American Horror Stories Season 2 Episode 1 Explained- Who Is Spalding? An AHS Coven Origin Story
Who doesn’t love a good origin story? American Horror Story and American Horror Stories, the sometimes stand-alone scary shorts, are always at their best when they cleverly tie together all the different spooky threads across multiple seasons and shows. American Horror Stories Season 2 Episode 1 marked the return of the partly anthology series that was hit and miss last year. Some of the episodes were excellent, and others left viewers underwhelmed. However, there can be zero complaints about the opener for the sophomore season. In a surprising callback to AHS Season 3 Coven, we get Spalding’s origin story. In case you’ve forgotten who Spalding is, here are all the pertinent details.
The episode opens with Coby Dellum(Kristine Froseth) interviewing for a clerical position with Mr. Van Wirt, the always fabulous Denis O’Hare. Despite the interview seemingly going well at the doll factory, she is rejected. Before she can leave, though, she is drugged and finds herself inside a locked and barred house with several other women. Unfortunately, she has stumbled into a demented game to find Mr. Van Wirt’s next wife and mother for his son Otis. The women are forced to dress as dolls and participate in a sadistic competition. They were tested in domestic trials designed to determine who would be the best lady of the house. It seems the original Ms. Van Wirt was tossed into a dry well on the estate after she was discovered cheating. Since then, the cruel and unstable man has been collecting and discarding women in his well, searching for the perfect mother.
In a twist, it is discovered that Coby isn’t just another vulnerable young woman. She is intelligent, sympathetic, and, most importantly, magical. Coby manages to survive all of the tests and, after a failed escape attempt, is selected to be Otis’ mother. She is turned into a living doll and forced to care for the Van Wirts until, in a burst of electric energy, two witches arrive to reclaim one of their own. Coby hasn’t just been practicing parlor tricks. She is a witch, and the coven that runs Miss Robichaux’s Academy For Exceptional Girls in New Orleans, which was the focus of AHS Season 3 and 8, sensed her spells. Unfortunately, the magic was weak, so it took time to locate her. Now that they have, there will be hell to pay.
Coby has a tender heart, though, and she refuses to leave without Otis, the young boy she befriended. In the final moments of American Horror Stories Season 2 Episode 1, everything snaps into focus. Otis selects a new name and meets a certain red-headed witch named Myrtle. Longtime fans of the series know Myrtle Snow, played by Frances Conroy. She was a longtime resident and teacher at the school where Zoe(Taissa Farmiga)) found herself embroiled in a power struggle to be the next Supreme of the coven. When Otis, now going by the name Spalding first meets her, she is a child like him. Spalding and Myrtle grew up together after his surrogate mother Coby took pity on the boy and brought him with her. If you were a fan of Coven, though, you know no good deed goes unpunished.
As good as Coby’s intentions, Spalding/Otis has a duplicitous streak a mile wide, and that never changed. The eventual butler and devoted acolyte to Fiona Goode(Jessica Lange) was a snake that had no trouble lying to protect himself and his love. Coby should have considered that the avid doll lover only wanted her because she was a novelty. Her ability to make things move made her special. He only liked her because she could entertain him. This is why he stunned her instead of helping her escape when he had the chance. A leopard doesn’t change his spots, and decades later, he was the same scheming, self-serving, obsessed individual he was as a child.
In case you forgot his involvement in the coven, Spalding, played by O’Hare as an adult, was a mute long-time servant of Miss Robichaux’s Academy. He was rendered speechless by his own hand. After Myrtle enchanted his tongue so he could never tell a lie, he cut out his tongue rather than betray Fiona. Spalding’s father, Mr. Van Wirt, has a servant in American Horror Stories Season 2 Episode 1 that is also mute. Mr. Van Wirt explains he lost most of his tongue. That can not be a coincidence. It is a clear reminder of what happens to Spalding later in life.
In AHS Coven, Spalding is introduced as a member of a long line of servants to Miss Robichaux. However, through his fleshed-out backstory in American Horror Stories Season 2 Episode 1, we know there is more to his story than being born into servitude. Coby brought him to the school instead of letting him burn with his father and silent muscle. He stayed at the Academy to be with Coby but never left because of his involvement with Fiona Goode. When Fiona slit the throat of the previous Supreme, Anna Leigh Leighton, he helped her cover up her crime. He performed the same duty years later when Fiona killed Madison Montgomery to avoid being replaced as Supreme. His cleanup with Madison was much messier, though, as he kept her corpse to play with.
Spalding has always been unhinged. Although Coby tried to save him, he was tainted goods from the beginning. He was born a sociopath, or his father’s behavior created one. We don’t know which, but the result is the same. Spalding’s obsession with dolls continued even after he left his father’s house and name behind. We see him in Coven still playing with dolls and having frequent tea parties with his collection. After Fiona killed Madison, he added her to his collection of dolls instead of disposing of the body like he was instructed to.
Zoe stabs Spalding to death after finding out he was keeping Madison in a truck in the attic. She discovered that he had been protecting Fiona all those years. But, as with many residents of the AHS universe, death isn’t the end. He remains in the Academy as a ghost, and his tongue is restored. Spalding is able to convince Fiona not to give up and continue fighting Misty Day. He was not mentioned in American Horror Story Season 8 Apocolypse, so his current whereabouts are unknown.
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As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.