The third season of “American Horror Story” has begun, and this one is called “Coven.” Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Ryan Murphy opens this season with 19th century New Orleans and introduces us to the opulent home of Madame Delphine LaLaurie (played by Kathy Bates) who is decked out in a magnificent feather hat and giant red gown. Mme. LaLaurie is introducing a crowd of suitors to her three daughters, who are wearing feather hats that rival those of Cinderella’s stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella when they go to Prince Charming’s ball. One saucy daughter suggests that her talent is in the “boudoir” and makes eyes at a slave. Scandal!
Cut to Mme. LaLaurie smearing her face with blood like it’s Ponds Cold Cream. “This blooood’s not fresh,” she moans in her Southern drawl. Is this an alternate ending to “Fried Green Tomatoes,” in which Evelyn Couch is the one who barbecued Frank?
Anyway, Mme. LaLaurie finds out that her daughter had sex with the slave and she is pissed! She takes him down to the time-out room, which is a super scary dungeon with other slaves locked up and one of them has no skin on his face — sad. LaLaurie is watching a tied-up slave struggle and calls for her “pickaninny,” as she says, and the little boy is so, so cute, until you see that he is carrying a giant bull’s head and puts it over the man’s head.
Mme. LaLaurie reminisces about her father teaching her about Greek mythology. “The minotaur was always my favorite,” she breathes. “Half man, half bull. And now I have one of my very own!”
We’re back in the modern day and the adorable Taissa Farmiga has returned. She’s playing teenager Zoey Benson and getting down with a guy with an earring. Earring guy knows it’s her first time and he’s asking her if she’s OK, and she’s OK, but oh my god he’s not OK. It’s just a nosebleed at first but then blood comes rushing out of every orifice on his head! The doctors called it a brain aneurism but Zoey’s mom knows what’s up. “Your great-grandmother had the same genetic affliction,” she says. Zoey’s a witch! And it’s so not fair because her cousin Amanda is just bulimic, ugh. Farmiga is playing a sullen, angsty, anachronistic Patti Smith-wannabe again: perfect.
Anyway, these scary guys in sunglasses come to get Zoey and OMG it’s Frances Conroy and she looks batty as hell. She is totally channeling Grace Coddington and she’s wearing a cape and a polka dot ascot. It’s not clear what her role is but she and the men take Zoey to Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, aka witch school.
Witch school is really beautiful, all white-washed and breezy with corinthian columns and a double staircase, natch. Then these scary people in black capes and venetian bird masks attack Zoey and try to kill her, but the masks come off and it’s just a prank, guys! “Jesus, Sabrina, relax — we’re just messing with you,” says little diva Madison Montgomery, played by little diva Emma Roberts. Gabourey Sidibe is there, playing Queenie, and yay, Jamie Brewer is back and she’s playing Nan!
Sarah Paulson plays the headmistress, Cordelia Foxx, and I dig the blonde hairdo. Ms. Foxx explains to the girls that she’s there to help them rein in and control their powers so they don’t get themselves into trouble. We also learn about what a Supreme is (not Diana Ross): “One woman has countless gifts. Some say all of them. She’s the Supreme.” Ms. Foxx also warns the girls about a Misty Day (played by Lily Rabe) who got burned at stake just a few months ago.
Out of New Orleans and into some Maurice Villency-designed lounge of a lab, where we finally see the queen of AHS: Jessica Lange. She’s looking very Catherine Tramell while trying to bully a scientist into giving her a youth serum called RM-47 and smoking very seductively. “I want that medicine … and I want it now,” she says. The problem is it’s not going to be out for another two years.
And then we’re in her Los Angeles apartment where she’s on a coke bender of epic proportions and dancing into her mesh curtains, rubbing more coke into her gums and bawling. It turns out her scientist ended up giving her the medicine but it’s not working, so she calls him in to scream at him to — make out with him? Oh, no, suck the life out of him and leave him a white-haired, shriveled corpse.
