American Horror Story: Coven 3.01 "Bitchcraft" Review

A tv review article by: Jessica Sowards
“In a gadda da vida, honey.
Don’t you know that I’m lovin’ you?
In a gadda da vida, baby.
Don’t you know that I’ll always be true.”

…and we will be. 

American Horror Story: Coven premiered on Wednesday and was met with fans a newbies a like who were glued to their screens to see what Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy had in store for us this season.  Season three of FX’s gem, will focus on witches and a theme of oppression.  In a decade of heartthrob vampires and a menagerie of rotting zombies, I welcome the addition of the Halloween staple character back to the small screen.

We all know that vampires, zombies, and werewolves have their own histories.  Hell, even Gremlins have a history and rules.  One thing severely lacking in horror culture and folklore, though, is a history for witches.  Luckily, the creative team of Falchuk and Murphy are there to save the day and provide an interesting backstory for TV’s newest coven.

Apparently, in the AHS universe, witches were at one time very common.  One cannot just decide to become a witch, either.  It is actually a genetic trait that is passed down.  No two witches are exactly the same, either.  They each have their own “gifts.” During each time period, one witch is powerful enough to have all of the gifts and she is the Supreme.  Due to ignorance, fear, and that pesky Salem Witch Trials thing, witches are endangered.  It is dangerous for young witches, which is why Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) is whisked away to Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies once it is revealed that she is a witch.

AHS favorite/veteran Jessica Lange returns this season as the Supreme, Fiona Goode.  Once again, she is a cigarette smoking, seductive, vixen that is a force to be reckoned with.  Fiona’s daughter, Cordelia Foxx, (another AHS veteran Sarah Paulson), is the headmistress of the school.  The school is home to three other young witches, Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), and Nan (Jamie Brewer), each with their own unique witch gifts.  Fiona returns to the school, and decides that Cordelia is teaching the girls to hide away in their safe little house instead of embracing their culture and powers.  All of this is occurs in the wake of another witch, Misty Day (Lily Rabe), being burned at the stake by an extremist Evangelical group once they see she can bring dead animals back to life with a mere touch of her hands.

The premiere included some favorites that AHS fans have enjoyed in the past and find to be a staple of the show.  The disturbing imagery of grainy black and white footage playing while the haunting theme song fills the air, familiar names and faces returning to the series, and the unique font of the credits blinking on the screen help build up the anticipation of the premiere.  Newbies to the series should not be worried, though.  They will not be lost if they were unlucky enough to miss the first two seasons.  Although some of the same actors from previous seasons are among the cast, this is a completely new storyline and group of characters than we have seen before.

Along with a new story, AHS welcomes some new faces to its yearbook.  I was most excited about Kathy Bates adding her talents as Madame LaLaurie, a socialite from the 1800s.  As the show begins, we first see Madame LaLaurie at a coming out party where she is introducing her daughters to New Orleans society and eligible bachelors.  Later that night, one of her daughters has decided see is more interested in one of the bachelor’s slaves than any of the guests at the party.  When they are discovered together, Madame LaLaurie becomes enraged.  The slave then becomes the newest addition to her attic of horrors, where she imprisons the slaves and tortures them.  Bates channels the same madness she portrayed in Misery years before, but has added a couple of decades of acting experience to that initial performance to ensure a terrifying and complex character who will certainly add to this season’s roster.

AHS is not without its faults.  Movies, television shows, and novels are full of characters who suddenly find out that they are witches or have magical powers.  In fact, the initial story reminds me a lot of Harry Potter if Voldermort was a bit more like Jigsaw from the Saw franchise.  “A teenager finds out that he/she has magical powers and is sent away to a boarding school to learn the craft.”  I am sure, however, as the season progresses, it will become much more involved.  After all, most movies or shows that involve a magical element and teenagers will be compared to Harry Potter for some time to come.

The show does not shy away from disturbing scenes or imagery.  The opening credits contain such a creepy feel to set the stage.  Madame LaLaurie smears blood all over her face to keep her skin nice and tight.  The most uncomfortable moment of the show is the gang rape scene involving Madison.  There is a bookend of rape at the end when Zoe exacts revenge on the rapist who is now in coma. 

American Horror Story: Coven is possibly one of the most uncomfortable shows to watch in a mixed group of people, but it packs in cinematic quality each week.  There is no way to predict what will happen in the course of the season.  The only guarantee is that you will be entertained and will certainly squirm at least once per episode!

When Jessica Sowards is not fighting crime, she can be found watching almost any movie that comes her way whether it be good or bad.  She is obsessed with The Muppets and knows a little too much trivia from sitcoms of the 1980s. 

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