American Horror Story season premiere recap: A Strange and Unexpected Love

A bewitching new season of the horror anthology introduces a new world of mystery and terror
Ep. 01 | Aired Oct 9, 2013

STARLET UNBOUND Madison Montgomery is named after the capitol cities of Wisconsin and Alabama, respectively. She shares alliterative initials with Marilyn Monroe and shares a Marilyn Monroe fixation with Lindsay Lohan. Unlike either of those ladies, Madison has killed a lot of people.

Michele K. Short/FX

Mirror Mirror
But let's get down to brass tacks here, fellow viewers. This is American Horror Story, and there have been like five whole scenes without a rockstar Jessica Lange line reading. Sensing our dismay, the AHS producers pulled the "Lange Lever," which they keep in the writers' room next to the Quinto Panic Button and Adam Levine's severed arm. Lange is playing Fiona Goode, which sounds like the name of the badass heroine from a blaxploitation thriller whose tagline is "Nobody's Badder than Goode." Fiona took a meeting with a hotshot doctor-type played by procedural guest-star Ian Anthony Dale, who showed off a youth serum that he's been working on. He fed the youth serum, "RM-47," to a rodent monkey named Allegra, who quickly rediscovered a spring in her step. Said Fiona, in what has to be a deliberate echo of When Harry Met Sally, "I'll have what she's having."

Doctor IAD refused to give her medicine that was still in the experimental phase. Fiona reminded him that her late husband's money was financing his experiments. CUT TO: Fiona, dancing to "In-A-Gadda-da-Vida," snorting cocaine and staring at herself in the mirror like the Queen in Snow White. Doctor IAD swung by to inform her that he was cutting her off the youth medicine. In return, she started to seduce him, before throwing him against the wall using telekinesis, before sucking the life out of him. Women, amiright? (ASIDE: I assume that the working title of this season was American Horror Story: Women, Amiright? END OF ASIDE.) That act of life-sucking appeared to make her a little younger, thought not enough: She punched the mirror, unhappy with the face looking back at her.

So Fiona wants to be young again; perhaps she even wants to live forever. (Again: You have to wonder how Misty Day might factor into Fiona's plans in the future, assuming Misty can cure herself of her current "being dead" illness.) But Fiona isn't all vanity. She caught the first flight out to Miss Robichaux's after hearing about Misty's death. She had some unkind words for Cordelia, who she discovered in a greenhouse making some kind of bizarre cocktail for herself. Turns out that Cordelia is Fiona's daughter...and Fiona is not very happy with her life choices. "The only child of the Supreme," she said, "You could be ruling the world."

But Fiona also disagrees with Cordelia philosophically. Cordelia wants to hide in the shadows. "There are no shadows anymore," explained Fiona, noting that witchcraft in the era of Facebook and Twitter is one misstep away from becoming a viral freakshow. She announced that she would be running things at Miss Robichaux's, leading Cordelia to say, "When are you gonna die, and stop ruining my life?" So mother-daughter relations are complicated, is what we're getting the sense of here. (ASIDE: Although the history of feminism is very much on Coven's mind, I wonder if Cordelia and Fiona are meant to more generally represent two perspectives on "otherness" in society: Cordelia advocating for "normalizing" and integration, while Fiona demands to be recognized as The Other. Or, more to the point: She wants her Otherness to become the new normal. When she talks about "ruling the world," is she being figurative or literal? END OF ASIDE.)

Party People
Madison wanted to party. She pulled Zoe along to a frat party hosted by the boys of Tau Omega Alpha, which is not a real fraternity but which did show up on Arrested Development. (When rendered in Greek letters, it looks like TΩΑ, which looks a bit like T&A. The point is, now we have proof that American Horror Story takes place in the same fictional universe as Arrested Development.) In attendance were the boys from Kappa Alpha Gamma (which in Greek letters is KAΓ, which looks like...well, nothing. Speculation welcome!) Heading up the fratboy brigade was AHS loverboy and future son-of-Magneto Evan Peters, whose name here is Kyle. He agreed to be the sober monitor for the evening, apparently a requirement since the boys are currently on probation with the administration. Part of the problem seemed to be a skeevy drunkard played by Grey Damon, who looks like what happens when Liam Hemsworth discovers Jägermeister. (Which I mean as a compliment.)

The party itself was an inviting nightmare -- props to Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who directed many of last season's best episodes and who gave the Coven opener lots of fish-eye lens surrealism. The fratboys took notice of Madison's arrival, but Kyle only had eyes for Zoe. In homage to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, they first spotted each other through an ice luge. They flirted. Zoe said, "I think frats are full of fascists." Kyle explained that he was there on scholarship. It was a nice reunion of the two actors, last seen together as extremely twisted young lovers in AHS's first season. It would not last: Upstairs, Kyle's frat brothers were slipping Madison a roofie-laced cocktail.

What followed was one of the most flat-out disturbing sequences in American Horror Story's run: A brutal gang-rape, shown partially from Madison's perspective, as the frat dudes filmed everything. Sent up by Zoe, Kyle discovered them and was horrified, chasing them out of the party as Zoe tried to comfort Madison. Inside of the frat bus, the boys tried to get their stories straight, deleting the videos from their phones and knocking out Kyle when he furiously attacked them. As they drove away, Zoe looked on in horror. Then Madison walked out and used her powers to flip the bus over. If this season is indeed about a kind of Cordelia/Fiona dichotomy -- assimilation vs. revolution, basically -- we know which side Madison would come down on.

NEXT: Nicolas Cage, of course

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