American Horror Story recap: Ready for My Close-Up

Mothers behave very, very badly. Plus: Minotaur!
Ep. 03 | Aired Oct 23, 2013

THE GOOD BOOK Patti LuPone made her first appearance as religious neighbor Joan. Denis O'Hare made another appearance as Spalding, who still looks like Iggy Pop in an alternate universe where Iggy Pop was a wedding usher.

Michele K. Short/FX

On a restless night filled with expensive pills washed down with expensive booze, Fiona walked through Miss Robichaux's, carried away by wonderful bad memories. In 1971, Fiona was a beautiful young witch, a southern blonde with a smile on her face and murder in her eyes. Not for her the burning of bras in Jackson Square; you get the sense that the Salem Witches outgrew bra-burning centuries ago. She stayed behind. She had a question for the old headmistress, a kindly elder who looked like the grandmother in a Frank Capra movie. "How did you know that you were the Supreme?" asked Fiona.

The elder laughed it off. It was an old story. She performed the Seven Wonders, the ritual by which a young witch announces herself as the trueborn heir of the Supremacy. (We didn't learn what the Seven Wonders were. Possibly one of them involves killing Shou Lao the Undying. Even the best show could always use a little more dragon.) Young Fiona announced that she was ready to demonstrate her power. The headmistress dismissed her -- grabbing a long cigarette in a long cigarette holder, which is how kindly grandmotherly types kindly tell you to leave them the hell alone.

Young Fiona escalated. She pointed out that the elder witch was getting sick: Diabetes, heart trouble. "As I get stronger, you get weaker," she said. (There is not an infinite supply of magic in the world of Coven's witches. Matter is not created or destroyed.) The aging witch rose in fury. She had seen the future, with Fiona as Supreme and the world of the Salem witches in tatters. She would make it her mission to ensure Fiona never ascended. So then Fiona sliced the old woman's neck open. In the corner, mute, stood Spalding, with much worse hair. He was still standing there, over 40 years later, watching Fiona with impassive humor.

(ASIDE: With three episodes, and still no explanation about his existence, the time has come for a Spalding Theory Speed Round. He's Fiona's Brother. He's Fiona's baby daddy, and Delia was conceived the evening Fiona sliced open her mistress' throat. He's the husband and/or brother of Myrtle Snow, that mysterious Frances Conroy angel-devil who hasn't returned since the premiere. He's the eternal caretaker of Miss Robichaux's, a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining. He's the devil. He's God. He's John from Cincinnati. He's Iron Fist. All of the above. Your opinions welcome. END OF ASIDE.)

Things are trending bad for Fiona Goode. Time was she'd go to the bar and never buy a drink. She explained, "My partners have been princes and starving artists, Greek gods and clowns," which covers all four dudes from Entourage. All of the men thought they were leading the dance, but to Fiona, they were just "primitive, beautiful animals," acting on instinct while she led them by the collar.

The men in Coven are all meat with minor operating brain cells -- one of them is a literal half-animal, and the most active male character is a reanimated hunk of man-meat. But from Fiona's perspective, the men have one check on her power: The ability to choose someone younger. So we saw Fiona commit herself to the butchery of cosmetic surgery, demanding her surgeon show her a video of the procedure. "The human face is not attached to the skull at all," intoned the medical video's narrator that I'm choosing to believe was Troy McClure. Fiona watched the video and shuddered, realizing for perhaps the first time that she was just meat, too.

There's an unsubtle theme running throughout this season of American Horror Story: The idea that "witchcraft," as represented in Coven, is really just a metaphor for acting. Fiona is the aging actress, with a magnificent history written in red and black ink, a historic figure by any reasoning. But that history is also her shame: She wants to be young again, to return to her glory days like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Meanwhile, a new generation of actresses beckon, taking her roles, living the life she used to live. (In this metaphor, Delia is the proverbial child-of-celebrity who just wants to be normal but who keeps getting pulled into the spotlight, slash Ronan Farrow.) That metaphor went Full Motif in episode 3, as Fiona focused her energies on the one young witch who is literally a rising superstar actress.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

NEXT: Mommie Dearest

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