It was probably inevitable that Stevie Nicks would kick off the final episode of American Horror Story: Coven by twirling through Miss Robichaux’s singing “Seven Wonders.” There was gauzy overlighting and bad lip-syncing, and the camera followed Misty and a metaphorical black cat while they checked in on all of the witches left alive. It felt like the final scene of an ’80s teen movie, the moment when the whole cast grins through a symphony of self-actualization: The Craft if it had been made 10 years earlier by John Hughes. There’s Zoe, using her telekinesis to lift her bed into the air; there’s Madison, boiling up her bubble bath and lighting candles with her mind; there’s Misty, bringing dead plants back to life and actually smiling right as Stevie Nicks sings the word “Smile” on the soundtrack; there’s Queenie, trying to speak to Nan via her Spirit Board.
The girls all march downstairs, waiting as patiently as a bunch of Bradys. Then up walks Stevie Nicks herself. “Good luck, girls!” They all smile. Stevie leaves the building. Then again, scratch that teen-movie comparison. The opening scene of the final Coven felt like the credits sequence for a very different show about these crazy witches — the spinoff that wasn’t. And it set the tone for a very weird hour of television.
The finale of Murder House turned into a delicate twist: After an entire season about the breakdown of the American family, a season which argued relentlessly that any long-term relationship is doomed to misery and corrosion, the final episode suggested that the Harmons could finally find peace with each other. (We last saw them decorating a Christmas Tree; I have to believe there’s a deleted scene where they joined together with all the ghosts for a rousing rendition of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” It was a season of cataclysm that ended with quiet, and something like grace. Asylum went the other route: After a season of mid-century madness, the show hit the gas pedal and followed that madness across the decades, ending with an act of filicide that simultaneously read as redemptive and apocalyptic, as if the joyful solution to all the problems of our sad world was to stop having the children who screw things up.
“The Seven Wonders” was different. After a season of mad spinning, Coven spun onwards, with an ending that you could read as happy or as ironically happy or as evidence that nothing has really changed. It began with a recreation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, a reference which every show has to make eventually. Myrtle had chosen a last supper of Caviar and Champagne. Delia saluted her young witches. She paraphrased the Bible: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child. But when I became a woman, I put aside childish things.” The paraphrase was actually just a regendering. Appropriate, considering that Coven has more or less committed gendercide: All the male characters have been killed, many of them self-destructing, leaving only poor Kyle behind as brute-force man-candy.
The Seven Wonders began. Telekinesis was easy. Then came Concilium. Misty mind-controlled Queenie into slapping her own cheeks, the witch version of the popular big-sibling game Stop Hitting Yourself! (Queenie got her own back, getting Misty to pull at her own hair.) Then came Madison and Zoe. They turned FrankenKyle into a chesspiece. Madison forced Kyle to kiss her, and then made her lick her own boots. Zoe made Kyle kiss her, shooting Madison a look while it happened. Then Madison made Zoe strangle Kyle.
Then the girls all went to Hell. Queenie had already been there: She escaped the old Chicken Shack with ease. Madison’s Hell was far worse: “I was stuck on a network musical. It was a live version of The Sound of Music. I wasn’t even the lead! I was Liesl!” Face, NBC, you just got faced! Zoe woke up and her hell was Kyle breaking up with her because her only character trait is loving the prettiest Frankenstein ever. Misty found herself in her worst memory: In school on dissection day, cursed to kill a living frog and bring it back to life over and over again.
And she never escaped. After a lifetime of servitude, bringing murdered women and hunted animals back to life, Misty’s eternal reward was to be trapped in the worst minute of her life. “If you won’t dissect a dead frog, you can dissect a live one!” screamed Mr. Cranely, over and over again. As I think back on the episode, I find myself thinking about this moment over and over. The episode proper ended on a hopeful note — but what are we to make of the fact that Misty Day, who never did a single thing wrong, is cursed forever? This was pure death-metal nihilism. Or maybe they just had to start getting rid of people. I thought Misty might stage one last resurrection, but her body faded into a million little ambient particles. Good night, sweet Swamp Witch. Flights of angels take you to the big Fleetwood Mac concert in the sky.
NEXT: Let’s play some tag!