American Horror Story: Coven: “The Axeman Cometh” (Episode 3.06)

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American Horror Story: Coven: “The Axeman Cometh” (Episode 3.06)

If the three seasons of American Horror Story have had any connective tissue it’s the idea of being trapped, whether physically (inside a house full of ghosts, in an actual asylum) or mentally (within a broken marriage, or the idea of going insane). In these first two seasons, there were actual stakes allowing this fear to manifest itself in a way that made sense. If you died in the murder house of the first season, you were trapped there as a ghost for the indeterminable future, if you were accepted in the asylum of season two, there was quite a good chance you would never leave.

In Coven however, these stakes are nowhere to be seen. What should be trapping these characters is the potential for death, yet when death isn’t the last stop – as it hasn’t been for almost every character this season that has died – what stakes remain? “The Axeman Cometh” lowers the stakes to an all time low, and while the show does often rely on the ridiculous, there’s a point where it can be harmful to the story that’s trying to be told.

As the title implies, the first character to return this episode of resurrections is The Axeman, a New Orleans serial killer in 1919 with a penchant for jazz music. He basically becomes Louisiana’s Angel of Death, proclaiming he will pass over any house that is playing jazz, but the fully enrolled coven isn’t having it. When The Axeman comes to make his kill at the school, the school overtakes him, stabbing him. But since this is American Horror Story, death isn’t the end; it’s just the beginning.

Zoe, Queenie and Nan find a spirit board and try to contact the spiritual realm to see what the hell happened to Madison, since if they don’t look for her, it seems like no one will. Zoe promises the Axeman that she will set him free is he tells her where Madison is. He responds “ATTIC,” and Zoe doesn’t keep her end of the deal. This leads Zoe to find the decomposing Madison in doll clothes, while Axeman terrorizes the now-blind-and-gifted-with-second-sight Coredelia until he is set free.

When Madison died earlier this season, it was sort of shocking until it became clear that death means nothing on this show anymore and that of course she would likely be back. Well, here we are. After finding Madison, the witchy trio interrogate Spalding, who lies that he killed her and that he has sophisticated sexual tastes that include necrophilia. Sure, Madison is rotting and her arm has already fallen off, but maybe she can be brought back too!

So Zoe heads to Misty’s Fleetwood Mac-blaring shack, where Kyle’s been mumbling about, and asks her to resurrect the spoiled actress. She’s too far gone, Misty explains, but after a few attempts of literally pushing death out of her, Madison is back to the living, asking for a cigarette. Misty also looks like she’s trying to resurrect the recently burned-at-the-stake Myrtle. For some reason she can’t just push death out of her and has buried Myrtle under some dirt, watering her with swamp water and Myrtle replies with occasional hand gestures.

There are some attempts to get all the crazy working together in one story near the end, though. Turns out Cordelia’s husband is a witch hunter that has been working with Marie Laveau to kill all living witches. (Like that even matters.) Then since Fiona has been moping about—you know with her cancer, blind daughter and loneliness all becoming too much—the episode ends with the hint of her striking up a romance with The Axeman.

It’s hard to criticize American Horror Story for being too ridiculous since that’s where most of the joy of this show comes from. People are expecting rubber men and alien abductions and everything else crazy that can be thrown on the screen. But when all the crazy elements, such as the inability to die, hamper the fun, it can be disappointing. This season sort of reminds me of Heroes, how after awhile it became clear that there weren’t any true stakes and that there was always some way or power to get out of any problem that the writers had written themselves into.

At this point, Coven feels like the writers decided to jump into this season with crazy ideas everywhere, and now they’re trapped into their own ideas, furiously writing themselves out of the odd choices they’ve made. There’s still half a season for these problems to figure themselves out, but right now, there’s too many wacko ideas, too many problems and too many bonkers moves made. It’s hard to see how they can escape the problem they’ve trapped themselves in.

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