Genre: Horror | Drama
Creators: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
Air Date/Time: January 15, 2013, 10/9c
Written by: Jennifer Salt
Directed by: Bradley Buecker
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 and Laveau have a deadly face off with The Corporation. Cordelia makes a desperate sacrifice to protect the Coven.
From the highest highs to the lowest lows. Last week’s episode of American Horror Story: Coven was my favorite of the season to date. I’m sorry to say, this week’s episode is easily my least favorite to date, and I hope it’s my least favorite of the season, because I hate feeling this way about a show I love.
It surely did the episode no favors to come directly after such a powerful and completely entertaining, even “magical,” episode. But the titles served as a first warning that there was going to be a problem. Last week: “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks.” This week: “Protect the Coven.” That’s it, really? It’s the least imaginative title of the season. And the least imaginative episode.
First, the good: the performances are excellent. Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson are particularly transporting, a vital quality this week. The production itself is all that it has been, meaning “exemplary,” because we are once again treated to a host of terrific-looking and -sounding scenes, and even a few museum-quality visuals.
The dialogue is fine, though we don’t get the plethora of terrific, memorable, quotable lines we were given last week, so this isn’t even necessarily an issue with this week’s writer.
So what’s the problem? The storylines themselves. The episode opens with my least favorite of all we’ve been following this season, and dwells on it, and develops it, but not in any redeemable or even interestingly macabre way. It’s just sickening, period.
I would have been happy to get past that and on to the “good stuff,” had any of it turned out to be actual “good stuff.” None of the developments of this episode were well-handled. Most were either obvious, flat, barely-explained, or just inexplicable. There was hardly any heart, humor, or exciting twists, and shockingly little imagination. I’m not certain if the blame should be laid at the door of the writers’ room, or the showrunner, or some other scapegoat, but I shake my fist at whomever deserves it.
Now, presuming you haven’t seen the episode yet, you can watch it with appropriately reduced expectations, and with any luck and perhaps a bit of witchcraft, you’ll be able to enjoy it in a way that I was not. Or, go in watching for the solid performances and the beautiful production values, and hopefully have a lovely time. Those aspects alone are better than almost any other show on the air this season.
But please join me in wishing very hard for a return to the wonder and love of all that is American Horror Story next week, particularly because it will be the penultimate episode of the Coven story.
I give American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 11 “Protect the Coven,” Three Out of Five Stars.