I’ll be the first to admit that American Horror Story came on like gangbusters this season, so it is with great reluctance that I give this week’s episode “The Axeman Cometh” a solid rating of “meh.” With the addition of the Axeman, AHS has added another character to an already pretty full cast, although it is good to see the addition of a male voice – even if it is one of psychopathy and murderous insanity – and it could go either way for me at this point. However, this episode did see some of the ladies evolving a little in their roles; Zoe is growing braver in her role as leader, Delia is harder and angrier as a blind seer, Fiona is more fragile and vulnerable as a cancer patient, Marie is more cartoonish in her spite-rage, and Madison is …. alive.
As Zoe searches for a way to locate Madison, she is guided to a spirit board in a secret compartment in Madison’s room. This is just the first of many clichés that AHS is asking us to buy into in this hour, and we watch as the three witches try to call on Madison, but accidentally stumble upon the Axeman who, we know from the cold open, was a (real life) serial killer in the twenties that an earlier coven (probably not real life) killed when he tried to do them in. After Zoe’s stint with the chainsaw in the Halloween episode, she is the de facto leader now. But the other girls are reluctant to help her release the Axeman in exchange for information about Madison, even when she tells them, “Witch up,” which was as awkward to type as it was to hear. Queenie is especially hesitant; as she seems to have some knowledge about the perils of spirit boards, and as promised by every other scene in every other movie involving an Ouija board, it goes wrong and the Axeman appears in Delia’s room.
Zoe makes the deal with the Axeman and they find Madison’s armless, rotting corpse in Spalding’s trunk. The scenes of sisterhood that follow are so disjointed from the scenes from the previous generations’ that we begin to realize Zoe may be right in her fears about a declining sisterhood. They torture Spalding, using Nan to interpret his thoughts, which are perversions of the true intentions of a coven, and he confesses to enjoying sex with dead women as a ruse to protect Fiona. Zoe employs the help of Misty, who is already busy nursing Myrtle back to life, and they resurrect Madison, who can’t remember what happened to her, thankfully. It remains to be seen how her comeback is going to play out for the rest of the season, but I think this show is better with Emma Roberts in it.
Delia, on the other hand, is new-and-improved as a bitchier, more powerful version of her former, sighted self. She can see Hank’s true self (and so can we, now that it has been revealed he is a witch hunter working for Marie Leveau), and has found a new sense of clarity. This bodes very well for us viewers, as she might be the new badass the show is losing as Fiona starts her chemotherapy. Seeing Fiona undergo these treatments, and hearing her confess to the doctor that she just wants someone to love was tough to take. It’s a hard paradigm shift watching her go from Queen of the Damned to a cancer patient, even though she has gained a new power. Perhaps this will open the door for a true alliance between Delia and Fiona to fight Marie Leveau in the ongoing feud.\
Unlike Delia, this feud has not brought out the best in Marie, Leveau. The scene she shares with Hank turns into a parody as she loses her composure into a host of clichés that make it hard to take her seriously in that moment. The rant devolves into an admonishment about Hank’s failure to deliver her enemies to her, specifically Fiona, and we learn she has hired him to track down and murder other witches that have come through the Academy. This explains the redhead Kaley’s death, which seemed random at first, but now just arbitrary. This partnership seems below Marie, and drags down what could have been a conceptual war of magical wits. It seems like another wasted opportunity wrapped in a cliché, which is what this episode should have been called.
Also, as a end note: AHS is wasting the talents of Gaborey Sidebe as the sassy-street-wise-black-girl. Her character is the last of the coven to be fully realized and they should spend more effort giving her further dimension.