If you had any doubt as to whether American Horror Story Coven would be as crazy as its predecessors, all questions should be answered when you learn that the first episode is called “Bitchery.”
And the bitchery is on full display, with Kathy Bates playing a character that in the span of one cold opening probably already takes her rank among the most evil in TV history. Then of course there’s the snotty Hollywood starlet (Emma Roberts), the “human voodoo doll” (Gabourey Sidibe) and the girl who can literally sex someone to death (Taissa Farmiga). And Jessica Lange.
The basic idea of Coven is, yeah, witches. Fans of the show, who followed the haunted house storyline of Season 1, and the mental asylum mania in Season 2 probably don’t need more of a hook than that to get them interested, but after having seen the first episode, I can give you a few more details. Essentially, there’s an X-Men-type of finishing school for witches in New Orleans. Being a witch is a genetic bloodline kind of thing that can skip a generation or two, and that combined with unfortunate incidents like the Salem Witch Trials have worked to seriously threaten the witch population. They must come to New Orleans where a kindly headmistress (Sarah Paulson) will make sure they know how to handle their abilities, which vary wildly but tend to include at least some form of telekinesis. Bates’ character is from the 1800s, and a vicious slave owner who committed unspeakable acts that might make Countess Elizabeth Bathory blush. (OK, probably not, but I couldn’t resist the comparison.)
Like every season of American Horror Story, Coven gets off to a fantastic start, making the wait until the next episode quite a chore. My hope is that the third time will be a charm in that the story won’t go off the rails so quickly and so often. In Season 1 and in Asylum, I was hooked in the initial episode, then puzzled by some weird tangent(s) in Episodes 5 or 6, angered beyond caring by Episode 10 and then tuned into the finale out of obligation. The story so far seems tight enough to maybe rein it in a bit, but we shall see. But at least it should be enough to be fun through Halloween.
American Horror Story Coven airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.