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American Horror Story: Coven Recap/Review: "Bitchcraft"

James Canellos ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff

You know you’re watching an episode of American Horror Story when mutilation takes place in the first three minutes of the season premiere. In what might have been one of the most disturbing openings in the show’s history, season 3 starts things off just as you predicted, by being unpredictable. Each season creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy have concocted a brand new story set in the same twisted universe about supernatural beings and morally dead people. This season is no different.

While season one followed a family trying to survive their haunted home and season two focused on the patients and staff of an insane asylum, season 3 is following various witches in modern day New Orleans. If you haven’t seen seasons 1 and 2, don’t worry–they have nothing to do with Coven, this is a brand new story, just with some of the same actors playing different characters.

Season 1 alum, Taissa Farmiga is back as a newly discovered witch named Zoe. Her character is sent off to the Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies in New Orleans after killing her boyfriend during sex. At this boarding school, there’s less then a hand full of young witches, Madison (Emma Roberts), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nan (Jamie Brewer), who each have slightly different magical abilities.

Jessica Lange, Emma Roberts, Jamie Brewer, Taissa Farmiga, Gabourey Sidibe in the season premiere of "American Horror Story: Coven" titled "Bitchcraft." Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX
Jessica Lange, Emma Roberts, Jamie Brewer, Taissa Farmiga, Gabourey Sidibe in the season premiere of American Horror Story: Coven. Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX

Zoe is told by the school’s headmaster/ teacher Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) that witches are going extinct and must be careful in society and learn to control their powers. I know it sounds a lot like the first X-Men movie, I came very close to calling Zoe, Rogue.

“American Horror Story” MVP Jessica Lange also returns as a very powerful witch named Fiona, whose obsession to regain her youth is as bad as her attitude towards anyone. As usual she gives a fine performance, if not a little similar to her previous characters Constance and Sister Jude. I was kind of hoping to see her play someone who wasn’t such a scoundrel. But, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Everyone else, particularly Taissa Farmiga, all give very good performances.

If anything, there are too many performances in this episode alone. This episode feels like it’s having the same problem as season 2, there are just too many characters that we’re going to have to follow, all of which aren’t as engaging as the central figures. It’s tempting for Falchuk and Murphy to want all these great actors to be a part of this new world, but I seriously think Coven didn’t need alums Evan Peters, Frances Conroy and Denis O’Hare. What made season 1 so amazing was that there were only three characters who we mainly focused on at first and then throughout the season we got to explore who the supporting characters were. In this episode it feels like they’re dumping too many characters at once, when I’d like to get to know more about some of the central players a bit more.

Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters in the season premiere "Bitchcraft" of American Horror Story: Coven. Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.
Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters in the season premiere of American Horror Story: Coven. Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.

This season already feels a lot more organized than season 2. It gets to the point much quicker and doesn’t drag on as long. Asylum tried to juggle too many different story lines and fused them together in a way that felt so forced. Nazis and aliens don’t mix well. On the other hand, Coven is sticking to a much tighter story that’s following the American Horror Story tradition of being nicely campy and over the top.

Falchuk and Murphy pen a well written and witty script that’s very Whedon-esque. The musical score for this season is a real stand out, it’s so mischievous and playfully catchy. Director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon mends all the scenes together in a very striking way that walks on a tightrope of being funny and suspenseful. It continues to shock and startle the viewers even though they know the traditions of this show. For example, if someone is acting like a bully they’re going to get what’s coming to them in a very untraditional way.

Each season has kind of played out like a very long episode of The Twilight Zone, each one has a zany plot that couldn’t happen, but likes to observe how the people react in those situations. This season’s theme seems to be the urges that dwindle within somebody and how acting out on those urges causes a chain of events of bad behavior from others. With another great opening, awesome tilted angle shots and a tighter plot, this is going to be another trippy thrill ride of a season. Accept the show for what it is and lose yourself in the most demented piece of entertainment currently on TV.

American Horror Story: Coven pilot “Bitchcraft” – B+

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