Can anyone in Hollywood out-bitch Jessica Lange on American Horror Story? It's not likely.
Especially after last night's Lange-dominated American Horror Story: Coven episode, titled "Boy Parts," in which the Emmy Award-winning actress' character, supreme witch Fiona Goode made quick work of her younger co-stars Taissa Farmiga and Emma Roberts. Their characters—awe-struck, sex-is-my-weapon young witch Zoe and sassy, Hollywood-starlet-cum-telekinetic-Carrie Madison, respectively—are in a world of trouble following Madison's swift destruction of the fraternity bus in Coven's season premiere, her vengeance against the college-age rapists. Two New Orleans detectives are on to the girls, thanks to eyewitnesses at the frat party and the hospital surveillance camera that captured Zoe hanging around the room of the (briefly) surviving frat guy, whom Zoe killed. Zoe, for one, can't handle the authority's pressure, and quickly caves, telling them that she and her fellow Miss Robichaux's denizens are witches. Which, naturally, doesn't sit well with Fiona, who nearly causes one of the detectives head to go all Scanners. She pulls a Men in Black on the fuzz.
None too pleased with her inexperienced and erratic minions, Fiona ethers Zoe and Madison, after telekinetically hurling them into their bedroom walls. "We, even the weakest among us," she says, aggressively pointing at Zoe, are better than the best of them." And then comes Fiona's first of several verbal knockout punches in "Boy Parts": "In this whole wide, wicked world, the only you have to be afraid of…is me."
A statement that—courtesy of episode writer Tim Minear, on fire all throughout "Boy Parts"—could also be directed toward the rest of Hollywood, in fact. As she's proven twice before, in both American Horror Story: Murder House and American Horror Story: Asylum, nobody's touching Lange when she's inhabiting one of series co-creator Ryan Murphy's wonderfully grandiose characters. And only two episodes into Coven, Fiona Goode is already neck-and-neck, if not superior to, Murder House's Norma Desmond-esque Constance Langdon and Asylum's Sister Jude in terms of bow-down-before-me showiness.
This year, though, Lange's at least been given some worthy peers to catfight with: Coven co-stars Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett, two seasoned veterans who've torn down their fair share of fictional egos. If Lange is going to lose an on-screen sonning match, you'd think it would happen against either one of them, not Taissa Farmiga or Emma Roberts. No disrespect to them—Roberts, for one, is a pint-sized wave of scene-stealing spunk herself, owning some of Coven's wittiest dialogue, like, when Zoe questions if she's read a resurrection spell correctly, "I've been acting since I was five—I know my lines." It's damn near impossible, though, for Roberts' Napoleon-like threats to overpower Lange when she's firing off come-and-get-me lines like, after one of the detectives asks Fiona if she's in charge of Miss Robichaux's academy, "I'm in charge everywhere." The queen's checkmate.
After an all-too-brief appearance in Coven's premiere, "Bitchcraft," Angela Bassett was given plenty to do in "Boy Parts," most notably a scene with Lange that ranks among the best American Horror Story moments to date—without a single monster, jarring edit, familiar song choice, or sexual perversion. It's the first, of hopefully many, sparring matches for Fiona and Marie Laveau, the voodoo priestess whose feud with the undying Delphine LaLaurie (Bates) is now spilling over onto Fiona's radar. With Delphine being held captive in the Miss Robichaux's building, Fiona takes a seat inside Laveau's beauty salon. She's fully aware that she has the ultimate playing card to use against Laveau—Laveau wants Delphine to keep suffering for turning her lover into a homemade Minotaur (because, you know, American Horror Story), and Fiona, so desperate to stay forever young (or, rather, beautifully middle-aged), desires whatever magical methods Laveau employs to keep herself from aging.
Laveau, bless her soul, rejects Fiona's backhanded offer, saying, "You could offer me a unicorn that shits $100 bills and I'd still never give you nothing more than a headache." This vitriol coming, as it turns out, from Laveau's lineage to a legendary slave woman who, according to Ms. Laveau, was the first real witch in Salem who's directly responsible for all present-day witches' collective mojo. Fiona's response: "You want me to believe some illiterate voodoo slave girl gave me my crown?"
From there, it's on. First, she lays into Laveau's own legacy: "I have been to St Louis, and I have seen the Tomb of Laveau. I have seen fat tourists from Little Rock to Hackensack drawing crosses on the bricks and making wishes to the ghost of Laveau…when all they have to do is come down here to the Ninth Ward and and have their hair braided." And then, just as she's vacating the premises and acknowledging how far Laveau's come in her everlasting life, Fiona unleashes the diesel-fueled ether: "Maybe in another century, you can have two shithole salons."
Once again, Jessica Lange exits an American Horror Story scene like television's most untouchable boss. Angela Bassett is left shell-shocked and, one would imagine, clamoring for the inevitable Coven episode in which Laveau gets the best of Fiona. Because that's bound to happen. It's not impossible. The perenially underrated AHS secret weapon Lily Rabe, playing the demonically possessed Sister Mary Eunice, one-upped Lange on occasion throughout Asylum.
Just don't expect Lange to ever bow down. Murphy and his AHS team would never let her go out like that. A variation of this seems more appropriate:
Mixed with a little of this:
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Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)