American Horror Story: Coven: Boys on the Side

I can honestly say that this week was the first time I have ever been bored while watching American Horror Story. Like, looking at cat pictures and considering fast-forwarding through parts bored.

Let's be clear... a lot of the series across all three seasons is very much about empowered womanhood. It's about motherhood and surviving rape and the role of women in the church, and the interactions between women of different classes, and a whole host of other issues. I like that, I really do. I think it's neat that not only is there a show on television that is so dedicated to a wide variety of feminine outlooks, but that it uses horror, a very masculine genre, to do it.

So why am I only giving a half a hoot about the men on the show?

Part of that is Danny Huston as the Axeman. No longer a spirit trapped in the academy, the former serial killer has escaped into the streets of New Orleans to once again play awesome jazz saxophone and hack people to death. That's pretty standard horror stuff, but Huston brings the man to such incredible elegant life that he transcends barriers into what I would consider the best character in the show's history.

The Axeman is as elegant as he is brutal. He's terrifying in his complete honesty, and fully aware of the power of his charm. He spends the episode persuading Fiona to sleep with him while having the dismembered corpse of a fellow musician in his bathtub. That's a man who knows how to take the world in stride.

Huston eats every damned inch of scenery he appears in, utterly running circles around the normally central Jessica Lange. His performance completely outshines the proper season villain in Marie Laveau, who Angela Bassett seems intent to play as some kind of female version of Doctor Facilier from The Princess and the Frog. Just as Batman is the best superhero, Axeman is far more frightening than all the superpowered people that rely on their gifts to see them through. He has the will and ability regardless, and that makes him four times as dangerous.

Meanwhile, they finally gave Spaulding back his tongue, and then promptly insured that he would never speak again. Denis O'Hare seems so poorly cast this season. Easily one of the best television bad guys of all time, he's more or less been reduced to a Riff Raff joke all season except in the most brief of shining moments. Here, he serves as knife fodder for Zoe, who continues to wax and wane inconsistently from possible badass to painfully awkward teenage angst. I'm beginning to think that Taissa Farmiga once looked at the "2 Girls, 1 Cup" video and it permanently sealed her facial expressions and emotions. She's jut not bringing much range to the show.

A surprising performance was turned in by Emma Roberts, who as Madison Montgomery was yet another stale stereotype whose brief death felt like a blessing. In just a few sentences of voice over, though, she finally comes out of that bullshit Hollywood veneer and assumes a place as one of the stronger women involved. She's not Sarah Paulson, who has turned being blinded by acid into basically becoming Shiva the Destroyer in another excellent arc, but she's getting there.

Review continues on next page.

In a scene oddly reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer after Ms. Summers returned from the dead much changed for the worse, Madison reaches out to Frankenkyle. Poor Evan Peters... I don't know what it is about this season that has taken all its incredible regular male talent and made them mute but it is so very much wasting Peters at the moment. Madison reaches out to him over their shared history of death, and without a single word uttered he turns in a heart-breaking silent monologue in her arms.

Of course, some of that is shattered when we later see his pasty buttocks ramming Madison up against a wardrobe, but it's FX. That shit's always going on.

Ironically, the semi gratuitous sex did finally give Zoe some real development outside of her new "I want to be the Chosen One" status. Madison invites her to share Kyle sexually, leading to an implied threesome. That sounds like typical AHS envelope-pushing antics, but remember that sex with Zoe being fatal is the whole reason for her character in the first place. Her special power is a killer vagina, and now that she has two reanimated corpses to diddle her bean with she can finally grow as a sexual being.

That's uber important, y'all. It's how we came into this season in the first place, and it's good to get back to it because like Carrie White's sexual maturity sparking her telekinesis, the awakening of female sexuality is a scary concept in good misogynistic America. I just wish that Taissa Farmiga would exemplify that more.

Meanwhile, Queenie presents Delphine to Marie Laveau for torture fun. Call me soft-hearted, but I was really enjoying watching an ancient sadistic racist grow to learn the new world where black people are considered, you know, people. Her friendship and interaction with Queenie was a hopeful thing, showing that even the most horrific of people can one day see the error of their ways provided they have 150 years sealed in a coffin to think about it. Letting it all go to hell so we can have another bout of torture porn feels, I don't know, more like Un-American Horror Story.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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