American Horror Story recap: Build a Better Boyfriend

Zoe and Madison pull a Frankenstein, while Delia explores alternative fertility treatments. Plus: Jessica Lange vs. Angela Bassett, Round One.
Ep. 02 | Aired Oct 16, 2013

REQUIEM FOR MISS PITTYPAT National treasure Kathy Bates, shown here mournfully pondering seven different ways she could kill you. Go ahead, make a joke about Harry's Law. She dares you.

Michele K. Short/FX

A couple detectives entered the room. They needed to ask the girls some questions about the fraternity party. (The lead detective was played by Lance E. Nichols, a.k.a. LaDonna's husband on Treme. This doesn't prove my theory that Coven takes place in the same universe as Treme, but it doesn't disprove it either.) In a scene composed entirely of eerie tilted close-ups, the detectives cross-examined the girls. They asked if Madison used any drugs. "She's sober," said Zoe. "Except vodka," agreed Madison.

But Madison wasn't the focus of their interest. They wanted to know what Zoe was doing visiting the Evil Rapist Frat Douche in the hospital -- and why he died the same way as her boyfriend. Zoe freaked out. "They gang-raped her! They got what they deserved! I killed that a--hole using my sex powers! Everyone here is a witch! Most of us are symbolic of something, like feminism or whatever! Please don't send us to jail!" Midway through this sputtering rant, Fiona swanned into the room. "Are you in charge here?" said the lead detective. "I'm Fiona Goode," she said, "I'm in charge everywhere." Except Jessica Lange made it sound like everyway-uh, and I'm pretty sure I heard a guitar twang and a lightning strike after she said that line.

Fiona used some old-fashioned magic. She filled two glasses with water, spat into them, and handed one glass to the lead detective. "Drink it," he said. The guy suddenly had the glassy-eyed look of a Brainworm'd Chekov and drank the water. The other detective tired to fight her off. Fiona threatened to turn his brain into scrambled eggs. Sweat poured off his brow, and blood poured out of his nose, and it looked like one of his eyes was about to explode: Coincidentally, classic symptoms of Watching American Horror Story.

Fiona asked the police to turn over everything they had on Madison and Zoe, and then never speak of them again. But she had some words for her young charges. "I forgave your ham-handed mass-murder business with the bus," said Fiona, waving it off as a classic case of girls-will-be-girls youthful indiscretion. But for Zoe, she had no such sympathy. "When strangers come asking questions, we close ranks," she said. In the subculture of witchdom, the worst crime -- worse than murder -- is going outside of the subculture. (Not for nothing, Fiona also pointed out, "I couldn't toast a piece of bread with the heat they were putting on you.")

Fiona believes in the superiority of the Witch species: "If there's one thing you learn before leaving this place, it's that we -- even the weakest among us -- are better than the best of them." She concluded: "In this whole wide, wicked world, the only thing you have to be afraid of is me." It was simultaneously an attempt to build the girls up and put them in their place. The message was: "You are better than absolutely everyone. Except me."

This emboldened Madison. She took Zoe to the local morgue, where she used skills she learned from a never-filmed cat burglar movie project to break in. Madison wanted to test herself. So she grabbed a Resurrection spell. (ASIDE: Notably, it was in Latin. Our understanding of the witching world's history is already getting complicated; are we meant to understand that witches date all the way back to Ancient Rome? Or does "magic" as a concept date back that far, but "witches" as a subspecies are more recent? Which episode will feature a flashback to Ancient Egypt that reveals that Cleopatra was secretly a witch and was also a transgender vampire, Cleopatra in this case being played by, oh, let's say Kendall Jenner? END OF ASIDE.)

Madison led Zoe into the meat locker, where the fraternity boys from the bus crush were splayed out in pieces. Literally: They opened up one body bag and found the decapitated head of Kyle staring back at them. Madison saw this as an opportunity. "Nice legs over here...a great set of guns...I wonder if he's a show-er or a grower?" She told Zoe that they were going to bring together all the various boy parts and "build the perfect boyfriend." As an icon of male beauty, Hottie Frankenstein is apparently having a moment.

The theme of objectification -- of treating a human being as an object, either as an icon to be worshiped or a debased product to be utilized -- has run throughout American Horror Story. Madison -- an actress, who's been on the far side of the objectification gaze -- sees Kyle as a series of Boy Parts, to be freely exchanged. We cut away to a different sort of objectification, one that harkened back to the very first episode of AHS's premiere season, when Vivien Harmon visited her doctor about certain problems pertaining to her womb. Delia, it turns out, wants to have a bun in the oven. Unfortunately, she's having...difficulties. The doctor recommended in vitro fertilization -- the next-level nuclear option when other fertility attempts have failed.

Delia is frustrated. "I should be able to have a baby, just like any other woman." (Remember: Unlike her mother, Delia craves normalcy.) But Delia's husband wonders why she won't just use magic. "This kind of magic, it's dark," says Delia. "It's about life or death. I don't want to play God." But her husband responded: Aren't the doctors just playing God with their fertility science? (Both of them had that slightly traumatized, desperate tone of people who have been trying to be parents for a long time; people for whom "the baby" has become an abstract concept that defines their whole life.)

At Miss Robichaux's, Fiona tried again with the Madame LaLaurie. LaLaurie had no idea that she had been in the ground for 180 years, and she recalled the tale of her imprisonment. After awaking from her poisoning, she found the black woman who promised her a love potion outside. She was flanked, on all sides, by other African Americans: Maybe I just had James Whale on the mind, but to me, they looked specifically styled to resemble the villagers in old Frankenstein movies, always chasing the monster with torches and angry yells. Their leader informed Madame LaLaurie that she didn't want her dead. No: She wanted her to suffer. She pointed to her family, all hanging from the Madame's house. "Don't think they didn't suffer," she said. "Because they did, greatly." (It's a testament to American Horror Story's running ambiguity that this scene simultaneously played as catharsis -- because the Madame deserved punishment for her horrible crimes -- and a terrible miscarriage of justice -- note that the Madame's family was hung, iconography that conjures up the women of Salem and the terrifying history of lynching African Americans throughout U.S. history.)

"For your sins, Madame LaLaurie, you are damned to live forever," said the leader. "To never reunite with loved ones in the land beyond. To be alone, sealed in your unmarked grave for all eternity, listening to the world go on around you even until that world is no more." Coming from Angela Bassett, this was pure pulp poetry. In the present, Fiona thoughtfully said: "I'm sorry for your loss." Then she bit into a chicken leg. "Wanna bite?"

NEXT: Did we just marry the devil?

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