She looks into her mirrors, and there are SO MANY MIRRORS in this home, and the blue-toned lighting and ’80s hair metal all make it clear that she’s not in a good way. To drive the point home, she sees her aging reflection and smashes the mirror.
Back at witch school, the girls are showing off their talents at the dinner table. It turns out Madison Montgomery is a movie star and of course she is wearing a fur coat, in Louisiana, at school. She telekinetically dropped a light on her director and killed him after he yelled at her for not coming close enough to the light. “The light hit him just fine,” she says.
Queenie is over Madison’s nonsense and starts cutting her finger; Madison writhes in pain because Queenie is a human voodoo doll. Meanwhile, Nan keeps making predictions about everyone and Queenie says, “I get it, bitch, you’re clairvoyant.” Ladies, let’s try to get along.
Jessica Lange’s character, Fiona Goode, shows up at Miss Robichaux’s because she’s Cordelia’s mother. There’s a lot of tension and the two are on their way to fighting like the ladies on “Dynasty.” Cordelia calls her mom a bitch for ditching her way long ago at Miss Robichaux’s, and Fiona retorts that her only regret was not sending her earlier. Cordelia asks her to leave but Fiona’s here to stay and give Miss Robichaux’s a good shake-up: She calls Cordelia’s teaching philosophy an “abject failure” and makes it clear she’s taking the reins. “When are you going to die and stop ruining my life?” asks Cordelia. Ouch.
Madison and Zoey are at a frat party nearby and of course Madison is wearing a tiny Herve Leger dress, getting heckled by female and male fans alike. Zoey is making eyes at Kyle, played by Evan Peters, who Emma Roberts might have beat up in real life, and they make googly eyes at each other through an ice sculpture.
Madison’s in another corner of the house and something’s wrong: The hallway is warping and she’s woozy and the roofied girl gets taken to a room where a group of fratties gang rape and take a video of her on their phones. Kyle tries to break it up and all of the fratties, Kyle included, get on a bus and peel off — until Madison pulls some “Carrie” stunt and flips the bus over. Kyle is dead, the ringleader of the gang is not.
Fiona is somewhat impressed with the bus flip, but she also says, “You were sloppy, little witch bitch.” She slams Madison against the wall (without touching her, of course) and she makes the girls change into all black, sunglasses and hats. Is that Violet Harmon’s hat from Season One that Zoey is wearing?
Fiona takes the girls on a field trip to Mme. LaLaurie’s house, where we learn that her bloody Ponds Cold Cream was a youth potion that came from the pancreases of slaves. Flashback to 1834 where we see Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, played by Angela Bassett, show up at LaLaurie’s house. Marie Laveau was a real person and so was Madame LaLaurie — just ask Nicolas Cage, who bought LaLaurie’s mansion in 2007 and had to sell it in 2009, ’cause you know, times were tough.
Anyway, Angela Bassett looks amazing in her scarlet turban and I’ll take what she’s having, because girl, Stella got her groove back and she looks 35, not 55. She offers LaLaurie a love potion to ensure that her Monsieur LaLaurie will stay faithful, but Mme. LaLaurie rolls over and dies instead — it turns out one of her prisoners was Marie Laveau’s lover. But nobody ever found her body, until today — Nan can sense it under her feet in the yard.
Zoey is at the hospital looking for the comatose gangrape ringleader, where she decides her power to kill people through intercourse is actually useful. “Might as well put this curse to some use,” she says woefully. It’s a bit much, really, having sex with a comatose person and making him bleed out of his eyes till he dies. Goodbye, gangrape ringleader.
The Supreme returns to Mme. LaLaurie’s grave with two men who dig up the coffin. She opens it and — surprise! — Evelyn Couch, I mean Mme. LaLaurie, is still as rosy and well as ever. “Come on, Mary Todd Lincoln,” growls Fiona.