Television: AHS: Coven, "The Seven Wonders"

While the finale did manage to put a neat bow on things, I have to say, on the whole Coven was a right mess and nowhere near as well done as Asylum.

The episode started with what amounted to a Stevie Nix video, her singing about the seven wonders and rainbows as the candidates for Supreme prepared for the big test. Each was to attempt the seven wonders themselves so as to determine who would next rule the coven.

Candidates were Madison, Zoe, Queenie, and Misty.

They started with telekinesis. All good. Mind control, which led to Madison and Zoe fighting it out over Kyle. Still, everyone passed. But then we got to descending into the underworld, easy enough to do; it's the getting back out that's difficult. And that's where we lost Misty to her own personal hell, which apparently is biology class.

Next up was transmutation. AKA: witch tag. And here is where we lost Zoe, who ended up impaled on one of the iron spires of the gates. Which led naturally to bringing the dead back to life (if only Misty were there!). Queenie was unable to bring Zoe back, knocking her out of contention. And Madison—who proved she could do it by bringing back a dead fly—refused to revive Zoe.

With all rivals out of the running, Madison naturally assumed she was the next Supreme. But Myrtle talked Cordelia into throwing her hat into the ring. And so Cordelia played catch up: telekinesis, mind control, transmutation, the underworld . . . And then they came to divination. Which would seem to be the least of a witch's gifts (or powers, if you prefer), but which totally stumped Madison. Cordelia, of course, passed with flying colors.

In a fit of temper, Madison goes to pack her bags and threatens to sic TMZ on the coven. But while Cordelia was down in the greenhouse bringing Zoe back, Kyle was up in Madison's room throttling her to death for not helping Zoe. Then Spaulding turned up to help Kyle get rid of the body.

Now confirmed as the Supreme, Cordelia called in the television stations and made the coven known to the world. Better to control the information, one supposes. But this felt like a retread of the end of Asylum. Don't the writers have any new ideas?

And then Myrtle insisted on being burned at the stake again. Which seemed like poor planning because one would think, now that everyone knows about the coven, they might be under surveillance. Like . . . Would this turn into an X-Men kind of thing where people want to monitor the witches and pass laws meant to restrict and/or control them? But clearly the writers weren't interested in the larger ramifications.

Of course the show could not end without one last visit from Fiona. There was some drivel about how she'd tricked everyone into believing she was dead, but the sum total of her visit was that she died for real and went into a hell of her own, an eternity spent with the Axeman. Whatever. The conversation between Fiona and Cordelia demonstrated that the overall theme of the show was meant to be a mother-daughter rivalry kind of thing. But I'm not convinced the writers are qualified to comment on such a theme. And all of their "commentary" remained highly superficial. Yes, the young ones supplant the old. (Kyle, too, ended up taking Spaulding's place as "the help.") And yes, it is often a messy transition. But so? Give me something deeper.

What made Coven more feeble than Asylum was its lack of focus. Coven chose to cut wide rather than deep and suffered for it. Any number of the plots had potential—the witch hunters, the church-going neighbors, the murderous ghost, the rivalries, Laveau and LaLaurie—but instead of doing one or two well, they opted to try to do all of it, and so all of them came out half baked. For once, having a limited number of episodes worked against the show. If they'd had more time, maybe they could have fleshed things out a bit more.

Better luck next season, which I understand is set primarily in the 1950s. Jessica Lange will be back, and I've heard Sarah Paulson as well. I guess the best thing about a show like this one is that if one season doesn't work out, there's always a clean slate to go back to.

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