…and RIP Nan.
Don’t get me wrong: American Horror Story: Coven is a great show and it has truly expanded Ryan Murphy’s repertoire as a producer and an artist. But there’s something about this season that has been a bit…off.
In the anthology’s first two chapters, we were introduced to a world with haunted houses and demonic spirits. We were genuinely shocked to learn of Violet’s death – almost three episodes after she had actually died! We were concerned about Sister Jude’s deteriorating state as a patient at Briarcliff. We felt for the characters. However, in this season I’m not sure I can say the same. And it all comes down to one character: Misty Day.
Misty Day, who is played by AHS vet Lily Rabe, is both the best and worst part of Coven. As the regenerative witch with a thing for Stevie Nicks, Rabe is a scene-stealer whenever she pops up. However, her ability to bring characters back to life (the list tallying Kyle, Madison, Myrtle, and herself) makes everyone virtually invincible – so there are no real stakes anymore. We are no longer shocked by a death like television audiences have proved to be (Red Wedding, anyone?).
On a slightly better note, I’m glad that Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett have stepped out of their hyped spotlight to let the former AHS stars take the helm of the show. And again, I’m not saying this season is bad, it’s just not what I would have wanted from the third installment of the horror anthology.
It’s witching hour, my friends. But stow away your brooms, return your wands, and hide your Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, because American Horror Story: Coven leaves all the fun-loved, preconceived notions of witchcraft at the gates.
In the third installment of Ryan Murphy’s twisted anthology series, our favorite actors return to modern day – ditching the dreadful Massachusetts insane asylum for the bustling streets of New Orleans.
This story opens on Taissa Farmiga as Zoe – just your average, sexually deprived teenage girl, whose kiss kills her boyfriend. In a flash, she’s sent on a train to a boarding school for witches – and don’t worry, they saved themselves by making a Harry Potter joke. Cordilia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) resides over the school and teaches the girls how to channel and control their powers.
Zoe’s classmates provide some much needed comic relief to this dark drama. Emma Roberts essentially plays herself, an actress whose telekinetic super powers have been too grand for the limelight. Her cover story is that she’s in rehab for a heroine addiction – believable. Precious herself, Gabourey Sidibe, plays Queenie, the human voodoo doll. This smack-talking, street-smart girl wound up at the school after she plunged her arm into a frialator, burning her obscenely rude customer to blisters. The last houseguest is AHS alum Jamie Brewer, who played the sweet-loving Addie in season one. This season, the actress plays a clairvoyant child, who knows too much for her own good.
The queen herself, Jessica Lange, has traded her nun garb for some more traditional clothes. Her name is Fiona Goode (a reference to Salem, no doubt) and she is “The Supreme.” On her quest for eternal life, Fiona decides to dig up the corpse of Madame LaLaurie, played by the terrifyingly wicked Kathy Bates. It seems like Lange has finally met her match. But the power struggle continues, and her name is Angela Bassett, who plays the voodoo, Marie Laveau. Much like Queenie, we learn that Laveau is a direct descendent of Tituba, the slave from Barbados who was one of the first accused witches in Salem.
And then there’s Lily Rabe. As last season’s fan favorite, Sister Mary Eunice, the shy, obedient nun turned kinky, Devil-possessed entity, Rabe has gained quite the cult following. In this season, her character is no saner. Misty Day is a witch with the power of resurrection. After being burnt at the stake, Misty rises and makes it her first mission to bring back some alligators to kill their hunters. She derives her inspiration from Stevie Nicks, who she calls “the white witch.” I really would have loved to be a fly on the wall during Ryan Murphy’s chat with the singer’s manger…
Also returning this season is Evan Peters, who, along with Lange, has appeared in the most episodes of the anthology series. Instead of being the outcast he played in season one, he plays a frat brother named Kyle Spencer (who he probably would have gunned down as Tate). Kyle and Zoe meet at a party, as if Tate and Violet are meeting in another life, just as Kyle’s frat brothers are graphically raping Madison. Kyle breaks up the horrific scene and the brothers scramble back onto their bus, but not before Madison regains consciousness and uses her power to flip their bus, instantly killing seven of the nine passengers, including one of the star-crossed lovers, Kyle.
Cue the episode entitled “Boy Parts,” in which the girls attach the best limbs to Kyle’s head, just as Misty comes along to turn Kyle into a monster worthy of Dr. Frankenstein.
Meanwhile, the seemingly innocent Cordilia Foxx learns that her hormones are not helping her fertility, so her husband urges her to turn to magic. In a steamy sex rite, involving black powder, multiple herbs, fire, and hatching snake eggs, the two attempt to conceive a baby. Will it work? Probably. Will there be consequences because they used magic? Definitely.
While this season has planted some strong roots, I’m a little disappointed that the show has moved on to incorporate big names like Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe, and Emma Roberts. Part of what has made AHS the show it has become is the no name actors making a niche for themselves. Where are Naomi Grossman and Chloë Sevigny, who played fan favorites Pepper and Shelley in Asylum? How about James Cromwell? His performance as Dr. Arthur Arden won him an Emmy and definitely should have won him a spot in Murphy’s script. Other notably absent series regulars are Zachary Quinto and Dylan McDermott, but Quinto’s run on Broadway and McDermott’s new role on CBS’s Hostages probably negated any hopes of their return to AHS. But with the set up this show has, there’s no reason why they can’t come back for the show’s fourth season. Or fifth. Or eleventh – it’s possible, right?
