Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen American Horror Story: Coven Season 3, Ep. 1 – “Bitchcraft”.
"Don't make me drop a house on you." - Fiona
Fall is decidedly here. There is a crisp in the air that necessitates warm beverages and brings with it the sudden need for a good fright. How lucky then that this season also brings American Horror Story and it’s subtle, layered storytelling, spinning classic scary tales.
Just kidding! It was all slave torture, resurrections and Jessica Lange devouring scenery like Godzilla at a Tokyo buffet. And thank God for that.
Jokes aside, Coven was markedly slower and less “in your face” than the previous two AHS installments. Yes, I am saying brain exploding first times, date rape, and a telekinetic bus flip is a slow start. Relatively speaking. Where previous installments of AHS relied on startling shots and gory imagery, Coven was particularly interested in setting up the characters and the world they inhabit.
It’s a world that centers on a private boarding school for witches run by Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) and inhabited by four very different girls with very different powers. Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) is movie star with a habit of taking her telekinesis out on the people who annoy her (although some of them deserve it, case in point, the busload of date raping frat boys), Nan (Jamie Brewer) a clairvoyant, Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) a human voodoo doll, and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) whose vagina gives men aneurisms. Hmm, one of these powers is not like the others…
And then there’s Fiona (Jessica Lange) the supreme witch of her generation who encompasses every power a witch could have except the ability to not age. Thankfully she comes across a perfectly preserved civil war era sadist who may hold her answers.
The previous seasons of AHS have relied on the most basic horror trope of all; everything appears normal and then the freaky stuff starts. In Coven the freaky stuff is being laid out in the exposition. A coven of witches, resurrections and voodoo are being explained in the first episode. If AHS continues its regular pace, what can we expect in the weeks to come?
Previous seasons of AHS have deployed a “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” philosophy and they got a hodgepodge of horror tropes like mad scientists, haunted houses and aliens all coexisting in one story. This season feels much more focused. Sure, there’s still a lot going on and a lot that’s unexplained, from the voodoo princess, a Cajun able to raise the dead, and Frances Conroy running around in Grace Coddington drag, but it all has a distinctly “witchy” feel to it. Perhaps this points to a more focused and planned storyline in the coming weeks. Or perhaps the crazy is still on its way. There’s only one way to find out.
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