American Horror Story, just as a concept, is far more interesting than most shows currently on the market. Other shows have tried, but American Horror Story has stuck with its anthology format, each season being an entirely different story with none of the characters or situations from the others. The first season kept me on edge, constantly wondering whether I was enjoying it or not. I did in the end. The second was brilliant, eschewing the fantastical elements for the most part and providing a truly unsettling tale. Season 3 gives us the subtitle Coven, with its advertising suggesting a cult of witches.
“Bitchcraft” begins with Kathy Bates and her daughters at a party in their New Orleans home during the 1800s. It seems like the usual abusive mother daughter relationship you would expect from the time period and shows like this. When it later switches to Kathy Bates smearing blood on her face because it’s the only way for it to stay smooth and forcing a black servant to wear a bull’s head so she can have her very own minotaur, I was brought right back to American Horror Story’s particular brand of disturbing events and atmosphere. Not to mention that the blood she was using was harvested from tortured servants.
After the particularly unsettling intro, we are introduced to Zoe Benson who is played by the returning Taissa Farminga. The first season of American Horror Story was a different take on the haunted house, season two was the insane asylum, and now with season three it appears to be a dark version of the teen girl mysticism story. Though instead of discovering she’s a witch through some fun way, Zoe finds that her particular magical gift is that she gives people that she has sex with brain aneurysms after sleeping with her boyfriend. Then she’s whisked off to a special ‘school’ in New Orleans where she’ll be safe with other witches.
We’re also introduced to Jessica Lange’s character, the supreme witch, who is the most powerful out of all the witches and has decided to return to the school and take over for her disappointing daughter. She doesn’t think witches should hide, but do what they do best. She doesn’t appear at the school until after the girls attend a frat party. In traditional frat party fashion, Emma Roberts’s character is roofied and some douchebags run a train on her. We see Evan Peters show up as a frat guy, but he is shocked and appalled by their actions. He tries to stop them, but it knocked unconscious.
Emma Roberts stops them though, by telekinetically flipping the party bus they were fleeing in, killing almost all of them. Zoe finishes off the job by screwing the douche who did the drugging to death in the hospital. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the episode was Jessica Lange digging up the burial site of Kathy Bates, only to find her alive, but bound and gagged. That’s where the episode ended and I was left incredibly intrigued.
While I appreciated the shift to mostly realistic horror with Asylum, Coven has fascinated me from the first episode in a way that the first season of American Horror Story didn’t. It may be all about magic, but Coven is retaining the dark and twisted sensibilities that have kept the show going for this long. Horror isn’t done on TV anymore except for here and I am happy to report that American Horror Story is still going strong into its third season. Just in time for the holidays.