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‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Premiere Recap – “Bitchcraft”

American Horror Story: Coven premiered tonight. Here’s what happened in tonight’s episode.

New Orleans – 1834

Madame LaLaurie is using a brush to paint her face with blood. She’s informed that one of her daughters was caught having sex with a slave. LaLaurie storms over to her daughter and beats her while yelling at her. When her daughter talks back, LaLaurie slaps her and says that they’re going to tell everyone that the slave raped her.

The slave protests, saying that LaLaurie’s daughter came onto him and he tried to stop her because he was already promised to someone else. LaLaurie shows no mercy, however, and orders her servant to take the slave upstairs.

If you’re familiar with the history behind LaLaurie House, you know that Madame LaLaurie was a serial killer who brutalized and murdered her slaves. And because American Horror Story stays true to that, this is when things get dark. Really dark.

It was really upsetting to watch, to say the least, so I’m not going to go into the details. On the other hand, Kathy Bates does a superb acting job. (She certainly seems to be channeling her character from Misery.)

Present

After some really awesome opening credits, we’re introduced to one our lead characters, Zoe (Taissa Farmiga). She brings a boy, Charlie, to her house and the two quickly proceed to get down and dirty. Charlie whispers something about how it sucks being someone’s first and that he doesn’t want to hurt Zoe. Unfortunately for Charlie, it’s going to be the other way around.

His nose starts bleeding and he spasms to death.

Later, a despondent Zoe is sitting in a train and she tells the audience via voiceover that the official cause of Charlie’s death was ruled to be a brain aneurysm. Afterward, her mom finally told her that she’s a witch – hence why Zoe is now sitting on a train accompanied by the eccentric Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). She’s being sent to a boarding school for witches called Miss Robichaux’s Academy.

We also learn that witches living in Salem, Massachusetts managed to escape the Salem witch trials and avoided persecution by fleeing to New Orleans, which is where the boarding school is located.

When Zoe finally arrives, the boarding school appears to be empty, but the emptiness is actually a set-up to a hazing ritual. Figures wearing cloaks and masks appear and corner a frightened Zoe. They put a bag over Zoe’s head and pin her down on top of a table. One of the figures holds a dagger over Zoe’s head, when suddenly the candles flicker and the figures back away.

They reveal themselves to be Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), a former movie star, Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), and Nan (Jamie Brewer). They admit they were just playing a prank on her.

Cordelia Fox (Sarah Paulson) walks in next and introduces herself as the headmistress.

Cordelia explains that the boarding school was established in 1790 as a girls’ finishing school. After the civil war, the witches took over. It also turns out that witches are a dying breed so the number of girls attending Miss Robichaux’s Academy has significantly dwindled from its hayday. People who knew they carried the witch bloodline chose not to reproduce. Also, a Supreme is a witch who has multiple abilities.

Cordelia then tells the story of Misty Day (Lily Rabe), a Cajun girl who had the ability of “resurgence”. She could bring people and animals back to life. Unfortunately, other people didn’t take too kindly to Misty’s powers and she was burned at the stake in the middle of the night.

Their lives are at risk, Cordelia explains. They need to take precautions and make sure what happened to Misty doesn’t happen to them.

Introducing Fiona

Meanwhile, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), a Supreme, is visiting with a scientist, David. He and his team have been doing research on a drug that may bring people back to their youth. He says they’ll be ready for human trials in two years time, but Fiona demands that she get the drug now, preferably in the next half-hour.

David protests, but Fiona reminds him that the only way he’s been allowed to do his research is because of the funding he’s received from her dead husband’s money. However, David tells her that even if he wanted to help her get what she wants – youth and vitality – he can’t. It’s not magic.

Later, in her hotel room, Fiona is dancing, crying, and snorting cocaine. The TV is on and a reporter is talking about the disappearance of Misty Day.

David arrives and a strung-out Fiona says that he’s been injecting her with the drug for five days and nothing has changed. She’s still the same. He tells her that he’d rather resign than continue down this road.

That’s when Fiona uses her witchly powers to prevent David from leaving the hotel room. She then forcibly kisses him and drains him of his life force, leaving him a dead husk.

Dinner – Miss Robichaux’s Academy

Back at the boarding school, Madison is taunting Spalding (Denis O’Hare), who serves them dinner and is supposedly mute.

Madison, a telekinetic, ended up at the boarding school after she dropped a light on a director’s head when he told her that she wasn’t hitting her mark. Madison isn’t very remorseful, and she ends up getting into an argument with Queenie.

Queenie, a human voodoo doll, stabs her hand with a knife, which causes Madison to scream in pain when her hand begins protruding with spots of blood. Queenie doesn’t feel any pain, however. Nan, the clairvoyant of the group, yells at Queenie to stop.

