American Horror Story: Coven: Senseless Death

I was quite keen to get back to American Horror Story after the Thanksgiving break... mostly because being around that much family really helps a guy appreciate torture and murder. Joking aside, this season has been at times terrific and at others terrible, but it is always compelling enough to make you look forward to next week.

That said, I think we need to address the problem of consequence. Specifically, death. More specifically, why this show doesn't let death matter.

I made a little chart right after watching "The Sacred Taking" trying to figure out of anyone killed in the course of the season had actually stayed dead. I couldn't come up with a single main character that had been offed, no matter in how complete or gruesome a manner, who hadn't returned. That is a problem.

Death matters. It turns Bruce Wayne into Batman, defines the mystery of Charles Foster Kane, and opens the doors to another world thanks to Laura Palmer. Endings and consequences lend weight to a story, especially when Coven goes to such lengths as to makes deaths grand and memorable.

What was the point of burning Myrtle Snow to death in a lavish ceremony just to have her walking around literally unchanged a few episodes later? How are we supposed to give the slightest damn about anything that happened to Madison Montgomery after she is resurrected from her terminal case of knife in throat syndrome and is literally acting as if nothing happened? Hell, even a death in this episode that should have some impact has none considering she's is woken up within ten minutes.

Lily Rabe is a great actress and an asset to the show in all three seasons, but having her be Stevie Nicks Jesus every five minutes is not helping anything. Between her raising the dead every five minutes and ghosts apparently being indistinguishable from the living now, the entire concept of danger is moot in the show lately. It's like a video game with a particularly generous autosave feature.


Without spoiling it too badly, the episode ends with a living severed head begging for help. Madison has stated as well that death is nothingness and empty and meaningless. There's not talk of Heaven or Hell or anything else you'd expect from those that cross over.

It's entirely possible that Coven is going for the greatest scare of all; that death itself is a pointless joke not even fit to relive pain from the suffering. Maybe, hidden under what looks like a lot of poor writing is a brilliant nihilism that mocks the very concept of release.

Or maybe they're just too scared to kill Jessica Lange... I don't blame them, there. You won't catch me on that woman's bad side any time soon.

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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