“American Horror Story” premiered its third season, “Coven,” with the artfully executed first installment, “Bi**hcraft” on Oct. 9.
“Coven” boasts a brilliant female-heavy cast led by Oscar winners Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates, who play two of the most cunning, driven and evil women on television this season: Fiona Goode, the coven Supreme and serial killer Madame LaLaurie.
Returning AHS season one star Taissa Farmiga and cast newbie Emma Roberts vividly pop as young beauties Zoe and Madison, who meet at a boarding school for Salem descendants. True-to-AHS-form, things take a provocative and deadly turn in the girls’ first social outing and we’re immediately drawn to their story.
At the end of the heart-pounding hour, we’re left with a big question: Will Zoe and Madison regret their actions?
If evil could be personified and given a face, it would be Kathy Bates as real-life slave murderer and torturer from the 1800’s, Madame LaLaurie. The opening sequence in which she doles out her heinous punishment to the captive slaves in her attic is graphic and grotesque. The fact that a real person carried out these terrible kinds of acts is unfathomable.
Kathy Bates shines in the way that only she can in this role. She is simply a monster and we shiver at the thought of getting on her bad side. Ryan Murphy couldn’t have been more spot on when casting her for this part.
Similarly, Jessica Lange thrives as coven Supreme, Fiona Goode. She’s sleek and sophisticated and every bit the “glamour cat” that Ryan Murphy teased when he first revealed season three’s theme. To Lange’s credit, Fiona is authoritative in a way that’s very distinct from season one’s Constance Langdon and “Asylum’s” Sister Jude. She has powers, plural, and she knows how to use them. She also craves immortality above all else, and will stop at nothing in her quest to find it. Guess this answers our Fountain of Youth plot thread question.
The mother/daughter dynamic between Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson is electric. It’s going to be great fun watching these two out-witch each other as things progress.
Three Times Charmed
Color us triple charmed by Taissa Farmiga, Emma Roberts and Jamie Brewer in what is an overall dark first episode. Gabourey Sidibe nicely rounds out their quartet, but we don’t know a lot yet about her character, Queenie.
Farmiga’s eyes are a well-spring of emotion from which Zoe’s intensity, sadness, curiosity and vulnerability pour. There are several layers to this girl and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. One can only imagine the kind of emotional toll killing someone by having sex with them can bring. Can she ever find and sustain true love? According to Nan, the clairvoyant, she most certainly will.
Speaking of Nan, it’s great seeing Jamie Brewer return in this role. She tells it like she sees it, no holds barred. The shift to this crisp, no-nonsense girl is welcomed after the sad and tragic life her “American Horror Story” season one character Addie lived.
Nan embraces her gift and something tells us we’ll glean a lot of great information from her this season. She also feels like an equal with her school mates, and in some ways, superior. How many of us would love to read someone else’s mind? Like all of the gifts these girls possess, it can obviously be a blessing and a curse.
Finally, how perfect is it that Emma Roberts plays Madison Montgomery, a young movie star? She’s edgy, self-absorbed and clearly uses her good looks and seductive charms on men. She likes to be in control, but it’s also evident she wants and needs a friend, so she sets her sights on Zoe.
Who knew their first “girls night out” was going to go so terribly wrong?
Madison’s Horrifying Attack
Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and their entire creative team have never been afraid to push the storyline envelope. Between “American Horror Story” and “Glee,” they have covered a wide array of dark subject matter including teen pregnancy, teen suicide, molestation, self-mutilation, school shootings, homophobia, bullying, domestic abuse and so much more.
They jump right out of the episode one gate with Madison suffering a drugged-date fraternity brother gang rape. Thank God Kyle (Evan Peters) and Zoe come to her rescue and stop the brutal attack. Tragically, the damage has already been done by a countless number of guys before they find her.
Rape is a crime that has become a national crisis. According to RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network), every two minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted and each year, there are about 207,754 victims of sexual assault.
Those statistics are staggering.
Kyle is brave to intervene in a pack of people who are supposed to be his peers. In a fictional world of witchcraft, Zoe and Madison used their “powers” to kill the perpetrators. In their mind, the punishment fits the crime. Unfortunately, good-natured Kyle gets caught in the crossfire and pays the ultimate price.
In the real world, according to RAINN, 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail and 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
Emma Roberts is brilliant in this very disturbing and gritty sequence. We ache for what she endures in the moment and in the aftermath that will most surely follow.
Zoe also loses Kyle, with whom she feels an immediate connection. Although, previews suggest he may not be gone for long and we know their love story is central to the overall season three arc.
But, did Zoe and Madison do something they’re going to regret? Did they go too far in pursuit of justice? Will this kind of freak “accident” resulting in mass death raise awareness of their presence and threaten their own survival?
We have no choice but to wait for answers. (Unless Nan can teach us some of her tricks!)
If you are a victim of sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
“American Horror Story: Coven” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST on FX.