American Horror Story Review – The Sharp, Downward-Sloping Arc of the Coven(ant?)


Precious — “Yepp”



For all the gay dudes, girls, teens and frequent Tweeters who care, last night marked the much anticipated and, frankly, much needed end to the third Season of American Horror Story. This season was fraught with problems from the get-go and while the finale was a generally satisfying wrap-up, I’m not sure how it bodes for any future seasons of the show.

My biggest issue with Coven was that it simply wasn’t scary. Sure, the stories on AHS have always had camp and sassy broads and some almost laughably preposterous plot twists, but the glue that held the indulgent and chaotic fragments of the show together was the fact that it was always really fucking scary. This season just felt like TBS bought the rights to the show and decided to make a cooky sitcom about witches. Don’t get me wrong, I very well could have started a Twitter account just dedicated to amazing one-liners that Jessica Lange dished out (“Don’t make me drop a house on you”) but all the camp this time around veered more into “eyeroll” territory than anything else. When Kathy Bates’ severed head showed up, I think we can all agree she was just pure comic relief. Even the visuals of the show this season didn’t lend to “horror”. I think the Director of Photography just thought if they threw in a massive amount of Dutch angles and fisheye lenses and shots that were literally just upside down that it would simulate an aura of suspense, but all it did was create for a really jarring look.

I think also because, from what I can gather, the production schedule was so staunchly tight that a lot of the writing just didn’t have enough time to be ironed out. I remember reading interviews from the cast only a number of months before the show was supposed to premier saying that they didn’t know anything about the story. So I think the ‘world’ of Coven was really undefined. The rules of the show were never finessed. Characters were constantly dying and coming back to life and then dying again and then resurrecting an 80 year old spirit and then just having eternal life and it was all so off the cuff. This is why I think there was a feeling that nothing really had any consequence. It was hard to stay grounded and invest in the story when you know that in the next episode someone could just throw a pumice stone into a bonfire and undo whatever they did last week.

So, back to last night’s finale. I appreciated the sense of expectation and suspense they carved into this episode: Who will be the next Supreme? There was lacking this season a sense of a driving mystery to the story. And I’m certainly not going to say no to a musical number by Stevie Nicks to kick things off. The bulk of the episode was dedicated to the 4 remaining young witches performing the 7 Wonders, testing of course to see which would complete the tasks and become the next Supreme. Which, while generally fun to watch, seemed suspiciously easy for all those girls to perform. Last I checked no one’s been able to transmutate before but at the drop of a hat are able to transport all over the place like they’re in The Incredibles. So of course Misty dies right away because she’s the cutest and I love her and why couldn’t it have been Emma Roberts’ smug, overacted ass? Then Zoe gets the ax in a really bizarre transmutation accident (but then gets brought back to life later so it’s cool). THEN, with a surge of gusto after a pep-talk, Cordelia is in the running and she totally owns those seven wonders. Then the blond zombie slave boy kills Madison (Emma Roberts) but no one brings her back to life because she’s awful. And there you have it, Cordelia is the next Supreme (Huzzah!). And if that wasn’t enough, she miraculously gets her eyeballs back and a coat of lip gloss so she’s winning all over the place.

However, then that sly but kind of fabulous bitch Fiona comes back, revealing she’s 100% NOT dead. She and Cordelia have a surprisingly heartfelt and honest moment where Fiona lets her guard down and confesses that she always resented Cordelia because she was a walking reminder of her own mortality. Fiona FINALLY lets go, as her life force is quickly ebbing away from her with the rising of the new Supreme, and descends into what she’s always feared — death. This is where the show pulls out the best moment of the episode: Fiona wakes up in some strange after-life where she realizes she will live in a cyclical eternity with the Axman drinking bourbon by the bucket and grilling catfish in some little rural cabin (Ew! #SoNotFionasStyle #Wheresthefabulousness?). Then the Cajun, Rastafari Lucifer has a good cackle at her expense and that’s the end of Fiona. She got what she deserved I suppose!

So, the academy gets an ass load of press and opens its doors to a whole new generation of witches and Cordelia is happier than hell as the new Supreme. The End.

I certainly didn’t hate the finale. It had moments of being fun and silly and, for the first time in AHS history, logically wrapped up a story. But there was only so much they could do given the way the season had gone. I’m still a little miffed that my episode 1 prediction of Nan becoming the new, ambiguously autistic Supreme didn’t come true AT ALL, but I’ll let that go. I will stay hopeful that Coven was just a small, underwhelming blip from being such a rushed effort and not a giant blight for the series. Especially considering the next season has a 1950 setting and Jessica Lange speaking German which sounds amazing. We’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, I’ll just watch the new batch of House of Cards episodes over and over to tide me over.

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