Note: I tried to keep spoilers to a minimum because the show’s content is so explosive and shocking and I didn’t want to take that experience away from new viewers, but I think I have captured the essence of things. Those of you who have seen it, feel free to add more in the comments!
[October 9th 2013- January 2014]
Created by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Starring: Sarah Paulson, Taissa Farmiga, Frances Conroy, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Emma Roberts, Denis O’Hare, Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange
Glee creator Ryan Murphy has once again crafted a dynamic and genuinely spooky new season of American Horror Story. As with its predecessors, “Murder House” and “Asylum,” this season (the show’s third, called “Coven”) is a stand alone story with a definable beginning, middle, and end.
The premise, which follows the daily events surrounding a boarding school for young witches (who are a dying breed in the show’s universe) in New Orleans at first seems tired and cliche, but within the first episode this assumption is proven wrong with a variety of jump scenes, disturbing imagery, and fierce social commentary. Murphy does not tiptoe around issues of racial tension or sexual violence, with one of the major plot points of the season stemming from the fraternity gang rape of a young Hollywood starlet who happens to be a student at the school, and another story line being the ongoing battle between women who practice witchcraft (mostly white women, led by a phenomenal and evil Jessica Lange, Murphy’s anchor actor of the series) and those who practice voodoo (black women, led by a fierce and terrifying Angela Bassett who plays historical voodoo priestess Marie Leveau).
Joining Lange and Bassett is the always brilliant Kathy Bates, who portrays real life serial killer Delphine LaLaurie (whose New Orleans mansion I stood in front of last week when I happened to be in town; it’s freaky, I promise). I won’t reveal the exact details of Bates’ role, but her performance equally horrifies and captivates each moment her presences graces the screen.The three form a terrifying tour-de-force that essentially leaves the viewer powerless, begging for each episode to never end. I haven’t been this captivated by a show since the early episodes of Mad Men. The actors playing the girls of the school, Emma Roberts, Taissa Farmiga, Gabourey Sidibe, and Jamie Brewer, are as equally excellent as their older cast members and only add the the dark and surreal tone of each episode. This is definitely a season about women and these are the perfect women for the job.
Jessica Lange and the girls at the LaLaurie mansion
American Horror Story: Coven is definitely not for the faint of heart; in the first three episodes alone we see moments of rape, incest, bestiality, slavery, torture, and murder among other things, and it is rather graphic. However, I still urge any lover of camp, horror, witches, social commentary or history to check out the first episode. I dismissed the show until a trip to New Orleans (where it is filmed on location) sparked my interest and I am so happy I gave it a chance. You all should too, it’s the perfect post-Halloween entertainment.