American Horror Story: Coven – Premiere Recap – Bitchcraft Opens Ryan Murphy’s Hogwarts
American Horror Story: Coven started its highly anticipated run tonight. How did the School for (Super) Gifted Girls stack up against the likes of the Asylum and Murder House during its season premiere? Welcome to Ryan Murphy’s Hogwarts!
Episode 1 of American Horror Story: Coven began the series’ Season 3 tonight with “Bitchcraft,” a premiere episode that introduced us to Ryan Murphy’s world of witchcraft and wizardry! Well, no wizards as of yet, but we certainly started to get to know a variety of witches, both young and old. Sorry, Fiona (Jessica Lange), I realize now that this will be your glamourpuss’ Achille’s heel. Season 3 kicked off with the long awaited return of Taissa Formiga (as newby witch Zoe Benson), the Horror Story Season 1 veteran who narrowly escaped the confines of last season’s dreaded Asylum after previously succumbing to Murder House. Emma Roberts and Gabourey Sidibe, as Madison and Queenie respectively, are scene stealers, even among the company of the great Kathy Bates, whose Delphine LaLaurie is downright dastardly. I’m getting seriously spectacular X-Men vibes. Genetic “mutants” symbolically representing the struggles of the minorities among us as a people. There are so many conversations to consider here. This is the Recap and Review of Episode 1 of American Horror Story: Coven!
The season premiere kicked off with our personal introduction to Bates’ LaLaurie in 1834 New Orleans. Keep in mind, this woman is based off of an actual person. Even Ryan Murphy couldn’t drum up such a she-beast on his own, and Kathy Bates totally goes for it. As a socialite, LaLaurie would entertain her guests, showing off her daughters with a shower of backhanded compliments, yet behind the scenes, she was a true nightmare. Slaves, her “pets,” were subjected to some of the most heinous tortures this show has ever depicted. I’m talking removed faces and sewn up eyelids. Simply her idea of a good time, it seemed. That is, until we became privy to her growing obsession with youth and beauty. LaLaurie would sap the life from the pancreases of her slaves, coating her face in their blood to keep her skin firm as ever. Her husband, a serial cheater, was to blame for her compulsive need for a living breathing fountain of youth, and her daughters were continuously dragged into the abuse, forced to commit the atrocities at her mother’s beck and call. Upon learning of her daughter’s “infatuation” with one of her male slaves, LaLaurie pulls off one of her most disturbing punishments yet; creating her own Minotaur using the hollowed out head of a bull to shame the “savage” who’d been intimate with her daughter, the half of the pair who’d forced the situation on the other in the first place.
After witnessing the torture the insane LaLaurie bestowed upon her slaves with an eerie southern grace, watching Zoe accidentally microwave her teenage boyfriend during her first time having sex was nearly a relief! On Coven, young witches each exhibit their own particular power. The coven is led by a witch known as the Supreme, whom we’d later have the pleasure of becoming familiar with. (Take a stab at who it is. It’s not tough to guess.) The true question seems to be who will end up as this woman’s successor. Poor Zoe’s power doesn’t seem to be of any use at all. As it seems now, she will never come to know the experience of love and sex. That is, until her mother hauls her off to the mysterious Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies with the help of the mysterious Myrtle (Frances Conroy) and her team of suited silent men. Zoe is hand delivered to Cordelia Fox (Sarah Paulson), the head mistress of this one-of-a-kind school that specializes in teaching girls to manage their abilities as witches. Cordelia Foxx is meek and pleasant. She tends to base her teachings in informing her students on how to suppress their gifts, rather than how to utilize them properly. It’s at this point that we were introduced to Queenie, Madison, and Nan (Jamie Brewer). As you can tell, the school that once flourished has now all but dwindled into complete closure. Upon learning of the witch gene, families began being proactive in nipping this “ailment” in the bud.
Much of the premiere focused on the impact social media would have on the world of witches. With a single tweet, a YouTube video featuring a girl’s exposure could inevitably end up endangering the entire lot of them. Roberts’ Madison Montgomery is an especially interesting character to consider with regard to this motif. One thing that is certain is that Emma Roberts is a star, and her x-factor is put to good use as the young witch who best exhibits “bitchcraft.” A former Hollywood starlet as a character, Montgomery was forced to attend the program after her agent staged an intervention. You see, Madison is a girl who knows what she wants and takes it. Sorry, everybody else! Unfortunately, that once landed a stage light smack down on a director’s skull. How dare he insist that she hit her stage mark! Still, for all of her twisted digs and incredible snark, Emma Roberts was a telekinetic joy to watch. We’re also accustomed to Gabourey Sidibe’s particular brand of humor at this point. It’s here on American Horror Story: Coven in full force, thankfully. As the human voodoo doll incapable of feeling pain, Queenie’s clashes with Madison were some of the best lighter scenes of Episode 1. Soup spilled on a shirt earned a salad fork in the hand. Welcome to Season 3!
