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'American Horror Story: Coven' RECAP - 'The Seven Wonders' [Spoilers]

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Back when Ryan Murphy first made some noise about the possibility of a Coven spin-off, most fans hadn't even seen the first episode yet. Though the idea was soon kaput, it's a lot easier to imagine how that spinoff would've shaped up having seen tonight's finale.

It's probably for the best we don't get to spend any more time with the girls of Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies anyway, because I'm sure they'd eventually have to graduate, move to New York City and we'd all hate the new class.

I'll keep most of my thoughts on this season safely behind the jump for any spoilerphobes, but, suffice to say, tonight's season finale took some unexpected turns (and a few partially expected ones).

Find out the final fate of Fiona and the other witches, AFTER THE JUMP

Since tonight's episode, titled "The Seven Wonders," is sort of like the witch olympics, I guess it only makes sense that it begins with an opening ceremony of sorts. And what better way to kickoff the competition than with a softly-lit Stevie Nicks giving a karaoke video-worthy lip-synch to Fleetwood Mac's classic "Seven Wonders" while the witches prepare?

That nonsense out of the way (bye, Stevie!), Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) convenes the girls for a last supper. Delia makes a toast, Myrtle (Frances Conroy) eats some caviar, everyone seems a little uneasy. A pretty unremarkable scene, save for Delia's gender-swapped Bible quote: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child. But when I became a woman, I put aside childish things." This is the time for these witches to stop being polite, and start being Supreme.

The first task before them is some simple telekinesis. They make with the candle grabby and quickly tick that box on their Seven Wonder to-do list. They all also pass their mind-control exam, though not without a little bruising. Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe)'s and Misty (Lily Rabe)'s injuries are physical, as they compelled one another to hurt themselves. Madison (Emma Roberts) went the psychological route, instead forcing Kyle (Evan Peters) to kiss her in front of Zoe (Taissa Farmiga). Then Zoe kisses Kyle in front of Madison, so Madison makes Kyle strangle Zoe. What happened to when girls would just write nasty things in their slam books about each other?

Two Wonders down, it's time to go to hell. The girls all assume the position, (never attempt to go to hell without properly stretching first), but, as Myrtle reminds them, it's the getting back that's tough. Queenie is the first back from her chicken shack of eternal damnation. Madison returns and hilariously describes her nightmare fate as being forever Liesl in a live, televised musical production of The Sound of Music. Then there's Zoe, whose hell is just getting dumped over and over? Most of us just call that high school. Good gosh, girl, even in your lame afterlife, you're just boy-crazy.

The only witch that doesn't make their way back is Misty. She's trapped forever dissecting and resurrecting a frog for a science class over and over. Every time she reanimates her specimen, the teacher punishes her by making her kill it over again. Once Misty is stuck in hell, her body disintegrates and she's gone for good. Poor Misty. I like to think that she somehow won't be stuck there forever, and she'll find that Stevie Nicks' Fajita Roundup in the sky.

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One witch down, Queenie, Zoe and Madison engage in a little transmutation tag. They're BAMF!-ing all over the yard, just having a great time, totally forgetting the life-or-death competition they're presently engaged in, the fact Misty just died in front of them or that one of them just used mind control to have another's boyfriend strangle her. But, whatever, fun! Tag! Yay! Frolic!

It's all fun and games until someone transmutates themselves onto a very pointy spike atop the gate, and this time that honor goes to Zoe, which is surprising since the gate has almost nothing to do with Kyle, and, therefore, doesn't belong in a Zoe story. She's dead now. I, for one, am not sad.

Inside, Myrtle and Cordelia want to take this opportunity for Queenie and Madison to try their hand at bringing Zoe back from the dead. (I mean, since she's already there and all... ) Queenie can't pull it off (even though she just did this last week with Misty, but FINE. SURE.). Madison could bring her back, except for the fact she doesn't want to (which I completely support). She smushes and then unsmushes a fly instead, proving her power, but failing to show the morality needed to be Supreme. (Now there's a new rule … I'd like to see a complete job description for this Supreme gig.)

Madison's also not thrilled about the changing criteria. Clearly she's the Supreme, and she is not going to waste any more time having to prove it. They should just crown her right now.

Unfortunately, technically, this still leaves the Supreme position very much open. Cordelia is lamenting the lack of suitable candidates when Myrtle states the obvious: Cordelia could be the Supreme! She blows through the first few Wonders. When it's time to test divination -- a power that apparently involves using pebbles to find information (in this case it's about locating trinkets belonging to old Supremes) -- Madison is sufficiently concerned enough to re-engage in the contest. The only problem is that Madison can't seem to perform divination, therefore she must not be the Supreme.

