tv review – FX’s American Horror Story, Coven

American Horror Story is a series that’s easily defined as a guilty pleasure: it’s pulpy entertainment that runs with horror tropes and archetypes. Season 3, titled Coven, is all about witches and voodoo: it takes place in present-day New Orleans and revolves around a school for young witches, ran by Cordelia Foxx, portrayed by AHS alumna Sarah Paulson. Her mother Fiona Goode is the one and only Surpreme, the most powerful witch alive and an unpleasant one at that. Apart from being powerful and obsessed with youth, Fiona, this year’s Jessica Lange part, is quite skilled at picking fights, which is one of the reasons there’s still a war brewing between the New Orleans witches and a voodoo priestess. Let’s just say madness ensues.

Much like the previous seasons AHS isn’t concerned with modesty: more, more, more still seems to be the show’s mantra. Coven keeps introducing storylines, characters, powers and twists ad infinitum, and there’s even a celebrity cameo this time around. The problem is that many of the plot strands don’t seem all that well thought out, because plot elements and developments are suddenly introduced one episode, only to disappear the next. An example: there’s an instance when one of the young witches saves the day with newfound and incredible powers, but there’s no follow-up to this whatsoever. You’re left scratching your head, wondering what the point of all of it was. This tendency to throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks, plagued previous season Asylum too, but at least Asylum was more imaginative and diverse. Only with the introduction of a character called Papa Legba does Coven reach the heights of the Rubber Man and Bloody Face storylines from season 1 and 2 respectively, but otherwise it’s quite bland and not scary or disturbing at all. A plot strand that involves New Orleans’ past and slavery comes close, but is too blunt to be effective.

What AHS still has going for it, is that there’s really nothing like it on TV. The return of actors who play a different part each season is still a draw: Paulson especially has played three very different women, which is a joy to watch. Another card AHS has up its sleeve, is the ability to constantly surprise you: many of the decisions fail the really register, but some do and you’re always left wondering what’s next. A return to some of season 1’s qualities is needed though: the Harmon family was fleshed out, which made you care about their fate and the crazy developments surrounding the Murder House. Coven on the other hand really had few characters to root for, if any.

American Horror Story, Coven was entertaining while it lasted, but not impressive at all. Much like Asylum it had too much going on and too little to care about. Real horror was sparse too, a strange thing for a show with the word in the title. 5/10


2 thoughts on “tv review – FX’s American Horror Story, Coven

    • As do I, joanne. Well, good news: there will be a season four. Co-creator Ryan Murphy revealed the following to Entertainment Weekly: “It’s set in 1950. If you look historically what happened in the year 1950, there’s some more clues in that year. It’s a period piece. We try and do the opposite of what we’ve done before. Jessica Lange has already started practicing her German accent so I’m very excited!”

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