American Horror Story: Coven is off to Sexy, Hexy Beginning. #worthwatching

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This ain't your great-grandma's Charm School, baby. No way.

This ain’t your great-grandma’s Charm School, baby. No way.

It is a pleasure to announce my unmitigated satisfaction with the premier episode of American Horror Story: Coven, which opens the third season of the acclaimed Brad Falchuk-produced, Ryan Muphy-conceived supernatural anthology. I don’t watch anything else that emanates from contemporary television networks and reject all reality programming on the grounds that it will forever render me an incoherent, drooling member of Generation ADHD (which may already be the case, for all I know), but I LOVE what Murphy has created in his AHS productions and have been a devoted admirer of concept, cast, crew and all the clever details since Season One’s Murder House launch.

As mentioned, I tend to do things a bit “back asswards” when it comes to entertaining myself in a chronologically conventional fashion. I spend most of my time working on my own various book and illustration projects, and having eschewed all regularly scheduled attempts by television to turn my brain into cheesecloth, that means I stream cherry-picked movies and other stuff on Netflix when I’m so inclined, which is exactly what transpired concerning my introduction to AHS’s first season. I had heard intriguing things about the series, have always been enamored of Jessica Lange’s intoxicating talents as an actor, and decided to watch the show on Netflix early this Spring — easily a year or more after the first series had been initially televised. I was hooked and frankly quite thrilled by the quality of the work and ended-up watching the entire run in two unshaven, empty Frito bag-littered, transfixed days in front of the flat-screen. (Some of you know full-well of what I speak~) I did brush my teeth morning and night — I remember that much, beyond my fascination with the series itself.

Plainly put: For picky, overly analytical and, yes, hyper-critical guys like me, it was wonderful to see such creative expertise on display, particularly knowing it was being presented on the boob tube, which I figured had degenerated beyond all hope of redemption ten years ago. Don’t tell me I’m missing a lot of other great shows besides AHS; I already know I am probably missing a lot of worthy efforts, but I’ve only got time for AHS, these days, so AHS is going to be my main touchstone/source of distracting entertainment, for now.

The same mistimed situation occurred (sort of) with AHS: Asylum — I was busy with a book and did not catch the show during its initial run. I did, however, purchase the full series on Blu-Ray six days ago and watched that installment, in its entirety, over an equally mesmerized two or three days. I was quite pleased with Asylum: the performances, cinematography and visuals were exceptionally well-crafted and executed, though I did find the overall storyline to be unnecessarily gratuitous in some spots, and the plotting was scatterbrained and occasionally disconnected. No matter–it remains a series any true fan of the genre should own and cherish.

After obtaining a few more details about the premise for AHS: Coven, I thought the concept sounded rather promising in the sense that it might give Falchuk and Murphy a chance to combine the best qualities of Series One and Series Two in one breathtaking setting and within the framework of an even richer storyline. Not willing to wait a year until the show comes out on Blu-Ray, I bought Episode One (“Bitchcraft”) on iTunes and settled-in last night for a looky-loo.

All of our favorites are off to a rollicking start, I must aver, with some tantalizing new faces thrown into the mix. The now-famous and signature AHS opening-sequences have reached a new standard of perfection with the one that introduces AHS: Coven — it’s perhaps the most psychologically disturbing series-intro I’ve ever seen, using light, shadow, cuts, angles and imagery (both ethereal and horrifying) with masterful precision. (What’s that skinny demon THANG between the trees in the moonlight? I GOTTA KNOW!!!!) The story itself gets off to the most immediately terrifying start enjoyed by any of the show’s premiere episodes to date. Kathy Bates is added to the Monster Mash as Delphine LaLaurie, a 19th Century New Orleans socialite who simpers like a genteel Southern matron by day and inflicts brutal perversions upon her slaves in an attic by night. Move over, Annie Wilkes, and drop that sledgehammer: Delphine LaLaurie is scarier than you’ll ever be, even in your sweet little piggiest dreams. Bates shows-off her award-winning range in the opening scenes — flexing her acting muscles full-tilt, she unleashes a bravura but highly calibrated tempest of terror. Once again, the visual images and cinematographic touches are not to be missed by horror fans.

