American Horror Story: Coven starts out in true AHS fashion – creepy, nonsensical, and just plain messed up. We open in New Orleans 1834. Madame Delphine (Kathy Bates) is hosting a party of sorts and introduces us to her 3 daughters, each with a French name I don’t quite understand. The youngest daughter is eying the black house boy – oh, la la. After painting her face with blood (because what else does one do after hosting a party?) Madame Delphine discovers her youngest is boning this handsome young lad. Too bad he’s black, she’s white, this is the 1800’s in the south, and Kathy Bates is bat-shit crazy. So, obviously, she takes him to her basement where lots of other black people are bound and gagged, eyes and mouths sewn shut and, oh yes, the one whose face is ripped open. Yeah, you read that right. I was slightly sleepy before the show started, but that sure as hell got my attention. The house boy is bound at the wrists and ankles Christian Grey style, and then the head of a bull is put on his head. Kathy Bates rambles about always wanting a minotaur and now she has one. The house boy’s body starts to writhe and, yeah, no, I’m not curious to find out why. Thank God, we cut to the credits. Holy shit, AHS; way to get me in the mood.
Up next we have Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) making out with her cute teenage boyfriend, getting hot and heavy when blood starts pouring out of his nose. Then his eyes. And then he’s convulsing on her bed, bleeding from every orifice. He dies, with the doctors ruling it “a brain anneurism unlike anything they’ve ever seen.” But it was actually Zoe’s curse. Cuz she’s a witch. If it were me, my first order of business as a witch would be to cast a spell on my hoo-ha to make it penetrable (pun intended). But anyway, she’s quickly shipped off to a school for “people like her.” (I wasn’t aware of a school for women with fatal vaginas, but I digress.) Something tells me this is not going to be like Hogwarts.
These Men In Black type dudes come to take her away, one of which looks like Powder, Dennis Rodman, and Chris Brown had a baby – not a good look, and she’s at the iron gates of what is absolutely NOT Hogwarts. She strolls through the plantation home calling out “Hello?” like all the pretty, dumb women do in horror stories. Black-cloaked figures (who I at first mistook for Phantom of the Opera and got kind of excited about, but turned out to be masquerade masks and left me disappointed) surround her, corner her, tie her up, and put a bag on her head. But it’s just her fellow schoolmates playing a friendly joke. Ha ha. Good one. Enter Cordelia Fox, headmistress (Sarah Paulson) who gives us a little tour of what is still totally not Hogwarts. She tells the story of Misty (Lily Rabe – who is, and I say this with utmost admiration, the creepiest woman on television) who has the power to bring things back from the dead. She was burned at the stake, but I highly doubt this is the last we will see of her. She’s the best part of AHS, in my humble opinion, so we better see more of her.
Finally, we get to Jessica Lange. She’s talking to some sort of monkey doctor and looking for an experimental drug. She’s denied, so naturally she goes home to snort cocaine and dance around in a nightie. God, I love this woman when she’s being all crazy pants. It turns out she WAS given the drug (NOBODY denies Jessica Lange, damn it!) but it’s not working. He refuses to give her more, so it’s bye bye monkey doctor.
It’s dinnertime at the School for Girls – a painfully trite bit of a scene, everyone (especially Emma Roberts) overplaying their characters to set the stage: Madison (Roberts) is an actress and is the head bitch. Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) is some sort of human voodoo doll (which is actually pretty damn cool, I just wish it’d been put on display in a flashier way) and Nan (Jamie Brewer) who is a wide-eyed clairvoyant. She better have a dark side cuz I much prefer her playing Jessica Lange’s foul mouthed daughter to this goody-goody.
We then learn that Cordelia’s mother is Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange). Who is, OF COURSE, the Supreme Witch. We could have it no other way. Fiona says, in no uncertain terms, that she ain’t going nowhere. Thank God because this school could use some of her shenanigans.
Speaking of school shenanigans, we find Zoe and Madison at a frat party hosted by Kyle Spencer (Evan Peters). Is it just me or is he just not as likeable when he’s not playing someone mentally unstable? The director must think so, too, because we cut away pretty quickly to Madison being drugged by some other frat boy. Zoe searches the party for her “friend” but can’t find her because she’s busy being gang banged upstairs. And being filmed. Not a good night for her. Kyle rushes to avenge Madison but just gets punched. No worries, the drugs have worn off, and Madison is plenty capable of saving herself. With a flick of her wrist, their party bus gets flipped on its side. I don’t know if it’s a testament to my own sick mind, or to the precedent that AHS has set for itself, but I was hoping for something more… spectacular. Ah well. Message sent: these witches can and will be dangerous. And Madison is one bad bitch.
Apparently, the bus crash was fatal and 7 of the frat boys died – it really didn’t look that serious, but okay. We then have a mini “witch-bitch” fight between Madison and Fiona. Easily the best 10 seconds of the entire episode. Fiona takes the ladies on a field trip and instructs them to wear black. You know, to be inconspicuous.
Nan wanders off, and they find her taking a tour of Madame Delphine’s home – infamously haunted due to the “chamber of horrors.” The attic where she tortured the slaves, including making a face scrub out of their pancreases (pancrei? whatever the plural of pancreas is). No Oil of Olay for Madame Delphine, she moisturizes with the freshly removed pancreas of her slaves. Keeps her feeling fresh.
And then I’m spellbound by the one, the only, Angela Bassett. She plays the lover of one of Delphine’s victims (minotaur man – even in the 1800’s, Stella had her groove with a younger man; you go, Angela Bassett) and she is going to have her revenge. She poisons Delphine, but her body is never found. According to the tour guide, no one knows the final resting place of Madame Delphine. But Nan does. (Dun, dun, dun…)
Zoe goes to the hospital to see which of the frat boys survived the car crash. And it isn’t Kyle. It’s the boy who drugged Madison in the first place. “It should’ve been you, asshole,” she says, then ominously closes the door. Then, literally, fucks his brains out. Very nice AHS. Now this is what I’ve been waiting for.
Fiona heads back to Madame Delphine’s home to dig her up. Nearly 300 years later and she’s looking the same as she ever was. Guess that pancreas potion worked. She and Fiona casually stroll back into the house. And episode one comes to a close.
Overall, I’m feeling slightly underwhelmed by the series premiere. I expected more, but there is much room to grow. It lacks the creepiness of its previous seasons (though that House of Horrors attic is freaky as hell), and I don’t have that tingling of fear while I’m watching. But it’s got potential. There are some seriously stellar women in this show, and they give their normal outstanding performances. But, for now, it’s dulled by the weak and slightly trite storyline and dialogue. But I have high hopes that in coming episodes, as the plot and characters develop, we’ll have something… dare I say …MAGICAL on our hands?
We shall see…