American Horror Story‘s third installment doesn’t premiere until the fall of this year, but that didn’t stop creator Ryan Murphy from giving his audience an outline for the season this past Friday at PaleyFest. Speaking on the concluding panel of the festival, Murphy offered some choice hints about the shape of S3’s narrative and revealed its subtitle.

Vindicating fan speculation that the horror series’ latest go-round will revolved around witches, Murphy has dubbed the season American Horror Story: Coven. During the AHS panel, attended by Murphy, as well as several AHS cast members, he also confirmed that shooting will take place in several locations across the country – though he only mentioned New Orleans by name.

Perhaps most importantly, Murphy – joined on stage by Kathy Bates, the newest addition to AHS‘s cast- teased out Bates’ character and made some elliptical comments about her role in the season. Here’s the direct quote from Murphy:

“I wanted to see a lot of scenes with Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates going at it […] so that’s what you’re going to see.”

It’s no secret that Bates signed on to play the returning Lange’s nemesis. What remains a mystery is whether that means Bates is playing the villain or the hero – and what that means for the rest of the show. Taking Murphy’s words at face value and keeping Bates’ and Lange’s strengths as actresses in mind, though, there are any number of directions Coven could go; the season could detail a power struggle unfolding within one specific conclave of witches, with Bates and Lange vying for control – or it could focus on a clash between two separate covens, one led by Bates and the other led by Lange.

Given their immense combined acting prowess, both scenarios feel equally plausible. Lange in particular has historically walked the line between protagonist and antagonist on both Asylum and Murder House, and Oscar-winner Bates has deep reserves of emotive power at her beck and call. No matter what side of the moral spectrum they stand on, watching the pair butt heads should be nothing short of epic.

The mention of morality raises a slew of other questions about Coven‘s plot. Will its witches be kindly witches, a’la Glinda, or vicious Hansel & Gretel-styled creatures? Will the show treat magic as Buffy the Vampire Slayer does, envisioning it as a female, earthly force, or will we see wart-nosed monstrosities riding on brooms and baking children into pies? Of course, the more pressing question is whether or not magic will even play a role in the season’s story; at the panel, Murphy chose to remain mum on the subject. (Though he did reveal that, just as season one had the Rubber Man and season two had Bloody Face, season three will have its own signature monster, who will be female.)

Asylum and Murder House both go pretty deep into supernatural territory, so spellcraft seems likely to crop up throughout Coven‘s narrative. And since Murphy also identified “female power” as one of S3’s focuses during the PaleyFest panel, it’s probably a safe bet that he’ll treat magic – should it exist in Coven, of course – more in the Buffy vein. He’s nothing if not unpredictable, though, so any and all guesswork could prove completely fruitless. We’ll have to wait until the fall to see.

Screen Ranters, are you ready to get bewitched by Coven?

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American Horror Story: Coven premieres this fall on FX.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Witch Artwork by “AtomHawk” @ DeviantArt