The captivating Taissa Farmiga makes a most welcome return to the AHS fold as a teenage girl who doesn’t realize she is descended from the powerful witches of Salem until her special “gift” is unexpectedly manifested during a steamy interlude with a young, ill-fated lad. “Oops!” doesn’t begin to cover the magnitude of her unwitting faux pas, but very quickly Taissa’s mother reveals the nature of the Family Tree and its “look but don’t touch” fruit. This revelation necessitates an immediate relocation: Taissa is squirreled away by a posse of eccentric-looking minions to Miss Robichaux’s School for Exceptional Girls in downtown New Orleans.

Yeah, it’s an old-fashioned charm school, alright, but not the kind of charm school your great-granny wanted to send her own girls off to, back in the day.

At Robichaux’s, Taissa meets a somewhat rag-tag little group of fellow sorceresses holed-up in a cavernous and deliciously gothic Southern mansion. The witch-ranks have apparently been on the wane in the past century due to the scourge of birth-control and possible bureaucratic mismanagement. The tiny “coven” of girls seems comprised of misfits in one way or another, but each possesses a trademark power and all of the actresses enlisted do a pretty good job with their roles, thus far. The imposing Gabourey Sidibe is a cast member I would keep my eye upon as the season progresses — Gabourey is a gifted performer and her initial work as “Queenie,” a human voodoo-doll, is compelling in an understated manner. Even Emma Roberts, who apparently was catching some pre-season flack because fans didn’t want to see an alleged Hollywood brat enter Murphy’s pantheon of characterizations, hits a home-run, or at least a triple, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe that’s because she’s playing a Hollywood brat exiled from LaLa Land due to her uncontrollable telekinetic temper-tantrums. Whatever the reason, she’s convincing as the spoiled “Carrie-type” character and I’m eager to see what direction is taken by her snotty-but-vulnerable starlet as the storyline unfolds. I have a feeling she may win a lot of fans over, if the writing remains solid.

Of course, Jessica Lange steals the whole thing — lock, stock, & barrel — with her layered and simmering-with-madness portrayal of Fiona, the “Supreme” (and, no, we’re not talking one of Miss Ross’s backup singers, here). Jessica’s character is a high-rolling, globetrotting Red Hot Mama in Black, the most mighty witch of her era, and in episode one we find her coming back to New Orleans where her daughter (a thus-far subdued Sarah Paulson) is running (or failing to properly run) the witches’ academy, which Mama Fiona derisively calls “Hogwarts”. CLASSIC!

There was a heck of a lot of action and plot the writers had to unfurl and establish in a very quick 51-minutes, but I think they managed to do it in a way that leaves AHS fans assured of some spectacular twists, turns and terrific treats to come. Kathy Bate’s continued involvement in the series, as well as the great Angela Basset’s guest-starring turn as voodoo-priestess Marie LaVeau guarantee some hot, scenery-chewing episodes with Jessica Lange’s mega-witch, and you know it’s going to be must-watch TV. Look, too, for the return of sexy Lily Rabe’s character as a necromancer named “Misty” and more than anything else, watch for scintillating developments in the storyline involving Taissa’s character and the frat-boy played by the always outstanding Evan Peters! It’s great to see Taissa and Evan onscreen together again: the two established an astonishing, almost legendary chemistry in Season One, and I’d be highly surprised if Murphy did not attempt to utilize the allure of that inherent charisma for his latest project. The scene wherein Farmiga and Peters first glimpse each other through an ice-sculpture at a party was haunting and ominous, which is more than appropriate for a season that promises to deliver the supernatural goods … and deliver ’em with a knockout punch.

Excellent horror-programming LIVES, folks. Enjoy the progress of AHS: Coven and feel free to leave your own opinions about the premier. Now, it’s time for some lunch. I’ll have what Gabourey was having when she raided the fridge at Robichaux’s midway through the premiere. #DrumstickHeaven
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Jonathan Kieran’s (as-yet-untitled) new novel, an epic supernatural thriller, is now finished and slated for release in late Spring 2014. Look for news about the release here and at Amazon.com in the coming weeks and months.

Jonathan is also the author of the classically appointed Rowan Blaize series of modern fairy-tales and novels. Visit Jonathan Kieran’s Official Facebook Page and give it a “Like,” if you are so inclined. Meanwhile …

Escape the Imminent Collapse of Civilization, if only for a few hours. A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books. Click on the book covers to the right or have a look below …

Watch the Rowan Blaize Book Trailer HERE.

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Click here to purchase the Kindle e-books and watch a video of Jonathan discussing his work.
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