“American Horror Story: Coven” aired its final episode, “The Seven Wonders” on Jan. 29.
After weeks of delivering strong racial and social commentary, the coven cauldron boils to an emotionally affecting close as a daughter finally stands up to her self-absorbed mother and a kind of peace is finally brokered between them.
If you haven’t seen the finale yet, don’t read any farther, spoilers ahead!
Show Me the Power
The big day finally arrives. Four girls remain to prove themselves as the new Supreme by displaying the Seven Wonders. One of them will gain ultimate glory and some may not survive.
Early on, Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) seems like the favorite. She passes the first rounds with flying colors, but then gets impaled and we’re shocked by her death.
Madison (Emma Roberts) is thrilled she has one less competitor. Of course, we’re devastated to see young Zoe meet such a horrible demise. Kyle (Evan Peters) is first horribly distraught then completely outraged. He eventually strangles Madison to death despite her phony cries that she loves him.
The sequence marks another wonderful display of Evan Peters’ wide emotional range. It’s hard not to see flashes of Tate sobbing for Violet in AHS season one as Kyle sobs over Zoe’s still body.
It’s also really sad to see Misty go; especially knowing she is stuck in a place of eternal anguish, because she seemed to only want the best for others. Lily Rabe thrives in this role, which is accentuated in such a fun way by Misty’s love of Stevie Nicks. (Isn’t Stevie fabulous in the opening?)
So, this leaves Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and just as we’re wondering if she might be crowned …
Royal Blood Rules
This is “American Horror Story” and so of course we’re bracing for the last episode twist. Myrtle (Frances Conroy) urges Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) to tap into her power within. Of course she’s the next Supreme – her DNA alone declares it!
Thankfully she brings Zoe back to life – whew! And, Cordelia's physical and spiritual sight is fully restored.
However, we’re truly shocked (but in hindsight, shouldn’t be!) that Fiona (Jessica Lange) staged her own death so she could hang around for the Seven Wonders test and finally take out her successor for good.
Ironically, in gaining her great new position, Cordelia faces huge loss in bidding both her biological mother and her adoptive mother farewell. Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange share their strongest scene in series history as a very sick and feeble Fiona finally embraces her daughter with love and compassion as she takes her last breath. The makeup on Jessica Lange is simply stunning and the scene is arguably the most intense of the season. In this moment, Cordelia finally sees her mother's shortcomings as hers alone. She shirks off self-loathing, insecurity and shame and embraces her destiny to lead a new generation to a brighter future.
It's terribly sad watching Myrtle go the stake for the second time, upon her own insistence. Cordelia is clearly conflicted but honors the mother of her heart's emphatic wish.
Overall, “Coven” is an extraordinary collective effort from an uber-talented cast that painted rich, unforgettable characters. Kathy Bates is the quintessential villainess in her portrayal of real life monster Madam Lalaurie. Angela Bassett brings her and Jessica Lange both a formidable rival in Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Lily Rabe and Frances Conroy sizzle as Misty and Myrtle. And, Emma Roberts plays the perfect spoiled movie star. Furthermore, Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters shine once again as they reignite their undeniably hot onscreen chemistry.
In totality, “Coven” is as much a riveting historical retrospective as it is a tale of unimaginable loss and fright.
The female spirit ultimately overcomes oppression and reigns supreme. And, the delicate and definitive relationship between mothers and daughters and race and class are deftly explored.
As for story closure, it’s nice to know Zoe and Kyle will get their happily ever after, and Cordelia, Zoe and Queenie will go on to lead a whole new group of powerful girls into a new age.
Bravo, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and company! You’ve proven once again that a high caliber troupe of actors can totally draw us in and suspend us, without a trace of character from a previous season. “American Horror Story” works on so many levels and “Coven” is a tantalizing triumph!