American Horror Story: Coven’s Promising Premiere

After American Horror Story’s disjointed, cluttered second season, I wasn’t too sure I’d be back for season three. It took such a nosedive after a stellar inaugural season that I didn’t think recovery was possible. I changed my mind with the release of each 15ish-second preview and after the cast was announced. It looked creepy, fresh, and fierce – and it acted the part in “Bitchcraft,” the premiere episode.

The show opens in 1834 New Orleans. Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) hosts some kind of formal gathering in her home. Once all of her guests leave, she heads upstairs to start her nightly beauty routine: rubbing a mixture of blood and a human pancreas on her face like any self-respecting woman would. She’s disrupted, though, when she learns that her daughter was found copulating with a servant. Furious, she has him taken to the attic, where slaves are kept in crates in various states of torture; one man’s eyes and mouth are sewn shut, a woman’s skin has been peeled from her face. Delphine has a child bring in a bull’s head, which she puts over the slave’s like a mask because she’s “always loved the minotaur.”  Later, she receives a visit from Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), a priestess claiming to have a potion for Delphine that will curb her husband’s craving for younger women. She gladly takes it but soon discovers it’s poison. Marie sought revenge against Delphine, as her lover was the one who was fitted with a new head. Delphine died, and her body was never found.

Flash forward to the present day. Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) and a male friend start to have sex when he starts bleeding, first from his nose and then, everywhere. The doctors claimed brain aneurysm, but Zoe’s mother knows better. She’s inherited the gene; she’s a witch, so representatives from Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, including a delightfully over-the-top Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow, come to take her to – you guessed it – New Orleans. Zoe enters the school alone and, in a particularly scary scene, realizes she’s being followed. It’s Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), Madison (Emma Roberts), and Nan (Jamie Brewer), who try to prank Zoe until headmistress Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) steps in. Miss Robichaux’s is a “safe haven” for witches, and Cordelia wants to teach the girls how to recognize and control their powers. Placed in the wrong hands, things could get ugly, as witnessed in Misty Day’s (Lily Rabe) burning at the stake.

An example of exactly what Cordelia is trying to avoid comes in the next scene. It’s her own mother, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), a powerful witch (her family’s “supreme”) who is speaking with a doctor about receiving injections of some kind of youth serum. She wants the unapproved drug now, and the doctor eventually gives in. After five days, she sees no change, and the doctor makes a house call. He tries to leave, but she uses telekinesis to shut to doors and windows. She kisses him, literally sucking the life out of him. He crumples in a heap.

Meanwhile, Kyle (Evan Peters) gives some of his fraternity brothers a pep talk before heading into a party, where Madison and Zoe also happen to be. The two girls separate – Zoe is with Kyle while Madison slinks off with one of his brothers – and Zoe starts to get worried. The boys drugged Madison, and they take turns raping her in a brutal and kind of unnecessary scene. Kye barges in and tries to seize the phone they’ve been recording themselves with, and Zoe finds Madison in a daze on the bed. The brothers get back on their bus, kick the driver out of his seat, incapacitate Kyle, and ride away. A hazy Madison emerges from the house and uses her telekinesis to flip the bus, killing seven and leaving two in critical condition. Girl power! The next day, Zoe goes to the hospital hoping to find that Kyle is one of the two still alive. It’s the instigator, though, who survives, but Zoe has other plans. She shuts the door, gets on top of him, and he dies a bloody, bloody death.

The next day, Fiona arrives at the school and knows immediately what Madison did. She has the girls dress in all black and takes them into the city, telling them they need to fight for themselves because “When witches don’t fight, we burn.” It’s clear that she and her daughter are on different wavelengths when it comes to how the girls should handle their powers. Their dynamic is definitely something to watch for. Fiona leads them to Delphine’s home, where she Jedi mind tricks a tour guide into letting them join in for free. Though her body was never found, Nan can sense where it is, and she leads Fiona to the exact spot. She later brings two men to help her dig up Delphine. She opens the coffin and there she is, bound, gagged, and – wait for it – still alive.

“Bitchcraft” was an exciting premiere that showed a lot of promise for the rest of the season. And with more Conroy, Bassett, and Patti LuPone (!!!!!!!!) ahead, it’s hard not to be optimistic. The female-dominated cast is filled with diverse characters and different dynamics, but many fans felt the same way about season two. We’ll see where it goes.

About Sam Sciarrotta

Hi there! I'm Sam. I like baseball, Bruce Springsteen, tomato pie, and most other things. I'm looking at you, but I'm thinking about Breaking Bad. 2012 college graduate and budding journalist.

Posted on October 10, 2013, in Cable, Drama, FX, Primetime and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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