With the most anticipated season of American Horror Story kicking off with some fantastic clips and promos set to Lauren O’Connell’s haunting cover of House of the Rising Sun, it’s no wonder everyone, both fans and curious new parties alike, are at the edge of their seats for this season.
It goes without saying that American Horror Story always has some fantastic titles and this season is definitely not exempt. Slowly animated wood carvings paired with black hooded figures amongst trees that cut to voodoo dolls and a skeletal demonic figure in the woods, as a whole, is just brilliant. One of the best things about this show is guessing from the title design what will happen throughout the season based on the clips found in the first fifteen seconds. We already know this season is about voodoo and witches, but the titles gave us so much more, the most intriguing being the two seconds of that skeletal demon looking very much like a walking woodcarving of a devil.
Premiers are all about establishing the stakes and this season holds true to our expectations for AHS to grab it’s viewer by the throat from the beginning and not let go until the season is over. However, the set up is much slower in pacing than last season, which dived head first into the tension with a stampede of paranormal and alien thrills. This season’s beginning was an interesting choice, being that it chose to open with Kathy Bate’s portrayal of Madam LaLaurie, the show’s portrayal of a true historical figure, and the moment she is introducing her daughters, showing us her relation to her slave “pets” and obsession with youth. The running theme of cow skulls and horns in the promos becomes apparent in the first ten minutes as LaLaurie punishes one of her slaves, Bastien, by making him don a bull’s head to become her pet Minotaur, but as we know with past AHS seasons, the true theme of the bull and it’s significance has yet to reveal itself.
When we cut to our leading young witch discovering her power for the first time, it begins to feel very Rogue from the X-Men movie. Boyfriends bleeding from eyes, mouth, and ears as their first intimate moment is established leads everything to believe that the character’s unique traits will not be her powers, but something that happens to her. Zoe, as portrayed by season one actress Taissa Farmiga, is almost playing an “every woman” teen, so we can slip on her shoes and enter the world of witchcraft and covens in New Orleans with her. Because of that, she is very bland in the first episode, showing no real distinguishing personality or specific powers apart from being able to kill those she is intimate with.
New Orleans is where things really get interesting. The idea is that real witches left Salem after the Witch Trials to start a new life in New Orleans and call it the new Salem. Not a new idea, but certainly works well for this season. The boarding school is established much later and holds the cast of it’s, now dwindling, clan of witches who possess very wayward powers. Jamie Brewer is back from season one as Nan, a clairvoyant, and her role paired next to “the human voodoo doll” , Queenie, played by Gabourey Sidibe and ruled under the false leadership of movie star turned witch, Madison, played by Emma Roberts.
The romantic pairing of the first season is reborn in Zoe and Kyle, played by seasons one and two Evan Peters. Their first meeting at an unexpected setting of a frat party between the wall of ice is clearly symbolic as every moment in an AHS episode is. His untimely death in the first episode, due to Madison’s rage from being raped at the frat part was jarring ; as was the death scene of another AHS return, Lily Rabe, portraying a local Creole, Misty Day, who was burned at the stake for her power to resurrect. It will be fun watching them come back from the grave as AHS never leaves a leading cast member dead for very long.
If you’ve been watching and loving seasons one and two, we all know the most anticipated performance is Jessica Lange as Fiona Goode. She is , again, a killer for this role. Never one to play a secondary role, Fiona is of course the natural choice for Supreme. But the intriguing and welcomed pairing is really her and Sarah Paulson as Cordelia Foxx;a different last name as a perfect mask to the reveal of her being Fiona’s daughter. They are a natural pairing, especially after seeing their subtle battle for power in season two, which expanded and transformed to a dual between a subtle power like Cordelia’s and the Supreme Fiona’s brutal, yet, charming overabundance of gifts. The natural course following the death of Misty Day is perfect cause for Fiona to move back and take charge of her daughter’s school while also being the perfect mask to her desire to find vitality. Cordelia’s preference for the shadows and Fiona’s for open acceptance can only end badly;particularly with the later tie-in of LaLaurie, once killed by voodoo and now back from the grave by the end of the episode.
Which rounds us onto the voodoo. Clearly the first episode was about setting up the witches and their relation to LaLaurie, but not much more was given about the voodoo storyline. What was seen is the brilliant Angela Bassett, the best casting addition since Kathy Bates, burned by LaLaurie when her lover, Bastien, becomes our Minotaur from the beginning. She poisons LaLaurie and leaves her for dead, only to be unexpectedly found later by Fiona under the earth, still alive and well in her grave. Not much is given beyond that, but the teaser after the episode reveals there will be so much more voodoo and witch action that it will be hard to wait a week for the next installment.
Overall, this season was slow to start, but given the set up in New Orleans and the fact that several parties are waging war across the city, it might be best to give it another episode. AHS never really fails to disappoint once it gets going and there are rarely enough minutes to show all the story that it wants to tell.