American Horror Story season finale recap: Me, Myself, and My Mother's Daughter

The Coven welcomes a new Supreme. Not everyone gets out alive.
Ep. 13 | Aired Jan 29, 2014

ASLEEP ON THE JOB Is there any creature more pitiful than poor Misty Day? She wanted only to do good, to bring life back to people and animals killed by the malice of evil men. We met her when she died the first time. She died again in a coffin, buried alive by a girl who was only alive because Misty brought her back to life. And in the finale, she joined her sisters on the journey to the underworld. They made it back. But not Misty, poor Misty Day.

Michele K. Short/FX

The surviving witches looked outside of Miss Robichaux's. There was a line around the block, around more blocks. Witches of all shapes and sizes had made the pilgrimage to New Orleans. They would have to buy another house, more houses. This was the dawn of a new age of witchcraft. A new age needed a new Council. So Queenie and Zoe ascended to the right hand of the Supreme. Yes, everything was going great...

...but there was that strange whisper downstairs. Yes, Fiona survived the Axeman's attack. There hadn't even been an attack. We saw a flashback to last week's Best Shot Ever, revealing that Fiona's whole incredible pre-death monologue had never even happened. She told the Axeman that she had a plan. Disappear to Paris for a few days; let the true Supreme reveal herself; then come back and regain her power. (ASIDE: Everything about this plan invites every possible question about logical inconsistencies, so let's just chalk this up to the Dr. Evil Monologue thing. Because yes, it would've been faster to, like, throw five grenades through the window of Miss Robichaux's at breakfast. END OF ASIDE.) She planted an image of her death inside the Axeman's head, covered him in goat's blood, and strolled out. Delia's heretofore-omniscient Sight didn't see this plan, because because.

Whatever, logic. The sight of Fiona, near-bald and disease-ravaged, hit like a depth charge. This is what Fiona has been afraid of all season: her own death, the moment at which her body fails her. Delia figured that Fiona's plan got complicated: Isn't it harder to kill your own daughter? "Not really," said Fiona. But this wasn't a showdown, like last season's Paulson/McDermott mother-son chat. This was an opportunity for two people to finally, here at the end, understand each other. "A woman becomes a mother, she can't help but see her mortality in that cherubic little face," said Fiona. "Every time I looked at you, I saw my own death."

Here we are again in the death-metal soap opera. A mother who looks at her daughter and sees only death. And that daughter, caught in an endless loop. "You were the monster in every one of my closets," said Delia. "A lifetime spent either trying to prove myself to you, get close to you, or get away from you." Delia talked about the little girl who was still inside of her; that little girl would die when Fiona died. "Then kill them both right now," said Fiona, brandishing her old knife. You imagine that Fiona, ever the drama queen, was just fine with that ending. Fiona killed her spiritual mother, the previous Supreme, in that very spot with that very knife: She could appreciate the intrinsic Greek-Tragic irony in being killed by her own actual daughter, the next Supreme.

But Delia wouldn't let her mother off the hook. She held her close, and told her to let the terror of death wash over her completely. "You have to do this alone. Feel the fear, and the pain, let it all in, and then let it all go." Fiona died in her arms: The first hug they ever had. Not to keep rambling on about commonalities across the American Horror Story spectrum, but: Asylum ended with one iteration of Sarah Paulson killing her own neglected child; Coven ended with a different iteration of Sarah Paulson, a neglected child, helping her parent achieve peace before death. Was Coven more optimistic? Or is the whole point of American Horror Story that we are trapped forever between our parents and our children?

Fiona woke up in her own personal hell, trapped forever on a farm with the Axeman. He had catfish with him, and the promise of gin rickeys. She slapped him, and he punched her back. "I can't spend eternity here!" she raged. "This place reeks of fish, cat piss -- what is this, knotty pine?" Except this is Jessica Lange we're talking about so "knotty pine" came out like "Nawteee PAAAAAAAHHHHNNNN?" Papa Legba waved g'bye to Fiona, leaving her trapped in terrifying domesticity. (Notably, the Axeman made a point of saying: "I'm in Heaven.")

And so Miss Robichaux's reopened to a new generation of young witches. In Spalding's place now stands Kyle, wearing a tuxedo and looking all in all quite well-adjusted for a reanimated fratboy who killed his handsy mother. Delia gave a speech that you could only read as a ridiculously happy ending: "I know, together, we can do more than survive. It's our time to thrive." There was a minor off-note: One young recruit asked "What's a Supreme?" with a tone of voice that reminded me of Phoebe in All About Eve, one of the best movie characters to ever appear in only the very last scene of her movie.

What's a Supreme? You're looking at her, was the response. And we ended the third season of American Horror Story on Delia's smiling face, looking out at the fresh faces of the new era of witchery.

There was a lot to chew on in this finale, fellow viewers. Certain characters who seemed important weren't, really. (I loved the moment when Kyle sees Spalding, who has been on the show this entire season, and all he could say was: "Who the hell are you?") The finale seemed to retroactively argue that Coven was ultimately the story of Cordelia's ascension, which throws some of her character's earlier struggles into a strange new light. (Remember when she wanted to have a baby?)

But this episode also had moments of beauty that we've come to expect from a Gomez-Rejon joint: That Last Supper homage, the mind-control make-out/strangulation competition. The sudden time-jump practically felt like a last-minute reboot for the show -- you have to wonder if that was at least partially leftover from the spinoff that wasn't. The idea of witches "coming out" is so intriguing that I'm sad we only got a quick look at the post-revelation world. And I'm tempted to say that the show's decision to conclude on a note of triumphant optimism felt a bit off-key. Much of Coven was devoted to a developing suspicion of authority figures; but Delia in the end is a Good Supreme, a Platonic Ideal of leadership who seems not corrupted whatsoever by the absolute power she has received.

Still, maybe that's in keeping with the tone of Coven as a whole. After two seasons of building success, the series took a victory lap; after the bleak grotesquerie of Asylum, the show wanted fashion and fun and theremins and Stevie Nicks playing Stevie Nicks. This was American Horror Story's double album, filled with tangents. (Silent movie homage! Patti LuPone!) What comes after the victory lap? We'll find out in late 2014, when American Horror Story: Jessica Lange's German Accent hits our television. Until then, I'm off to write a FanFic spin-off in which Stevie Nicks forms a jazz-funk collective with Myrtle on the theremin, the Axeman on the saxophone, and the Minotaur on drums. Thanks for taking this beautiful journey with me.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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