Last night, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) presented the third annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards. The always funny Retta of Parks and Recreation hosted the night of triumphs and snubs. Although winner Patton Oswald (Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for Parks and Recreation) noted that the ceremony was only being broadcasted on UStream to “Internet shut-ins,” I highly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the acceptance speeches.
When the nominations were released last month, I tweeted my support for three underdogs: Eden Sher for The Middle, Alex Karpovsky for Girls, and Elisabeth Moss for Top of the Lake. Probably because the critics read my tweets, both Sher and Moss took home the awards in their respective categories. However, Sher tied for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series with the blown-out-of-proportion The Big Bang Theory star, Kaley Cuoco. Sher noted that this was her second happiest moment, “right after [her] bat mitzvah.” As for Moss, who basically robbed Jessica Lange of the award for Best Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series, she joked that she had no one from Mad Men to thank, since this was her first ever big-scale recognition as an actor.
Lange’s co-stars, Sarah Paulson and Zachary Quinto, redeemed her loss by snagging their well-deserved awards for Best Supporting Actress and Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series, respectively, for their bone-chilling roles in FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum.
Although I have yet to see HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, I wasn’t too keen on it taking home the awards for Best Movie or Mini-Series and Best Actor in a Movie or Mini-Series (Michael Douglas). I was pulling for AHS to take home the big award and for Benedict Cumberbatch to receive some sort of recognition for his hauntingly detached portrayal of Christopher Tietjens in HBO’s Parade’s End. Let’s hope the Emmys don’t get it wrong, too.
As far as drama goes, HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s Breaking Bad tied for Best Drama Series. And while I think a tie is sort of a cop-out, both shows have been groundbreaking in the past year and deserve the recognition.
While Bryan Cranston added another trophy to his collection for his work on Breaking Bad, newcomer Tatiana Maslany, from BBC America’s Orphan Black, scored her first acting award. Although I’ve yet to see this show, her win over the likes of Claire Danes, Elisabeth Moss (the night’s only double-nominee), and Julianna Margulies prove that I’m missing out on the next best thing.
The Supporting Actor and Actress in a Drama Series never go to who I want, which is why Michael Cudlitz of TNT’s Southland and Monica Potter of NBC’s Parenthood took home the awards. I didn’t know anyone watched these shows, let alone the critics!
And in terms of the comedy awards, I don’t really want to talk about it. The Big Bang Theory took home three-too-many awards, but the one silver lining was Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ win for HBO’s Veep, in which she portrays a fictional Vice President of the United States. Louie C.K. took home the award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series and his countless wins keep reminding me to watch his show.
A common theme throughout the night’s acceptance speeches was the diversification of television today. No longer are the four broadcast networks the kings. Stations like AMC and FX are continuing to define television, and newcomers like the Sundance Channel and even Netflix are following in their footsteps.
While the ceremony was underway, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences posted the ballots for the 2013 Emmy Awards. The nomination period closes on June 28 and the ceremony will take place September 22, just in time for fall programming.
With the mini-series categories blowing up within the past year, I have taken it upon myself to use my very abundant amount of time to explore these amazing artistic and creative feats. Most recently, I have checked myself into Briarcliff Manor – the setting for FX’s smash-hit American Horror Story: Asylum. And the things I saw were…well, horrifying – in a good way.
From the ironically deranged mind of Glee’s Ryan Murphy comes the second installment of the AHS anthology, the first of which followed a modern day family moving into a haunted house in LA. In the second chapter, however, Murphy quite beautifully recycles his actors to tell the story of an insane asylum in the 1960s and all of its inhabitants.
Once a prestigious tuberculosis ward, the manor was converted to a monastery-run home for the criminally insane. Owned by papal hopeful Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes from Shakespeare in Love), the asylum is under the rule of a Nurse Ratchet-type, Sister Jude, played by the incomparable, two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange, who played Constance in the first installment.
The overambitious reporter, Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), attempts to come in contact with one of Briarcliff’s patients, a murderer by the name of Bloody Face, but her naivety gets her placed in the nuthouse herself.
Accused murderer Kit Walker (Evan Peters, who played Tate in the first installment) is locked up for Bloody Face’s crimes – but did he do it?
With the help of Dr. Oliver Thredson (Star Trek and Heroes’ Zachary Quinto), both Lana and Kit plan their escape from Sister Jude’s rule.
The show’s many religious undertones and gruesome sights of the conditions within the asylum create a much more ominous sense of horror, whereas the first season relies a lot on cheap, “jumpy” scares and Connie Britton just being afraid.
The second season continued the tradition of a Romeo and Juliet-type relationship that Tate and Violet have in the first season. This time around, former Nazi and asylum doctor Arthur Arden and the Devil-possessed Sister Mary Eunice meet their tragic fate. Ironically, it’s the ex-Nazi that initiates their incineration.
The show also plays well on the Cold War hysteria that has become a timestamp for the asylum generation. At the time, the threat of extraterrestrial war was just as real as that of the atomic bomb.
However, my one criticism for this amazing and addictive mini-series is that the ending seemed too dragged out. Not to spoil anything specific, I feel like they turn society and the media into the antagonist, which I didn’t feel was necessarily what Murphy intended to showcase. I would have much preferred they stuck to the “curiosity killed the cat” theme, but hey – who am I to say so.
If you have yet to delve into the series, please do yourself a favor and watch it. You can find the first season on Netflix and you can get a little creative when viewing the second.
Production of American Horror Story: Coven is now in the works in glorious New Orleans. Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Evan Peters are set to return amongst others, Joining the cast will be Kathy Bates (Fried Green Tomatoes), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire), and Emma Roberts (Scream 4).
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