Leslie Grossman
Image: FX

It wouldn’t be a Ryan Murphy show without a completely unnecessary musical moment. As this week’s episode reaches its climax, as old friends are literally resurrected, and moments of intrigue and subterfuge are illuminated...there’s a Stevie Nicks song. Not a piece of a Stevie Nicks song. Not the faint hints of a Stevie Nicks song playing in the background as things actually happen. It’s the entirety of “Gypsy,” with the camera directly on Ms Nicks (Congrats on the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame nomination) while the audience gets occasional glimpses of various witches and warlocks giving each other what might be meaningful looks, and what might be the slightly bored expressions of people suddenly at a concert they did not buy tickets to.

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This week’s episode is all about the Seven Wonders. After having a premonition of some post-fall-out zombies taking a piece out of her neck on the ruins of her school, Cordelia declares she will be administering the test on Michael, to the warlocks’ delight. There are some variations on last week’s gender power dynamic swap that are blissfully shorter and funnier, including Myrtle ending a tirade about the folly of men taking leadership roles by name-checking Mark Zuckerberg. Myrtle’s sound reasoning against the installation of the patriarchy into their magical world does nothing to sway Cordelia. She feels her power waning, her reign coming to an end, and if it takes a man to protect her girls from becoming extras in one long episode of The Walking Dead, so be it.

The old-timey silent film conceit from season three is back, allowing Michael to finish six of the Seven Wonders silently and with cartoonish gravitas. It’s a welcome relief from the heaviness of the season so far, and more of a tonal callback than any of the witchy resurrections. Coven wasn’t just great because it rounded up some of the best actresses on TV and put them in charge, it was fun because it never took itself too seriously.

When Michael is challenged to bring Misty Day (Lily Rabe) back from the dead, there’s a glimpse into a hell that’s way darker, and more compelling than Madison’s—Misty is stuck in her childhood science room, being forced to dissect, then resurrect the same frog over and over again. Michael gets her back, and as she materializes Cordelia’s massive nosebleed seems to indicate the rise of a new Supreme. But over a cup of no-frills tea (it is a funny joke that at someone else’s school of magic they don’t have access to the ingredients for a potion, but none of the witches can spike the tea with a little magical pick-me-up?) Cordelia reveals she isn’t really planning on breaking whatever the inverse of the glass ceiling is. She didn’t want to anoint Michael as the new Supreme, she wanted to test just how powerful he is. She’s not saying he might be the white-faced demon she saw in her premonition, but if the creepy face fits...

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The return of the witches of Coven really highlights just how much ground that season left uncovered, and how well a series can run when a group of characters really knows (and for the most part, likes) each other. Cordelia’s genuine joy at seeing Misty again was palpable, but it also felt really satisfying that she voiced what fans live-tweeting the episode already had typed out—she hadn’t really known her that long. Likewise, the Supreme calling out the fact that Madison only looks out for herself after giving her the slightly cloak and dagger task of digging up dirt on Michael sidesteps directionless conflict. Madison will do as Cordelia asks not out of loyalty, but out of a belief that Cordelia is a smart leader, and smart leaders are more likely to get their people out alive. While the warlocks backstab (or front stab, if the situation calls for it) as they jockey for power, under Cordelia the witches are truly a united front who care about each other and the future of the coven. Even though Cordelia wasn’t really preparing to hand over control of the coven to a warlock, there is a sense that her selfless sentiment was legit—she’s willing to do what’s best for the group, even if that’s not what’s best for her.

Next week, a return to Murder House! The question is if the spirits of the poor Harmon family have been chilling for almost two decades, would they really want to provide the information to stop Michael from ending the world, or would the welcome the end? Would a nuclear bomb actually wipe out the ghosts?

Stray Observations

  • So does Coco really have powers, or is she proof that your parents’ ability to pay for the new library is key in all realities, even ones where magic is involved?
  • Mallory having the power to resurrect and heal feels like it might come in handy in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone who is not dead kind of wishes they were.
  • “Don’t tell him about your father.” So often uttered on TV, so rarely about Satan.
  • RIP the one warlock who thought it might be ok to be a little suspicious of an incredibly powerful boy who also almost killed them all in some kind of magical Frozen misstep. The slicing of his Achilles’ tendons seems unnecessary, but this has been a relatively low blood-volume season of American Horror Story so far.

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