Madison and Zoe are quick to “bond,” and I use that term loosely as Madison Montgomery is the kind of mean girl who needs minions rather than friends. At least, that’s what it would seem on the surface. We’d learn more later. Stay tuned! The two glammed it up and headed to a frat party about midway through the premiere. Madison turns heads and commands attention, as any beautiful celebrity would do in a room full of drunken college boys and dorky sorority girls. One of the fraternities in attendance was led by the lovable Kyle (Evan Peters), who’d been looking to run a tight ship that evening to improve his brothers’ reputations on campus. Fans of the first season rejoice! Peters and Farmiga still have their on-screen chemistry, even with Peters’ real-life girlfriend Roberts strutting around the same set.
While Zoe and Kyle flirted through the warped vision of an ice luge (college!), Madison continued to exert her star power in a plethora of nasty ways, eventually catching the attention of one of Kyle’s less stand-up frat brothers (Grey Damon). Madison might have been looking for a “slave,” but what came next ended up being what was arguably the most cringe-inducing scene during the Season 3 premiere, and that’s even taking into consideration what we saw from Bates’ LaLaurie during the opening scenes. Madison is brutally date raped by several of the frat brothers, and we were forced to witness most of it from her drugged-out perspective. This is Horror Story. Any other series would have had Zoe bursting through the doors in the nick of time. Nope, not on Coven. We’ve already been subjected to a violent gang rape from a first-person point of view. It’s only the Season 3 premiere! Kyle managed to scare off his brothers in a fit of shocked rage, driving the group of them back onto their party bus in his angry panic. Zoe, chasing after the bus in an effort to avenge her girlfriend, was too late to catch them; however, Madison managed to stir herself back to the realm of the sober with just enough time to flip the entire bus with a mere twist of her wrist and no visible flinch whatsoever.
Meanwhile, our introduction to Jessica Lange’s Fiona began in Los Angeles, where her late husband’s fortune had been successfully invested in age-reversing medical advancements. Her colleague, David, had successfully rejuvenated the life of a dying monkey, and Fiona was not about to wait several years to test the product for herself. Threatening to withdraw funding, Fiona managed to strong-arm David into illegally injecting her with the youth serum. Unfortunately, the results would not end up exactly as she’d planned. We’d witness a coke binge that evening, as a devastated Fiona stumbled around her deluxe apartment, tortured by mirrors. Jessica Lange is a pretty woman, and thus far she’s playing this role brilliantly. Like Sidibe, there are certain character traits that Lange does extraordinarily well. Each of her characters over the course of her run on American Horror Story have been different, yet what she brings to them truly unites them. David, driven out of his daughter’s violin recital by a wasted and enraged Fiona, arrived at her home to witness the utter chaos for himself. It was then that we first became aware of just how powerful Fiona is as we witnessed her sucking the life from David’s lips, getting what we assumed was a burst of vitality and youth from stealing the years off of his life. I loved how the show attempted to validate Fiona’s murder of this man, even just slightly, by having him just barely grasp her lower back, as if to show that he was enjoying things before all of the life sucking went down. What a way to ruin a sexy moment!
