SPOILERS AHEAD, so witch your step, Coven fans!
Season Three, Episode 13: “The Seven Wonders”
Written by: Douglas Petrie; Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
This week’s season finale reveals America’s Next Supreme, and this wouldn’t be AHS without a couple twists along the way. The Twitter-verse has already exploded with seemingly a lot of backlash (so few seem to enjoy Ryan Murphy’s particular brand of camp and chaos); but this is the most controlled and earned finale of the series so far.
Stevie Nicks kicks off this finale by returning to Robichaux’s to serenade the girls as they study up for their trials. Naturally, Stevie sings “Seven Wonders.” As her musical number ends, she leaves the final contestants of America’s Next Supreme standing on the grand staircase: Zoe, Madison, Queenie, and Misty.
Myrtle and Cordelia oversee the trials; Myrtle wants to start with the more difficult tasks. First up: Telekinesis. Misty shows the most difficulty in pulling a candlestick to her with her mind. The others pull it off effortlessly (not sure how this is one of the more difficult tasks, but OK, Myrtle). Continuing with the mind games, Concilium is up next. Misty and Queenie make each other slap themselves and pull their own hair, but Madison decides to have a little more fun — she makes Kyle come over and make out with her in front of Zoe. She retaliates by drawing Kyle over to her. Madison gets angry and makes Kyle choke Zoe. Cordelia has to interfere and force the girls to stop.
Next up is possibly the most difficult task: the descent to Hell (descensum). The girls all lay down next each other and chant the incantation to send them to their own personal Hells. Queenie returns from Chubbie’s first, having already been through this particular trial (although she is unnerved that the experience was identical to the last one). Madison is next to awake, having escaped a live network musical performance of The Sound of Music in which she starred not as the lead but as Liesl. (Oh the shade of it all, Mr. Murphy!) Zoe’s Hell is more personal, being trapped in a loop of Kyle breaking up with her.
It’s Misty, however, who does not seem able to wake up. She’s trapped in a high school science lab, being forced to dissect a frog. Due to her powers, she merely continues to bring it back to life. Killing an innocent creature proves too nightmarish for her, and Misty does not return from the netherworld before the timer ends. She crumbles into a pile of dust as Cordelia holds her, trying to bring her back. The competition just got thinner.
Transmutation is up next, and the girls use the opportunity to let off some steam by playing tag. They transmute (or teleport) about the manor, soon chasing each other outside. Cordelia, ever a mother, tells them to be careful. But girls just want to have fun. Until Zoe transmutes onto a stake on the fence, game time over. They drag her to the greenhouse (because it’s basically their ER); and Cordelia challenges the girls to perform vitalum vitalis to bring her back. Queenie fails, and Madison uses this opportunity to snatch the Supremacy. She proves her skills on a fly she kills and revives, but she won’t bring Zoe back because she would then be back in the competition.
Cordelia is at a loss — she can’t stand the idea of Madison in control of the coven. Myrtle comes up with a wild idea: Cordelia should perform the Seven Wonders. She does have royal blood flowing through her. Via a quick montage, Cordelia catches up on the trials already performed, showing aplomb. (Her personal Hell involves being bitch slapped by Fiona, nothing she hasn’t handled before.)
Having caught up with Madison, the two face off on the Divination challenge (at this point, Cordelia has side-stepped the vitalum vitalis — for dramatic storytelling purposes). Cordelia divines the location of an item left behind by a former Supreme. But Madison does not possess the skills of divination and fails miserably. At a loss, she throws a huge temper tantrum and threatens to run off to TMZ and reveal the existence of witches.
She storms upstairs to pack up her wardrobe. Kyle stops by to unleash some pent-up rage. He attacks her, asking why she wouldn’t revive Zoe. Madison tries to shed some tears as she confesses she loves him. “You’re not that good an actress,” Kyle says as he chokes her to death. With Madison dead, Spalding appears to look at his dead, again, doll. He then helps Kyle clean up the mess, making it appear that Madison just left the manor as she said she would.
In the greenhouse, Cordelia performs vitalum vitalis on Zoe, bringing her back to life. Having done so, at the same moment that life is choked from Madison, Cordelia collapses. When she stands back up we’re reminded that the Supreme exhibits full health, and so Cordelia’s eyes have been returned to her head, and she looks positively radiant.
Time jumps ahead fast as Cordelia does a breakout TV interview outing them all as witches. Her monologue is a thinly veiled message about coming out of the closet. Vampires must really be out now as the metaphorical homosexual, and Ryan Murphy is declaring witches the new metaphor. (In case that wasn’t already apparent in the campiest season of TV to ever grace our screens.) Cordelia encourages young witches, confused by their powers, to come down to New Orleans.
Myrtle is proud of her little Cordelia, but there is some unfinished business. To have a truly respectable reign, Myrtle insists that she be burned at the stake for murdering the Council. Cordelia doesn’t want to see her true mother burned at the stake, again; but Myrtle forces her. As she approaches her pyre, Stevie’s “Silver Springs” plays in the background. Myrtle’s final word to the world is “BALENCIAGA.”
A massive line of girls lurks outside the gates of Robichaux Academy. But before Cordelia can welcome in a new generation of witches, there is one more person she has to deal with: Fiona. She’s back! Never trust a death unless you see the actual body (and Coven has taught us not even to trust that). Turns out, Fiona inceptioned the Axeman into believing he killed her and encouraging him to go on a rampage at the manor so that the coven would get rid of him for her. Then she assumed Cordelia would crown the next Supreme so that Fiona could swoop in and murder her.
She didn’t, however, expect to have to kill her own daughter. Looking insanely haggard (I assume Lange will be submitting this scene in her Emmy reel), Fiona has a heart-to-heart chat with Cordelia. They hug, and Fiona dies in her daughter’s arms. Fiona then awakes in her personal Hell. It’s a bleak country cabin where the Axeman brings home a pair of catfish for dinner. The Axeman complains that she wakes up every morning confused as to where she is, instigating a fight between them, and eventually realizing how her afterlife is a fitting punishment for the life she led. It’s like they’re trapped in Fifty First Dates for eternity. Papa Legba laughs as he looks on.
Cordelia wipes away the stray tear, and promotes her remaining witches — Zoe and Queenie — to be the Council. Together, they welcome in the horde of new witches, with Kyle taking up Spalding’s vacated position as the help. Cordelia promises an era of thriving for witches, instead of just hiding and surviving (as she was encouraging her students to do in the first episode). This is by far the most optimistic ending for AHS, and I’m not mad at all.
This season decided to forego trying to out-gore and out-horror itself, and embraced the comedy of the genre instead. It was a campy, trendy season; and this finale tied it all together with a big bow. I found it to be immensely satisfying, and definitely one of the greater messes (or beautiful disasters, depending on how you view Murphy) we’ve seen from TV’s most-derided, most-watched showrunner.
Now for some random thoughts and my favorite moments of the night…
As they begin the Seven Wonders, Myrtle says, “Madison, obviously this is your bailiwick.” Madison dismissively says, “Whatever that means.”
“Crown me or kiss my ass.” – Madison
“I didn’t know the test came in braille.” – Madison’s snarky commentary on Cordelia performing the trials.
During Cordelia’s TV interview, we see that up next “Liza Minnelli talks about her hip.”