A review of The Seven Wonders
The finale of American Horror Story: Coven has arrived and we’re finally going to discover who is the next Supreme. With Fiona (Jessica Lange), Marie Lavaeu (Angela Bassett) and Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) gone, the four remaining girls must perform The Seven Wonders for Cordelia and Myrtle Snow to reveal which of them will become the new leader of the Coven.
If you’re still with us, this means that the already well-defined ending point is ultimately going to be reached. Whilst I have expressed my disappointment in Coven for its lack of imagination, I am absolutely determined to see this through and there is no degree of lunacy that we should not expect when it comes to a now trademark AHS finale. In a series where almost every main character you’re rooting for dies horribly or worse, is rescued by aliens, Coven just better hope that whatever they throw at their audience this year sticks.
So after the Axe-Man murdered Fiona last week in a shock twist and Marie and Delphine finished each other off in a convenient yet baffling fashion, we’ve been left with – a still blinded – Cordelia hoping to find a successor for her wicked mother. Shackled by its own ultimate goal, Coven’s final episode ‘The Seven Wonders’ progresses with just that; Seven Wonders. Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) has been hotly tipped as the Supreme since rising from the dead after shooting herself in head whilst local swamp-dweller Misty Day (Lily Rabe) has been overwhelmed by the possibility that SHE is the Supreme. The real battle, is of course, between Madison (Emma Roberts) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) who are not just fighting for absolute power, but for the love of a man they brought back from the dead and share in a strange sexual capacity. The four girls are immediately subjected to trials of performing telekinesis, pyrokinesis and coercion which they each perform with panache but not before another borderline painful appearance by Stevie Nicks.
Stevie Nicks, again!?
In a rather unusual and uncharacteristic discourse for American Horror Story, we are treated to a small music video with Stevie giving herself a dizzy spell to her song ‘Seven Wonders’ whilst the girls perform various acts of magic in rehearsal for their trials. Everyone loves a good montage but Ryan Murphy is straying terrifyingly close to Glee territory and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s Glee.
Every week, I find myself slapping my forehead at the severe lack of opportunity to develop the younger characters. This is demonstrated to full effect in this episode when the witches must perform the power of Decensium; the act of ascending to a netherworld. In this instance, the girls visit their own personal hell. We already saw Queenie’s hell so why we never got to see Madison or Zoe’s is baffling and a little disheartening. Zoe describes hers as ‘breaking up with Kyle’ on repeat but this is coming from a woman whose labia possess the power to kill a man. Surely her idea of hell would be inter-coursing him to death? Luckily Madison’s nightmare of a live network ‘Sound of Music’ (“I wasn’t even the lead!”) provided a comic relief though I feel being a washed up ‘Baby Jane’ would be more fitting….
Misty however is transported back to her high school science lab and is unable to break the loop of bringing her test subject -a frog – back to life before being forced to kill it again and again. With her time running out, she fails to bring herself back and her body disintegrates into dust, leaving Cordelia sobbing, but only for a brief moment. No room for mourning here! The one character that has been fussed over endlessly from the start is brutally disposed of in one swoop.
Similarly, Zoe accidentally impales herself on a spike performing Transmutation. I say this in a very glib sort of way because that’s how it happened. It was un-dramatic in the same way as Misty’s ‘dust in the wind’ act but this is where the competition gets heated.
When Cordelia asks the girls to bring Zoe back, Queenie cannot and Madison flat out refuses, instead proving her power – and obvious spite – by bringing back a dead Bluebottle instead. Facing her fears that the Coven will see another Fiona rise in Madison, Myrtle encourages Fiona to try out for the Supreme-ship, throwing everyone into throes of ‘What-the-what?!’.
Naturally, Cordelia is able to perform each task with ease despite having poked her own eyes out due to her previous lack of magical ability. When it comes to Divination, the remaining women are asked to locate an object hidden in the house by a previous Supreme. Madison is unable to perform the task and gives up leaving solid proof that of course IT WAS CORDELIA ALL ALONG.
Madison is obviously furious. A lot of fans have expressed a lot of disdain at Madison’s character but her stroppy teen star attitude is precisely what I find so compelling. The girl dropped a stage-light on the last person to refuse her getting her own way so just imagine how she must feel finding out that her formerly submissive leader has truly beaten her. Madison storms out and threatens to expose the Coven as a ‘jacked up celebrity rehab’ – full of witches of course – to the public. Of course, the Regina George of Miss Robichaux’s was bound to get her comeuppance and former lover Kyle takes it upon himself to strange her to death as revenge for killing Zoe before she can walk out the door. The way ghost Spaulding watches and offers to help bury her body suggests that Kyle will soon be filling the vacancy as Butler.
Alas, the final segment sees a leap into the not so distant future and Cordelia – complete with glossy coiffed hair and actual normal eyes – is the now blossoming Supreme and responsible leader of the Coven. Tired of hiding, she opens the doors of Miss Robichaux’s to women around the world. We find that Zoe and Queenie have taken their places as her council whilst Myrtle – having betrayed the former Supreme and murdered her colleagues – insists on being burnt at the stake (for a second time) so the remaining witches can have a fresh start under the new order. Her final words ‘Balenciaga!’ have been hailed as a clue to series four but I genuinely think Myrtle is just a big fan of designer labels. I mean, you saw those opera gloves, right?
Whilst getting from A to B has been a primary of concern for Coven, it seems that each of the characters – even up to the closing scenes – are still floating in an unfinished arc which makes it hard to be satisfied that this fight to the death for the Supreme-ship has been Zoe or Queenie’s ultimate goal all along. What was great about past series’ is that multiple story lines and character arcs usually go off on a tangent yet are neatly resolved whether the audience favours these sub-plots or not. However, the personal struggles of our characters in Coven still don’t appear to have been resolved by the time we reach the finale. It’s almost as if we’re supposed to brush all the threesomes, dalliances with minotaurs, psychotic neighbours, killer vagina’s and countless deaths under the rug.
The remaining stand-off between Cordelia and the now gravely ill Fiona (who faked her own death, of course) is barely believable and serves only as a weak-willed absolution for Fiona’s character; one that doesn’t seem to suit her at all. Do we honestly believe Fiona wouldn’t have tried to jump out of a closet to murder her own daughter once her Supreme-ship was revealed? Fiona expresses that Cordelia, since the day she was born, only ever reminded her of her mortality; which although a great analogy, doesn’t quite gel with the previous encounters between the two.
Nonetheless, Fiona dies peacefully having made amends with her daughter but got her just desserts in Hell by being forced to spend the rest of eternity with Axe-Man in a rustic country shack. Yet again, I feel her personal hell should have been a little more devilish considering the evil she got up to. Likewise, I’d like to have seen Madison die a more fitting death for her crimes rather than silently strangled next to her packed suitcase. But it’s not all about killing off great antagonists; many of the earlier secondary characters were wasted such as Nan, Luke and Spaulding despite holding such promise all those episodes ago…
Fabulously flawed, a little nonsensical and unsure of its goals, Coven has truly been a change in direction and tone for American Horror Story. Coven was by no means a perfect series to match Ryan Murphy’s prior attempts, but things it has not lacked are style and wit. The homages to horror classics were always on point, whilst some scenes have been so artistically perfect that my little heart has fluttered every time the beautiful New Orleans architecture has featured. An excellent cast is what saved this series from being plain hard work.
However, the only thing Coven is truly guilty of is not keeping its promises. I guess Papa Legba will have to deal with that one.
Best Scene: Myrtle Snow, going proudly to the flame, for the second time.
Big Question: What happened to the baby that Spaulding took?