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American Horror Story: Coven Review: “Head” (Episode 3.09)

December 12, 2013  |  9:59pm
<i>American Horror Story: Coven</i> Review: &#8220;Head&#8221; (Episode 3.09)

For the last eight weeks, American Horror Story has seemed to throw any idea it can come up with into the script with the hope that everything will somehow work out. That’s why Coven had been a mess, especially compared to the series’ past two seasons, each of which at least seemed to have a point. In “Head,” it feels like the writers of AHS have realized that they have only a few weeks left and are desperately trying to scramble out of the mess they’ve created for themselves.

With the latest episode, it’s as if the show is trying to right its wrongs by way of some poorly conceived and sloppily executed ideas. Foremost among them—if there’s something that needs to be fixed, good thing they’ve got magic! Myrtle has always been like a replacement mother to Cordelia ever since she came to the school, and she loves Cordelia so much she proclaims that she’d pluck her own eyes out and give them to her if she could. Well that sounds exactly like something that this show actually could do, making it no surprise when, later, Myrtle invites the members of the witches council that burned her at a stake and pops their eyes out with a melon baller. Cut to Cordelia opening her newly functioning, mismatched eyes, because magic! Now Cordelia can see, though she’s lost the visions she had gained from her blindness.

Also, for some reason, Fiona picks up an attack dog for the house. (Apparently an entire house of witches isn’t going to be as difficult to fight as a single dog.) But Kyle grabs him and kills him almost immediately. Great job “Supreme” Fiona. So instead of bringing the dog back to life—which probably makes this the first living thing on the show to die and stay dead—she decides Kyle should be the house’s guard dog. She fixes him up so he’s not learning how to read and speak again, and how did she do that, you might ask? Because magic!

Maybe the biggest problem with Coven this season is that any corner the show writes itself into can be backed out of with the flick of a wand. It wouldn’t be such a huge issue if it was used sparingly, but it was used twice as big solutions in this episode alone, and I’m not even counting voodoo, or the incredibly unnecessary hospital scenes explaining what happened to Luke’s dad. (Are we truly supposed to care about Luke and his family? There’s hardly been a more useless family in this entire series.)

Speaking of useless characters, “Head” tries to make the witch hunter Hank into an understandable character. He’s been conflicted about the idea of being a hunter ever since he was a child, and his allegiance to taking down witches mostly has to do with appeasing his father and his company of hunters, Delphi in Atlanta. At the very least, the Hank story finally gives us a look at who the larger villain in this series is, because up until now, it’s been completely unclear where the viewers’ sympathies should lie. But the end of Hank’s story and the rivalry between Marie Laveau’s voodoo hair salon provides a second sloppy storytelling mistake this episode.

The shootout that Hank causes at the salon is just a way for the show to get rid of some of the superfluous characters, even if this episode still introduces even more characters from Delphi. Everyone is murdered—even Queenie who uses her voodoo powers to commit suicide for her and Hank—except for Laveau. This leads her to go to the witches’ school and form a pact with Fiona against the larger enemy. Upstairs during the shootout Madame LaLaurie’s disembodied head has been forced to gain an understanding of black culture through Queenie. When watching every episode of Roots and the cinematic classic B.A.P.S. doesn’t turn her into a loving person, the music Queenie’s mother once play for her daughter and segregation tapes do finally turn her into a weeping head. The shootout and LaLaurie’s newfound understanding intersect in a cheesy and ineffective montage that is funnier than it is serious. Also, a spinoff series called “Queenie & the Head” should happen. (You’re welcome FX.)

The biggest problem with the episode is not that it tries to begin wrapping up all of its loose ends—which it desperately needed to do—it’s just that it does so in an incredibly sloppy way, while also focusing far too much on characters who we don’t have no reason to care about. As the show wraps up, I imagine this type of thrown together deus ex machina is going to become not only common but necessary in the mess that they’ve made.

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