Wednesday, January 29, 2014

American Horror Story: Coven

If I live to see the seven wonders,

I'll make a path to the rainbows end,

I'll never live to match the beauty again

If you thought the Coven finale could kick off with something other than Stevie Nicks twirling through the academy belting out her Fleetwood Mac hit "Seven Wonders", you surely do not know Ryan Murphy. As the white witch makes her second (and last) appearance on the show before the opening credits roll, we glimpse each of the remaining witches hoping to be named the next Supreme. Tonight's episode, appropriately titled "The Seven Wonders", is a strong finish to an uneven but always entertaining season. While some stories wrapped up last week (don't expect Kathy Bates or Angela Bassett to pop up tonight) there is still a lot to get through in this finale, and with Douglas Petrie helming the script and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directing, we're certainly in good hands. The reveal of the next Supreme comes not without a price, as some witches fall trying to prove themselves - nor is it simply the end of the story. Murphy & Petrie crafted an ending that should please most fans of the season, tying together what they could and still throwing in a few surprises. Here's your early look at the final chapter of American Horror Story: Coven.

As Zoe, Queenie, Misty and Madison prepare to attempt the seven wonders, each deals differently with the compounding fears and pressures. While at first it seems the tests may take an entire episode to cover, I was surprised at how quickly we began to run through them - and how early the first witch died as a result of failure to achieve a task. Fans of certain characters may be shocked how quickly their bet for Supreme falls out of the race. While the reveal of who is indeed Fiona's successor may not come as a complete surprise, it really is done well. As many characters felt under-used throughout the season, I'm glad to report that in the finale at least a batch of them were able to get proper send-offs with storylines that seemed to come full circle. Cordelia, in particular, was a character I always wished we had gotten more of, and in the after-math of her mother's betrayal and death as well has her quest to find the coven's next leader, Sarah Paulson is really given time to shine tonight.

Still, I can't say I love how many questions are left unanswered or how many quick-fixes are laid down to cover up plot-holes or dropped stories. Spalding is seen ever-so-briefly in the finale, no mention of the baby he is keeping in the attic or what will become of him now that the new Supreme has been named. He literally just shows up to dispose of a body (HINT: it's a witch!). Ditto for Kyle, the man/monster/watchdog/sextoy who finishes out the season how he spent every episode past #3 - completely useless. Yes, technically he moves the plot along at one point tonight, but his story is given pretty much no closure and the stuff with Zoe and Madison continues to unfold aimlessly. Like Misty Day, I wish Kyle had been examined deeper - to me they were two characters with exciting inceptions but poor execution. Still, at least as Misty tries to prove herself as the next Supreme, we have enough background to want to cheer for her. Kyle exists within the universe with no purpose other than to drive Madison to the occasional hissy-fit (she certainly is not lacking in those tonight).

The cast here remains the most exciting part of this series, particularly for those of us who have followed the anthology throughout each of its incarnations. To me, Coven does not even hold a candle to Murder House or Asylum in terms of writing and realization, but the cast is always one of the best and most enjoyable on TV. I will admit to writing Gabourey Sidibe off as a one-trick pony after her Oscar-nominated turn in "Precious", but her work throughout the season - despite never really being put in the spotlight - certainly disproved me. Jessica Lange indeed makes a brief but incredibly memorable appearance in the finale. Does that mean she's alive? Not necessarily. Telling you how it unfolds would take the fun out of it. Rest assured, though - dead or alive, Lange knocks it out of the park. Frances Conroy is also given several great moments as Myrtle Snow, though some may find her wrap-up a tad ridiculous. At least she's given an integral part tonight rather than simple comic relief. Fans of her work should be pleased to see her part escalated beyond the wacky house-guest.

Overall, Coven wraps up just about as well as you could hope it would. There is enough uneasiness, scares and surprises to keep the entire hour moving at a brisk pace and the emotional weight is certainly turned up a notch as the witches near the end of their story. If the previous 12 episodes had followed a more cohesive path, much of tonight's pay-off would have felt even better. Tonight's episode (in certain parts) gets a bit heavy-handed again with the witches-as-minorities metaphor. We've gotten it all along. No need to shove it down our throats now. Asylum always comes to mind as a mini-series that perfectly wrapped up its many arcs without over-explaining it all. "The Seven Wonders" still does an admirable job, especially considering the sometimes rocky path to its finale. I cannot say thank you enough to all the readers who followed my previews all season - thanks for always checking back! Be sure to leave some final thoughts in the comments, let us know what you're excited for, who you THINK the Supreme is, and check back after the episodes airs to let us what you think of the finale.


- The last scene (and some of the lead-up) reminded me a lot of the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" series finale. Particularly the final shot.

- Had the season had a tighter reign on on the stories and characters earlier in the year, these great last few episodes would have been even more brilliant.

- No clue what's coming up next season. I kept my eye open for clues and I've gotnothing. One of the "personal hells" explored tonight takes place in a High School though. Hint?


- Stevie Nicks. Just because.

- The Magic! We finally really see what all of these witches are capable of tonight. From trips to hell to a quicky-off-the-rails game of tag, the witchcraft takes center stage.

- The crowning of the next Supreme. We've waited all season and the reveal should please most fans. The aftermath also allows for a proper full-circle ending to the Coven arc.

- The wrap-up. Aside from a few plotlines which I mostly lost hope for a few weeks back, the important stuff is all given a satisfying ending. There's a character or two that I wish would have made it to the finish, but this is American Horror Story. I'd be more disappointed if no one died.

American Horror Story: Coven airs its final episode, "The Seven Wonders", tonight on FX. Follow me on for continued updates on all my other SpoilerTV work. Enjoy the show!
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