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American Horror Story Coven Recap/Review: "The Replacements"

James Canellos ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff

Any time an episode of American Horror Story opens with a backstory for any of Jessica Lange’s characters, I get excited for a few reasons; Lange’s going to get several very powerful scenes, you get to see where her character is coming from and most importantly something drastic always happens.

Tonight’s episode opens in 1971, as a young Fiona (Riley Voelkel) speaks with her mentor/elder witch Anne-Lee (Tony award winner Christine Ebersole) about being the supreme witch. Fiona soon reveals that she is the next supreme and can feel the powers from Anne-Lee seeping into Fiona’s body. This will happen until Anne-Lee is dead, so instead of waiting Fiona cuts her throat, therefore, harboring all her former mentor’s powers. She does this as the butler, Spalding (Denis O’Hare) stands by and the audience is left to assume that his bad timing is why his tongue was cut out.

Kathy Bates, Jamie Brewer and Gabourey Sidibe in the American Horror Story: Coven episode "The Replacements." Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.
Kathy Bates, Jamie Brewer and Gabourey Sidibe in the American Horror Story: Coven episode “The Replacements.” Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.

Believe it or not this starts out as one of the lighter episodes of AHS. Writer James Wong has so much fun with former slave owner, Madame Delphine  (Kathy Bates) as she tries to deny the changes of the world and being made Queenie’s (Gabourey Sidibe) personal maid. Their bickering goes on until Delphine is encountered by a blast from her past. Previously, Marie (Angela Bassett) sent her now minotaur boyfriend to kill Delphine. Queenie assures Delphine that she’ll take care of him. Queenie calms the minotaur down with some of Delphine’s blood and pities him, knowing that Delphine probably wronged him in the past. Queenie opens up to the minotaur about her need for love as well. She then suggests that they should love each other. As the minotaur caresses Queenie from behind, he suddenly puts his hand over her mouth.

Meanwhile Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) brings the Frankenstein version of Kyle (Evan Peters) home to his mother (Mare Winningham) who at first seems like a broken mother who adored the man her son used to be. However, like everyone on AHS, she’s not what she appears to be.  It’s revealed very quickly that when Kyle was alive his mother would have sexual relations with him very frequently. It was probably one of the grossest scenes in this show just because he is a true gentleman, who has been constantly punished for doing the right thing. He saves Madison (Emma Roberts) from getting raped, she then blows him up. Kyle becomes very responsible after his dad leaves them, and he gets molested by his mother. The Frankenstein version of Kyle wouldn’t stand for it any longer, having soon smashed his mother’s face in with a trophy and thus destroying the face that probably will always be imprinted in his nightmares.

Taissa Farmiga and Mare Winningham in the American Horror Story: Coven episode "The Replacements." Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.
Taissa Farmiga and Mare Winningham in the American Horror Story: Coven episode “The Replacements.” Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.

It’s also revealed, simultaneously, that both Fiona and Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) have received some troubling news from their doctors. Cordelia can’t have children, while Fiona doesn’t have much longer to live. One can’t give life and the other can’t accept the end of her own. That is until Fiona discovers the powers that Madison soon posses. After Madison has a nasty first encounter with her new neighbor Joan (Patti LuPone), it’s revealed that she harnesses more powers than she could have ever imagined. Fiona notices this and is positive that Madison will become the next supreme. Her fears of aging have become more apparent through this episode, Fiona doesn’t just fear looking ugly, she fears being replaced (The title of the episodes is “The Replacements” after all), because she knows that her reign is coming to an end just as Anna-Lee’s did. Fiona begins to mentor Madison, for a brief period of time until the final scene of the episode.

Back in the boarding school, Fiona reveals to Madison the legacy that she will leave behind and the regrets of her choices. It feels like a death bed confessional, which brings her to insist that Madison kill her with the same knife that was used to kill Anna-Lee. Madison refuses and the two struggle over the knife, until it slices through Madison’s neck. As Madison lays on the floor dying, Spalding is in the exact position he was in 42 years earlier, awaiting further instructions as Fiona sits down and says,“This Coven doesn’t need a new Supreme, it needs a new rug.” Only AHS would infuse bestiality and incest in the same episode.

Jessica Lange in the American Horror Story: Coven episode "The Replacements." Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.
Jessica Lange in the American Horror Story: Coven episode “The Replacements.” Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon once again uses wide-angle lenses and sideways cameras to weave together the mirroring plots that strain each character. The way he simultaneously shows Fiona and Cordelia hearing bad news from their doctors is so meticulous and gives a clearer picture to how similar these polar opposites can be. Fiona’s willing to kill a young girl to live, while Cordelia’s willing to mess with black magic to have a baby. They both want forms of life that shouldn’t be tampered with.

Writer James Wong so subtly infuses the pain of two different forms of abuse through Queenie and Kyle. Queenie was called a ‘beast’ by people because she wanted to be loved, making her think that the company of a dangerous minotaur is a good idea. While it’s revealed that Kyle was sexually abused by his mother his whole life, his mother is more of a beast than the minotaur. This makes Kyle all the more tragic. In a world like this, where everyone is evil and selfish it’s a shame the one good guy had to endure this kind of pain. When he first sees his mother he looks afraid, at first you could think it’s because he misses Zoe. But, it’s because he knows what his mother will do to him. This has been an excellent and extremely well crafted episode. It leaves me wanting so much more than was given. For example, they say that Madison is dead but, so was Kyle and Misty (Lily Rabe) so it’s too hard to say for how long and how her resurrection will affect Fiona’s place as Supreme. Let’s hope they keep us guessing until the season’s ending.

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