***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for American Horror Story through S8, E4 follow. Spoilers***
What a difference a week — and a few witches — make … After the largely disappointing, disjointed mess that was “Forbidden Fruit“, “Could It Be … Satan” rolled right in with a well-connected (Murder House, Coven, Hotel) and truly fun hour, filled with warlocks, witches, and demonic possession (oh, my!). Just when we think we’re out, Mr. Murphy pulls us back in, which is of course, his very special power.
Opening the hour with a flashback to Michael’s teenaged years, the case for Miriam being a transformed Constance Langdon is all but closed (“She was the closest thing I had to a mother …She made me happy, so you can understand why I gave her your form and her thoughts.”). Musing over a meal where Michael has to be reminded to thank dear old dad for the “infernal bounty”, one thing is clear: Constance’s humor remains fully intact (“Hail Satan”), and her grandson has inherited her wry wit (“Not quite, but I appreciate the sentiment.”)
In the present, Cordelia, Myrtle and Madison deal with the newly resurrected, explaining they’re all (Mallory, Coco, Dinah) witchy women — some of whom have been under an identity spell to conceal knowing what they were because they’re “special” — as Mallory later demonstrates in another flashback, this time to Miss Robichaux’s New Orleans Academy (Coven); welcome back Zoe Benson! (Taissa Farmiga).
Meanwhile (er … figuratively speaking — “Three years before the bomb”) through the most glorious trip back in time to the Hawthorne School for Young Men, aka AHS‘s take on (Harry Potter’s) Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, we meet Behold Chablis (Billy Porter), Grand Chancellor Ariel (Jon Jon Briones), John Henry Moore (Cheyenne Jackson) and a nameless wizard (Whiterose?) played by B.D. Wong. Alerted to a jailed young Michael’s incarceration (following a couple calamitous killings) and extreme abilities (“His magic is dark and volatile, and we should leave him the fuck alone.”), the Grand Chancellor brings back Langdon to help the young man gain control of his abilities, but clearly a higher (lower?) power is in charge.
In a relatively short period of time, it’s suspected Michael could be the prophesied “Alpha” — the first male Supreme — who must be tested on the Seven Wonders of Witchcraft. After Langdon’s impressive display (“In the history of the coven, there’s never been a level four warlock”) of manipulating weather, the Grand Chancellor miraculously stops Michael just before the room is entirely iced. Much to Myrtle’s chagrin — “Airline food for lunch when I made reservations at Galatoires; it’s just too cruel” — Cordelia and Company are summoned for an emergency meeting of the council.
Testosterone aside and despite her protestations, Michael quickly demonstrates his superior ability and does the one thing Cordelia (“… my greatest failure”) has been unable to do. Left in Season 5’s “mouth of hell”, the Hotel Cortez, Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) is trapped, and up 56,433 (“Only amateurs keep score”) hands against James March (Evan Peters … again!) — who recognizes Michael’s otherworldliness. Even as Cordelia declares she’ll not even bother with testing for a unicorn-like Supreme wizard, Langdon’s already proving his mettle, marching right into his father’s playground and taking Queenie by the hand and out the door to retrieve the “one person left to get”. Mouthy Madison by their side, the trio make their Hawthorne approach just as another threesome is exiting the building, sending quite a shock rippling through Cordelia’s Supreme brain. With a smile and a wave, Queenie heralds her homecoming, leaving Myrtle and Zoe to pick up the pieces, as it were.
Holy, did we ever need this episode, which in contrast with the first three, really took off. It was so fun, funny and great to see the many faces (Cheyenne Jackson, we’ve missed you!) from other seasons — plus, the additions of B.D. Wong, Jon Jon Briones and Billy Porter were great. The school scenes were excellent, and so many of the visuals this hour were stunningly gorgeous.
With that little wave and a smile, Gabourey Sidibe made the night’s best entrance.
Michael’s dinner prayer, “Bless us Dark Lord, for these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from they infernal bounty, through the power of Lucifer Eternal. Nema” includes a reference to occultist Nema Andahadna, who practiced and wrote about magic(k), and developed a system to transform the human race (Maat Magick).
That idea is also referenced in The New Adam and Eve by Nathaniel Hawthorne (first edition); that’s the book Michael retrieved through Scrying (“the ability to see visions in a reflective surface.”) from the mirror.
Frances Conroy is a gift and bless the writers for all the glorious lines they give her. She kills every single one. “Besides, do we really want all these men traipsing around our house?”
(Presumably) Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) killed three husbands — as related to Michael by Miriam. I only remember that she killed Hugo (who had an affair with Moira).
It’s a little confusing what Michael does and does not realize about himself. He’s supposed to be the Antichrist, and he references his “father”, but when he’s ostensibly possessed — does Langdon know/understand who is taking control of him? As an adult, does he consider this a (so to speak) good thing, or will he eventually revolt over not truly being in control of himself?
Interesting that James March immediately recognizes Michael; that he is neither alive nor dead and that he can move freely in and out of the Hotel Cortez.
Songs This Hour:
Portishead, Glory Box
If something isn’t working, just cut the cord. And make sure the insurance policy is up to date.
Bad news bitch, you’re back from the dead.
People react to spell sin different ways. I think the perfect antidote to stoke the blood and speed up the recovery process would be a spicy gazpacho Andaluz.
It’s almost as bad as your dinner jacket, but at least the world can be saved.
Mr. Banks, if you ever expect to rise beyond level one, you will arrive on time, If punctuality is too taxing for you, join the magic castle and do card tricks with Neal Patrick Harris
Now let’s see if you’ve been practicing your spells, or just fiddling with your wand.
… Sixes after a few cocktails.
Be afraid to do nothing.
One thing is for sure; nothing is immutable when the will of a strong woman is applied.
Besides, do we really want all these men traipsing around our house?
No man has ever approached the level of Supreme.
Testosterone is a known inhibitor. It impeded access to the Imperial Realm.
You say that because something hasn’t happened, it cannot happen.
Of course it’s the black one you left behind.
Solitaire it is.
I’m stuck here with he most boring, annoying white people since you.