Recap: “Boy Parts,” American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 2

American Horror Story: Coven, "Boy Parts"Rightly or wrongly, for better or worse, witchcraft is often associated with women.

During the Salem Witch Trails, Giles Corey notwithstanding, the witches were women. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow and Tara are powerful due to their connection to a goddess (while there are male magicians in Buffy, I don’t remember any male wielder of magic approaching Willow’s power). In Wicca, the goddess is associated with the moon—and the moon, of course, is connected to fertility via menstruation. Witches are associated with fertility, the creation of life, being a woman. This holds true in American Horror Story: Coven, where the witches are women and, in this episode, some of them are engaged with creating life.

“Boy Parts” picks up a few days after the conclusion of “Bitchcraft,” which culminated with Emma Roberts’ Madison killing the frat boys who gang-raped her by using magic to capsize their bus as it sped away. While AHS doesn’t position the audience to feel there was much wrong with this revenge (and, I guess, who can argue?), for Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) the crash is a catastrophe: Kyle, the boy she’d just met, and had sparks with, was on that bus. While he’s now dead, in a series packed with witches, no one—it seems—need stay dead for long.

To reward Zoe for dispensing justice by killing the last survivor of the crash, Madison takes her to the city morgue where the pieces of Kyle’s body are wrapped in plastic with a plan to bring him back to life. Finding the morgue strewn with body parts from all the boys, Madison decides that she’ll do Zoe one better; rather than simply bringing Kyle back to life, she’ll take all the “best parts” of the dead boys and combine them to create “the perfect boyfriend.” While the basic outlines of this plot are familiar, here they’re inverted. Traditionally it’s men who piece women together from parts to create new life using science (with memorable exceptions such as May Canady noted). That archetypal plot stands as a metaphor for male fear, and resulting control, of women. Here, though, it’s women creating a new man using magic.

Though Madison and Zoe are able to slide him back to life, he doesn’t come back quite right (do they ever?). Instead of the charming, earnest guy Zoe met at the frat party, he’s a brute, expressing himself in guttural moans and by beating on dashboards and security guards. By the end of the episode, there’s hope for him (in the form of Misty, the country witch burned at the stake in the premiere), but his future’s not assured. Madison and Zoe have created a life, but not a perfect one.

The possibility that taking the power of nature into your own hands can cause the life you create to be defective will loom over coming episodes for school headmistress Cordelia Foxx. Cordelia and her husband have been laboring for the past year to conceive a child, with no sonogram to show for it. At a doctor’s appointment in which their up-til-now infertility is reiterated, Cordelia’s husband asks the obvious: if you’re a witch, why are you bothering with a science that’s failing you? Her response makes sense—she doesn’t want to use magic to play God, that that would make her no better than her unhinged, tyrannical mother—but it’s clearly a token objection, raised only so it can fall. Within a few scenes, Cordelia and her husband have stepped into a magical circle, stripped their clothes, and are having sex amid flames and serpents. Cordelia, no doubt, will conceive, but the example of Kyle, and her own admonition that magic that creates life comes with a high price, suggests that this instance of creation may be inauspicious.

The uncertain, unpredictable new lives created by these women loom large because, “Boy Parts” says, you’re bound to the life you create. As Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) says, when musing about her dead daughters, she loved all her girls, “even the ugly one. She looked like a hippo. From the moment she came out of my belly, she was a disappointment to me.” There are worse fates than having an ugly child, of course, and we stand a good chance of seeing some of those fates played out for Zoe, Madison, and Cordelia in coming episodes.

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