Genre: Horror | Drama
Creators: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
Air Date/Time: October 16, 2013, 10/9c
Written by: Tim Minear
Directed by: Michael Rymer
American Horror Story: Coven tells the secret history of witches and witchcraft in America. Over 300 years have passed since the turbulent days of the Salem witch trials and those who managed to escape are now facing extinction. Mysterious attacks have been escalating against their kind and young girls are being sent away to a special school in New Orleans to learn how to protect themselves. Wrapped up in the turmoil is new arrival, Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), who is harboring a terrifying secret of her own. Alarmed by the recent aggression, Fiona (Jessica Lange), the long-absent Supreme, sweeps back into town, determined to protect the Coven and hell-bent on decimating anyone who gets in her way. American Coven features an extraordinary cast including Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Taissa Farmiga, Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sidibe, Frances Conroy, Lily Rabe, Denis O’Hare, Patti LuPone, and Danny Huston. Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Dante Di Loreto, Tim Minear, James Wong, Jennifer Salt, and Brad Buecker are Executive Producers of American Horror Story: Coven. It is produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television.
Episode Synopsis: Fiona helps Zoe and Madison deal with a horrible tragedy. Delphine LaLurie struggles to adjust to modern life. Cordelia faces a dark decision about her family.
With this second episode, American Horror Story: Coven joins American Horror Story and American Horror Story: Asylum as my favorite show of its season. Honestly it was already there with last week’s episode, but it’s so hard to judge a series by its opener. With episode two, we’re given a better feel for what was setup versus what continues, what is writer- and director-driven versus what is intended to be part of the overall look and tone and voice for the entire season.
Happily, the class, style, tone, and epitome of quality of Coven continues unabated this week, with an excellent script by veteran AHS writer Tim Minear script and helmed by new-to-AHS director Michael Rymer. Minear’s scripts always shine; he wrote last year’s premiere and finale amongst many others, so enough said there. Rymer’s direction feels different from last week’s, but it retains a definite AHS flavor. Welcome on board, sir.
The difference between last week and this is that this week feels smoother. Slightly more easygoing, though it still moves right along. We get more development of all the stories, of course; one of the things I appreciate about a 13 episode season, and that I love about the AHS anthology framework, is the pace required.
The performances, though, are what bring it alive, and we get several standouts this week. There is a scene between Jessica Lange and, oh, “someone else”, that is a treasure. It oozes sass. In truth every single one of her scenes is wonderful; this is the week that she really climbs into Fiona. She absolutely shimmers.
Gabourey Sidibe and Jamie Brewer are given slightly larger parts this week, and they own them. Emma Roberts and Taissa Farmiga were already there last week, and that continues unabated this week. After being given so much to chew on last season, Sarah Paulson‘s softer role this season makes her currently less of a standout, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what comes next for her Cordelia. I won’t talk about others who do or do not show up or have bigger or smaller parts this week, it’s a joy that I won’t spoil.
If you loved all the different angles and lenses and other camerawork fun of last week’s episode like I did (make sure to check out the featurette about that, which we posted earlier today), be warned that there’s less of that this week. Don’t worry, though; it’s still a camera on the move. Showrunner Ryan Murphy told us at the end of Asylum that Alfonso Gomez-Réjon, last week’s director, will be “the guy” who works with all the directors on the look of Coven, so we’re likely to get a fair amount of interesting camerawork throughout this season. I couldn’t be happier about that.
The great music that accompanied especially the school scenes last week continues this week, and there is a song that’s played that threatens to haunt me just as “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” has done daily, maybe even hourly, since I heard it last week. I’m wondering if that’s going to happen every week. And whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing.
This week’s episode isn’t as splashy as the premiere, nor should it be. It settles right in to the stories without ever settling down, and – slight spoiler here – it has a quieter ending, but it all works together beautifully. The only reason I’m not giving this episode a full five stars is because I know what this show can be, what can happen when these people get together, and I need to leave room at the top for the even better episodes that I’m certain will be coming. I’ll say it again, this is without question my favorite series of the 2013 fall season. Welcome back to the top, American Horror Story.
I give American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 2 “Boy Parts” Four Out of Five Stars.