#AHSCoven: Clearly The Worst Season
American Horror Story: Coven was terrible, the entire season. What is truly shocking is that it took the finale to bring me to that realization. It’s now clear that the season survived on the reputation and acclaim of the two that preceded it, while throwing in some big names for safe measure. To their credit, the writers almost got away with it, except for the truly underwhelming finale. When one reflects on the season as a whole, we realize that there was little more than a lazy attempt at a plot, interwoven with a few moments of shock value, just enough to keep us wanting more. And while we went on week to week, surviving on the “OMG” moments and the pseudo displays of feminine might and power, we missed the truly terrible storyline, poor character development and “half assed” attempt at horror – all culminating in the very least impressive character being declared Supreme.
The season started out with real potential, but somewhere along the storyline the writers got lazy. Take Zoe for instance. Her black widow mystique could have easily made hers a story worth telling, and even more importantly, worth watching. Instead, the writers chose to relegate her to the role of love sick baby sitter, dragging along the pieces of a shattered boy’s life – who, for all intents and purposes, played absolutely no functional role in the season. I’m not even sure why he wasn’t just left where he started, dead in a morgue, in peace and in pieces. I suppose his “resurrection” served to reinforce the fact that it was supposed to be horror, after all what could be more horrifying than putting a dismembered corpse back together and bringing it to life? As it turns out the truly horrific act was the completely under-utilization of the character.
Then there was the sadistic “nigga killer” – no offense meant, of course – Marie Delphine LaLaurie. Besides piggybacking on an infamous legend, what was her function? This is where the shock value was most prevalent, prevalent to the point of annoyance and at some points comedic madness. You almost forgot to take it seriously. The arbitrary torture and mutilation of slaves by itself could count as horror, but it was ruined by the general absence of direction for LaLaurie’s character. This again was a missed opportunity. There was something missing, in the characterization and the performance. Can we seriously say we understood what was going on with her? Where she was heading? Of course not. Still, somehow we were carried away by the fact that it was Kathy Bates against Angella Bassett, brilliant in their own right, and the writers were lazy enough to let that suffice for a good season of horror, or at least long enough to get us to the end. When both had outlived their usefulness, they were unceremoniously and abruptly discarded. What was even more appalling is that only in the penultimate episode was there any attempt to explain Marie LaLaurie, by way of a rushed monologue and almost no attempt at developing Leveau’s character. When all was said and done, it fell flat, much like the rest of the season. It was only when I realized that the finale was upon us and almost all the characters had stories left undone that the dysfunction became apparent, it was as if the writers made the story up as they went along, and where it could get no more absurd, or the characters had little time to grow in light of the episode constraints, they were either strangled or impaled. It was seriously laughable. One was left wondering why these powerful witches, let us not forget they were sold to us as a Coven to be reckoned with, could be so easily and effortlessly discarded. Think of all of the deaths, and in some case resurrections, which occurred in the season, and then ask yourself if it is at all believable that these witches could be so weak willed and puny.
In hindsight, Fiona was the driving force behind the season. She had the right amount of flare, and diva to make us fall in love with her. She embodied the underlying feminist theme running through the season, and to her credit, she did it justice. She was undoubtedly the most developed character and certainly the most prominent in the ever weakening storyline, but she too met the fate of her underdeveloped counterparts, she was abruptly and brutally – almost absurdly – removed from the season, by the Axeman at that; at least in the first instance. Perhaps recognizing the failure of the feminist undercurrents, the writers had the Coven carry out a good old fashioned gang murder, but by then the damage was done. We realized we were being taken along for a ride. She was the last hope for the season’s salvation, and she left weak and pathetic, in the arms of the clichéd Cordelia. Most of us were expecting some epic battle between Fiona and one of the young witches vying for Supreme; alas, it was not to be. The writers wanted the easy way out, and they shamelessly took it. A friend of mine remarked that Cordelia’s ascent, while making for a subtle plot twist – shock value again – was to be expected considering all her struggles and missteps; a sort of phoenix from the ashes, a testament to the strength of a woman. I’m not sure I bought it, did you?
The third and most acclaimed season of American Horror Story had all the ingredients of greatness; they just didn’t come together the way one would have hoped. The actresses did their best with what they were given, but not even Oscar winners can save poor characterization and an even poorer storyline. I suppose this is what happens when horror goes main stream. The season left a lot to be desired. Here’s to hoping the next season gets it right. 2.5/5 stars.