We start off this sixth episode of Coven with a flashback to 1919 New Orleans; a time when a serial killer known as the Axeman was kicking up a storm. Played here by the brilliant Danny Huston (The Proposition, 30 Days of Night, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), the killer brutalises those who aren’t listening to jazz at a certain time on a certain day (does Ron Burgundy’s jazz flute count, I wonder?). After having killed eight people, the Axeman meets his murky end when he comes up against the young Salem witches housed up in Miss Robichaux’s Academy at that time.
Bringing things to the present day, we have the current inhabitants of the Academy – Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), and Nan (Jamie Brewer) – desperate to find out what happened to their now-deceased ‘sister,’ Madison (Emma Roberts). So desperate, in fact, they end up engaging via Ouija board with the spirit of a certain axe-wielding killer of yesteryear. If that wasn’t creepy enough, their mission leads them to the attic and to the prime suspect of Madison’s disappearance. It’s with this plot point of the episode that we’re treated to this week’s line of the week, as Farmiga’s Zoe snarls, “Alright you twisted, tea-serving necrophiliac, 'fess up.” Quite.
Making sure to keep herself busy elsewhere as well, Zoe finds herself back in the company of FrankenKyle (Evan Peters), who, even though he’s essentially a mindless monster, still has deep-rooted ‘mummy issues,’ and is portrayed as a mindless, timid and tormented beast. It’s with this element of the episode that we see Lily Rabe’s Misty Day get some time to shine, and shine brightly she does. Has she now finally found ‘her tribe’ that she’s been so dearly seeking? As long as she floats effortlessly across the screen, spouting lines like “He broke Stevie,” she can do whatever she wants, in my eyes. I can safely say, even though she’s had rather restricted face time, Misty Day is already my favourite character from any season of American Horror Story, closely followed by Evan Peters’ Tate from Season 1.
Following on from the recent blinding of daughter Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), Jessica Lange’s Fiona finds herself again in ill health. Seemingly on a never-ending quest for eternal youth and energy, Fiona does get some satisfaction this episode, as Cordelia, despite losing her sight, is starting to realise that husband Hank (Josh Hamilton) isn’t quite what she believed. Helping her towards these revelations is a new power; a power that seems like a hybrid of Daredevil and Professor Charles Xavier; a power that also makes her aware that her mother had Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) burned at the stake during the last episode. Where Hank’s concerned, we’re treated to another big reveal on his part; a reveal that adds further intrigue to events going forward.
With The Axeman Cometh, it’s a refreshing change of pace to see the three surviving young Salem witches get to bemore a focal part of an episode. So often the side salad to Jessica Lange’s fillet steak, here they are the anchors of the story, particularly Taissa Farmiga’s Zoe. Similarly, it’s fantastic to see Danny Huston joining the show as the Axeman. As a long-time fan of Huston, my rose-tinted specs were always likely to be donned upon his arrival, but he’s genuinely menacing and unsettling. Even better, he seems set to have a lot more to offer in future episodes.
As mentioned, Jessica Lange’s Fiona finds her regularly large screen time reduced for the first time this season, and Kathy Bates’ Madame LaLaurie doesn’t appear in the slightest. The other star of the season so far, Angela Bassett’s Marie, also has minimal time, but she well and truly makes that minimal time into her maximum bitch. Bassett lip-curls her way through her lines, making them appear to jump from the screen and hold a knife to your throat. Simply fantastic, yet, as we all know by now, even the greatest of characters have episodes out of the sun when it comes to American Horror Story. That’s part of the show's charm; the way that it switches the focus between its vast array of great characters, giving strong development to even the smallest of players.
Another great episode of Coven, another potentially great character added in the shape of the Axeman, and another outing that leaves you anticipating what’s to come. Oh, and make sure to never fuck with the Salem witches of the early 1900s…