Ever since the first season of American Horror Story” debuted in 2011, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have offered audiences an amalgam of disturbing introductions, music, characters and storylines – all of which occur in equally alarming settings. “American Horror Story: Coven” – the FX show’s third installment – is no exception.
What makes this show different from most is that, although the cast has remained relatively constant over the years, the plot has changed completely. Season one, “Murder House,” was set in a ghost-filled haunted house, while season two, “Asylum,” took place in a 1960s mental hospital. The latest season, “Coven,” occurs in present day New Orleans at a school for young witches.
The continuity of the cast allows for more breadth in the storyline of the show – something that the writers use to their full advantage. Because the whole story takes place within one season and is not spread out over an indefinite amount of time, the series leaves very few loose ends. Indeed, both “Murder House” and “Asylum” featured tightly knit plots and exciting, fulfilling conclusions. The condensed nature of the show is part of what makes “American Horror Story” so satisfying to watch.
Despite its unique plot structure, “American Horror Story” is not universally appealing and is certainly not for the faint of heart. In addition to the gore and horror that is so central to the series, “American Horror Story” also deals with somewhat disturbing and alienating themes, such as infidelity, sanity and – it seems in this season – oppression and racism.
“Coven” may be even gorier than the past two seasons. Already, episodes have incorporated disturbing racial torture, the graphic resurrection of characters from the dead and strange voodoo fertility ceremonies. Three action-packed episodes of “Coven” have debuted so far, proving that this season is measuring up to the standards of “Murder House” and “Asylum.”
The depiction of fantastical figures in mass media is nothing new. Witches have been featured on countless TV shows, including “Sabrina: The Teenage Witch” (1996-2003), “The Vampire Diaries” (2009-present), “Charmed” (1998-2006) and “The Secret Circle”(2011-present). All of these series have created their own representations of witches, and “Coven” seeks to do the same. The young, modern witches of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies have the potential to make this a mystical, magical and monstrous season.
Returning to the cast as new witch Zoe Benson is the beloved Taissa Farmiga from “Murder House.” Farmiga’s performance skillfully captures the innocence of her character, causing audiences to take a strong liking to Zoe. Another surprising addition to the cast is Emma Roberts as Madison Montgomery, a spoiled, rich actress who also happens to be a witch. Throughout her acting career, Roberts has mostly taken roles in mainstream romantic comedies like “Valentine’s Day” (2010), “Aquamarine” (2006) and “Celeste and Jesse Forever” (2012) – making her appearance in a show like “American Horror Story” extremely unexpected. Although it may seem like Roberts is challenging herself with such a different genre, her character is unfortunately very similar to other parts she has played before