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'American Horror Story' Recap: 'Bitchcraft'

The Season 3 opener for American Horror Story: Coven premiered at record numbers Wednesday night. With over 5.5 million viewers tuning in to see a new story unfold, we at least know the marketing team's strangely good promos must be paying off.

The return of Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story anthology series introduces some strong performances by both familiar and new faces, but I'm holding out on commenting too much on story development until next week.

Bitchcraft introduced viewers to Zoe (played by Taissa Farmiga, a prominent player from AHS's first season). Zoe is cursed with having mind-blowing sex with whomever she's intimate with. No, seriously — she has the ability to kill those she has sex with. As her mom tells her how this curse was the true cause of her boyfriend's death, Zoe's immediately taken out of the house to go to a school with others like her.* It's really too bad her mom didn't have this conversation with her before she started having sex. Teenagers don't do that sort of thing, right? This curse of hers doesn't come at a complete loss however, as demonstrated by one of the last uncomfortable scenes in the show.

Zoe becomes part Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies led by Cordelia Foxx (played by Sarah Paulson, an AHS regular). Zoe is introduced to the three other witches: Nan (Jaime Brewer, another show veteran), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). We know Nan is clairvoyant, and Queenie — in voodoo doll fashion — has the ability to inflict pain on someone else.

Madison is a former teen Hollywood actress who is seemingly the most powerful in the group of girls. It's hard to feel sorry for her self-absorbed, careless personality not only in the present but also when the show delves into Madison's past as an actress. That changes when Madison is disturbingly drugged and gang-raped at a frat party, giving the audience a small glimpse into her possible vulnerability and suggesting that there's a greater backstory here that brought brought Madison to Miss Robichaux's.

At this frat party, Zoe met Kyle (Evan Peters, another Season 1 vet), and there's an instant connection between the two. This relationship is short-lived, as Madison sought revenge by going after the bus of frat boys that rushed off to avoid being caught with her in the bedroom. Kyle, chasing them in the bus, is killed with most of the others when Madison flips the bus over via telekinesis. I don't have to tell you how Zoe finishes off the only survivor in the hospital (remember her special power), but we're not sad to see him go.

The story alternates between present day and 1834 New Orleans, where we are introduced to Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates). As a slave owner, she tortures her servants and uses her blood as face cream before she sleeps. She crosses Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), one of her tortured servant's lover. We think LaLaurie meets her demise when she's poisoned by Laveau, but when present-day Nan discovers she's buried under the concrete outside during a tour of LaLaurie's mansion, she is dug up very much alive.

Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange, who is probably the face of AHS over the show's entire run) is the one that digs her up. Fiona, the mother of Foxx's character, is the current most powerful reigning Supreme. We don't know what this entails yet, but during Fiona's coke-fueled binge earlier in the show we discover one of her powers is the ability to suck the life out of the living for a very a brief age-rejuvenation. Even if someone on AHS is dead, we really shouldn't expect them to stay dead. Misty Day (Lily Rabe) is a prime example of this. Day has the power of necromancy, which brings the dead back to life. We see this only in a not-too-distant flashback, where Misty is burned at the stake in the small town where she lives because of the town's discovery of this power. Although we literally see the flames on her body, I expect we will see more of her as the season unravels.

Like the past two seasons, Coven is quite a departure from the rest of the series. If you saw The Craft in 1996, then you might have a sense of deja vu here that will leave you feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Many props to director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon for his vision throughout this episode. This combined with the early showings of some great performances by Bates and Lange will keep me interested for the weeks to come.

This show is weird, but we'll keep watching and waiting for it to get weirder.

Popculturology Score: C 

*Editor's note: If only Anton watched the Harry Potter movies, he could've made some kind of bizarre Hogwarts reference here. Wasted opportunity.
'American Horror Story' Recap: 'Bitchcraft' Reviewed by Anton Ali on 10/10/2013 Rating: 5

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