American Horror Story returned tonight in its third and newest iteration, Coven. The pulpy horror series sported tons of Emmy noms for its last go-round, and for the new outing they’ve picked up Oscar winner Kathy Bates and starlet Emma Roberts to round out their female dominated cast. Tonight’s premiere wasn’t perfect, but the show has a strong premise and plenty of potential to craft (bare with the witchy puns) good weekly stories. However, I will say that this season’s premiere was the weakest pilot of the three, and I’ll get to why here in a minute.
The one thing you can’t take away from American Horror Story is the institution that they’re building. You have to believe that these are the happiest actors on television, some of them in their third season. The actors are getting the chance to portray a different character every year, yet stay on a series that is tonally similar. I love how the actors are recycled; it keeps the show familiar and also allows you to see the range of their talent. Last year this worked wonders, but this season it’s a tad hit and miss.
Taissa Farmiga stars this year as Zoe Benson, and the biggest qualm I have with her character so far is that she seems very similar to the character she portrayed in season one, Violet Harmon. Maybe it’s the fault of the writers, or possibly it’s Farmiga’s acting; a lot of distant stares and incredulous faces. The similarity of the two characters becomes most apparent when she acts alongside fellow AHS regular Evan Peters. As a romantic pair the first season, the two shared many scenes together, and seeing them act together again proved that Peters continues to evolve each season, but Farmiga seems a bit too much of the same.
Jessica Lange is having a similar problem. We’ve seen her play this part before, but I can’t deny, she’s masterful at it. I liked Lange’s scenes most when she was playing off of Sarah Paulson’s Cordelia Foxx. The two have great chemistry and their scenes really popped despite the exposition-heavy dialogue that bogged down a lot of the episode. Lange’s Fiona Goode seems to be motivated on a quest for vitality and her discovery of Kathy Bate’s character Delphine LaLaurie is sure to stir the pot. By the way, Bates was sure devilishly evil tonight, and the scenes in her torture chamber were as gruesome as this show gets.
Out of the other new actors, I have to say, Emma Roberts really isn’t doing it for me. She completely disservices the show by being stereotypically bitchy, bringing little range or depth, almost like she watched Mean Girls once and decided that being a brat is easy to do. Her character is raped in this episode, because it’s not a season of AHS without a little rape, but the next morning she goes right back to being bitchy, without even a shroud of that she’s holding something back, not even a subtle glance. Gabourey Sidibe shows up as Queenie, a human voodoo doll, and in her few brief scenes she really draws interest and works well within the pilot.
Overall, there are some cool threads that are started here in this episode, and director Alfonzo Gomez-Rejon brings a great eye in his direction. Angela Basset is also really intriguing as the mysterious witch Marie Laveau, but I really think that the past two season’s of this show started off much stronger, setting up their mythology with ease instead of heavy handedly laying it on thick. Regardless, I’m excited that the wackiest show on television is back to shake things up a bit.
The Best of The Rest
- The cold open was pretty was gripping. The minotaur head was a nice touch, and Bates’ explanation was hammy goodness.
- The new intro is great, lots of terrifying images.
- Farmiga’s voice over after her sex debacle was pretty atrocious.
- “The actor Nicholas Cage was previous owner.” Nice Cage dig, AHS.
- The scenes from this season really have me excited for what’s in store.