“American Horror Story: Coven” recap (3.1): Don’t make me drop a house on you

Five days later, she may not look any younger, but she’s certainly acting like 22-year-old Stevie Nicks, just twirling around her room to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” doing lines of blow and duckfacing at the mirror. When her doctor comes to plead with her to stop, she uses her magic to slam him against the wall and drain all the youth out of him. For a moment her youth is restored, but it doesn’t last, and she decides to go off in search of a new source of beauty, not that she needs it.

Back in New Orleans, the girls are bonding over dinner, when we learn that Madison has the power of telekinesis, which is deeply unfortunate for someone with so little empathy and anger management. Madison declares Zoe to be her new best friend, which Zoe looks more than a little squeamish about, but acquiesces when Madison decides to drag them both to a frat party.

While the girls sneak off, Fiona sneaks in. She startles Cordelia—who is busy making potions like the alternate universe daughter of Snape and Lily—and from the start you can tell that these two hate each other like only mothers and daughters can. Fiona was an indifferent mother, but she says she’s here now to help Cordelia run the school. Cordelia actually says, “When will you die and stop ruining my life?” And Fiona’s eyes say, “Funny you should bring that up, because never.”

At a party bus outside the frat party, a young man named Kyle (the always endearing Evan Peters) is begging his fellow brothers not to vomit, piss, or expose their genitals in public. He does not mention that they should refrain from drugging and raping any girls, because, in his naïveté, he assumes it goes without saying. Bad call, Kyle.

One inside, he makes a beeline for Zoe and they stare at each other from either side of an ice sculpture, in a warped homage to the aquarium scene from Romeo + Juliet.

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The two are instantly smitten with each other, but Zoe’s superpower makes her shy of getting too close. Elsewhere in the frat, Madison is doing her queen bee act but, unbeknownst to her, the vile frat boys have drugged her drink. They drag her to a room and the ensuing scene—from her perspective, strange faces straining and sweating on top of her—is one of the most horrific I have ever seen. In the context of the story, it’s about punishing her for being famous. They film her with their cell phones, making sure they can see her face: a powerful girl brought low.

Kyle and Zoe rush in and bust it up, and Kyle chases the other boys onto the bus. They knock him unconscious and start speeding away when Madison stumbles from the party and, with a flick of her wrist, turns that bus upside down.

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The next morning, the news reports that only two frat boys survived, though we don’t know which two. Fiona bursts into the kitchen, urging the girls not to mourn for a bunch of “assholes in Ed Hardy shirts” and announces that they are taking a field trip.

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Their destination, of course, is the LaLaurie Mansion. Nan is sensitive to the aura of agony emanating from the house, and it draws us back to the memories of Madame LaLaurie. Frustrated that her human sacrifices were doing nothing to reverse the aging process, Delphine opened her door to Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett, who is at least part goddess).

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Marie (whose real life story is well worth a read) offers her a love potion, which of course is poison. It turns out the man-turned-Minotaur was Marie’s lover. Why they don’t just take the bull head off him is a mystery to me, but whatever, I trust Marie Laveau’s judgment. LaLaurie’s body was never found, but Nan senses a presence coming from under the bricks in the yard.

While everyone else is dredging up the past, Zoe goes to the hospital to see if Kyle survived the crash. But the only two live frat boys are the last ones she hoped to see. Figuring she can at least put her curse to good use, she straddles the comatose ringleader and extracts a hard-won and painful justice. They key line in the scene is “The world isn’t safe for a girl like me, but maybe I’m not safe for the world either.”

That night, Fiona digs up the body of Madame LaLaurie, who emerges from her coffin very much alive. She shakes off her chains and the two bad ladies go off to hit Bourbon Street.

AHS3.1.11This isn’t even in the running for “strangest thing I’ve ever seen in the French Quarter.”

So, I would tentatively say that this looks to be a much better season than the last. I already feel more attached to characters and more invested in their relationships than I ever was at Briarcliff. Certainly they share some common thematic ground, with a focus on the unique issues facing women, and I’m troubled by the inclusion of a rape scene right in the premiere. But if the gore is tempered with humanity, and god forbid, continuity, this might be a ride worth taking.

Oh, and I’m going to go ahead and cut off the inevitable “Why is AE writing about a show with no lesbians?” comment. Ladies, this show is set in an all-girls boarding school for witches. There are no lesbians yet.

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