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Television PopWrapped | Television

AHS: Coven Teaches Us the Power of 'Bitchcraft' in SHOCKING Premiere

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


10/10/2013 9:35 pm
PopWrapped | Television
AHS: Coven Teaches Us the Power of 'Bitchcraft' in SHOCKING Premiere

Rosie Clarke

Staff Writer

American Horror Story: Coven bewitched our screens last night with a grotesque parade of glamour and gore. The beguiling premiere episode, “Bitchcraft” exploited every fear we never knew we had and exceeded every expectation. For those of you who - like me - were huge fans of last season’s Asylum, Coven might seem like a bit of a departure. Everything about this year feels paced, structured, and dense. Whereas last season’s premiere catapulted us into the chaotic, disconnected realm of Briarcliff, last night’s episode eased us carefully into the wicked world of Bitchcraft. Don’t get me wrong, thematically it’s not too different... Again, we see the parent-child relationship interrogated: in Murder House we had Vivien and Violet, in Asylum we had Lana and Johnny, and now in Coven we seem to have Fiona and Cordelia. Again this year, we see the juxtaposition between an enclosed interior and a vast exterior: are the Murder House, Briarcliff, and Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies really so different? They all hide our protagonists from the real world. Of course we also see, in Coven, a boundless display of violent, often sexual, torture. But what is strikingly different about this premiere (I can’t believe there has only been one episode so far, when we have so much material to fangirl over already!) is its understated-ness. Okay... so watching Kathy Bates paste fresh human blood across her cheeks and force her daughter to rip out a slave’s pancreas with a rusty old hook is not exactly understated... But there is something incredibly understated about the storytelling. And it certainly works its magic. Our first witchy encounter is with the harrowing Madame Delphine LaLaurie circa 1834 (who is based on a real person so scary she’s worth a google search). Kathy Bates has come a long way since her ankle-crushing days as Annie Wilkes in Misery. She’s the lady of her genteel New Orleans house and runs a viciously inventive torture chamber in her attic on the side. As we watch her drag Bastian, one of her innocent slaves up there for sleeping with one of her daughters, it soon becomes clear that this witch is one evil bitch. She fixes a severed bull’s head onto the slave’s shoulders and dubs him The Minotaur. We also get a glimpse of one of her other living torture victims whose skin has been peeled off and is covered in maggots. “Oh man, now we’re gonna have flies up here,” LaLaurie smiles, holding flowers to her nose as she inspects her work with glee. The blood-smearing we witness turns out to be a symptom of LaLaurie’s quest for immortal youth. A desire she shares with our other magical matriarch, the reigning Supreme Witch, Fiona Goode. Goode marks Jessica Lange’s third role as part of the AHS family and I say it every year… but this could be her best yet! The present day sees Goode haggling with a scientist over when he will agree to let her trial some new age-reducing drugs. It turns out the drugs have no pleasing effect on her, so she drains the man dry - quite literally - and leaves him for dead. Despite their seemingly parallel pursuit of everlasting youth, I find myself warming to Lange’s incarnation while instantly vilifying LaLaurie. Perhaps it’s the lack of slave torture, or the positive surname, or even the bizarre relationship she has with her estranged daughter, but by jove I feel like there could be some redemption on the horizon for Fiona Goode. In the meantime though, she’s deliciously bad... She raves by herself, snorts cocaine, stalks the sidewalk in all black attire, and she WILL slam a bitch into a wall with her cigarette holding hand if called a “hag”. At the center of the premiere is a group of youngsters lead by the terrific Taissa Farmiga as Zoe Benson. To cut a long story short, she causes her boyfriend to spurt blood from every orifice during their first sexual encounter... killing him. This gets her sent to witch school so she can supposedly learn how not to be so dangerous. Anyone else getting weird Harry Potter on acid vibes? She even rode a train to school, guys. If I see a single owl I’m calling it! Instead of Hagrid coming to collect her from home though, she is met by the exquisite Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow - a zany, red-haired, tartan lover. Sorry Haggers but I think I’d prefer Myrtle to pick me