Not surprisingly, this doesn't sit well with Madison. She stomps out of there, vowing to go back to Hollywood and tell everyone about this little school. Once she's upstairs, she's confronted by Kyle, who is more than a little upset that Madison wouldn't bring back his dead girlfriend. Madison tries to tell him that she loves him, but it's no use. He strangles her to death. Bye, Madison!

That's not even her last indignity. Spaulding (Denis O'Hare) appears to claim the body and make Madison his doll once more. Yuck.

Cordelia completes her Seven Wonders (bringing back Zoe -- ugh -- in the process), and then, poof! She's the Supreme. Her eyes grow back, her garden sparkles, it's all coming together for her.

And her first executive order? Publicly outing the coven. That's right, Miss Robichaux's is accepting new students. Come one, come all. 

There's just a little housekeeping to be done first before it's time for the new witch order. Remember when Myrtle eye-scooped and chop-chopped the Council? Well, she's supposed to pay for that crime, and we all know what that punishment looks like. She tells Cordelia she has to burn for what she did. So, Myrtle goes up in smoke, again, but this time for good. No word on who gets her theremin. Bye, Myrtle!

One legacy witch down, and still one to go. As most people saw coming, Fiona (Jessica Lange) faked her death by placing false memories in the Axeman (Danny Huston). Little good it did her, since now she's bald and practically dead anyway. Cordelia first thinks she's there to kill the new Supreme, but the two have (yet another) heart-to-heart. Cordelia always reminded Fiona of her own mortality, while Fiona was "the monster in every one of [Cordelia's] closets." Instead of killing her mother, Cordelia tells her she needs to feel this alone and let go. And, just like that, Fiona goes limp. (Bye, Fiona!)

Of course, we need to get a look at Fiona's hell. She wakes up in a farm house with the Axeman, the domesticated life he dreamed and she dreaded. This is his heaven (which makes so little sense that he would earn heaven while Misty's stuck in hell), but it's Fiona's punishment. She wakes up each day to realize she's there, and then she's cursed to fight with the Axeman and crow forever about "KNOTTY PINE!" in that way only Jessica Lange can.

AHS_0105Which leaves Cordelia running the school as the new Supreme, with Queenie and Zoe as her new council. The season ends on Cordelia smiling on the brightly-lit staircase as she overlooks the sea of new witches joining the academy and ensuring the coven's survival.

So I guess that's as happy of an ending as we'd get from this show, right? Cordelia finally realizes her strength, Queenie is respected and Zoe gets to live with Kyle #4ever #inlove #soblessed, or whatever. In the end, Cordelia was the best Supreme choice for the story (though not the most exciting). A Fiona (or Myrtle!) twist would have been fun, but when you think about the season's journey, Cordelia assuming her mother's title after spending her whole life convinced she was a disappointment is a pretty satisfying way to end things.

Overall, AHS's haphazard storytelling continues to be a major stumbling block for viewers, but it's also part of its charm at this point. The anthology format keeps the show from causing too much damage for too long, but there are still plenty of threads that, once the season ends, never really fulfill a necessary space in the story. (Oh how I wish they'd made better use of Patti LuPone… )

I was much more frustrated by this last season, where aliens and Anne Frank were tossed in there alongside corrupt religious leaders, mutants and serial killers. (Oh, and Santa.) But I think Coven's tone lent itself so much more easily to this kind of madcap pacing. By really polishing the style and layering in so much humor, it was easier to bounce between narratives because they were all so entertaining. Last season's dreary Asylum always felt like such a slog (except, notably, "The Name Game" sequence, which seems like it would be right at home in Coven). 

I also think this season's cast was a huge contributor to its success. Yes, Jessica Lange is incredible, but it was genius casting to get Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates in the mix. They're the only ones thus far who have been able to match Lange's bigness in this series, and they've done tremendous good in elevating the scenes Lange isn't in. They've proven themselves hungry, and there's plenty of scenery to go around.

You also can't underestimate Sarah Paulson's intensity or Lily Rabe's charm. Rabe especially, in my opinion, has successfully played the widest range of characters on the series so far. I can't wait to see what she shows us next season.

I'd be happy to have a break from Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters, but I think Tumblr would honestly cease to exist without them. Young viewers are obsessed with the pair, so it would probably be unwise to cut them (or even separate them) next season. I just hope they give them something a little more interesting to do.

This season's biggest revelation? Emma Roberts. She delivered some of the best lines, wore some of the best outfits and always sold everything she did 100 percent. I don't want to speculate that maybe spoiled, Hollywood rich girl isn't a stretch for the young starlet, but she played Madison with such a keen awareness that she had to have been in on the joke.

Roberts, Lange, Bassett and Bates pushed this season safely into the "loved it" category for me. It certainly wasn't perfectly crafted television, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. 

Now that Coven's done, what did you think of the season? Were you surprised by the finale?