Before we knew it, Fiona was back in New Orleans, torturing her daughter, Cordelia, with her unannounced arrival. You see, Fiona is the Supreme (Duh, She’s played by Jessica Lange. This is AHS.), and Cordelia’s tactics in raising these young witches was not sitting right with her quite different mother. Just recently, a young girl believed to have the ability to resurrect the dead, a gift some believed to be a blessing from above while others saw it as nothing more than necromancy, paid the price for the fear of the unknown with her life. Misty Day (Lily Rabe) was dragged into a field by the religious zealots, people who’d stamped her powers as the work of the Devil, and burned alive at the stake. Hmm… this is interesting considering that I’m certain Lily Rabe will, indeed, by a series regular during American Horror Story: Coven. Start theorizing, readers! Fiona wasn’t about to let any of these four young girls suffer the same fate, and thus, she took control of the school. What the Supreme says goes, Cordelia, and none of the girls seemed to be opposed to the concept of embracing their uniqueness as opposed to cowering in the shadows. Having said that, we’ve known Fiona’s weakness from the get-go. Watching this mother/ daughter relationship unfold and develop is going to be interesting. Daughters are younger than mothers! Then again, this is a show about bitchcraft…
Fiona was able to deduce what had transpired, at least somewhat, during the night of the frat party with nothing but a glance at Madison the following morning, criticizing the girl’s sloppy work with a bit of sarcastic snark and a telekinetic slam of her own. The rape, however, remained a secret. Before long, the group would take an impromptu field trip around town. Fiona led the girls, dressed in black, to a longtime sacred place for witches; however, clairvoyant Nan would inevitably change the plans. Something seemed to draw Nan to the former home of LaLaurie (and subsequently Nicholas Cage), and Fiona was not about to doubt the girl’s instincts. The entire group would crash a tour of the haunted home. With a mere bit of a eye contact from Fiona, the guide would offer her services free of charge, informing us further as to what horrors had occurred under that roof.
LaLaurie was a nightmare, an absolute abomination to behold, but her weakness seemed to be her husband’s attraction to the young and the beautiful. It was not until a mysterious voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) made her presence known that LaLaurie would meet her match. Laveau offered the woman a love potion guaranteed to entrance her husband into being faithful, but the vile contained a hidden trap. LaLaurie was thought to have been poisoned to death, but her body was never found. In truth, this priestess was the lover of the man LaLaurie had transformed into her Minotaur, a man who still stood dangling in the attic torture chamber of the manor. Before long, Fiona would notice Nan’s disappearance back in the present. The girl sat alone by a fountain, listening. It was then that she filled our Supreme in on what she’d been hearing… Delphine LaLaurie beneath the cobblestones. That evening, Fiona would hypnotize two men into doing her dirty work for her, lifting LaLaurie’s box from the ground before releasing the woman from her decades of dark punishment for her terrible crimes. It seemed the potion had, in actuality, frozen LaLaurie in time, rendering her ageless and without the ability to die. Her current dilemma reflects the opposite of that in which Fiona faces. Fiona wants to live forever in ageless glory, and LaLaurie might just be the key to obtaining her wish.
In the meantime, Zoe continued to stress regarding whether or not Kyle had been one of only two boys to survive the crash. The news had reported that these boys were kept in intensive care, and curiosity would eventually get the best of the newest witch to join the coven. She’d sneak into the hospital room of the first mystery survivor before recoiling in disgust. The boy who’d been left alive in the wreckage of Madison’s revenge was the same boy who’d led the rape. Kyle is dead, at least for now. Kyle can be the second baby bird AHS resurrects this season! Zoe, perhaps recognizing that her powers aren’t useless after all, sealed herself away before performing a revenge rape of her own; however, Zoe’s would end in an agonizing and impossibly bloody death for the formerly living patient. It was nice seeing you again, actor Grey Damon, but we the audience universally applauded the fact that your character was cooked from the inside out.
Farmiga’s returned presence on American Horror Story: Coven has, in a sense, brought some light back to the show. Her narrations throughout the episode clued us in to much of the humanity regarding a coven full of young, sometimes frightened, witches. For example, we witnessed the normally unwavering and downright ruthless Madison sobbing naked and vulnerably in the shower. Her budding love for the newly deceased Kyle could never have truly been sexually recognized in any case, but there is something romantic about choosing to love anyway. Maybe that’s the realization that death brought upon her. Jessica Lange’s Fiona will most definitely become, as usual, our favorite antihero. I’ve already heard whispers of what is to come, and I won’t spoil much, but let’s just say that recovering LaLaurie doesn’t necessarily mean Fiona is going to be too kind to the heinous monster.
What did you think of the Season 3 premiere of American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 1, “Bitchcraft”? Is Season 3 off to a good start? Are you excited to watch the theme of voodoo vs. witchcraft unfold heading forward? Are you glad that Taissa Farmiga is back in the picture as Zoe? How did you find new additions Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett? Which of these young witches has the potential to rise up as the new Supreme?
Thanks for reading my Recap and Review of the Season 3 premiere of American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 1, “Bitchcraft”! Enjoy some video interviews with the cast about what’s to come this season below!