Last week's season premiere managed to establish the world of American Horror Story: Coven fairly quickly. But more than that, it developed a concurrent theme running through the various character arcs that have popped up so far. Of those themes – aside from the central idea that this is story about witchcraft, and therefore an AHS favorite about outcasts in a small section of the population that has historically been unable to garner much favor with the public – Murphy and Falchuk also introduced an undercurrent of the superficiality that comes with the idea of glamour and the inefficacy of chasing perpetual youth.
In addition, at the end of the premiere, it became clear that Kathy Bate's Madame LaLauire would not merely be part of a tangentially related storyline set in another time period (à la Adam Levine's brief and bloody stint on Asylum), but the show would be integrating the past with the future by way of that aforementioned pursuit of eternal beauty, youth and life. That incorporation of 1834 New Orleans and the present day also brings voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) – who, as it happens, is now running a hair salon and keeping her lover (apparently still a Minotaur) chained up in the back room – into the main storyline.
It's all very much a welcome sign of the very specific kind of crazy that's expected of this series. But this time around, instead of getting caught up or distracted by showing more crazy rather than developing it, 'Boy Parts' furthers both of the elements it had introduced with an episode obsessed with the various ways that life can be created, brought back, or possessed for an unnatural amount of time.
That means shifting some of the focus to plucky Southern necromancer Misty Day (Lily Rabe), as she not only rids the Louisiana swamplands of some gator poachers, but also assists in Madison and Zoe's undoubtedly misguided resurrection of kindly frat boy Kyle (who apparently fared much worse in that bus accident than it first appeared). But it also means that Coven was able to introduce Josh Hamilton (Louie, The Bourne Identity) as Cordelia's husband, who not only knows that he married a witch, but is actively encouraging her to use those supernatural abilities to help them conceive a child. And who can blame him? Picking a few herbs and engaging in some sketchy and somewhat frightening intimate rituals is probably far more cost-effective than fruitlessly seeing a fertility specialist week after week.
While the season seems to have a firm grasp on some of the ideas it's trying to explore so far, some of the characters like Queenie and Nan have only been utilized to help move pieces around the board. It's still early, but hopefully they'll begin to develop their own storylines sooner rather than later. But the pleasant thing about Coven is the fact that there's a board at all this early in the season. In the past, American Horror Story has gotten a little sidetracked either trying to develop a story on the fly, or just going hog wild with the crazy. Most promising is that, at this early stage, Coven seems interested in taking a measured approach to both.
American Horror Story: Coven continues next Wednesday with 'The Replacements' @10pm on FX.
Photos: Michele K. Short/FX