So Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy have finally done it. After years of wooing me with meaty roles for actresses of a certain age (meat served bloody raw) in their American Horror Story anthology series, I am down for watching it as it airs. It's been clear for some time that the creative team's orientation is fully aligned with the Actressexuality™ named and promoted by TFE for several years now. Thus, a natural kinship exists even if yours truly is squeamish about horror. I have been mostly agnostic when it comes to Jessica Lange my whole life (though I thought her "Sister Jude" on Asylum was easily her best work since the 80s) but when it comes to two-time Oscar winner Lange paired with Sarah Paulson, Oscar winner Kathy Bates, Oscar nominee Gabby Sidibe, Lily Rabe, AND Oscar nominee Angela Awesome Basset? Uncle! I surrender to your casting voodoo.
Please to Note: I did try to watch the first two seasons but in both cases, I eventually bailed after a few episodes from the gore and the, how to put this, unwatchable epileptic fits of lensing and editing and framing. Listen, I can live with frenetic editing (you kind of have to since the late 80s) knowing that when I need a fix of long takes that let me enjoy great acting, I can always seek out auteur films. (Odd that it would be auteurs, who so thoroughly OWN their pictures, that would be the only ones to just hand said pictures to the actors on occasion). But it's not just the genre or the typical short attention span in cutting that has previously made AHS unpalatable for me.
The show, or at least the first handful of episodes of its previous seasons, often appeared to have been shot and edited and framed by a group of wild, bug-eyed, A.D.D. addled 12 year old boys... albeit uniquely pervy pre-teens who were raised in asylums and jacked off to photos of grande dame actresses while horror movies were projected on continual loop on the grey walls of their prison. The only break in horror programming was obviously the complete filmography of Jessica Lange.
...or at least the lobotomy scenes from Frances (1982).
It wasn't just quick cutting but canted cameras, baroque flash cuts, inebriated camera swerves, you name it. But let's put that behind us and move on to Season 3's first two eppys after the jump. Spoilers ahead obviously.
The Set-Up: It's so X-Men! Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), like an X-rated Rogue, can't screw a boy without killing him, due to her witchy powers. The cursed young girl is whisked off to boarding school, Professor Xavier's School For Gifted Youngers "Miss Robichaux’s School For Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies," where she is to be trained by Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) alongside fellow students: Madison, a young telekinetic movie star (Emma Roberts), Queenie, a living voodoo doll (Gabby Sidibe); and Nan, a telepath (Jamie Brewer). In the show's mythology witches have but one kind of power except The Supreme (Diana Ross Jessica Lange as Fiona) who has an abundance of them - think Dumbledore or Gandalf without the parental instincts, kindness or patience; her surname "Goode" is a deception since she's a cold vain killer.
The Backstory: If the first episode of AHS: Coven is any indication, the season will lean towards supernatural camp and less on grotesque serial killing than Asylum which means it's way more my speed. Not that it didn't open with the gore. Kathy Bates joins the cast as the vicious Delphine LaLaurie, a notorious New Orleans Madame who tortured her slaves 100s of years ago and used their organs and blood to feed her vanity.
Queen of Line Readings:
Oh merde, now we gonna have flies up here."
-Madame LaLaurie's callow reaction to the horrifying newly flesh-free face of a slave.
Episode MVP: Kathy Bates. Frightening banal evil... Annie Wilkes Sadism minus the Apologetic FanGirl Crazy
True Horror: The Madame's Minotaur creation was deeply macabre and upsetting. And she's not even a witch per se as Kathy has revealed in interviews
Spoiler Alert: Zoe and Madison go to a fraternity party and when Madison is drugged and raped, the girls take revenge slaughtering the rapists along with one non-rapist (Future Quicksilver Evan Peters) who Zoe was hot for. Perhaps Madison took offense to his inexplicable accent work?
Fiona unearths Madame LaLaurie's mysteriously still living body from its coffin late in the episode.
