American Horror Story: Boy Parts/The Replacements
I’ve been re-watching American Horror Story recently, and one the things that got me about this show is the balance of crazy shit and genuine storytelling. In one scene, Jessica Lange is gleefully feeding the mashed-up remains of her husband to the dogs; in the next, Evan Peters is committing a harrowing school shooting. Occasionally, AHS strikes this balance perfectly and the show shines. A lot of the time, it doesn’t, but usually it tips over into batshit lunacy and retains some entertainment value at the risk of throwing any semblance of plot out the window.
And that’s how I plan to dissect the two latest episodes of Coven. Take apart each plot thread and examine it for levels of ridiculousness, emotion, style, finesse and scary shit. Because that’s the only way you can come close to looking at this show scientifically and not get distracted by Jessica Lange.
Plot Thread One: Frankincest
Let’s get right into the juicy stuff; Emma Roberts and Taissa Farmiga sneak into the morgue where the victims of episode one’s bus crash are being held and assemble a franken-frat boy from the remains so Zoe can have her boy toy back. That’s all well and good, and (with a brief detour to an inexplicably alive Lily Rabe channeling a hotter Stevie Nicks under their belt), it looks as if Zoe might have a fuck who won’t have an aneurysm every time they get past third base. Then Taissa makes the stunningly stupid decision to bring Kyle back to his mother in the hopes of reviving some of his ebbing humanity. What follows is essentially a panning shot of the truly horrified faces of the audience; Kyle’s mum, realizing his body is not as she remembered it, is revealed to have indulged in a whole lot of incest with her recently-deceased son. Which we are then briefly privy to. Luckily for us, Kyle then resolves the issue by beating his mother to death in a fit of poorly-articulated rage. But that image of his ma going in for a handy? Nope.
STORYTELLING: 5, at a push.
Plot Thread Two: Goings-on at Hogwarts
Pheeeeeoooow, so, a hot new neighbour has moved in next door (his mother played by a bible-bashing Patti LuPone), but seems more interested in Nan (played with incredible competence, wit and style by Jamie Brewer) despite Madison (Emma Roberts-still solid, by the way) practically impregnating him with one, short-skirted quip. Meantime, Kathy Bates is adapting to modern life, haunted by the gruesome deaths of her family and by the fact we have a black president (hot tip for line reading of the decade for Bates’ reactive delivery of “liiiieeeeeees!”). Matters aren’t helped by the fact Jessica’s made her Gabourey Sibide’s “slave” (subtle move for racial equality there, Murphchuck), or the return of the brutal minatour figure that she created in the first episode. Which Queenie then goes on to seduce. Yes, fact fans, we’ve vaulted the boundaries of bestiality and incest in one episode.
Plot Thread Three: Jessica, Demon Sex, misc.
Jessica Lange’s Fiona is still swanning around, winning acting forever, but only one main event directly involves her in this two-parter: she murders a young witch who she believes threatens her place as the supreme. Apart from amusing herself, tormenting Kathy Bates and committing minor misdemeanors, The Replacements begins with a superb speech, courtesy of writer James Wong, in which Lange bemoans her aging and her declining health in the most beautifully clever way. Then she fucks some shit up.
Angela Basset is still killing it, the only woman who can hold a candle to Jessica Lange, as the sinister voodoo witch priestess nonsense. Unfortunatley, she doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with what’s actually going on, aside from poking around Sarah Paulson’s womb in a pointless infertility subplot that grossly wastes the talent of everyone involved (but involved Paulson having sex on what appeared to be a set from The Exorcist). I like her laid-back cool and the sharp writing that defines her character, and at the moment I’m just waiting for the mighty trio (Bates, Bisset, Lange) to come together in what will be an earth-shattering Clash of the Titans.