Monday, August 18, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014) **

TV-MA, 13 50-min. episodes
Creators: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk

Directors: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Michael Rymer, Michael Uppendahl, Jeremy Podeswa, Bradley Buecker, Howard Duetch

Writers: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Tim Minear, James Wong, Jennifer Salt, Jessica Sharzer, Douglas Petrie

Starring: Sarah Paulson, Taissa Farmiga, Frances Conroy, Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Emma Roberts, Denis O’Hare, Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange, Gabourey Sidibe, Jaimie Brewer, Angela Bassett

Guest starring: Josh Hamilton, Patti LuPone, Alexandra Breckenridge, Mare Winningham, Christine Ebersol, Alexander Dreymon, Leslie Jordan, Danny Huston, Stevie Nicks, Lance Reddick, Michael Cristofer, Mike Colter

I enjoyed the first two seasons of “American Horror Story”. They were bold experiments in long form horror. The first season took an original look at the haunted house story and season two examined a serial killer plot, with some religious and alien abduction elements thrown in. In its third season, AHS takes on the supernatural world of witches, and it just doesn’t work.

I have the impression that the creators and writers just took every idea they had about witches and threw it in there whether it had a place in the plot or not. In fact, the plot seemed rather secondary this season to the concept. It all revolves around a coven of witches located in New Orleans. The coven has fallen into tough times under the tutelage—or lack there of—of a selfish supreme (Jessica Lange). The winds of change are blowing in as the time to name a new supreme approaches. The young witches develop jealousies against each other as they wonder which of them will become the new supreme, while the current supreme plots to keep her position and power.

On top of that there is a witch who can bring others and even herself back to life, one of the young witches falls in love with another’s victim and they bring him back to life in a Frankenstein manner, a competing voodoo witch plots to destroy the coven, an old contender for the current supreme spot continues to try to prove the unworthiness of the supreme, a serial killer who works with an axe returns to the area, a group of witch hunters plots to destroy the coven, a Christian family moves in next to the coven and one of the teenaged boys falls for one of the witches, a 200 year old racist cursed to live forever is unearthed and placed in servitude within the coven, a servant takes a corpse of one of the witches for his doll collection, and I’m sure there are many other developments I’ve forgotten about. All of these could carry on as a major storyline throughout most of a season, but instead they’re thrown at the audience with each new episode as if the writers had forgotten what had come before. Yes, most of these stories are wrapped up at some point or another, but few of them are ever explored in a satisfactory manner.

I still have faith in the series. It’s always fueled with strong ideas from its creators. I hope the new season, titled “Freak Show”, is more focused than “Coven”. I think the freak show concept presents some juicy possibilities. Let’s just rein some of those ideas in this time writers.

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