American Horror Story: Coven: No More Mutants*
I went on record last week about how I wasn't all that thrilled with the way that American Horror Story: Coven looked from the previews, but I did so love the show the first two seasons so I was more than willing to give it a shot. Sadly, much if what I was worried about is already playing out.
Our new setting is Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, and I will say one thing for the series. However much they pay their location finder, it isn't nearly enough. All three seasons have managed to take place in truly unique backdrops that become in and of themselves characters. Coven is no exception, and the homebase for our characters pulses with a strange white light that feels utterly sinister.
Witches.... I'm sorry, but witches have not been scary since the '30s (Maleficent doesn't count. She was technically a fairy). That already throws one strike against the show, but the ball that hits the batter is the way they're treating the four young ladies that make up our Hogwarts-esque class of young witches.
The internal mythology works like this; each witch born in a bloodline has a special power. Yes, like the X-Men, or the Doom Patrol depending on how well acquainted you are with Stan Lee's blatant ripoffs. One is clairvoyant, one is a human voodoo doll who can project self-harm, one is telekinetic, and our plucky young heroine Zoe has the ability to screw people until they get aneurysms. No really, this show finally gave someone a stupider mutant power than Choir. Well done. Well done indeed.
Luckily we have Jessica Lange as the Supreme witch just swaggering all over every inch of scenery adding some lime to this watered down vodka cranberry, as well as Sarah Paulson as her mousier but incredibly self-determined teacher daughter. Paulson as always brings an understated strength to whatever she does, and it's good to see her back for season 3.
Much of the action takes place in the 19th century where Kathy Bates plays a sadistic society lady named Madam LaLaurie based on the real-life known serial killer in New Orleans. Bates borrows bit of the Elizabeth Bathory mythology and mixes it with her own gleeful southern capriciousness to craft the show's only really moments of terror. Her attic torture chamber is one of the most godless and gut-wrenching things ever shown in a show famous for exactly that. The depravity of the settings is enough for any normal level of unease, but her unholy rage and girlish delight is the perfect chaser that gets the poison down.
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