We’re back, everyone! We’ve all suffered through/enjoyed a long year without turning on our television sets and watching Jessica Lange and Company do something that makes us say “dafuq?” out loud. What say we end that streak, shall we? Read on for the recap for the first episode of American Horror Story: Coven.
Snakes. Why does it always have to be snakes?
Picture it. New Orleans. 1834. None other than Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) is introducing her three daughters to some eligible gentlemen at a society ball. They’re all prizes, with the possible exception of the youngest. “Perhaps my talents are in the boudoir,” the youngest daughter snarks. Right out the gate, AHS. Later that night, Madame is coating her face with blood and complaining that it isn’t fresh enough to reverse the signs of aging like she’s accustomed to when one of her servants breaks the news that the slutty daughter has been caught making Victorian-era whoopee with Bastien, a slave, though Bastien swears it was her who came on to him. Oh Bastien. This is the pre-war South. And did you read that Wikipedia entry about how LaLaurie treated her slaves? This isn’t going to go well for you, my friend. Madame has Bastien brought to her attic, which is stuffed to the gills with slaves who have been tortured. It’s grotesque – some have broken and warped bodies, others have their skin peeled off their faces.
“You want to behave like a beast,” she tells Bastien, “We’re going to treat you like one.” She has the hollowed out head of a bull placed over Bastien’s head like a mask while she pontificates on how she always loved the story of the Minotaur.
Man, that reparations argument is just getting stronger and stronger.
To the modern day! We meet Zoe (Taissa Farmiga, who played Violet in season 1), a teenage girl with an eye toward love, or at least scoring with a boy that she’s brought back to her house to make sweet, tender, first-time love with since her parents don’t get home until 6pm. It’s going exactly as losing your virginity should, right up until the boy begins to bleed from his eyes. And then from everywhere else as he hemorrhages in front of her. Bummer.
Zoe’s mother explains to her that turns out she’s a witch and not to worry, grandmother was the same way, but it’s really time to get this looked after. And so Zoe is transported (by train, natch) from her home to Miss Robichaux’s, a school in New Orleans for young witches in the company of an OMGYOUGUYSSERIOUSLYAMAZING Mrytle Snow (Played in campy, crazy goodness by Frances Conroy) who talks with a Mid-Atlantic accent and says things like, “I’m simply MAD about Tartan” while admiring Zoe’s drapes. She’s also with two albino black men, because why not?
Oh yeah. I can work with this.
Witchcraft, it turns out, is not always predictable. “It doesn’t show up in every family member,” Zoe voiceover’s. “Like my cousin, Amanda. She’s just bulimic.” It’s happened often enough though that the witches from old Salem Towne got out of dodge when things got rough and fled to New Orleans to train new witches in peace. Even in the 17th century, everyone from up north went to Mardi Gras, apparently.
Zoe arrives at the sprawling completely creepy mansion that is Miss Robichaaux’s. As she enters, the albinos and the crazy campy woman vanish behind her. Doors open on their own, creeking, etc. etc, leading me to doubt this school’s accreditation. Zoe is suddenly ambushed by three figures in black robes and masks who throw her to the ground and bring down a knife to stab her before pulling back to reveal themselves as the three other students of the school. I guess this was, like, her hazing or something? Man, just have her drink a bunch of shots and then circle the parts of her thighs that are too fat like all other civilized co-eds.
Roll call! There’s Madison (Emma Roberts), the Hollywood movie star who is also a telekinetic. Next is Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), the human voodoo doll. Finally, there’s Nan (Jamie Brewer, who played Addie in season 1), a clairvoyant. The entire place is run by Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), who explains that the school started off innocently enough in the 18th century, but was acquired by witches in the 19th century to train young witches, usually with classes around 60 women, but now most of the witches have died out. Cordelia explains that most witches have one or two gifts, but in every generation there is a Supreme who has all of them. As an object lesson in safety and needing to keep hidden, Cordelia tells the girls about another girl who was killed just a month ago not far from the city, a girl named Misty Day (Lily Rabe, who’s played more drunk socialites and possessed nuns than anyone on this show) who had the power to return dead things to life. Sadly, Misty was also a member of a snake-handling Christian group, who saw her gif t as less Holy Revelation, more Work of the Devil and burned Misty alive. (Fear not - Lily Rabe is listed as a lead character this season. Betting she’s coming back.) The point is, from Cordelia’s perspective, keep your heads down if you want to survive, girls.
Still better looking than Dumbledore...
In Los Angeles, we meet Cordelia’s mother, Fiona (Jessica Fuckin’ Lange), who is meeting with a researcher conducting cutting edge work on drugs to reverse aging. Fiona is impressed with the researcher’s work and wants to know when she can get in on the drug that her late husband’s money entirely funded. The researcher isn’t too excited about jumping the queue into human trials. “What we do here is not magic,” he tells her. Heh.
Regardless, Fiona is apparently successful in her argument. Five days later, she is in her penthouse apartment getting high and dancing to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (‘Cause wouldn’t you!?!) and getting pissed that she has yet to revert to the body of an 18 year old. She summons the researcher to demand more drugs, but he has nothing to give her. “We’re organic matter,” he says. “We rot and we die.” Not in Fiona’s plans, apparently, as she causes all the windows and doors to fly closed and lock and moves in on the researcher, kissing him passionately. He struggles, but gives in as he slowly begins to wither in her arms. When she’s done, he’s a dehydrated corpse who has aged 50 years and Fiona is looking stunning, young and beautiful. For a few moments, at least. She reverts quickly back to her older body, disgusted with herself.
