TV Review: AMERICAN HORROR STORY - COVEN Episode 5 'Burn, Witch, Burn!'

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Last week we were left hanging, with the ‘Coven’ household under attack from a seemingly zombified threat. Whilst that is most definitely addressed in Burn, Witch, Burn!, we start off with a hark back to the 1800s, to New Orleans, to Halloween, and to the disturbed torture-house helmed by Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates). This time out, just to give you a timely reminder of what a piece of work LaLaurie can be, we see her actually torturing her three daughters; the same three daughters, in the modern day, who are now reanimated and banging on her door baying for blood.

In tandem with LaLaurie’s mother/daughter issues, Jessica Lange’s Fiona is having similar troubles. After daughter Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) was given the Harvey Dent treatment in the last episode (see: acid thrown at face), Fiona is suddenly playing the role of the concerned mother; a role that we have never seen from her previously. During her time at Cordelia’s hospital bedside, even if it is largely through guilt, we get our first real glimpse at the softer side of Fiona. Don’t get too concerned, though, as she’s back to deceitful bitch mode by the episode’s end. Again, she also gets to dish out the episode’s best line, when she remarks to son-in-law Hank (Josh Hamilton), “I can smell the bullshit in your pockets.”

Quite the apt title, we also get to see one of the witches set alight at the stake, although we’re left wondering as to why. That’s the thing with American Horror Story, nothing is ever really as clear as it seems. With the burning being reminiscent of The Wicker Man, we also get Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) doing her best Ash impression as she decides on a chainsaw as her weapon of choice to take down the hordes of zombies attacking the Salem witches’ home. Despite these traumatic scenes, it’s still the flashback scenes featuring Madame LaLaurie that resonate the most. These are made even more impactful by the seemingly scared-of-her-own-shadow elderly maid that LaLaurie has become in today’s world.

Burn, Witch, Burn! does tend to lull in some of the earlier parts, and it does feel a little played out at times (maybe it’s just me having reached my zombie limit this week after The Walking Dead and another viewing of Dead Snow), but there are some brilliant moments scattered throughout the episode, plus there’s a further allusion to who could be the new Supreme of the household. It’s also clear that the major themes of Burn, Witch, Burn! are problems with motherhood, and the fact that the past will well and truly come back to bite you on the behind. Oh, and added to that, Lily Rabe’s Misty Day makes her comeback, even if it is, once again, a far-too-brief appearance. Trust me, I sense Misty’s going to play a huge role down the line in Coven, and even her short screen time this week was important and packed with consequence.

Along with Misty Day, we’ve still got plenty of questions that need answering. What’s happened to FrankenKyle? Have we seen the future Supreme in action? Does anybody in Coven ever actually stay dead? Has Cordelia developed some awesome new power? And just why does Spalding feel the need to play ‘dress up’ so much? Regardless of these answers, one thing is certain: Jessica Lange is going to devour any and all scenes that she appears in. Again fantastic here, she is the clear star of the show, although it’s great to see a bit more into the twisted past of Kathy Bates’ Madame Laurie. It’s just a shame that Angela Bassett’s Marie is left a little shortchanged this time out, not given anything to really get her teeth into.

All in all, another successful, solid outing for Coven. There are some great developments and performances, but there are also a few moments of ‘meh.’ Still, many a shows’ highlights would do well to reach the standard of American Horror Story’s ‘meh’ moments.

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0 #1 Dwankie Dave 2013-11-08 18:44
I'm absolutely hooked. Currently watching this, Dracula, Sleepy Hollow and Agents Of SHIELD, and American Horror Story is winning hands down (followed by Sleep Hollow - who'd have thunk it? - with Dracula and the folks at SHIELD bringing up the rear). Still, a fine season of genre television! Huzzah!

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