‘American Horror Story: Coven,’ Season 3, Episode 6, ‘The Axeman Cometh’
It’s 1919 in New Orleans this episode of “American Horror Story: Coven,” and there’s a film noir twist. A man in a fedora is walking by his lonesome down the city streets, narrating and telling us, “I am the Axeman.”
Who is the Axeman? He was a real serial killer who was active in New Orleans between 1918 and 1919. As he himself explains, he loves jazz and he spares fellow jazz-lovers, so any homes with a jazz band in full swing are safe. Those who don’t “jazz it,” as he writes in an open letter, will get axed in the head. The young suffragette witches at Miss Robichaux’s are arguing back and forth about whether or not to play jazz when a brave witch steps forward and tells her coven-mates that they can face this Axeman.They stick to their word, and the Axeman enters the attic at Miss Robichaux’s, where a young witch is playing opera on the gramophone and another is turning over tarot cards. He tells her he gave her fair warning and she draws the death card: “That reading was for you.” She stabs him and the whole coven joins her, forming a circle and stabbing him dead.
Zoey (Taissa Farmiga) is going through Madison’s (Emma Roberts) things when she is drawn to the door in their room. She finds a ouija board in there and old photos. She summons Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nan (Jamie Brewer) and shows them old photos of Miss Robichaux’s: Over the years, there have been fewer and fewer witches at the school. Zoey knows they’re a dying breed and she asks Queenie and Nan to drink absinthe and vow that they’ll have each other’s backs.
Zoey wants to use the ouija board to ask the spirits where Madison is, but Queenie warns her that most people forget the second function of the ouija board: You can contact the dead, but you also release them. Queenie’s grandmother used a ouija board and the spirits started a fire and burned her house and half her face off.
But Zoey insists, and a spirit who died in the house contacts the girls and tells them, “You killed me.” Actually, the class of 1919 at Miss Robichaux’s killed him. He reveals himself as the Axeman. The girls are spooked and don’t want to help Zoey anymore, but Zoey returns to the ouija board and asks him where Madison is, and he tells her she’s in the attic. Zoey runs up to go find her, with Spalding creeping right behind her.
In the meantime, Fiona (Jessica Lange) is at the hospital getting blood and discovers she has the gift of mind-reading. Later, she visits Delia and Hank is there, too. Delia (Sarah Paulson) is blind but she has visions: She sees Hank with the redhead and asks him who she is, and she sees that Fiona has had her own issues with a redhead. She can’t believe Fiona burned Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) at the stake.
Back at Miss Robichaux’s, the girls are torturing Spalding to find out who killed Madison. Queenie is torturing him with her human voodoo skills by branding herself with burning spatulas. Finally, he tells Nan telepathically that he is a “man of uniquely developed appetite” and that he killed Madison. He also graphically describes having sex with Madison’s corpse, but Zoey still doesn’t buy it.
Somewhere in the Bayou, Misty Day (Lily Rabe) is watering a corpse in the ground when Kyle shows up. She gives him a bath, but he has PTSD from getting molested by his mom and he freaks out every time she goes near his crotch. He has a violent tantrum and destroys Misty’s things, including – gasp – her record player while she’s playing Fleetwood Mac. Zoey comes to the rescue and this time, Misty doesn’t mind if she takes Kyle away: “He broke Stevie.” But Zoey needs Misty, too, to help revive Madison. With Zoey helping by pumping Madison’s stomach, Stevie brings Madison back to life. Madison coughs out a bug and says, “I need a cigarette.”
In a shocking plot twist, Hank visits Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). It turns out that the Ninth Ward’s baddest witch hired Hank to track down all of the Salem descendants and get rid of them. His fiery redhead girlfriend was one of them – he found out about her after she interviewed for and turned down a spot at Miss Robichaux’s. He pleads with Marie because he’s already taken out nine Salem descendants in three years and he never wanted Delia to get splashed with acid. Marie scoffs at the notion that she’d need acid to make Delia blind, and tells him he’s not doing a good enough job getting rid of her enemies, like that “fat ass cracka bitch” Fiona. She tells him if he doesn’t get rid of every “witch bitch” in that house, she’ll kill him.
Misty and Madison have joined the others at Miss Robichaux’s, and unfortunately, so has the Axeman, who is lurking in Delia’s bedroom. In another room the girls explain to Madison that she died and they brought her back. They ask her if she remembers who killed her, but all she can recall is red (the color of Fiona’s dress) and says after that it’s all dark. She also informs them there’s nothing on the other side: “Black forever.”
The Axeman is chasing poor Delia, hacking at the walls with his axe because he’s trapped in her room until someone releases him. Zoey admits to the girls that she did promise to release him. In the hallway, she hovers over a bookshelf and reads a book out loud — it’s not in English. It’s enough to release the Axeman, though, leaving Delia wailing in her room.
We see him outside Miss Robichaux’s, and then we are transported to a bar with jazz music. Fiona is waiting for a man to offer her a drink, even if her hair is falling out from the chemo. Just in time, the Axeman pulls up a seat right next to her.