up too... Even with her scary troupe of albino bodyguards. The school itself is super weird. It’s all white corridors and clinically clean rooms - very different to both Briarcliff and Murder House. Zoe quickly meets Madison (Emma Roberts) - a slightly deranged young actress with the ability to move stuff using her mind, whose number of murder victims quickly adds up by the end of the episode, Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) - a “human voodoo doll” with the ability to inflict pain on others by harming herself, and Nan (I’m so happy they brought back season one’s Jamie Brewer) - who is an insightful young clairvoyant. The girls seem to get on with the controlled yet fearful headmistress, Sarah Paulson’s Cordelia Foxx, “the only child of the Supreme”, who warns them about the outside world with a cautionary tale. It seems Lily Rabe only makes a cameo appearance this season (or does she?) as the young witch, Misty Day, who mistakenly uses her powers to resurrect a bird in public and consequently gets burned at the stake. We see Cordelia making potions in her greenhouse - a refreshing take on the more traditional image of a cauldron - while her mother, Fiona, laments how she never reached her potential. I guess that means we can expect some spellbinding drama down the road when the promo-promised battle between sorcery and voodoo commences... A shocking development occurs at a local frat party. Madison cajoles Zoe into accompanying her there, and while Zoe meets the gaze of Kyle (our beloved Evan Peters) through an ice wall a la Claire Danes and Leo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet, Madison gets drugged and brutally gang-raped by a bunch of his frat homies. Eek. Kyle eventually walks in and chases the boys back to their bus, trying to steal the camera phones they’d been recording their activities on. Zoe chases after them trying to find... Help? Answers? I wasn’t too sure actually... I was busy wondering why you’d leave your friend alone in the random frat house bed they’d just been gang-raped in. Anyhow, the bus drove off and we saw Zoe looking pretty dejected until Madison stumbles out and flips that bus right upside down. Bang. Zoe later visits the hospital after hearing two of the boys had survived but it turns out Kyle wasn’t one of them. In typical AHS fashion, the boy who survived was in fact the one who drugged Madison in the first place, so a grief-stricken Zoe decides to use her witchy causing-blood-to-spurt-out-of-all-orifices-during-sex powers to enact revenge by killing the guy while he’s unconscious. It’s disturbing but weirdly kick-ass and awesome. I’d like to put it out there that the clairvoyant (Nan) didn’t seem to pick up on any gang-rapey vibes during breakfast after the frat party. And though Fiona picked up that Madison had turned the bus over she didn’t pick up on why either. Maybe Madison was blocking that bit out? Hopefully we’ll get some answers next week! With Kyle and Misty both dead in a matter of minutes I think we can safely assume they’ll be back with the help of a little necromancy... We can’t see Ryan Murphy killing off two of his fave actors so early on can we? As the episode came to a close we got a couple of killer revelations. The first swept upon us in the form of a fabulous entrance. Angela Bassett turns out to be The Minotaur’s (Bastian’s) lover and is seeking revenge on old LaLaurie. She poisons the evil sorceress with a mysterious substance that the Madame sucks from a tiny bottle... This scene may induce seedy flashbacks to last year’s infamous “adult breastfeeding” scenes. *SHUDDER* You’ve been warned. Just when we think the old bat is dead after all... Jessica Lange goes and digs her up with a little help from Nan and some henchmen. Shock and awe: she’s alive. Though I’d wager she’s not smelling too fresh. And with a signature Lange one-liner, “Come on Mary Todd Lincoln, I’ll buy you a drink,” the pair stride off into the night. If nothing else, American Horror Story: Coven can die a success knowing it brought these two legends together onscreen! Epic. Ultimately, we’re left with a definite sense that the worst is yet to come... And after that stellar opening: bring it! Witch Weekly: (Yep, that’s a Potter reference... You know you love it.) Best quote of the night has to go to Fiona Goode this week... Her first scene with the schoolgirls was genius. “I’ve read all your files, and you’re never going to become great women of our clan sitting around here at Hogwarts under the confused instruction of my daughter.” SO EXCITED to recap AHS this season y’all. Sweet dreams ‘til next week!      


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