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Comments

  1. This is an awful show, period. Lots of posing and awful writing.

    Posted by: brian | Jan 30, 2014 8:59:02 AM


  2. I loved that opening with Stevie Nicks. I thought it was great.

    Posted by: Phoenix Justice | Jan 30, 2014 9:15:46 AM


  3. Brian, cranky much? It's television. It was worth seeing Jessica Lange, Bassett and Bates chew scenery like nobody's business. Pure escapism; lighten up.

    Posted by: JC | Jan 30, 2014 9:19:58 AM


  4. Riding the cotton pony, Brian?

    Posted by: Ronny | Jan 30, 2014 9:31:31 AM


  5. This season was campy/bitchy fun. But that's all it was. The writing and characterization was beyond abysmal. The plot was all over the place, no consistency in terms of story or character, storyarchs were brought up for no reason but to fill space and then dropped just as quickly. The show didn't even come close to following the rules and mythology it created.

    I mainly watched for the acting, but there were some episodes where even that couldn't save it... last night's finale being one of them. Such a letdown.

    Posted by: yomama@hotmail.com | Jan 30, 2014 9:37:46 AM


  6. I agree 100% - with all it's flaws, it's still the funnest hour of TV out there.

    Posted by: Joe M | Jan 30, 2014 9:50:53 AM


  7. It wasn't the exhilarating wild ride of ASYLUM ("dreary"? no way!), but it was consistently entertaining. Can anyone explain how Kyle would be able to overpower and slowly strangle Madison when she has the power to not only transmutate out of the room but also get into Kyle's head to make him do whatever she wanted him to? It would have been one thing if he'd knocked her unconscious and then choked her but she was talking to him while he held her down. And did anyone else think Cordelia was toast when she laid down that dagger and TURNED HER BACK TO IT to allow her mother to hug her for an extended period of time? I was sure that Fiona would snatch it back up and get her throne back by getting rid of her daughter.

    Posted by: Kevin | Jan 30, 2014 10:12:51 AM


  8. That Brian in the above comment is actually Jason, just playing his name game again.

    Posted by: Brian1 | Jan 30, 2014 10:36:16 AM


  9. One thing I've wondered is that maybe the ending was all a dream. Cordelia is knocked unconscious by reanimating Zoe and everything from that point on seems a dream sequence geared towards her (I know she achieved supremacy at that point but it still seemed odd). Maybe we still don't know the real ending and maybe Ryan has left himself the ability to re-visit this story again by re writing the ending after Cordelia actually awakens (he HAD thought of continuing the story after all).

    Posted by: Hey Darlin' | Jan 30, 2014 10:36:49 AM


  10. Ok Boys & Girls-
    Does everything have to have a message?

    I LOVED the show!
    a hour of getting lost and being entertained
    & waitng for the next zinger of a line

    Posted by: Deen | Jan 30, 2014 10:43:38 AM


  11. I miss Lana Banana and Sistah Jude.

    Posted by: Mikey | Jan 30, 2014 11:27:21 AM


  12. I disagree completely about "AHS: Asylum". I thought it was great. It was supposed to be absolutely over-the-top, almost like you were in an asylum yourself. And I thought Jessica Lange's death scene in the last episode was one of the most moving performances I've seen on television.

    Posted by: dommyluc | Jan 30, 2014 11:33:01 AM


  13. Generally agree with your sentiments, but missing any mention of Nan. Loved her and thought she deserved better treatment than Murphy & Co. gave her. If she was going to be drowned in a bathtub and that's the end of her story, I'd have appreciated her being in some witch heaven, living happily with her dumb hunk from next door, rather than her soul trotting off happily to Hell with Papa Legba.

    And it does truly suck that Misty ends up stuck in Hell in a junior high biology class. What a waste.

    But all is forgiven because...well...Myrtle Snow. BALENCIAGA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by: MrRoboto | Jan 30, 2014 11:51:51 AM


  14. This season was all style, very little substance. Murphy lays down some plot lines, but fails to thematically carry any of them to a meaningful conclusion. It's a lack of focus. This resulted in ridiculously weak character arcs with little investment.

    By comparison, Lana, Kit, and Sister Jude's storylines were much stronger in Asylum, and their triumphs and evolutions through the course of the season have gravitas. In this season, Delia's emotional journey of weakness to strength and her relationship to her mother(s) could have been much stronger, and a much stronger role for Paulson.

    The lack of real attention to any of the girls (except Queenie, perhaps) also meant that they were 2-dimensional and utterly disposable. Zoey starts as a focal point character and then fades away into a Girl in a Relationship, while Misty never develops from a star-eyed hippy into someone who seems like a true contender for the title. Once the "challenge" of the Seven Wonders devolves into every girl exhibiting the new powers practically within the same episode, who cares about the stakes?

