‘American Horror Story: Coven': The Mother-of-the-Year Award Goes To…

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Taissa Farmiga and Mare Winningham in American Horror Story Coven The Replacements American Horror Story: Coven: The Mother of the Year Award Goes To...

[This is a review of American Horror Story: Coven Episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]

Because of its unique nature as an anthology, when discussing American Horror Story: Coven, it’s natural to try and compare it to the seasons that have come before – not in terms of setting or thematic elements necessarily, but in terms of how each season accomplished what it set out to.

For example, last season benefited greatly from the addition of director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, as his creative touch gave several episodes of Asylum a visual and stylistic component that augmented or elevated the more convoluted aspects of the storyline and frequently turned the demented and disturbing images into something interesting (for more than shock value).

In that regard, it’s no surprise that Gomez-Rejon would be on board to handle directing duties for episodes of Coven, and while the premiere felt as though it lacked the kind of fantastic imagery of, say, last season’s ‘Madness Ends,’ the composition of shots in ‘The Replacements’ suggested the director was officially back in the saddle again.

Here, his fluid, dynamic shots took an episode that was essentially Murphy and Falchuk examining the ramifications of bad parenting (in this case, a string of bad mothers) and gave some of the clumsiness in the ancillary plotlines an extra dimension. One instance in particular helped make Cordelia’s desperation to have a child feel a little more palpable and effective to the degree that when the shot slipped into Marie Laveau’s description of an incredibly spicy fertility ceremony and then back again, we understood not only Cordelia’s desperation, but also her belief that it would work.

Now, for whatever reason, all the visual feats of derring-do seem to make watching the wildly campy and usually shocking material of the series a little easier to digest. If there’s one thing American Horror Story has learned between season 1 and now, it’s that the manner in which the show presents what is onscreen is as important as what’s actually being presented.

Denis OHare and Patti LuPone in American Horror Story Coven The Replacements American Horror Story: Coven: The Mother of the Year Award Goes To...

The composition tends to move along with the show’s brutal tonal shifts, making transitions from Zoe naively delivering Franken-Kyle back to his incestuous mother Alicia (Mare Winningham) to Queenie propositioning a minotaur to the brief mentor-protégé relationship between Fiona and Madison feel like they’re all visually a part of the same show – even if the plotlines have yet to really coalesce around one another.

Additionally, it’s pretty clear that most of those storylines were intended to make the audience cringe and perhaps even promote a little (or a lot of) nervous laughter, repulsion or what have you, but whatever was else was going on, the Fiona/Madison stuff managed to play out in about as elegant a way as you could possibly hope from a show like this.

The way Fiona’s gaze latched on to her would be usurper, only to briefly reflect a younger version of the reigning supreme back at herself, was a rather nifty way of not only demonstrating her fear of being replaced, but also underlining the season’s only consistent throughline of the cruelty of aging and accepting that life (unless you’re Madame LaLaurie) is tragically finite.


American Horror Story: Coven continues next Wednesday with ‘Fearful Pranks Ensue’ @10pm on FX.

Photos: Michele K. Short/FX

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  1. This episode took things to a whole new level of messed up for AHS.

    • That is part of the “hype” about the show, pushing “boundaries”, and unfortunately, at least for some, it is part of its appeal as well. Hey, gotta keep the ratings up.

      Let’s not forget the name of the show, though.

      • I should say that, for me, and I am sure for others as well, the acting of Jessica Lange, from Season 1 up through this season, has been completely mesmorizing. I truly believe she is one of our greatest actresses. She’s come a long way since playing the female lead in King Kong in 1976. She’s still quite beautiful as well.

    • Totally agree, was looking forward to this next episode, regret watching it first thing in the morning before breakfast due to excitement!!

  2. I know it’s traditional AHS style to lack any plot coherence, but it becomes very frustrating. I hope Dennis O’Hare has speaking lines, because his character’s lack of a tongue is already a major crime against his acting abilities.

  3. So the head witch voted for O…twice.

    Nothing more needs to be said.


  4. Interesting episode, lol.

  5. I haven’t started watching this season and I don’t think I will after a friend telling me about this episode. I sat through the 2nd Season cringing but hoping for a good ending that I didn’t really get. Hearing about this episode, it doesn’t sound like things have changed.

    I get that the point of this show is to take it too far but it didn’t seem to be for Season 1 (which I really enjoyed). I don’t think I’ll begin this season simply because there are some things I just don’t need/want to see. I can’t stand behind a show like this anymore.

  6. I am loving this show, although i’m waiting for the many plot threads to start making their way together. Also, i don’t get why people are saying the show is going too far. After 2 seasons of psycho killers, stitched together Frankenstein babie, fire pokers up the butt and demonically possessed nuns raping priests, killer santas who were raped in prison , deranged skin loving serial killers who have mommy issues and the countless other bizarre horror trope soap opera things that happen on this show, how is zombie incest, sex with a mythological creature that has man parts (which no one ever brings up bestiality when they talk about mermaids [looking at you pirates of the Caribbean 4] going too far?

    • Well said!

  7. Another great installment on AHS. This season is turning out better than expected.


    So is that it for Emma Roberts’ Madison? Or will se be brought back to “life” too?

    • In the previews for the coming show(s), a hand reaches up through the ground, and it looks like a female’s hand, so I am guessing it is not the last we have seen of her…

  8. When 95% of what is on TV is totally predictable, it is utterly refreshing to watch shows like this. Even though there are several disparate story threads going on, you know they will wrap them tighter and tighter as it goes, and then not leave us hanging at the end. Totally part of the appeal. Come on, Angela Basset, Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange in the same TV show,, wow,, and they deliver. I like the little nuances too like the witch in the swamp obsessed with Stevie Nicks, it is definitely feminist orientated so far, but hey, why not? Its a refreshing change. Last season was bit more kitchen sink orientated, as in they through it all in. More focus on this one, and yet disturbing every episode. It’s a horror story, it says so in the title. That’s why I watch.

  9. Well, in terms of plot coherence, AHS is the new True Blood. Every conceivable genre-related trope is thrown into the mix for good measure. But for some reason, it still doesn’t feel as disjointed as that other show – maybe due to the anthology format and the tighter, season-long arcs, maybe because of Lange’s unprecedented and thoroughly enjoyable scenery-chewing.

    In other words: I’ll take any display and variation of the deranged they can come up with in a refreshing, entertaining manner and enjoy the crap out of it.