DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Mayfair Witches season finale, “What Rough Beast,” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril.
Trigger warning: Mention of rape
Welcome back, witches and shape-shifting entities! We’ve reached season finale territory for Mayfair Witches. “What Rough Beast” is probably the most action-packed outing of a plodding freshman season. The writing team did adapt certain elements from the source material for the small screen. While I’d argue this episode is the show’s strongest, it’s challenging to focus on that when this whole season has been a narrative bore. The effects, particularly in this episode, are distracting and not in a good way.
That said, I’ll rattle off a few positives here. We see new character interactions, which I always enjoy. The season leaves a couple of loose threads to intrigue audiences and compel them to tune in for Season 2. The actors do the best they can with the material at their disposal. We see more magic in this episode. I like the idea of evil Rowan. It’s certainly more intriguing. I enjoyed the ancestors sequence.
Ready to delve into “What Rough Beast”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Keith (Ian Hoch) running through the woods to escape Rowan (Alexandra Daddario), who’s chasing him. Lasher (Jack Huston) appears, encouraging Rowan to use him to do her bidding. She orders Lasher to kill Keith. Rowan clutches the necklace to watch Keith’s demise through Lasher’s eyes. She collapses on the ground, growing weaker from the bullet wound in her shoulder, which bleeds profusely. Keith finds sanctuary in an abandoned and dilapidated cabin. Lasher sets it on fire.
Meanwhile, Jojo (Jen Richards) learns about Tessa’s murder, along with the deaths of the members of Arlo’s group. Cortland (Harry Hamlin) suspects Rowan is behind the carnage, acting in retaliation to Tessa’s murder. Jojo has a hunch that her dad knows something she doesn’t. Jojo wonders why Cortland bears such an interest in Rowan. What’s he hiding? Instead of answering his daughter’s questions, Cortland brusquely evades them. He calls Albrecht (Dennis Boutsikaris) and orders the latter to handle the Rowan situation.
Ciprien (Tongayi Chirisa) sits in Albrecht’s car on the bridge. Cip apologizes to his boss for his behavior. He’s ready and willing to carry out the will of the Talamasca. After Ciprien grabs Albrecht’s hand, we learn Albrecht’s power is to erase memories. Cip urges the older man to refrain from using that ability on him. He realizes that, in addition to Albrecht working with Lasher, Cortland was the one who ordered the shape-shifting entity to kill Deirdre. Why? The prophecy. Ciprien informs Albrecht that he’s part of that prophecy — Rowan’s carrying his child.
Cip asks his boss to let him be by Rowan’s side, to allow him to search for her. Albrecht grants his permission. Meanwhile, Lasher returns to Rowan after killing Keith. Rowan creates a wrap for her shoulder from her button-down shirt. She believes she won’t make it far without collapsing again. Lasher encourages Rowan to “look deeper.” Go within for healing and the answers she seeks. Connect to her ancestors. Thus, Rowan retreats inside her mind. Lasher escorts Rowan to Suzanne Mayfair’s cottage.
Next, Odette (Keyara Milliner) searches for information regarding her brother’s whereabouts. She finds a card for the Talamasca concealed in one of Ciprien’s dressers. Mawbel (Melissa Chambers) answers at the front desk when she calls the headquarters. Of course, Mawbel pretends Odette has the wrong number. Odette, desperate, pleads with Mawbel to tell her where Cip is. After Mawbel hands up on Odette, she informs Albrecht about a “breach.”
Later, Ciprien finds Jojo in the backyard of her home. He’s searching for Cortland. Jojo claims she doesn’t know where he went but invites Cip inside to wait for him. Once in the house, Ciprien touches the objects on Cortland’s desk. He sees Cortland smoking a pipe. He even spots Suzanne (Hannah Alline) picking herbs when he feels a pair of scissors.