    And if I were Evan Peters, I would either be pissed at getting so little to do, or thrilled that I got paid to do so little.

    This season had potential, and it tanked by mid-season. If only someone else had gotten to the idea first... But at least it was pretty.

    Posted by: luminum | Jan 30, 2014 11:59:25 AM


  15. I thought the finale was cheesy and saccharine and didn't come to life until Jessica Lange appeared. She really makes the show. Who else could give the two words, "knotty pine!" such pain and ache and still be so funny?

    Posted by: Dastius Krazitauc | Jan 30, 2014 12:10:19 PM


  16. I posted earlier, but don't see my post, so here goes again.
    I thought that it was a good ending to an entertaining series. The end made sense, unlike, say "Lost". I always liked Cordelia, so I was happy to see her triumphant in the end. Also, the good witches, Zoe and Queenie survived. The only sad part was Misty Day being condemned to a hell she did not deserve. Fiona, on the other hand, deserves an eternity of Knotty Pine and fresh caught fish.

    Posted by: Rich | Jan 30, 2014 12:18:41 PM


  17. Yes, WTF with feeling Asylum was dreary? It was the template for the over-the-top camp that resulted in Coven, but with plenty of the creepiness left over from the original season's less campy start-up. Tons of Fun. Asylum was my favorite so far. Coven seemed so haphazard and made-up-as-it-went-along by comparison, but it was still GREAT fun and entertainment.

    I'm happy with the finale. Cordelia was the prefect choice as the new Supreme, as far as I'm concerned, and Fiona made the requisite reappearance coda. I'm happy with the fates of all the girls - except I'm upset about Misty Day's, and really WTF? about Myrtle's. That was just wrong, imo.

    I would have liked to have actually seen a glimpse of Madison's hell, and yeah, she was killed far too easily for such a powerful witch. A quibble.

    Another quibble is Misty's hell. When was she ever a child in the era of science class frog dissections to have re-lived that awful memory?

    I'm curious about the seven wonders, too. Was resurrection one of the official contests, always in line even if Zoe hadn't been killed? If so, I guess that's why Queenie's failure at that task had her out of the competition for divination, but I was confused about that. No big surprise that Queenie failed at resurrection when she had done it well before. Sometimes when the real test comes, a competitor chokes. Heheh, maybe that's what happened quite literally with Madison.

    In any event, am I missing one wonder? Telekinesis, Mind-Control, To Hell and Back, Transmutation, Resurrection, and Divination. What's the Seventh Wonder? Media Manipulation? I don't get it. What did I miss?

    Posted by: Zlick | Jan 30, 2014 12:55:30 PM


  18. Loved it. And Kathy Bates deserves an Emmy. One of the best characters of all time.

    Posted by: Moretruth | Jan 30, 2014 1:10:54 PM


  19. The seventh wonder, Pyrokenisis, was listed at the beginning of last week's episode during the black and white silent film.

    However, for some reason, it wasn't even mentioned in the finale this week.

    Why wouldn't the Supreme candidates be made to light the candle before using them for the Telekinesis test?

    I think it's just another example of the lazy writing that this show has always displayed that Cordelia became the Supreme by only performing Six of the Seven Wonders.

    Posted by: Bob Hope | Jan 30, 2014 1:51:50 PM


  20. Actually Cordelia lit the candle, so she demonstrated pyrokinesis, her telekinesis was with the piano.

    Posted by: Jtaskw | Jan 30, 2014 2:23:22 PM


  21. Ah, thanks for that. Pyrokenisis.

    And I guess I'm wrong about Misty Day; Apparently there's nothing in the show indicating she's resurrected more than once, and that she dates back any earlier than one lifetime ago. I wonder where I got the impression she had resurrected many times? Guess I'll have to watch the whole season again! I can only imagine how slap-dash and crazy the constant story shifts will seem if I mainline the whole think one lazy afternoon!

    Posted by: Zlick | Jan 30, 2014 3:05:54 PM


  22. Emma Roberts, a revelation..? Only as an example of some of the worst acting ever committed on television! Playing yourself is hardly a dramatic acheivement, and one would hope she at least has a "keen awareness" of herself - at least enough of it to half ass it all season long.

    Posted by: Natamaxxx | Jan 30, 2014 3:43:45 PM


  23. BALENCIAGAAAAAAAAAAA!

    Posted by: Cody | Jan 30, 2014 5:33:06 PM


  24. @Cody I rewound 3 times to make sure I heard correctly. That and the Knotty Pine comments were the best lines of the season...

    Posted by: cdubios | Jan 30, 2014 6:05:34 PM


  25. Glad it's over-

    Posted by: Eddie | Jan 30, 2014 8:48:11 PM


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