes upon a trap door leading to a stash of old photos and a Ouija board — which everyone refers to solely as a “spirit board.” Don’t they know that half the people in Chinquapin Parish would give their eye teeth to take a whack at Ouija? (This pun’s for you, Steel Magnolias fans.)
Noticing the Salem witches’ dwindling numbers over the decades, Zoe tells Nan and Queenie, over absinthe, that it’s time for them to stick together for the good of the coven. Nan is preoccupied with the fact that Joan Ramsey keeps slamming the door in her face every time she goes to check up on Luke. (Nan, please stop crying for Luke and start crying for Eva Perón. Then maybe we’ll get more Patti LuPone.) Queenie says that it’s foolish to use spirit boards and that they have two stages — “contact and release.” In fact, her grandma used one, and a spirit “burned her house to the ground and took half her face with it.” Queenie’s grandmother — where Left Eye meets Two Face.
They all hold a séance anyway, trying to communicate with Madison but instead summoning the Axeman. He has tons of fan sites dedicated to him, and “he chopped women up because they wouldn’t be his groupies!” Was Chris Brown the original choice for this role?
Nan and Queenie want no part of this. “If this is all the fight we have left at the end of our race, witches deserve to die!” Zoe bravely rebuts. She takes the spirit board into her own hands — its answer of “ATTIC” leading her to everyone’s favorite necrophiliac haven. Once she discovers Madison’s body, she is ineffectually attacked by Spalding, whom she clubs with a porcelain doll.
Zoe and Queenie question Spalding using a metal spatula heated up on his hot plate while Nan tries to read his mind. However, Spalding, after years of loyalty to Fiona, manages to refine his thoughts and provides false answers, vowing that he killed Madison because he needed to feel her “cold, stiff, unyielding mound.” (I … can’t.) Queenie — finally invoking the “Riff Raff” moniker — tries to expedite the interrogation by burning her own face, but Spalding passes out. Zoe, meanwhile, remains unconvinced by his confession.
Still in denial, Fiona tries to leave her chemotherapy treatment to check on Delia, but she is led back to the chair by her exceedingly young doctor. Noticing that she can Sookie-read people’s minds for the first time — and compassionately — Fiona states that she doesn’t want to lose her hair. But more than that, she wants “one more great love affair” in life. “My mom just met somebody on eHarmony, and they went on a cruise to Nova Scotia,” her doctor says. Um, thanks, Doc. I’d rather meet somebody on a WebMD message board and tour a meth lab.
Delia, walking stick in hand, returns to the house with Hank. Fiona has filled her room with roses, but Delia sneers that she needs chrysanthemums for “strength and protection.” Hank tries to help, but his touch triggers another flash for Delia, who lashes out and demands to know who “the redhead” is. “I’d get out while you still can, jughead,” Fiona says, telekinetically opening and closing the door to aid in his exit.
“You’ve been given the sight. It’s the greatest gift to have and the hardest one to live with,” Fiona says. But at Fiona’s touch, Delia, via her newfound Second Sight, learns about “Auntie Myrtle” and her burning at the stake, which raises Fiona’s hackles. “I’ll ask Delphine to come and check on you,” Fiona stalls. Yeah, cuz she’s a real Clara Barton type, that Delphine.
Indeed, Hank is bullshit: hired by Marie Laveau as a professional witch hunter, he has been trying to eradicate the Salem descendants. In three years, he’s eliminated nine — five owing to Delia’s research — one of whom was accidental arsonist Kaylee, whose real purpose for being in the area was to tour the Academy.
Marie Laveau does not believe Hank and says that he is in love with Delia. Then, of Delphine: “When I plant a fat-ass cracker bitch, I expect her to stay planted, not come back up like a damn ragweed.” (Azaelia Banks apparently co-wrote this episode.) Marie, still smarting from Bastien’s death but denying involvement in Delia’s acid attack, threatens Hank, seething, “You bring me their heads — all of them — and then you burn that house to the ground.” My vote for next season’s theme: American Horror Story: The Bachelor.
Post-burning, Auntie Myrtle is being healed by Misty’s swamp water. Finally, FrankenKyle appears, leading Misty to say, “You look like you’ve been rode hard and put up wet.” Just before we all demand official footage of this, we get the most pause-ready scene of the fall TV season, set to “Leather and Lace”: Misty tries to bathe FrankenKyle; FrankenKyle, recalling his mother’s transgressions, wigs out in the nude; and Zoe, seeking Misty’s help with Madison, tries to rescue both her and FrankenKyle. In the midst of this, FrankenKyle pulverizes Misty’s transistor radio. “Get him outta here! He broke Stevie!” Misty screams. I hope that Lindsey Buckingham doesn’t also guest-star or Misty will suffocate him with a pile of mud.
Personally, I am ecstatic for the return of Madison, whom Zoe, after chaining up FrankenKyle, asks Misty to revive. At first, Misty says that it can’t be done — especially since Madison is still missing an arm — but soon enough, with Zoe’s help and after a roach emerges from Madison’s esophagus, the risen starlet comes to, demanding a cigarette. The girls inform her that she died. When Madison tries to remember the last thing that happened to her, all she can remember is red — not knowing that it is the red of Fiona’s murder dress. She also states that there was nothing on the Other Side — “only black, forever.”
Zoe insists that they all keep Madison a secret from Fiona, and then Misty, shirking responsibility for FrankenKyle and putting 5,000 carbs’ worth of bagels in her bag, states that this isn’t the tribe for which she’s searching, that “there’s something foul in this house.” Could she be headed to Marie Laveau’s? Or, like the rest of us, is she just holding out for Stevie?
Summoned by Zoe’s séance, the Axeman is still “betwixt” worlds, confined to the room in which he died — Delia’s room. He terrorizes her until Zoe, using powers unknown, locates a spell book, joins hands with the other girls, speaks Latin, and inadvertently releases the Axeman. He casually leaves the house, then heads straight for his favorite bar.
Which happens to be Fiona’s favorite bar. The Axeman sidles up to her and says, “Well, hello, pretty lady. What you drinking?” The look of delight, flattery, self-doubt, and passion on Fiona’s face — just after a clump of her hair falls out — is as good as anything that Jessica Lange has done this season.
But, oh! Isn’t Fiona too good for the Axeman? Or are they just bad enough for each other? Does anyone else think that Danny Huston is a dead ringer for Anthony Bourdain in this role? And how do we think Stevie Nicks’s cameo will happen? Speculate away, but excuse me — I really need a Canada Dry for my stomach.