Inside her mind, Rowan finds peculiar markings scratched into the wood posts in Suzanne’s cottage. Lasher explains it’s vital information for Rowan from Suzanne, the first Mayfair. Suzanne cracked the code — she learned Lasher’s language. Rowan absorbs the power emitted from these symbols, healing her bullet wound. Rowan asks Lasher if anyone in her family can do what she does. No, they cannot because she’s the 13th witch. “The 13th witch is the doorway.”
What transpires next is, you guessed it, Sexy Times™. Rowan and Lasher get it on in the mind cottage. If there’s one thing this show should’ve excelled at with flying colors, it’s the sex scenes. They are about as dry as a desert. No steam. But at least someone’s getting some?
Arjuna (Suleka Mathew) and Albrecht arrive at Ciprien’s apartment to chat with Odette. Albrecht assures Odette that her brother’s safe even though he hasn’t answered his phone. Arjuna realizes Odette just had her baby, for which Cip was supposed to be present. It’s abundantly clear that Albrecht plans to erase Odette’s memories. Meanwhile, Cip touches a mask in Cortland’s home and spies a shocking incident: Cortland murdered Deirdre’s lover all those years ago. Then, he rapes her. His niece. Awful. That would make Cortland Rowan’s biological father and her great-uncle.
Jojo demands to know what Ciprien saw when he came in contact with the mask. When Cip tells her about his glimpse of that terrible memory, Jojo refuses to believe him. However, she follows Ciprien anyway when he decides to visit the First Street house. Rowan wakes after having sex with a demonic shape-shifting entity in her mind. You know, standard witch stuff. She’s donning a simple roughspun dress à la Suzanne. Rowan searches for Lasher, but he’s nowhere to be found. Her stomach swells significantly, almost as if she’ll pop out that baby at any moment.
Suddenly, she hears his voice, claiming he’ll be with her as she embarks on a new journey. He urges her to meet him during the witching hour after she follows the “path of her ancestors.” The cottage is swallowed in darkness as Rowan’s surroundings vanish. She wanders into a room wherein a Mayfair designee, her face concealed, tinkers with a clock. Ciprien and Jojo arrive at the First Street House, while Rowan encounters another Mayfair standing near a fireplace, her fingers grazing a clock. Rowan notes how the hands of each clock she sees are in different spots.
Next, Cortland drags Rowan’s body out of the woods. Not creepy at all. Rowan spots a man with a pocketwatch in the same room that holds the doll comprised of Mayfair designee parts. After she rushes to the next room, we see Ciprien and Jojo enter said room. Jojo procures the doll. Ciprien touches it to glimpse its memories. He sees Angelique Mayfair (Laura Flannery) seeking information about the prophecy. Lasher appears, revealing during the witching hour, over the “bones of your foremothers,” he’ll take a new and powerful form. “The 13th witch is the doorway.”
Ciprien leaves to find Rowan while Jojo stays behind to fill Dolly Jean (Charlayne Woodard) in on what happened. Cortland arrives outside the Mayfair mausoleum with an unconscious Rowan in the backseat. Rowan sees Antha Mayfair (Chelsea Edmundson) sketching what are ostensibly clock gears. It’s now 11 o’clock, according to the clock in front of Antha. Rowan winds up in her mother’s bedroom. Deirdre (Annabeth Gish) sits before her. She informs Rowan that it’s time for Lasher to “be embodied.” After all, it’s the witching hour.
Dolly Jean confirms to Jojo what Ciprien saw. Yes, Jojo’s father is a piece of sh*t. Cortland’s always been selfish to the bone. Jojo suspects it’s high time somebody else takes control of this family. This can’t be the Mayfair legacy.
Rowan wakes in the Mayfair mausoleum. Cortland changed her from her blood-soaked clothes and dressed her in the same roughspun dress. Suzanne appears and encourages Rowan to embrace what will happen to her. She will birth a new form of Lasher — a physical form. She will be a mommy to the man she just had sex with! And Cortland’s her father/great-uncle! This family tree’s branches are bent every which way. Rowan goes into labor, and Suzanne, as a midwife, helps the former through it. Cortland observes in the shadows.
