New Show Recap: American Horror Story, 3×04, “Fearful Pranks Ensue”

[Content warning: anti-Black violence, lynching, necrophilia, self-harm, sexual assault]

Ttitle card for American Horror Story: Coven

Recap

It’s all-out war on this week’s episode of American Horror Story. We begin in 1961 New Orleans where a group of white men stalk and lynch a young, Black boy on his way to school.  The scene is crosscut with his mother speaking happily about the opportunities he’ll be afforded now that he can attend an integrated school. A few beats later the mother has found her murdered boy and screams over his lifeless body as Marie Laveau coldly looks on. She makes sure that the men who did this get what’s coming them and raises the dead to exact a bloody and violent revenge.

In the present, Spalding (Denis O’Hare) disposes of Madison’s body while Fiona and Cordelia attend to a ravaged Queenie who has been sexually assaulted by the Minotaur man. Fiona literally breathes life into a dying Queenie, but this noticeably weakens her. While LaLaurie bleats in shock that Queenie saved her life, Fiona sends a message to Laveau by sending the Minotaur’s head to Laveau’s doorstep and reigniting an age-old war that seems to break along racial lines. We flashback to the 1970s where the Supreme before Fiona and Marie sign a truce ending a bloody battle between the two factions. Presently, Marie decides that the truce is over.

In the meantime, Zoe quickly manages to lose Kyle after she steps away for a moment to fix him a rat poison cocktail. He’s difficult to find in a sea of Halloween costumes. And, we learn that Cordelia’s hubby, Hank, is very likely a serial killer after he beds and then murders a young woman after behaving like the most obvious, unsettling creep the entire time.

Back at Miss Robichaux’s, Nan summons the council because she can’t hear Madison’s thoughts anymore and suspects that she’s dead. The council, headed by Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), investigates Fiona because she was the last person to see Madison alive and was also, incidentally, the last one to see the Supreme before her alive. Myrtle is certain that a power-hungry Fiona murdered them both.

Indeed, we flashback to the 1970s just as Fiona is about to be crowned the new Supreme. We learn that Myrtle and Fiona have been rivals for decades, and that Myrtle knows Fiona’s secret but just can’t prove it quite yet. She tries to make Spalding confess to what he saw by enchanting his tongue so he cannot tell a lie. But, Spalding is so love in with Fiona that he cuts out his own tongue rather than sell her out. In the present, when asked to write down the name of who cut out his tongue, he names Myrtle, much to her anger and chagrin. In the same moment, Fiona learns that Madison likely wasn’t the next Supreme, and she seems unsettled by this news. But, she will live another day. Still, Myrtle doesn’t seem likely to let this go anytime soon.

Spalding shows us all his own unsettling creepiness when we learn that he kept Madison’s body and has propped her up in her underwear and gaudy makeup among a creepy collection of dolls and a little tea set.

While he attends his bizarre little tea party, Cordelia and Fiona have a heart-to-heart over drinks and the girls have some Halloween fun, including the hot neighbor boy bringing over some homemade treats for a delighted Nan. That fun doesn’t last long as Marie Laveau, as in the beginning of the episode, exacts her revenge. A small army of the undead, including LaLaurie’s children, surrounds the school while someone, who may or may not be working with Laveau, throws acid in Cordelia’s face.

Discussion

I must admit that I don’t feel much up to discussion this week as my points from my last few recaps remain the same. I take issue with the unending hyper-violence against women which is a hallmark of and a continuing problem in this program. I’m also not hopeful on how they’ll continue to handle issues of race and racism. I did find the overt acknowledgement of the racialized aspects of the tensions between Marie Laveau’s faction and Fiona’s coven interesting, and I am curious if, again, not very hopeful about how this will be explored in upcoming episodes. As I said in the comments section last week, I believe, in the right hands, this could have been a great exploration (allegorical and on the face of it) of the marginalization of Black women and other women of color in mainstream feminists movements and the tensions between white feminists and white feminism and Black feminism, Womanism, and other feminisms that center women of color. But, that’s in my wildest dreams.

What did you think of this episode, readers?

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Marena

Marena recently earned her Master of Arts degree in Social Justice & Human Rights & primarily explores social justice issues in the production & consumption of popular mass media. You may find her creating fanworks, testing her hand-eye coordination with beadweaving, flailing over her fictional faves, reading everything from fanfic to theory texts, or watching low budget sci-fi. You can find her writing on Marena ni yukyats.

2 thoughts on “New Show Recap: American Horror Story, 3×04, “Fearful Pranks Ensue””

  1. Coming in a bit late because I am slowly catching up on the show…there is just so much that is disturbing to me in AHS. I mean, yes, it’s called American HORROR Story, but I feel like there needs to be more sense to what’s going on here. I only want to root for a couple of the witches in Fiona’s coven, but I really want to cheer for Marie Laveau and all the rest of her faction because they are so much more interesting to me. Side note: Myrtle Snow was a fascinating character.

    1. Same here. I do really like a couple of the witches in Fiona’s coven, but I am very strongly rooting for Marie Laveau & Co. I would really love to know more about them as well. And, YAS, I am really enjoying Myrtle and want to see what else she’s going to bring to the table. I imagine she has a lot planned for Fiona.

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