The opening moments of “Burn, Witch. Burn!” are a perfect metaphor for American Horror Story as a whole. The show flies back to All Hallow’s Eve, 1833, at a party being thrown by Kathy Bates’ Madame LaLaurie. She takes one of her daughter’s suitors into what she calls her “Chamber of Horrors.” We’ve all seen the haunted houses where guests are asked to feel but not look at bowls filled with peeled grapes and spaghetti, leading them to believe that they’re touching eyeballs and intestines. But for LaLaurie, her chamber of horrors is just that, filled with eyeballs and intestines seemingly taken just for the occasion to freak some of her guests out.
American Horror Story works in a similar way. We think we know exactly what is being hidden from us, but there’s creator Ryan Murphy laughing in our faces, telling us to guess again as the real horrors are far more insane than originally thought. He’s thrown together some weird props for our enjoyment, but just how they get utilized will either leave us entertained or running away screaming.
So far these different elements aren’t quite coming together just yet, and compared to previous seasons, this seems a bit late. Sure, it’s fun to see how crazy things can get, but if it all doesn’t come together into a cohesive story by the end, it won’t be that effective. Coven reminds me more of American Horror Story’s first season rather than the much stronger second, Asylum. That’s because Coven hasn’t quite defined the rules of this universe in a fulfilling way—much like the first season—and just doesn’t seem as focused as Asylum was.
It does seem like Coven is setting up for an all-out witches’ war, since everyone but the witches at Professor Xavier’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry—or whatever it’s called—is for the most part against the reigning Supreme Fiona Goode. The school is exactly where we left it, being attacked by a group of super-strong zombie-like creatures that include LaLaurie’s daughters, led by Marie Laveau.
Even LaLaurie’s daughters despised her before they became undead, as LaLaurie trapped them in her horror chamber for planning to rise against her and her actions that led them to remain unmarried. It’s hard to find a good guy that will be cool with his mother-in-law tricking him into touching a huge bowl full of slave eyes.
Considering that the house is filled with witches, they all seem pretty ill-prepared to take on the hordes that surround them. That is until Zoe goes Ash on them and chainsaws the crap out of them.
But none of this really matters yet, especially considering what’s going on at the hospital with Fiona and Cordelia, who we last saw getting her face splashed with acid by a hooded person. Now Cordelia is blind and Fiona is mulling around the hospital taking pills and drinking. She finds a lady who gave birth to a stillborn child that apparently the doctors decided they should just leave in the same room with her. Fiona makes the lady pick up her dead child and say that she’ll be her mother until the child dies—and just like that—Fiona brings the formerly blue baby back to life. In hindsight, the scene doesn’t really make any sense, other than to show Fiona’s frustrations towards her relationship between her and Cordelia, but it’s a nice acting scene for Jessica Lange’s Emmy reel.
When Fiona returns to the house, she finds that The Council is taking over for her, since she’s basically screwing everything up. It’s then when she explains that she saw the face of the person who burned her daughter and it’s The Council’s Myrtle Snow, leaving the sentence to BURN THE WITCH! But continuing the theme of nothing being quite as it seems, Queenie goes to Fiona saying that she doesn’t feel right about framing Snow, now that she’s nothing more than a burnt carcass in the desert.
But dead isn’t truly dead on American Horror Story, as Misty Day returns, finding the corpse of Snow, which awakens despite being covered in horrible burns. Yet poor Madison still remains dead and now smelling in Spalding’s creepy little doll-house existence, now without an arm, since he must play with his toys a bit too hard.
As of right now, Coven is continually building and building the wackiness of what can happen in this universe, but there doesn’t seem to be any clear direction it’s trying to head toward. Maybe in the end it’ll all make sense, but right now it just seems like we’re entering the Chamber of Horrors to look at all the cool tricks that Ryan Murphy has up his sleeve without much of a purpose other than to shock, even if it is still amusing.