American Horror Story Coven unleashes female empowerment, both good and evil.
The third season of anthology series American Horror Story is all about witches of a small Coven. It’s about motherhood, female empowerment, coming of age, power struggles, witchcraft and voodoo, but also about finding your power and identity against racism and slavery, sexism and bigotry, but it all revolves around strong women, either good or evil, selfish or altruistic.
It’s a very impressive season with heavy themes, but shown with dark and witty humor. All aspects about being a modern day witch are shown in that typical unconventional way American Horror Story is known for. Turning an old concept about witches into something fresh and compelling to create a feminist story instead of evil witches who torment the innocent, and succeeding brilliantly.
This third season consists of 13 episodes with each a duration of 39-63 minutes. It has a continuous storyline that evolves around the Academy for Exceptional Girls.
When Zoe finds out she is actually a witch when she kills a boy whom she has sex with (her special power), she is sent to Mrs Robichaux Academy for Exceptional Girls founded in 1790 in New Orleans. Cordelia Foxx is headmistress and her mother Fiona Goode is the Supreme witch of their coven. Other girls attending the school are Madison Montgomery, a rich spoiled movie star and has the power of telekinesis. Queenie is a big dark girl who can use herself as a living voodoo doll to hurt others. And Nan is a witch with Down Syndrome, she is a powerful psychic and can read other people’s mind.
When Fiona is getting weaker due to her illness, soon a new Supreme has to be chosen. Meanwhile the girls mess around with magic and accidentally kill some boys, resurrect one into a Frankenstein-like being, and fight with each other. When Fiona wants to keep her powers she digs up long dead Madame Delphine LaLaurie, who held slaves tortured them and used them to stay young in 1834. And she even asks her arch-nemesis for help, Marie Laveau who made a deal with Papa Legba to stay young forever.
Why you should watch it
Every aspect of being a modern witch is addressed, while a lot of other female themes play an important part. It is therefore a very feminist season and aspects of other social issues and themes are shown from a female perspective. That makes this season very interesting and full of female empowerment. But it’s not all peace and happiness. There’s power struggles between the girls, between the old witches, and the witch council.
The women are the heroes and the villains of the story. They are shown in all their aspects, from revenge, vanity, fear, helplessness, empowerment, hate, kindness, empathy, loyalty, anger, forgiveness, hope, courage, trust, distrust, love, conscientiousness and lust for power and to sadism, it all shows in the characters. Awful hateful things are being done to them, but they commit evenly awful hateful crimes.
It’s about girls coming of age, their friendships and fights for power, their first loves. It’s about motherhood and the complex relationship between a mother and daughter.
While the women play the main parts, the men are not excluded. They play the parts of the butler, serial killer, rapist, savior, enemy, friend, and healer and witch hunters. But they are just submissive roles. The spotlights are reserved for all the powerful women.
But besides the female themes, another important theme is addressed, and deals with slavery in New Orleans in the 19th century. Sadistic slaveowner Madame Delphine LaLaurie was a sadistic women who kept slaves, tortured them and abused them. Marie Laveau was a voodoo priestess who sold her soul to Papa Legba to stay young forever and who knew her in 1834.
While Fiona wants to use them both to stay young, another important part is set for Queenie who clashes with LaLaurie and with Laveau. With the first because she’s black and LaLaurie is a hateful racist, and the second because Laveau thinks Queenie should be practicing voodoo instead of witchcraft because she’s black. Queenie represents the difficult identity crisis when being a black girl in a white environment and the difficulty to establish her own identity as a witch.
Despite the heavy themes it is shot in a playful way, with great creative cinematography and the main focus on the character development. Although some scenes might be very hard to watch and are very cruel and gruesome. It has an amazing structure that is insightful, full of drama and humor, with reverence to the characters and difficult themes and even has some monster/witch-of-the-week storylines, thrilling moments, mystery and even a musical intermezzo. Coven is a very rich story with multiple theme’s and storylines that address social issues and ordeals women have to deal with, both supernatural and realistic.
Each character differs a great deal from each other, but the only way to save their kind from extinction is to all work together and resolve their differences. This is brought with some dark and witty humor that lifts some of the heavy themes. The four girls are a great bunch and are a lot of fun, while fighting and working together. But again a very powerful and impressive role is reserved for Jessica Lange who plays Fiona with charm and a presence that can’t be denied. Sarah Paulson as her daughter Cordelia is her perfect counterpart and they both are the heart and the core of the story, and represent what this story is all about.
My favorite part
I really liked Misty, portrayed by Lily Rabe, the natural witch from the swamps because she’s so different from the others with respect to nature and life. She’s pure of heart and doesn’t care for power at all. It’s a good choice to include her story with that of the power struggles within the coven.
Of course the storyline about Fiona and Cordelia I thought was very impressive and realistic and even heartbreaking at times. But the supernatural elements were very well intertwined with the drama and formed an enthralling story. Each character was perfectly shaped, even the villains and extravagant Myrtle Snow played by Frances Conroy. Kathy Bates and Angela Basset were excellent new additions to the all star cast, as are Emma Roberts and Gabourey Sidibe. I really enjoyed this story, not only for the female empowerment, but for the storylines and themes in general, while shot with a mesmerizing style.
Scare factor: ★★★☆☆
Drama factor: ★★★★★
Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
Read more about American Horror Story:
- American Horror Story season 1: Murder House review
- American Horror Story season 2: Asylum review
- American Horror Story season 9: 1984 review
Cast and crew
American Horror Story: Murder House is created by Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy. It stars Jessica Lange (Fiona Goode), Evan Peters (Kyle Spencer), Sarah Paulson (Cordelia Foxx), Frances Conroy (Myrtle Snow), Lily Rabe (Misty Day), Taissa Farmiga (Zoe Benson), Emma Roberts (Madison Montgomery), Gabourey Sidibe (Queenie), Denis O’Hare (Spalding), Kathy Bates (Madame Delphine LaLaurie), Angela Bassett (Marie Laveau) and Jamie Brewer (Nan).
Music by: James S. Levine, Mac Quayle. Cinematography: Michael Goi. Production company: 20th Century Fox Television, Ryan Murphy Productions, Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision. Original network: FX.