If ever there were an opposite of Glee, it is the first five minutes of American Horror Story: Coven. Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (who are ironically also responsible for Glee) have already demonstrated their ability to push boundaries so far the boundaries have probably tried pleading with them to calm down and rethink their actions. Last year’s Asylumwas so gratuitously torturous both with the literal torture and needlessly complicated story lines that I, personally obsessed with starting what I finish TV-wise, gave up with a few episodes left in the season. I am a big fan of horror, but the ‘Horror’ in Murphy and Falchuk’s American Story is often too often focused on graphic human degradation, and there’s only so much of it I can take. Even if the bad guys do get theirs in the end, how much of the good guys getting beaten to a pulp or sexually re-assigned do I have to tolerate before I get a moment of satisfaction? Still, no matter how frustrated Asylummade me, Coven’s cast is to die for, and so I have decided to stick it out this season for better or for worse.
It appears with Coven that right from the start the boundaries just decided to pack up and go home. Immediately, we meet Delphine LaLaurie, an altogether horrible woman who on top of her general horribleness, is also using human blood as a moisturizer and torturing slaves in her attic in ways so brutal I don’t want to describe them here because then I’d have to visualize them again. Delphine LaLaurie was an actual person who I suggest not googling if you want to sleep again, so MurphChuk is not entirely to blame for this, but I can blame them for making this sequence the first five minutes of the show. Hey, at least we know what we’re in for. I mean, it can’t get worse then this, right? Even though this is a horror show, television is still meant to be enjoyed in some form. It doesn’t need to make someone laugh or insight any sort of positive emotion, but it shouldn’t make you regret ever deciding to turn on the TV that night.
The good news is (as if there could be good news following that sequence), it does not get too much worse then that for a while. In the next scene, we are introduced to Zoe Benson, a cute little blonde girl who looks spectacularly like Violet Harmon from the first season (welcome back Taissa Farmiga, you have been missed). Zoe’s problem is that her vagina seems to kill anyone she has sex with by turning them into the human equivalent of bloody water fountains. This is somehow incredibly low-key and non-disturbing coming after a sequence with a man wearing a dead bull’s head. Zoe is then informed she is a witch and shipped off to the incredibly under-populated Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladiesrun by Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson, who at least is unable to be worse off than last season). Here we get a rare voiceover, during which Zoe rather passively explains witch history (it relates to Salem, sometimes witchery skips people or entire generations in a family) to us less clued-in folks.
At the school, Zoe meets telekinetic movie star Madison (Emma Roberts), “Human Voodoo Doll” Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), and clairvoyant Nan (Jamie Brewer, “Addie” from season one, whose line “You’re going to die in here” could be the show’s theme song). We know these are their powers because they all take a moment to literally tell you before they are also immediately demonstrated. These girls are pretty clear cut with one word to describe their powers, so now I’m also little confused as to how Zoe drew the short stick with this death-by-vagina thing. If there is a one-word to describe this, please let me know.