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TV Review: ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ – ‘The Dead’

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***Note: This series is rated TV-MA for good reason, and viewer discretion is advised due to mature content. It is impossible to discuss the latest episode without referencing said content, so while I will keep things as light and profanity-free as possible, some of the subject matter will definitely be offensive to some readers. Please let this serve as your warning.

A1FX’s American Horror Story: Coven has been hitting it out of the park by delivering a more character-driven story than in years past, and providing the material and actresses to back it up. This week’s installment, “The Dead,” which serves as the mid-point of the season, reveals a lot about several of the players, and, through death and sex, some peace is found, as temporary as it might be.

“The Dead” starts with Kyle (Evan Peters) before his death. He’s joking with his frat pals and talking of his dreams in a tattoo parlor. There is little doubt that he has the drive and talent to back up his goals, and his future will be bright, indeed. Except, he’s now dead, reanimated bits of those friends sewn to him, as demonstrated by the glimpses of their tattoos on his patchwork body.

It’s no wonder Kyle is having trouble adjusting to the circumstances. Besides not being able to speak the words in his brain, which has not been dulled, he’s frustrated at his predicament. He didn’t ask to become the monster he’s been made into, and every thing he had hoped for has been flushed down the toilet. As far as he’s concerned, his life is (literally) over, but he has the added torture of being conscious of the wasted potential.

Peters captures all of this internal monologue brilliantly, eyes dancing with un-vocalized emotions. We feel his pain, and find a way to sympathize with him despite the horrible things he’s done, like slaughtering his mother. Clearly, anger and confusion is driving his actions, and he can’t be blamed for everything. By the end of “The Dead,” he is starting to find himself again, and surely he can heal. Maybe.

Madison (Emma Roberts) is going through the exact opposite problem. Instead of having feelings she can’t understand or express, she’s plagued by a lack of feeling, which Roberts plays with such effect as to impress any who watch. She’s going to be an actress to watch. Her numbness starts before she’s killed and brought back, by the way, citing her utter lack of caring about being gang-raped in an earlier episode. Burning herself doesn’t work, in fact, nothing does. Until she finds Kyle’s penis. Inside of her.

Since Madison has only murdered those who deservA3d it (except Kyle, accidentally), it’s easier to get behind her. She’s not a nice person, to be sure, but that can be chalked up to a young girl who found fame at an early age and is putting on a brave face to hide fear. She is more talk than action, and she did not deserve to die, or to feel this helpless and broken.

There’s something kind of sweet about Madison and Kyle finding one another in this situation. They have the death thing in common, something no one else would understand. It seems to give them both pleasure and helps them stay centered. They’re technically consenting adults, or close enough to it. What harm would their relations cause anyone?

Besides Zoe (Taissa Farmiga, this season’s MVP in an intensely crowded field), I mean. She’s used to not being the prettiest girl in the room, so she is disappointed, but not surprised, when she catches Kyle with Madison. I feel bad for Zoe here, I really do, but she has to understand why and how her two sort-of friends ended up together right? Plus, they are nice enough to invite her to join in.

Now, anytime a threesome crops up in movies or television, it’s a recipe for disaster, probably much like in the real world (I assume). There is bound to be jealousy and hurt feelings and doubts about the depth of attachment. That’s unfortunate, because American Horror Story: Coven has worked so hard to make us like all three of these individuals that the viewer will be loathe to side against one or more of them. But I guess that’s life, and since Kyle is dead, Zoe probably can’t snuff him out with her fatal nether regions, which makes their pairing ideal.

About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com