RJ Bayley – ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Retrospective Part 12
It’s the penultimate episode of the American Horror Story: Coven saga. As such, understandably, the concerns move away from female gender issues and more towards trying to pull off a narratively dramatic finale. And while the gender issues are important, it’s a horror story first and foremost; how unsatisfying would it be for them to end on a thoughtful thesis instead of a bang? That’d be like seeing Captain America: Civil War and having it end in a civilised debate over the morality of unregulated power, instead of Cap and Iron Man battering each other.
We do however see the end to two characters, getting their deserved punishment according to the show’s morality matrix discussed in previous parts of this series.
Madame LaLaurie, having escaped the confines of the house, has become a tour guide in her own house. It’s not her own history though, as she’s rewritten it to portray her past life as a benevolent and admired woman of her time. When Queenie finally finds her and what she’s been up to, LaLaurie claims she’s been lying to her, and the audience, all along. She’s been crying not for the plight of black people, but for the country not keeping them oppressed in slavery. In a rage Queenie fatally stabs LaLaurie who is no longer immortal.
She ends up in Hell, trapped within her own cage in her torture attic. The punishment, in the larger context, is clearly because of all the pain and death she has inflicted on innocent people. But what the show is really saying is that the punishment is mostly due to her deliberate failure as a mother, as evidenced by her incarceration near, but out of helping distance of, her daughter who she so badly mistreated.
And who is it who’s torturing them both? It’s only Laveau, herself now dead by unwittingly failing on her contract with Papa Legba, thus losing her immortality. Laveau’s last significant story arc saw her past revealed as a baby killer, stealing newborns from mothers, and killing Nan to boot. Inflicting that pain tore her to shreds internally, but this most un-motherly of acts were committed nonetheless and so she’s damned to her Hell, inflicting more pain on others for eternity.
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