Review of "American Horror Story: Coven" on FX From The TV MegaSite

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"American Horror Story: Coven" review by Sundi 10/30/13
Wednesdays at 10pm on FX

What is there to say about this season of FX’s American Horror Story: Coven? Well, I could start by saying it is by far the most interestingly cast and cleverly written, thus far. Or I could say that the chemistry between the witches is so startling that you don’t want to even blink, lest you miss anything between them. Or, I could warn you that the visual effects are more breath-taking and astonishing than most big-budget movies. But I think I will start with the collection of actresses that make up an exquisite cast of female characters.

Jessica Lange plays Fiona, the reigning Supreme witch and the mistress of Miss Robichaux’s School for Exceptional Girls. Equipped with that Southern lilt that will knock you dead, she is a force every time she appears on screen.  She is no less the badass from previous seasons, as she grapples with vanity, lust and wayward teenagers. Kathy Bates plays the infamous Delphine LaLaurie, who is well-known in New Orleans lore for the gruesome atrocities she perpetrated upon her slaves. LaLaurie has been buried under the streets of New Orleans for 150 years and is dug up by Fiona in search of her immortality. Bates delights the audience as she plays a character so out of her time that she cries at seeing an African-American president.  LaLaurie was imprisoned underground as a punishment for torturing the lover of a powerful voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. Laveau is played by Angela Basset, who I am convinced has made her own voodoo pact for youth. She is as flawless and smooth and she was twenty years ago, a fact that the producers are taking full advantage of as Fiona seeks her character’s magic to remain young.

While these characters could sustain a show all on their own, they oversee a younger generation of witches that represent a most creative and thoughtful act of casting. Tarissa Farmiga, from previous seasons, plays Zoe, a witch with the power to kill with her lady parts. In a scene that is grisly and unflinching, Zoe accidentally kills her boyfriend while they are having sex. This is how she winds up in the school in the first place. Emma Roberts, with much more interesting gifts, plays the Hollywood ingénue Madison Montgomery. Written to remind us of every snotty young actress we’ve seen in the tabloids in the last ten years, her character possesses the most power among them. Rounding out the schools latest class are Gaborey Sidibe and Jamie Brewer, playing Queenie and Nan, respectively. Queenie is the sassy, human voodoo doll that can inflict pain on others by doing herself harm, and Nan is clairvoyant to the point that she can read thoughts and minds from next door.

In between these two generations of witches lie Delia Foxx and Misty Day played by AHS veterans Sarah Paulson and Lilly Rabe. Delia is Fiona’s daughter and is the level head of the coven, with a foot planted in both the natural and super natural worlds. Misty is a witch with the power of resurrection that might be crazy and lives deep in the swamps of Louisiana and is desperate for any human connection. While these witches are interesting in their own right, they round out the growing cast of characters that contribute to the show’s highly female-centric themes. With shows featuring nods to Shelley’s Frankenstein and Oedipus, Coven is quickly becoming an important show about women’s matters.

Tackling issues such as the growing pressure to stay young, infertility, the double standard associated with the acquisition of power, and the stress of conforming an to an arbitrary mainstream ideal, this show acts as an allegory for modern feminism. However, if that doesn’t sell you on the new season, then you could always rely on producers Murphy and Falchuk to present you with the most visually ambitious episodes yet; think real-life Minotaur, blood rituals, reanimated corpses, and lots and lots of gore. Either way, you won’t be disappointed in American Horror Story: Coven. 

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