Episode Title: “Head”

Writers: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk & Tim Minear

Director: Howard Deutch

Previously on “American Horror Story”:

Episode 3.08: “The Sacred Taking”


Seeing as how this is the last episode before a three week break until the new episodes starting January 8, you’d expect it to be quite the nail biter or pants pooper or…something. Instead, “American Horror Story: Coven’s” just sort of meanders around for an hour with “Head”, one of their most lackluster episodes this season.

“Head” opens with a flashback in typical AHS style. We’ve got a father teaching his son how to hunt, which seems sort of nice until we find out they’re hunting witches. The father forces his son, Cordelia’s witch-hunting hubby, to shoot the witch, saying “No mercy.”

Back in the present, Fiona barges in to return Kathy bates’ head to Marie Laveau and strike a truce. We also get a good look at LaLaurie’s headless, handless body standing around swatting the flies away from its multiple bloody stumps. Laveau refuses to cooperate with Fiona, saying she’ll be happy if the witch hunters come after her if it means all of them are dead. This scene makes it clear how fruitless Fiona’s quest for youth has been this season. She looks tired and worn out, and Jessica Lange sells it with some nice subtleties of expression and vocal nuance. As always, I wanted more of her and less of the random-ass flashbacks to characters we don’t really care about, but, alas, it’s not to be.

In Atlanta, Cordelia’s witch-hunting husband meets with his dad, WHH Sr., who is the head of the witch-hunting corporation. Daddy dearest chastises Junior for allying himself with Laveau, for his lack of progress, and lack of initiative. We also find out that WHH Sr. threw the acid in a gamble to make Cordelia depend more on WHH Jr. and thus give him deeper access to the witch’s operations, but that plan had about as much success as a hot dog vendor at an anemic’s convention. I found myself constantly checking the time throughout this scene. Was it really necessary for us to get a deeper back story to WHH of all characters? He and the other witch hunters are there to serve as tension devices, we don’t need to see scenes of them bitching at each other.

Myrtle drops a wrath-hammer on the witch’s council, paralyzing them with witchy alchemy and using the opportunity to scream at them about what horrible people they are before dismembering them and restoring Cordelia’s sight by implanting their healthy eyes in her… but with these new eyes comes the loss of her plot-convenient visions. Oh no!

Handsome Neighbor Boy is still comatose in the hospital, so Nan and the other girls go see him, and the highlight of this entire sequence is, once again, everyone’s hats. HNB reaches out to Nan (via her clairvoyancy) and uses her to bitch at his mom about how she killed his dad for cheating on her- which he only did because she was cold and hateful. HNB’s mom gets mad and yells at Nan to get out, and later HNB wakes up in time to cry some more about his mom killing his dad, and she responds as well as you’d expect… by smothering him with a pillow. All right, “AHS”, I’ve given you a lot of my patience this season with these side stories, but this one felt like an essay that got turned in half an hour after it was written. It was sloppy, dull, and pointless.

Over at Chateau de Voodoo, Queenie gets orders to burn LaLaurie’s head, but instead kidnaps her and educates her, first with movies about African-Americans triumphing over adversity- Roots, The Color Purple, etc., then with some soulful music, and finally footage of police brutality during the civil rights’ movement of the ’60s. At first, LaLaurie resists by singing “Dixieland” at the top of her disconnected lungs, which is probably the funniest damn thing to ever happen on this show, but eventually the harsh imagery gets through to her and she really starts to empathize with the plight of African-Americans.

This would be a nice turn for her character if it wasn’t for the fact that she was a flipping serial killer who took delight in torturing slaves in gruesome and creative ways! She’s a monster! There’s no redeeming someone like that! During all this, Madame Laveau goads WHH into dropping her wrath-hammer on the witches, but her goading backfire and he goes on a rampage through Chateau de Voodoo, shooting almost everyone (including Queenie!). When he gets to Laveau, Queenie stops him by shooting herself in the head and magically redirecting the wound onto him. Yay! WHH is dead… which renders all of those scenes with his dad pretty pointless. We could have established the same facts with far less time, “AHS”.

Even with some great Jessica Lange and more Fleetwood Mac from Misty Day, this was a pretty tough episode to get through. Week after week I’ve tolerated these little tangents from “American Horror Story” in the hopes that they were going somewhere, but now that this season has fewer episodes behind it than ahead, I’m beginning to suspect that it’s only got a few good cards to show and it’s farting around until it can show them at the very end. We’d be far better served getting few scenes with WHH, HNB, or anyone else so dull I feel the need to define them by an acronym, and more scenes of Zoe and Madison doing cool, young The Craft-esque stuff, Jessica Lange acting her ass off, or Kathy Bates screaming the lyrics to “Dixieland”.