Most Vine-Worthy Moment: Jessica Lange drawling "Twitter" with matching dismissive hand gesture. Did anyone gif this?
Doomed Man-Candy: I lost track of how much prime man candy was slaughtered in this episode but why waste "David" Ian Anthony Dale so quickly. He doesn't last long when Fiona decides to suck his life force dry. In her defense, if Ian Anthony Dale tastes half as good as he looks...
Oscar Nominee This Episode Made Me Wish Was In The Cast: Can we get a little Barbara Hershey up in this show please? She'd be a perfect fit.
Exit Image: Jessica's Fiona tells Madame LaLaurie who she snarkily dubs "Mary Todd Lincoln" that she'll buy her a drink and the two walk away back to camera toward the school.
Opening Image: I think it's worth noting that both episodes have begun with a shot of an animal. "Bitchcraft" began with an image of a horse's snout (or was that the soon to be minotaured bull? I forget). This one leads with an alligator.
The Plot: Madison & Zoe continue to play god with the flesh of young men, this time raising and um, enhancing Evan Peters ("grower or shower?") into some sort of Frankenstein Zombie Boyfriend. Meanwhile, Fiona learns the secret of Madame LaLaurie's immortal curse and seeks out Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett. Yaaasss!) in a spectacularly bitchy confrontation, to give her a similar "curse". All fans of the catfight need to be watching this show. I mean just LOOK at this image.
I'll finish this one myself."
Angela Basset vs. Jessica Lange. Yes mama! Give me a ring-side seat.
Spoiler Alert: the Frankenstein business summons Lily Rabe's Misty Day, who is surely trouble despite her earthy white witch mysticism.
Queen of Line Readings:
I'm Fiona Goode. I'm in charge everywhere."
-Jessica Lange's chuckled whispery response to detectives who ask if she's in charge here.
Episode MVP: Jessica Lange is showboating but damn if I don't wanna ride. How on earth will this ship continue sailing without her if she exits next season?
Doomed Man Candy: Two men are gruesomely devoured by alligators and that pour morgue guard! But let's talk about the one survivor, guest star Josh Hamilton. He is apparently the Darren to Sarah Paulson's Bewitched! He encourages his wife Cordelia to use magic for their fertility problems. Their subsequent black-magic baby-making charms more than just his own snake. Since this is only the season's third sex scene and the first two led to instant death, the mortality rate for f***ing is no better than in an 80s slasher flick. Surely he's not going to survive long all naked like this.
Ummm...: The witches are supposed to be at war with the voodoo queens and yet Queenie (Gabby) gets a backstory and is part of the witch tribe?
True Horror: Taissa Farmiga's eyes are so huge (hello contacts, surely) -- especially when the police find her out. For some reason I found her supersized wide-eyed freak-out confession more unnerving than any of the "horror" elements.
Most Clip-Worthy Moment:
-This song was her anthem. Doesn't it just penetrate your soul and tell the truth about everything you ever thought in your whole life.
-Yeah. Totally. I really should be going."
I lol'ed so much at the Stevie Nicks "Rhiannon" reverie courtesy of Lily Rabe's Misty Day, followed by Taissa's perfect delivery of a response and reaction shot.
Oscar Nominee This Episode Made Me Wish Was In The Cast: I don't mean to be ghoulish but while this show is raising people from the dead I immediately thought of what a great fit the voluptuous horror of Karen Black (RIP) would've been. Why didn't Falchuk and Murphy think of her for Season 1 ?!?
Awesome Final Image:
I think it's worth noting that both episodes have ended with a longshot back view of Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates walking away from the camera. This one rules with Lange tottering in modern heels and Bates waddling in huge period drapes, cutting two distinct, sympatico yet incompatible figures; these bitches are a long way from Bonneville. (But where's Joan Allen?)
If y'all want this weekly, comment up a storm to keep me motivated.