After a stress-inducing conclusion in “The Replacements”, AHS fans expected the best from Coven this week; especially considering the Halloween-theme that they could so easily build upon. If there’s a time for gore and horror, it’s now, and this was the time for Falchuk and Murphy’s twisted ideas to take life and scare fans to the point of sleep deprivation. Unforunately, “Fearful Pranks Ensue” was more focused on plot development rather than horror-filled scenes, save for a few eerie moments here and there.
The episode opens with a flashback; it’s 1961 in New Orleans, and the son of Madame Laveau’s good friend Cora is hung by a group of racists. Laveau, being the perfectly rational and level-headed witch that she is, sends an army of the dead to kill them, and then we’re back in the present, watching Spalding host a very creepy tea party with his collection of porcelain dolls, right before the killing of Madison Montgomery. We learn more of Fiona’s faithful henchman and the history behind his missing tongue, as well as Queenie’s predicament after she runs to “Bastian the bull” for some nighttime lovin’.
Kyle, on the other hand, remains the same zombie boyfriend from before, and Zoe begins to have second thoughts. As she contemplates killing him, he runs off, blending in with the other Halloweeners roaming the streets. It then cuts to the feud between Laveau and Fiona, who sends her the remains of her lover in a package. The voodoo queen is bent on revenge, and the battle begins.
Later on we discover that Cordelia’s husband, who until now seemed perfectly normal, is actually just as twisted as the rest of the characters (big surprise). He not only cheats on his wife, but then proceeds to blow his mistress’s brains out (Moira O’Hara from season 1) for no apparent reason.
We also meet the council, which up until now seemed like a random group of eccentrically dressed strangers. Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) is brought in along with her trusty sidekicks. Nan called them fearing that Madison was dead, and, bent on revealing Fiona as a cold-blooded murderer, Myrtle brings up the several times a supreme has died, with Fiona being the last to see them alive. We learn more of their feud later; a flashback takes us back to when the two were teenagers and constantly butting heads. Spalding, presumably the creepy, doll-collecting stalker, proves to be just that: he reveals his longtime crush on Fiona and has been dressing up Fiona’s victims for his personal pleasure. When he’s called up to the council as a witness, he stands once more on her side.
Though this episode wasn’t as scary as I would’ve preferred, AHS succeeds in doing something that I greatly appreciate: being the masters of surprise plot twists. Things come out of nowhere when you least expect them. They’re also gifted in building tension; as more and more side stories arrive, they collide and then drift apart, and there’s always a part of the show that will keep your attention.
One thing I wish producers would consider is more involvement of Zoe and Kyle, who I personally would wish to see more often (and not only because Evan Peters could pass for the most attractive serial killer of all time, though that’s part of the reason). More development in their relationship would give the show more of a spark.
As always, the cliffhanger at the end of “Fearful Pranks Ensue” is unbearable: Laveau revives the dead to surround the witches’ academy, seeking out Madame LaLaurie. Possibly one of the scariest aspects of this episode was the included zombies, which were of course made to look so real that one has to look twice. Also, Cordelia is attacked by a stranger in a black robe, though at this point that could be anybody, as this show has taken a turn into uncharted territory. It’s also revealed that Madison was not the supreme, making for a suspenseful turn of events.
Put simply, “Fearful Pranks Ensue” had the potential to be especially terror-filled, but it lacked in those terms. Hopefully things will pick up next episode, when we discover the fate of the baddest witches in New Orleans. Score: 7/10.
Nataly Capote/A&E Editor