Then, Albrecht receives a call from Ciprien while Arjuna sits beside an unconscious Odette on the couch. Cip knows where Rowan is, so he’s going to save her. He plans to deliver Lasher to the Talamasca on a silver platter. After the phone call ends, he asks Arjuna if Odette is still lactating. He tells Arjuna that Odette’s coming with them. Poor Odette.
Meanwhile, Rowan gives birth to Lasher. Suzanne reveals that Lasher can give Rowan his power in this form. However, Rowan doesn’t seem too into that idea when the baby’s face shifts. She quickly hands the infant to Suzanne before fleeing. Then, Rowan stumbles upon the baby as he crawls across the mausoleum ground. They grow up so fast! Cortland appears. He urges Rowan to hand baby Lasher over to him. She’ll be free to return to San Francisco. Rowan calls Cortland out on his selfishness and hypocrisy. She knows what he did to her mother. She scoops up her son/former lover. Rowan braces herself to potentially utilize her lethal power on Cortland.
Cortland goads her on, encouraging her to kill him. But now she can’t because Cortland fulfilled his end of the bargain with Lasher. He has immortality. Well, guess what? Having immortality doesn’t mean you can’t turn into stone. So, Rowan morphs her father/great-uncle into stone before departing.
Next, Rowan encounters Ciprien, who appears outside with an umbrella. It’s raining, but it doesn’t look real. Hollywood magic, y’all. Ciprien realizes Rowan’s holding their child. Real talk: why is the baby of a Black man and a white woman whiter than said woman? I’m assuming they made this move to keep Jack Huston as adult Lasher, but it’s weird. That should be a mixed baby.
Anyway, Rowan wants them to move into the First Street house. When she spots the Talamasca member in the passenger seat of Cip’s vehicle, she refuses to leave. Rowan claims Cip lied to her. Ciprien tries to approach Rowan, reminding her that Lasher is manipulating her, and she causes lightning to strike between them. Lasher controls the elements; ergo, Rowan wields them, too. Cip gives up and drives away while Rowan carries her child in the rain. The fake, maybe CGI rain.
This first season is disappointing, to say the least. The writers had a wealth of material from which to adapt. We could’ve had a steamy, sexy, darkly twisted, magical series that properly utilized its New Orleans backdrop. Speaking of, nobody sounds like they hail from New Orleans. At least Harry Hamlin nails that drawl. Performance-wise, Alexandra Daddario gives it her all, while Tongayi Chirisa is my MVP.
On another note, you’d think a series about women would want to see its women succeed. Mayfair Witches appears to loathe its female characters, putting them through unnecessary trauma and pain. For example, erasing a Black woman’s (Odette) memories and kidnapping her. Rowan spends much of the series, except for some key moments, reacting to everything instead of acting. Lasher just isn’t charming. However, Jack Huston pulls it off when he leans into Lasher’s wickedness. Perhaps they’ll rely on that next season.
Overall, Season 1 didn’t live up to its potential. All the moving components are there — the writers didn’t know how to fit them together to create a cohesive unit. We certainly saw glimpses of what Mayfair Witches could be throughout Season 1. Of course, it picked up steam by episode six, but the narrative flaws remained a constant. Simply put, the series took too long to spark excitement. I might stick around for Season 2 if the trailer piques my interest. The writers would need to rectify Season 1’s glaring mistakes, though.
Do you think Dolly Jean and Jojo will install Rowan as the head of the family with Cortland in stone? Will Ciprien learn about Albrecht kidnapping his sister? Will Alicia seek vengeance against Rowan for playing a role in Tessa’s murder? When Lasher inevitably grows up, will he have sex with his mother/lover? Only time will tell.
Mayfair Witches Season 1 is now streaming on AMC+.