TV Review: American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 11 “Protect the Coven”

American Horror Story Coven The Supreme posterGenre: Horror | Drama

Creators: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk

Network: FX

Air Date/Time: January 15, 2013, 10/9c

Written by: Jennifer Salt

Directed by: Bradley Buecker

Synopsis:

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.

AHSC Jamie Brewer gallery

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.
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One thought on “TV Review: American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 11 “Protect the Coven”

  1. Yeah, I have to agree with you, Erin. That episode was just sloppy, and the only good thing about it was watching Ms. Lange, Bassett, Bates, and Conroy nail their scenes. The first half of this season started out so strong, then at some point–can’t put my finger on when, the wheels started coming off. Maybe about the time Queenie defected and cut out that guy’s heart, it just lost its way. I get that the show is considered crazy, but it was a thrilling, anything-can-happen kind of fun crazy for seasons one and two. Now it’s not as fun… what are the stakes when anyone can be brought back from the dead? Also, healed and sewed back together seamlessly? Queenie is fine and put Madame Delphine back together, ho hum, “I have new powers now,” and that’s about it for the explanation. Oh, and I love anything gruesome on AHS (even if it’s hard to watch, that’s because it’s horrifying, it doesn’t come off as tacky. I don’t watch it for frat-boy gross-out humor. I felt sorry for Frances Conroy having to make that “coconut flavor” line. It’s fine, even fun, to see the actresses over 40 on the show be bitchy, but now Madison and Queenie are just mean-spirited little bitches for the sake of it. The characters from last season stayed with me (and I’m fond of season one, too), but this season I’ll probably just remember how awesome Marie Laveau and Fiona were (and Kathy Bates has made Delphine really memorable) …and how much I wish Tim Minear could have come back and kept Ryan Murphy in check. Oh, and I see you get screeners, but stay away from the ew.com post-mortem for this episode with Ryan Murphy. He just openly blurts out what’s going to happen to a couple characters next week, not to mention, he’s all over the place trying to explain Delphine’s turn-around.