American Horror Story: Coven Season Premiere Review: “Bitchcraft” (Season 3, Episode 1)

american horror story: coven

These days, it never truly feels like October until a new season of American Horror Story rolls around. Keeping with tradition and presenting a new story for 2013, this season, fittingly titled American Horror Story: Coven, focuses on a small coven of young witches.

The first two seasons conquered a few more diverse settings, and a group of witches doesn’t sound terribly exciting from the get-go. If you’ve ever seen an episode of the series, however, then you know that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk always have a few interesting tricks hidden up their sleeves. Luckily, American Horror Story: Coven looks like it has plenty to offer for the rest of the season, including some fresh twists on a centuries old tale.

As far as the plot goes, not much has been revealed in the season premiere. Taissa Farmiga returns from the first season as Zoe Benson, a young woman who discovers she’s a witch after she accidentally kills her boyfriend. Since this is American Horror Story, she obviously can only kill when she has sex with someone. Feel free to insert your own jokes here. After arriving at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, Zoe meets fellow witches Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), snotty Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) and clairvoyant Nan (Jamie Brewer), all under the tutelage of Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson).

Foxx’s mother, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), reigns as the Supreme witch, the most powerful witch of her generation. After a young witch is burned at the stake near the school, Fiona returns to protect the young students, clashing with her daughter in the process. Already off the bat, it’s clear that American Horror Story: Coven plans to cover multiple branching plots and characters, just as past seasons have.

You can tell just by looking at the cast whether or not you will enjoy the new season. Plenty of familiar faces are welcomed back to the screen, and fans of the series will feel rewarded for having followed the previous seasons just to watch these actors interact for another few months. Farmiga, whose turn as Violet in the first season didn’t do anything for me, has been given a significantly better character, letting her shine much brighter than she used to. Roberts is a welcome and capable addition to the party as well, but Lange and Paulson steal the show. Lange has always been the showstopper in each season, and she plays Fiona viciously. Whether she’s bitingly hilarious or draining the life out of an employee, she’s back in the spotlight, where she belongs.

The cherry on top of this sundae of a cast is the addition of Kathy Bates as Delphine LaLaurie, a witch from the 1830s infamous for torturing slaves and using their blood to keep herself looking young. Although her role was a bit small in this episode, her opening (and the reliably creepy title sequence) live up to the horror aspect of the title. The modern day plot, however, is much lighter fare than Asylum was, and the more comedic tone is a welcome change of pace.