The best episode yet marks the return of fan-favourite characters and an intriguing expansion on the mythos of witchcraft as established in Coven.
Almost the entirety of this episode is a flashback which, while potentially boring, actually gives the season’s characters much-needed backstory and fills us in on what’s been going on with the witches. We can divide Could It Be… Satan? into roughly two halves: Michael’s story and the coven’s story. Unfortunately, the second half of the episode is far stronger than the first, which makes for a tedious first half, but that’s not to say Michael’s story is completely irredeemable.
We are introduced, for the first time, to warlocks, of which Michael is apparently one. It is revealed that Outpost 3 was once the male equivalent of Cordelia’s magic school in New Orleans, and that, due to her actions in the season 3 finale, the warlocks (quite literally) were forced to go underground. The genesis of Michael’s affiliation with this school comes alongside the intriguing proposition that a warlock might also become a Supreme, and that Langdon himself might be this powerful individual.
It is with this revelation that the interesting part of Michael’s story ends. From here, we see the extent of his magical powers become clear, while frequently flashing back to his time with (the real) Ms. Mead. Neither of these strands are particularly enthralling, save for the revelation that Mead is, in fact, a Satanist, which explains her sadistic actions in episodes 1 to 3.
Accompanying this section of the story is the introduction of Cheyenne Jackson’s John Henry Moore. Billed as part of the main cast, the character does not get a great deal of screentime in this episode, and spends what little presence he does have moaning about Michael. Hopefully we’ll see his character develop in the rest of the season, but for now the rest of the warlocks are far more interesting than he is, despite what little characterisation they have.
The reintroduction of the witches, including Taissa Farmiga’s Zoe Benson, around the halfway mark is thankfully a turning point for the episode, and they travel to the Hawthorne School to discuss with the warlocks the possibility of Langdon being the next Supreme. Before this, however, we catch a glimpse of Billie Lourd’s Mallorie (more on her later), who is clearly very gifted in the magical arts. Another candidate for the next Supreme, perhaps?
Anyway, once the witches meet the warlocks, we are treated to the return of Queenie, who since the season 3 finale, has become trapped in a hotel. Presumably this is part of the plot of Hotel, which I have yet to see, but Tim Minear writes these scenes in such a way that, even to a newbie, everything is completely comprehensible. It’s great to see Gabourey Sidibe again, who I feel was cruelly underused as Queenie in Coven; I’m glad to say that she gets a lot more meaty material this week, though not as much as I’d like. Hopefully the rest of the season delivers on this.
Here, we also meet Evan Peters’ Patrick Marsh, an intriguing character who also appears to be from Hotel. I’m interested to see what he’s all about when I get round to watching it.
Seeing Langdon accomplish what Cordelia could not and freeing Queenie from the hotel is the highlight of the episode, and furthers the notion that he might be the next Supreme. His subsequent resurrection of Emma Roberts’ Madison Montgomery is also a delight, and the cliffhanger of Cordelia meeting her two assumed-dead protégés sets up more intrigue for the next episode.
The only scenes set in the “present day” take place at the start, where we learn that Coco, Dinah and Mallorie had previously been mind-wiped to conceal their identities as witches. Unfortunately, after the opening titles, this plot strand is completely abandoned (save for Mallorie’s brief cameo at the Academy), so I’m still none the wiser as to what this is all about, as well as what became of Billy Eichner’s character after killing Coco. That Dinah is related (by dialogue) to the voodoo witches of Coven is interesting, though, and I hope more of this is touched on further down the line, perhaps with an appearance from Angela Basset’s villainess Marie Laveau.
TL;DR A flashback-oriented episode with some appearances from some familiar faces, an expansion on the mythos of witchcraft and some great revelations about Michael, let down only by the complete abandonment of the “Apocalypse” storyline.