Nan and Queenie leave the table, and Madison informs Zoe that – given the options – she’s her new best friend now. Madison invites her out to a frat party that she just received news about on her phone.

Mother and Daughter Reunited

Elsewhere, Cordelia is extracting liquid from various plants. Fiona appears behind her, causing Cordelia to drop the cylinder she was holding.

Fiona tells Cordelia that as the daughter of a Supreme she could be doing anything she wants. She could be ruling the world. But Cordelia likes her life the way it is.

Mother and daughter clearly do not get along. Cordelia makes it clear that she doesn’t want Fiona here in New Orleans.

Fiona refuses to leave, however. She’s here to help Cordelia with the girls. She talks about what happened to Misty and says that Cordelia is leaving these witches completely unprepared for what’s about to happen. She’s teaching them to cower in the shadows, but there are no more shadows thanks to viral video, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – according to Fiona.

Cordelia threatens to call the council if Fiona refuses to leave. Fiona is unphased, however. When Cordelia coldly asks when Fiona will finally die, Fiona is clearly hurt. However, she’s staying and they have to make the best of it.

Frat Party

Kyle (Evan Peters) is laying the ground rules for the party he and his frat brothers are about to attend. Their frat has been put on probation so they need to be careful.

Madison and Zoe arrive at the party and Madison is immediately escorted away by a girl who recognizes her as “the” Madison Montgomery. Zoe, meanwhile, catches Kyle’s eye.

While Zoe and Kyle get to chatting, Madison gets drugged by one of Kyle’s frat brothers. In a horrifying scene, Madison gets brought to a room and then gang-raped by Kyle’s frat members.

Outside, Zoe is searching for Madison, but can’t find her anywhere. Kyle volunteers to look upstairs, and that’s when he catches his fellow frat brothers on top of Madison. Kyle pulls one of them off and gets into a brawl. He chases them back to the bus.

Zoe comes in afterward. She puts a blanket over Madison and promises that she won’t let them get away with this. She chases after the bus, screaming for it to stop. Madison, disheveled and teary-eyed, walks up and uses her power to flip the bus over.

The bus goes up in flames, killing everyone inside, including Kyle.

Aftermath

The next morning, Zoe walks into the kitchen where Queenie and Nan are watching the news; a reporter talks about the bus crash from the previous night.

An emotionally closed off Madison appears and shuts off the television. Fiona waltzes in shortly thereafter. She knows that Madison was responsible for the bus crash and – while killing a bus full of assholes isn’t a big deal to Fiona – she says that Madison was sloppy in her execution. Madison mouthes off at Fiona, calling her an “old hag.”

Fiona uses her power to throw Madison against the wall. She tells them that she’s going to be teaching them now and she’ll be going about it very differently from Cordelia.

She tells them to put on something black.

Photo: FX

Photo: FX

Field Trip

Fiona is taking the girls to a building where past witches used to gather, but has now been deemed a safety hazard ever since Hurricane Katrina. Before they get there, Nan senses something, which leads her to the LaLaurie House. The witches take a tour of the House.

We learn through flashbacks that LaLaurie dipped even further into her insanity to bring back her youth. Eventually, she was visited by a woman named Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), a voodoo queen, who gave LaLaurie a love potion guaranteed to lure LaLaurie’s husband back to her.

The potion turned out to be poison, however, and Marie Laveau had come to the LaLaurie House to exact revenge for her lover who’d been tortured and killed by Madame LaLaurie.

The tour guide concludes that LaLaurie’s body was never found.

Fiona finds Nan sitting outside. She senses where LaLaurie’s body is located.

Conclusion

Zoe visits the hospital where a few frat boys have survived the bus crash. She frantically searches for Kyle, but finds the main perpetrator of Madison’s rape instead. Somehow, he survived. “Should’ve been you, asshole,” Zoe says bitterly. She then closes the door and has sex with his unconscious body, killing him.

At the boarding school, Fiona is bringing her luggage to her room. She tells Cordelia to tip the taxi driver waiting outside generously.

We get a brief glimpse of Madison crying in the shower.

Later that night, Fiona has LaLaurie’s grave dug up. LaLaurie is alive! She stands up and Fiona tells her, “come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”

Verdict

While I enjoyed this episode for the most, some sequences were too upsetting to watch. I’m definitely interested to see what happens with each character, going forward. Zoe’s power (vagina of doom) is ridiculous, but it fits with the campy element of American Horror Story. Each character is very intriguing in their own way, and I look forward to seeing more from Angela Bassett, who did not get much screentime in this episode.

Rating: B-