'American Horror Story: Coven' recap: 'The Axeman Cometh'

For The Baltimore Sun

"They have never caught me, and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether which surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and fell demon from hottest Hell. I am what you Orleanians call The Axeman." --The Axeman

"The Axeman Cometh" gave us the most conventional hour of storytelling so far in this "American Horror Story" season, and that's a very good thing. The episode gave us a rich, dastardly new character and added depth to the season's biggest storyline, the war between Fiona and Marie.

We kick things off in 1919 New Orleans, where a serial killer named The Axeman is terrorizing citizens. He has a fondness for jazz music, he writes in a letter to the newspaper. He promises to kill anyone not playing jazz when he goes on his next rampage, and politely gives the date and time when said rampage will occur.

All the ladies at the coven don't take kindly to The Axeman's warning, and are both appalled and afraid. All the ladies, that is, except for the sassy Millie. "Why should we do anything to appease this Axeman?" she asks. "Because he kills women with an axe," one of the witches responds. Seems like pretty sound reasoning to me. Millie vows to stand up to The Axeman with her feminine might.

The Axeman strolls past the school on the appointed night and hears opera blasting from a gramophone. Entering the school, he finds Millie flipping over tarot cards. He admonishes her that he made his intentions clear and that she has no one to blame but herself for her fate.

Millie flips over a death card and tells The Axeman that the reading was for him, then stabs him in the heart. It just wouldn't be "American Horror Story" without a stabbing depicted in graphic detail, would it? All of Millie's witch sisters emerge from the darkness and take turns stabbing The Axeman.

Move to the present day, Zoe is rifling through Madison's things. She finds a secret room in her closet, filled with historical artifacts from the school. She determines that witches are slowly dying off and tells Nan and Queenie that they need to watch out for each other. They seal their bond with swigs of absinthe.

After a few more drinks, the girls decide to get the Ouija board out and contact some spirits, in an effort to find out what happened to Madison. They encounter The Axeman's spirit, but Queenie puts a stop to the proceedings before they can figure out who exactly he was.

While Fiona is getting chemotherapy, she discovers that she now has the ability to read minds. Startled by the morbid thoughts of her fellow patients, she tries to leave, but a doctor talks her into finishing the treatment. Fiona says that she's only going through with chemo because her daughter needs her. "I'm just not ready to go quite yet. I want one more great love affair in my life. Now I think what I really want is just to belong to somebody," she says. "It's not too late for that, is it?"

Later, Hank and Fiona bring Cordelia home from the hospital. Cordelia lost her eyesight, but she now has the ability to see visions. When Hank touches her, Cordelia again sees him with the woman he murdered. "I had to go blind to see things about you that I couldn't see before. A bad cosmic joke. It's a different kind of clarity, an absolute clarity I never had," she tells Hank.

Cordelia tells Hank that all his secrets will be made known and that he will pay for his sins, before ordering him to leave. "I'd get out while you still can, Jughead," Fiona chimes in. "I wanted to sever his arms and throw him out the window," Cordelia says after he leaves. I envy her way with words.

Fiona goes to help her daughter get dressed, but when she does, passes on a vision of Myrtle burning at the stake. Cordelia is horrified. Fiona tries to reassure her, telling her that she made Myrtle pay for what she had done to her.

Zoe, Nan and Queenie go to the Internet and piece together the rest of The Axeman's story. Zoe is adamant that they help release his spirit, so that he can tell them what happened to Madison. When Nan and Queenie disagree with her, Zoe goes back to the Ouija board alone and contacts The Axeman, who tells her to look in the attic. Zoe enters Spalding's lair and finds Madison's corpse, but the butler grabs her. Zoe quickly overpowers him, and she enlists Nan and Queenie to help her interrogate him.

Under duress, namely from a hot spatula applied to his chest, Spalding confesses to Madison's murder -- a crime he did not commit. "I'm a man of uniquely developed appetites," he tells Nan the clairvoyant.

He goes on to describe, in horrifyingly descriptive terms, his necrophiliac desire for Madison, then boasts that the girls can't turn him in. Maybe not, but they can torture him with that spatula some more. They do so, and he passes out from the pain. Zoe still isn't convinced that he killed Madison, and tells Queenie that they can't kill him.

It's time to check in with Misty, who is slowly nursing Myrtle back to health in her garden. While she tends to Myrtle, Kyle lumbers up to her. He needs a bath, she decides, and takes him inside to wash him. This gives Kyle flashbacks to his mother and her misdeeds, leading him to embark on a naked rampage through Misty's house. He smashes her music player, which is just a big mistake. Misty calls him a monster.

Zoe arrives just then, and Misty orders her to take him away. "Get him out of here. He broke Stevie," she says. There are just certain lines a pasted-together mound of boy parts shouldn't cross. You can't break Stevie. Zoe says she's taking them both out of there, because she needs Misty's help. She takes them back to the school, where Misty uses her healing ability to bring Madison back to life.

Zoe asks Misty to stay, telling her that maybe their coven is the tribe that she's been longing to belong to. Misty declines, saying that the school is bad news. The girls tend to Madison, who is confused about how she ended up in her current state. She doesn't remember who killed her.

Hank pays Marie a visit, and we learn that Hank has been hired by Marie to do away with all the descendents of the Salem witches. In a flashback, we see that Kaylee, Hank's mistress, was also a witch, and that killing her was part of Marie's grand plan. Marie reads Hank the riot act for falling in love with Cordelia and vows to kill him, unless he burns the coven to the ground and kills all the witches.

Back at the school, Cordelia is getting herself ready for bed when she encounters The Axeman, all dapper and bitter after being trapped inside those walls for almost a century. He wants release, he tells Cordelia. Zoe promised it to him, he says, but she didn't deliver. Cordelia says she can help him, but only if he allows her to go. "No. Nobody leaves this room," he says. He threatens her with his ax, and Cordelia screams, alerting the girls to her danger.

They run to Cordelia's room, but the door is locked. Inside, The Axeman swings his weapon around, while Cordelia stumbles around in terror. Zoe finds a book of spells and the girls join hands and chant, opening the door to Cordelia's room. She is safe, but The Axeman is now freely roaming New Orleans.

He goes to a jazz bar, of course, where he finds Fiona. "Well, hello, pretty lady," he says.

Maybe Fiona will get the chance to have that last, great love affair.

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