First Impressions

American Horror Story: Coven

Aired on: FX

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            I missed out on season one of the rather shocking horror series, American Horror Story.  I did manage to check out the second season, American Horror Story: Asylum, but really didnít stick with it, although I did end up asking my brother how it all turned out in the end.  Now, in keeping with this Fall television seasonís obsession with the supernatural and witches, the third season of the series is entitled American Horror Story: Coven and deals with witchcraft among other things.

            American Horror Story: Coven darts between the present and the 1800s.  In the premiere episode we travel back to 1830 to meet Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), a social butterfly by day and evil master by night who dabbles in potions and brews to keep herself looking young while taking pleasure in the horrific torture of the slaves she owns.  LaLaurie comes to a rather fitting end when one of the tortured slaves' former lovers (Angela Bassett) takes revenge, voodoo style.

            In present day America, Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) learns about her powers the hard way when her innocent involvement in an act of love causes her loverís death.  She is sent away to a boarding school in New Orleans to learn about who she is and what she can do.  The headmistress, Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), believes that witches are in as much trouble now as they were during the Salem Witch Trials.  She vows to protect the girls in her care by teaching them how to control their powers and keep them hidden.

            Unfortunately, her mother, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), doesnít share her opinion.  The long absent Supreme witch has returned to New Orleans intent on finding a way to reverse her aging process.  Along the way, she decides she will have to teach the girls under her daughterís charge a thing or two about protecting themselves and fighting back against those who might hurt her.

            Yes, this season of American Horror Story has nothing to do with either of the others with the exception of the fact that many of the actors in the other seasons have returned to portray different roles in this season.  I love the fact that each season of American Horror Story has a completely different storyline and different theme.  This seasonís theme is oppression: that of a mother over her child, a slave owner over their slaves, a man over a woman and more.

            Kathy Bates is decidedly evil and I wonder what it is exactly that makes her character tick.  One thing I can say is that the only evil role she has played in the past that even comes near the role of Delphine LaLaurie is Annie Wilkes in Misery and Annie just wasnít this inventive in her tortures, nor this bloody.  The fact that her character is actually based on a true horror story out of 1830s New Orleans makes her character that much more interesting.  Jessica Lange always seems to portray a domineering sort of figure in American Horror Story.  This time, however, she appears to be decidedly vain and increasingly obsessed with keeping her good looks and what she obviously believes to be one of her more essential powers.  The way she belittles her daughter makes you wonder what their relationship was like in the past, especially when Cordelia tries to put herself out of her misery by giving her mother a potion that will put her in a long-lasting coma. 

            This show has always cast a host of actors and actresses in the ďstarĒ category and this yearís entry is no exception featuring Emma Roberts as an actress whose powers at witchcraft have earned her a place at the New Orleans boarding school; Gabourey Sidibe, another student at the school with the ability to inflict pain on others by performing acts on herself; Patti LuPone as a fundamentalist Christian living next door to the school; and more.

            But having an all-star cast and a theme means nothing unless the storyline is compelling and the characters reel you in.  American Horror Story: Coven does just that this year.  That, coming from me, is a lot.  I was not one iota interested in watching the first season of American Horror Story and only mildly interested in the second season, but the third season has already gotten me hooked.  It isnít the blood and gore or the outrageously sadistic actions of many of the characters this season - itís the charisma between the characters and the interesting storyline that have captured me.  I plan to pay very close attention to American Horror Story: Coven.  This may be the season that hooks me into watching the show for as long as it airs!


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