Following the success of the first two seasons of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy exposed the world to his latest cackle of complex characters. Set in a school for young witches, the third cycle of the show, subtitled Coven, is one of my favourites. With a central mystery of who’ll become the next Supreme (the witch leader of sorts), the season brings the shocks but also a little Murphy predictability too.
The bewitching characters reside in Miss Robichaux’s Academy, a beautiful New Orleans mansion, where headmistress Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) harnesses their abilities in an attempt to save the witch line from extinction. The four students each bring their own special ability, which is why they’re in the academy in the first place; their ability has brought them unwanted attention from a society which has no awareness that witches are real, and essentially the students have been forced to attend the academy to prevent such recognition.
In typical Murphy style, the abilities are both amusing at times but pretty cool too: one can induce a brain haemorrhage through sex; one is telekinetic; another can inflict pain on a recipient by harming herself; and the other is clairvoyant.
These four teenagers spend the season in competition to be the new Supreme, much to the dismay of the current one, Fiona Goode. Played by the queen of AHS, Jessica Lange, Fiona is one sassy lady with an array of a bad-ass powers. Having murdered her Supreme when she was a teenager herself, the woman is awaiting a similar fate herself, though she’ll do whatever it takes to keep hold of her reign. As always, the season would be nothing without Lange, frankly. Everyone else is wonderful in their roles, particularly Emma Roberts in her AHS debut, but nobody even comes clse to Lange.
Intertwined with the witches storyline are two other screen legends: Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. Bates portrays real life 19th century slave torturer, Madame LaLaurie, who in the show has been kept alive under a voodoo spell. The spell has been enacted by her enemy, Marie Laveau, played by Bassett, who is herself based on a real life 19th century New Orleans figure. The two character continue to lock horns centuries later, though Fiona Goode and the witches are now part of the war. The season was definitely quite complex yet interesting, particularly for its historical concepts.
Speaking of legendary cast members though, look out for Stevie Nicks towards the latter half of the season, with her role as…wait for it…herself!? One character, Misty Day (Lily Rabe), is obsessed with the Fleetwood Mac vocalist and is convinced she’s a ‘white witch’ – cue the guest appearance by Nicks herself.
Coven isn’t the most polished of the AHS franchise, but it’s fun and interesting. If you’re looking to watch a bunch of sassy characters throwing each other against walls, using only their minds, and that sort of dramatic entertainment, then it’s probably your kind of show.