American Horror Story 3×08 ‘The Sacred Taking’: Spiraling into the nothingness

Source: FX

I’m starting to get really exasperated with this show, you guys. I’d be even more exasperated if American Horror Story didn’t always make me feel this way at this point in its run, but I guess since it comes with the territory I’ve gotten used to it. Todd VanDerWerff likes to say that good TV shows teach you how to watch them; Horror Story is unique in that it’s a good show that doesn’t teach you how to watch it because it literally has no idea what it’s doing. Ultimately, Ryan Murphy doesn’t appear to be much different than the rest of us laboring down here in the content mines: we want you to consume our stuff and let it wash over you, and really anything past that is some unholy confluence of luck and dark magic.

Source: FX

Source: FX

And look: this episode was fun, from time to time. The Sacred Taking ritual, while at first threatening to take over the entire episode and turn it into some kind of very special episode where Fiona has a “moment” with every member of the coven and we all learn some very valuable lessons about character, but instead it just turned into a camp-off between Fiona, Cordelia, and Snow that ended quickly and banished Danny Huston for at least a couple episodes, it looks like.

I mean sure, people’s motivations still don’t make a whole lot of sense. Fiona remains the only clearly drawn character, and while watching Jessica Lange chew every age-related piece of scenery that ever was is fun enough, any hope that AHS might start playing around with the (kinda sexist, right?) idea of age panic is quickly waning. Cordelia has kinda just broken hard towards HBIC, away from her crunchier, maternal persona. All of this may be a function of the acid and witchcraft and sisterhood, and watching Sarah Paulson go into take-charge Sarah-Polley-in-Go mode is fun, but it relegates her to the role of pure plot device.

Myrtle is Myrtle (love her pouring Fiona’s jewelry into her handbag). Queenie is conflicted. Spaulding is alive agains, qua ghost. LaLaurie is (surprise! not really) manipulative, going from pathetic “who, little old me?” Scarlett O’Hara of the trailer park to full on Imperial Dragon in an impressively short window, but other than getting to see Laveau go to town on her ability to rend LaLaurie limb from limb, I’m not sure why I should particularly care. Misty Day, in spite of being at the center of the rite, basically doesn’t do anything (except maybe die, but that’s to be seen).

Source: FX

Source: FX

So we’re left with everyone’s favorite love triangle and everyone’s favorite character they probably forgot about. Zoe, Kyle, and Madison are quickly showing the cracks in their previously sexy facade, for who could predict that a girl who’s half-rotted, and guy who’s sewn together from 7 rapey frat boys and apparently has a pre-school education, and the I-mean-she-probably-has-to-be-the-Supreme at this point girl would have problems? We’re given a hint that Madison now feels like she’s on the outside looking in, which is fair because, you know, she killed Kyle, and Kyle and Zoe love each other. Go figure; she inserted herself into something based merely on her status as “zombie” and now is on the outside. DRAMA BECKONS.

Nan and neighbor-guy’s blossoming romance isn’t really that weird, by this show’s track record, but so little happens this episode. Neighbor-guy’s mom is apparently into some sketchy stuff with him (because between Neighbor-guy and Kyle and Cordelia, having a creepy mom is a theme this year), and he gets shot, and Nan is sad. RIVETING STUFF.

To be honest, what it comes down to is the same problem that AHS always runs into: too much stuff happening, not enough stuff resolving. I have no problem with shows that bring up a thousand issues and then slowly, or never, solve them, but AHS has a tendancy to just throw more balls into the air while letting other fall to the ground. When I say nothing happened here, I mean nothing happened that stands out: a year from now, how would you characterize this episode? The one with the ritual where they try to kill Fiona? No. The one where they think someone else is the new Supreme? No. The one where Neighbor-guy dies? Who knows, but probably not. The one where they cut off Kathy Bates head?  Well…maybe, actually. But look how narrow a part of the episode that is. Look how uninteresting and unimportant the major events that are included in this episode are.

Source: FX

Source: FX

AHS likes to show you a lot of what’s going on, which is generally verbotten in horror. I’ve always kind of liked that about it, I’ve liked its ability to keep us abreast of so much wild-eyed insanity while still allowing the unknown and the unexplained ample space to creep through the cracks. But this season, for the first time, I feel like I know everything that’s going on. I know enough backstory, about Laveau and LaLaurie and Hank and Misty and Cordelia and Fiona, that nothing is ever without explanation. I’m getting the feeling that what I cannot forsee isn’t obscured by my limited knowledge, but rather by the fog of the future and forced plotting.

I really hope I’m wrong. And I really want to see those crazy zombie threesome kids make it.

Stray Thoughts:

    • I love AHS‘s take on the witch’s hat, which Harry Potter was never really comfortable with.
    • “Less Samantha and more Eudora.” *Rolls eyes while secretly geeking out*
    • More dutch angles and voiceovers, please.
    • I really feel like I missed an episode here, now that the coven is all teaming up.
    • I can’t tell whether AHS is trying to seriously talk about the power dynamics of a menage-a-trois or whether they’re just dicking around.
    • Fiona kinda fits with the news that Lange won’t be on AHS after next season.
    • LaLaurie will continue to be a complete nonentity until Queenie reaches literally any kind of character moment.
John M.

works for a legal newspaper in Baltimore and lives within three blocks of Tilghman Middle, the alley where Omar and Brother Mouzone have their showdown, and Pearson’s Florists. He enjoys putting his liberal arts degree to good use by watching a lot of TV and reading a lot of internet. He occasionally blogs (about Dawson’s Creek) on tumblr.

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