Image credit: Michele K. Short/FX
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.
The next scene was a showstopper. There are two phrases in the American Horror Story opening credits that never fail to excite me. The first is "Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon," the episode director with the stylish eye who prefers bold wide-angle lenses and pushes the show's hyper-kinetic aesthetic into genuine lunacy. The second is "Written by James Wong," a TV writer whose resume dates back to The X-Files and the great lost '90s curio Space: Above and Beyond. (He also co-wrote and directed Final Destination, helping to invent one of the most tenacious and weirdly fruitful horror concepts of the last couple decades.)
Wong and Gomez-Rejon were both at the top of their game with the next scene, which cut between matching mother-daughter doctor visits. Delia went to her fertility doc to ask about the next step. Her magical methods had failed: It was time to initiate the IVF protocol. Meanwhile, Fiona went in to see her cosmetic surgeon. Neither medical professional had good news. Delia's doc told her she could never have a baby. Fiona's surgeon, meanwhile, said that no one could operate on her, not in her condition: Her immune system was in freefall. We only learned the exact nature of her ailment later in the episode: Fiona has cancer, a death sentence, less than a year to live. What's the point of a getting a new face if it's going straight in the casket?
So perhaps Fiona was not in the best mood to receive visitors. But Joan Ramsay walked on over, all neighborly. She even brought a copy of the Good Book: A gift she always brings, on a first visit. She complained about the girls from the school. Fiona said she despised Bible-Thumpers: "Behind closed doors, you are the biggest perverts of all." Madison echoed that statement, telling Joan: "Your son's so backed up, all I'd have to say is 'panties' and he'd j--- his jeans."
The first episode established a clear ideological divide for this season of Coven: Fiona vs. Delia, the former a proud hedonist and the latter a buttoned-up monogamist. With the addition of the Christians Next Door, it seems like Coven is exploring this idea even more. And neither side appears to be particularly attractive: The Ramsays are scared of their own reflection, while Fiona and Madison are drug-addled egomaniacs. (If there's a positive figure in Coven so far, it's probably Misty, who believes in the importance of family and friendship -- although, notably, she herself is a friendless hermit living in a shack in the woods.)
Joan did tell Fiona something interesting, though: That bit with the fire, the arson that came out of Madison's fingertips. She asked Madison to light her cigarette from across the room...and Madison cast a pyro spell, easy as a flick of her fingers.
Meanwhile, Zoe dropped off the reanimated Kyle back at his house. When his mom hugged him, he flashed a terrified look at Zoe before he was pulled inside.
We soon found out why.
"You're a different person," she told her son, laying down next to him in bed. "Your body."
(No, your brain whispered.)
"Don't worry," she said, "You're still my beautiful boy."
(Nononononono, said your brain, trying to shut your eyelids.)
"Kiss me," she said. (NONONONONONONO, your brain said, attempting now to induce hysterical blindness.)
She licked his scars and moved her hand down his NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Yes, in the hardest blow to the American family unit since the inception of swing-dancing, it turns out that Mrs. Spencer has gone Full Lannister, apparently for a very long time now. This makes Kyle's role in Coven even more tragic. He's been objectified by everyone: By Madison, who thought he was just another frat boy, but also by Zoe, who may have brought him back to life just because she liked him. (Note that she didn't refuse when Madison gave him a way better set of abs.) And objectification is right there in his origin story: His dad walked out, his mom needed a man, and she settled for the easiest alternative and damned her son to a lifetime of terror in the process.
We cut from that scene of motherhood to a scene of attempted motherhood. Delia visited Marie's hair salon. Turns out that Marie has a back room, where she sits lounging on a lavish throne surrounded by skulls and plays Solitaire on her iPad. She explained to Delia what went into the fertility spell, and we saw it happen. Delia would need to bring two ounces of, ahem, her husband's semen. (Marie called it "baby gravy.") Angela Bassett ate the hottest pepper on earth, and painted men and women danced all around her, and a mason jar of boiling semen exploded on the fire, and a live goat's throat was sliced so the blood could dribble all over Sarah Paulson's mid-section. Everything I wrote in that last sentence might sound weird, but in fairness, that's just a typical Friday happy hour in the American Horror Story writers' room.
Marie explained that it would cost $50 thousand, and would be performed at the next new moon. Delia asked her when that would happen. Marie laughed, and informed her she would never perform the ritual: Not for the daughter of her sworn enemy. (She actually said the phrase "sworn enemy." It was awesome.) Delia didn't even know that Fiona had visited Marie. Theory: Will Delia start working as a double agent inside of the Salem Coven? To become a mother, must she kill her mother?
NEXT: Fiona tries her hand at teaching. It doesn't go well, per se.