‘American Horror Story: Coven’: What’s In the Box?

Published 8 months ago by

Emma Roberts and Taissa Farmiga in American Horror Story Coven Episode 8 American Horror Story: Coven: Whats In the Box?

[This is a review of American Horror Story: Coven episode 8. There will be Spoilers]

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Any given episode of American Horror Story: Coven generally displays such a broad spectrum of emotion it can be tricky to get a bead on what exactly the intent behind any given scene is. Most of the time, though, said emotions just get filtered through the show’s rather sardonic, cheeky nature, so even when characters run the gamut from anger to sorrow to lust in what feels like a fraction of a second, it all typically winds up eliciting ostensibly the same vaguely familiar feeling that can be encapsulated with the phrase:“Huh, so that just happened.

Strangely enough, the show manages to swing for the fences on every pitch, and yet somehow, it gets through each episode without leaving the viewer completely winded – emotionally speaking, that is. Now this isn’t exactly a technique most programs employ, as they’re generally concerned with slowly building up to a single sentiment or sensation, and then lingering there for as long as long as possible.

But AHS doesn’t play it that way; it plays fast and loose with all sorts of emotions and reactions because what’s the fun in Fiona’s odd, but blissful romance with the Axeman, if there’s not also a blatant sense of sorrowful self-pity to go along with it? Or who’s going to remember Cordelia’s righteous, murderous anger toward her mother, if it doesn’t instantly transform into a reluctant sense of relief that the Supreme is still around when Hank starts shooting people with blessed silver bullets? That’s the modus operandi of the show, and it has been since day one: Why should AHS limit itself to just one thing when it can have them all? And why space them out, when it can have them all at the same time?

Gabourey Sidibe in American Horror Story Coven Episode 8 American Horror Story: Coven: Whats In the Box?

This way of doing things is pretty much old hat for this series by now. And the result of such a shotgun approach to storytelling is that emotions, especially the ones on display in ‘The Sacred Taking,’ aren’t necessarily felt so much as they’re seen; it’s not altogether unlike the old storytelling adage of “show, don’t tell.” But for some reason or another American Horror Story manages to make going against such a maxim work. The show doesn’t have time to sit and ponder its feelings, or wait for the viewer to consider theirs; it’s too busy dismembering Kathy Bates and mailing her head to Fiona, and bringing Myrtle back from the grave so she can croak a hilariously deadpan tale about an assassin stepping on her face, while skulking around Misty Day’s quaint swamp-front home.

Still, as far as kitchen-sink episodes go (i.e., just about every episode of American Horror Story), ‘The Sacred Taking’ at least manages to circle back to the foreshadowing of who will be revealed as the new Supreme enough times that the answer felt pretty evenly split between two characters. At this point, it seems like the least likely candidate is any witch who’s been referred to as having “real power,” or has manifested unique abilities outside her normal range of supernatural talents.

Since the season has only splashed around in what it wants to be about – taking a generally halfhearted approach to discussions of gender bias and aging, as well as loosely touching on race and race relations – having this throughline gives the series, as well as its viewers, something a little more consistent and precise to focus on. There’s still plenty of the season left to focus on more, but every now and again, it’s okay just to tell one story at a time.

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

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7 Comments

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  1. storage wars

  2. I think it’s time to declare this season as a lost cause for me.
    Sadly after 8 episodes with only a few being pretty good and with only 4 to go I just can’t get into it and most of the time I’m actually bored and that’s something I never thought I would say about this show.
    There’s always a chance that it could turn around in the last handful of episodes and I’m a loyal viewer so I’ll finish watching the season because Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy and even in a limited role Evan Peters are giving great performances as always but IMO and I hate saying it Taissa Farminga, Emma Roberts and Gaborey Sidibe are terrible.
    Fingers crossed for next year.

    • I’ve been at that point this season the past few episodes and we only just had The Axeman Cometh airing this week so…

      I’m holding on but so far, season 3 is as poor as season 1. Unlike season 1 though, season 3 has at least one interesting and likable character (Lily Rabe).

  3. For me, Season 2 was the worst. Utterly absurd in how convoluted and contrived it was. This season is definitely an improvement, and as always, Jessica Lange excels in her performance.

    • @ Dazz & @ Jeff

      I’ve enjoyed both seasons 1 and 2 for different reasons…
      I’ll admit season 1 kind of fluttered out during the last few episodes especially after a certain reveal that everyone saw coming 5 episodes ahead of time but for the most part I thought it was pretty solid.
      I liked season 2 just because of the flat out insanity. Serial killers, Nazi doctors, deranged Santa Claus, Devil possessed Nuns, Aliens and a WTF is happening appearance of Anne Frank was just so crazy it was fun.
      This season though is just bland. Not only do I think the performances from the younger actresses are terrible but the story itself just seems so flat compared to what we have seen before.
      I also can’t help but wonder if the casting of names like Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates has forced the production to cut costs on other areas.
      Good bad or crazy seasons 1 & 2 looked amazing and some of the direction, cinematography and shot construction were the best on TV. This season though it just looks like almost every other show on the air. Sure there are a few exceptions but all in all one of the highlights of the show and a reason why I would defend it to some people isn’t a factor anymore.

      • I guess for me, I am enjoying this season more than S2 because it appears more focused in its storytelling. I do get a little tired of them attempting to create “buzz” by introducing outlandish things, e.g., mother/son sex and a threesome with two dead people, but I understand that the show is called “American Horror Story”, even though these things, technically, fall more under the category of “deviancy” than “horror”. Still, the only reason I really continue to watch the show is because I am often mesmerized by the performance of Jessica Lange, who is reportedly leaving after S4, so that will likely be it for me, too.

  4. Season 1 was a melodramatic soap opera with ghosts.

    Season 2 is hands down one of the best, most batsh*t insane crazy things I’ve ever seen, it was pretty close to perfect.

    Season 3 is becoming the worst season. First half was pretty great, but as soon as they brought Emma Roberts back to life and put her in a three way with Zoe and Frankenstien, the show jumped the shark for me.

    Queenie, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett are by far the best characters. Emma Roberts and Evan Peters really need to go, they are terrible.

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