Dinner at Hogwarts. Madison is mocking the butler, who looks exactly like Riff Raff from Rocky Horror and apparently is missing a tongue. Seriously. Can’t wait for that backstory. The four girls alternately snark each other and ask what they’re in for. Madison is there because she “accidently” killed a director who gave her a bad note that she didn’t like. It’s not long before the girls start using their powers on each other before cooler heads prevail and two of them stalk off. Madison informs Zoe that they’re going to a frat party tonight.
Cordelia is apparently skilled at potions and tinctures and is relaxing by brewing up some new concoctions in her garden/lab when Fiona surprises her. Fiona is disappointed that Delia has never lived up to her full potential – Fiona is the Supreme and Delia could be so much more than a teacher. Fiona has come back to New Orleans because she heard about Misty and fear that “this is Salem all over again.” She wants Delia to teach the girls how to fight, not to cower, and she’s come back to do just that, even if that means mother and daughter having to live under the same roof again. It’s bad enough for any adult child to hear that from a parent, just imagine if that parent was the most powerful witch in the modern age? Goes a long way to explaining why Delia is single.
Time for the frat party. There’s a keg bus, natch, and inside Frat President Kyle (Evan Peters, also returning from seasons 1 and 2) is explaining to his brothers how much fun they can have at this party without getting their charter revoked after some unfortunate disciplinary action by their university. Have to say, so far this is the part of the episode I most believe is accurate. Anyway, the frat brothers descend just as Madison and Zoe do as well. Horny Frat Boy #1 has his eyes on Madison, but Frat Boy With A Heart of Gold Kyle is taken with Zoe. Ah, the sweet sting of young love, which is never felt clearer than when two eyes meet through the ice luge at a Sig Eps rager.
"So, my vagina kills. That's what the writers gave me this season. Get abducted by any aliens lately or shoot up any schools on your way here?"
Madison, meanwhile, is Mean Girl-ing it up. She spots Horny Frat Boy and demands that he get her a drink and be her slave for the night. He willingly agrees. Know what you shouldn’t really do? Ask a morally bankrupt frat boy to mind your drinks. It takes all of five minutes before Madison is roofied out the wazoo and the entire bus of frat brothers are gang raping her in one of the rooms upstairs. This is AHS, guys. You know rape was coming sooner or later. Never change, AHS. It’s only interrupted when Kyle discovers them after Zoe asks for his help finding Madison. The Frat Boys flee back to the bus, pursued by Kyle. The brothers knock Kyle out and begin to drive the keg bus away from the party just as Zoe tries to chase it down in vain. But you know what the one thing worse than a bunch of rapey frat boys are? When their victim is a witch who is also telekinetic. Madison causes the bus to flip into the air, crashing back down and exploding.
The next morning, the girls are having breakfast when Fiona breezes into the room bemoaning “college boys taken in the prime of their lives. But then, the world’s not going to miss a bunch of assholes in Ed Hardy shirts.” Fiona tells Madison that was fine work, but she was sloppy. She’s taking them all on field trip to start their new instruction.
Madeline: The Adult Version
She brings them through the French Quarter giving the girls history of the underground covens of New Orleans. “When witches don’t fight, we burn,” she advises them. They’re distracted, though, when Nan wanders off to the house of Madame LaLaurie, which still stands in New Orleans despite being once owned by Nicholas Cage (true story) and the haunted tour that’s going on inside. Fiona glamours the docent into letting them in for free and we all get a magical mystery tour of exposition.
Madame LaLaurie apparently tried to fight age and keep herself young and fresh by creating poultices from the pancreases of her slaves, ripped out of them while alive. That is, until the day she was approached by Marie Laveau (played here by Angela Bassett), who offered her a love potion that would ensure her husband’s fidelity. Madame drank Laveau’s concoction, but as anyone could guess, it was a poison, not a love potion. Turns out that slave that was turned into the Minotaur? He was Marie’s lover and she extracted her revenge. To this day, Madame LaLarie’s body has never been found. It’s then that Fiona notices Nan staring suspiciously at the backyard. “What do you hear?” Fiona asks her. “The lady of the house,” Nan replies.
I personally can't wait for the scene when she learns about the Civil Rights Act.
Zoe meanwhile has taken a detour to the hospital to see which of the frat boys survived the crash and hoping that one of the two survivors is Kyle. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Yeah, life’s a bitch – it’s the guy who was leading all the raping. And so Zoe makes a choice – her vagina has the power to kill, after all. All it takes is a little hand job for the unconscious rapey frat boy followed by a quick mounting and it’s hemorrhages all around!
That night, Fiona has paid two workers to dig up the backyard of Madame LaLaurie’s house and they have found a suspiciously human-sized box in the ground. She glamours the workers into forgetting her and opens the wooden casket to find a still hale and healthy looking Madame LaLaurie, quivering and shaking and bound in chains. “Come on, Mary Todd Lincoln,” Fiona says as she frees her. “I’ll buy you a drink.”
So, right off the bat we’re away from the muted tones and repressive feeling of season two’s Asylum. This is all glamour and camp and a whole lotta lady power, maybe as an antidote to the amount of violence done to the female characters last season? As someone who personally doesn’t find witches all that frightening, I’ll have to see how scary this season gets. MaggieCats will also have to update us on any of her Pillow of Fear moments, but for right now all I’m stuck on is, “needs more Angela Bassett.”
MOAR ANGELA!!! MOAR!!!!