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

Aftermath: The Prologue Ends
The local news was buzzing over the crash that claimed the lives of seven fraternity boys and severely injured two of them. Madison seemed unaffected, both by the trauma she suffered and the trauma she caused. New schoolmaster Fiona seemed to agree with her. "The world's not gonna miss a  lot of a---holes in Ed Hardy shirts," she said. But she marked her territory by tossing Madison across the room and announcing a change of command. "No more sitting around here at Hogwarts," said Fiona, announcing that they would be taking a mandatory field trip with a mandatory black-clothes uniform policy.

Fiona wanted to take the girls to the former headquarters of what she called "an alternative coven," implying that the witching world has had several factions throughout history with disagreeing philosophies. But Nan led them into Madame LaLaurie's old house. After Fiona performed a quick not-the-droids-you're-looking-for mind trick, the tour guide gave them a free tour of the building, explaining how the Madame would make a special revivifying beverage for herself. (The recipe called for pancreas.) This is when we caught up with the story of Angela Bassett and the Poisoned Love Potion. This is also when we learned that Madame LaLaurie's old house was once owned by "the guy from Face/Off," aka Nicolas Cage, who starred in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which I'm henceforth going to consider a prequel to Coven. Meanwhile, Nan led Fiona across the street, saying that the lady of the house was buried there.

Zoe visited the hospital, hoping to find that her boy-crush Kyle was one of the two surviving boys. That would have made sense, since Evan Peters is nominally a lead this season. But no: Kyle appears to have died, unconscious in the crashed bus. Instead, the survivors included the Evil Roofie Son of a Bitch. "Shoulda been you," said Zoe, who started soliloquizing in a Meredith Grey Voiceover. "The world isn't safe for a girl like me," she said. "Might as well put this curse to some use." And, in a scene loaded with all kinds of twisted thematic power, she raped the rapist to death. (ASIDE: This scene -- and some elements of Zoe's characterization -- reminded me of the overlooked horror gem Teeth, the disturbing and funny film about a girl coming of age surrounded by dudes who really shouldn't mess with her. END OF ASIDE.)

Zoe's single-episode arc from scared neophyte to twisted avenger is evidence that all the ambient world-building in Coven hasn't slowed down the hyper-accelerated American Horror Story plot train. Which means this is a good time for a Season Question Theory Lightning Round: In the skewed Potterverse of Coven, is Zoe our "Harry" figure, a newcomer to the shadow world who is going to become hugely important -- perhaps even the Supreme? Or is she meant to be an audience-surrogate every-person getting pulled in various directions by the factionalism of the Coven -- someone more equivalent to Kip in Asylum?

Meanwhile, Fiona brought some workmen to dig in the spot where Nan indicated...and out of a coffin came Madame LaLaurie, very much alive (or perhaps "alive") and looking extremely confused. "Come on, Mary Todd Lincoln," said Fiona. "I'll buy you a drink."

So did Angela Bassett fail to kill Madame LaLaurie? Or did she want her imprisoned? Is Madame LaLaurie a witch, or just witch-adjacent? How does Madame LaLaurie's desperation to stay young match up with Fiona's urge for the same -- and will that desire motivate their actions this season, or are they up to something even crazier? Where is the minotaur? Where is Patti LuPone? Does Denis O'Hare's butler Spaulding really not have a tongue? Is there really going to be a threesome? Is Coven going to retroactively claim that other famous and infamous women throughout history were witches? Who will be the new Supreme?

Fellow viewers, what did you think of the Coven premiere? How did it compare to Murder House and Asylum? Can you ever have too much fish-eye lens?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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