Catching Up With American Horror Story Coven

Well I’m glad that’s over. I know a lot of you enjoyed American Horror Story: Coven, but this monstrosity should have been put down weeks ago. For the last six or seven episodes it’s meandered and floundered around; a show in search of an identity. Not all of it was horrible, but now that we are at the end it’s obvious that Coven was nothing but a muddled mess.

There was a story somewhere in Coven, but sadly it was never fleshed out. All season the show zig-zagged from plot line to plot line, never stopping long enough to truly build up the stakes at any one stop. Coven had so much potential and would have actually been worth my time if it could have stuck to something for more than eight minutes. Any one of the following story-lines could have been developed into something interesting enough to carry twelve or so episodes.

The Witches vs. Marie Laveau Didn’t it feel like this was where the show was headed when it first started? You had Laveau and her Minotaur ready to go toe to toe with the complete bad-assery of Jessica Lange. Sadly the “Voodoo Practitioners” of Laveau were never fleshed out and what little conflict there was between the two groups was sporadic, and when it was there the stakes always felt small.

The Witch Hunters The idea of a giant multinational corporation hunting witches over an age-old vendetta is a good one, on Coven it was over before it started. The multinational big-bad was so inept that the witches and Marie Laveau managed to kill off all of its high muckity-mucks in just two episodes. How these hunters were ever considered a threat is beyond me.

Witch School! Some of my favorite scenes of Coven were the flashbacks to when Miss Robichaux’s Academy was actually like an academy. I don’t recall a single moment when this season’s witches actually learned anything at the Academy. Miss Robichaux’s always felt more like a hotel than a school. I didn’t want Harry Potter 2.0 but there was a story in those walls.

I expect season to season television shows to lose their way from time to time, I don’t expect that to happen when a show is essentially a glorified mini-series. Telling a story is more than just saying “Witches! Dress ’em in black. Show!” Coven never felt like it had a reason for being beyond “Witches!” I’m sure some of you will disagree with me. “It was about getting a new Supreme!” “It was about the relationship of Cordelia and Fiona.” Whatever, none of that was ever really fleshed out until it was too late.

Part of the show’s problem was that there were just too many ingredients in the stew. Did we really need Kathy Bates as Delphine LaLaurie? Don’t get me wrong, Bates was great, but what was the purpose of the character? Think about it, if you removed the character from the show would we have really missed anything? It’s not like she was some essential lynch-pin propping the whole thing up. It just didn’t work. (I though American Horror Story suffered for similar reasons in Season One, just way too many characters.) Even worse than LaLaurie was the “Axe Man,” who seemed completely unnecessary. You’ve got Jessica Lange, Angela Basset, Gabourey Sidibe, and Sarah Paulson and you need to dilute that cast? Completely nonsensical.

By the end of the season I was offended too, not really for Modern Witchcraft, but for Voodoo and Papa Legba. It’s one thing to use the word “witch” in a shitty way (no one ever said the word “Wicca” thank gods), but to drag Voodoo through the mud like that? Marie Laveau was a real person, and a revered one (I love her, both versions) and this show has her sacrificing babies? If you aren’t offended by that you should be. Angela Basset built a strong character on the show, and to have her snatching babies on a yearly basis was completely unnecessary. (Seriously a show just about Laveau as an avenging angel fighting racists would have been better than what we ended up getting.)

And then we get to Papa Legba . . . . Hey, let’s turn Papa Legba into a Voodoo version of the Devil! I don’t practice Voodoo but I have friends who do, and I’ve also been to a few rituals over the years. To see one of the loa disrespected in such a way . . . . . I literally shook with anger while watching those scenes. While I raged, my wife just smiled sweetly and said to me “You know he’s going to make them pay for that right?” I’ll admit that made me feel a little better.

One more thing, what’s up with the use of the word “coven” in AHS? A coven is a group of people who love and care about each other. It’s not a word to be thrown around randomly, and it certainly shouldn’t be used by a group of young ladies mostly obsessed with hurting each other. At least the performances were generally strong, it’s a shame they forget to tell a coherent story.

(One more thing, I know a lot of you loved the Stevie Nicks cameo, and I’ll admit to the first one being kind of cool, but tonight’s? It was so awful that it made me laugh.)

Up Next: Salem on WGN, which looks absolutely awful. Thank the gods for the NHL and NBA Playoffs.

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Pagan TV Club: American Horror Story Coven (ep. 2)
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About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • Alyska Gutzwiller

    Thank you!!!!! Seems like all my friends, pagan or otherwise, are creaming their jeans over it. I definitely found some things offensive. The rest just wasn’t that good.

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    I am of the opinion that such shows should be boycotted. Would things like this get aired if people stayed away?

    Even “train-wreck viewing” boosts their figures, so watching “just to see how bad it is” only encourages more of the same.

  • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

    I completely agree. This was by far AHS’s worst season.

  • http://thefirstdark.wordpress.com/ Porsha A. Williams

    People are taking it wayyy too serious. It’s a television show, not the gospel. If the point was to educate, i could understand everyone’s wadded panties. But the writers of AHS aren’t setting up shop to educate anyone about ANYTHING. They’ve simply taken provocative subjects (IE. abortions in the murder house, gay couples, BDSM–mental illness, alien conspiracy theories and asylums/institutionalization- -witch bitches, voudon, and racism in what’s still one of the most racism-riddled cities in the world) and made pure camp-ery out of it! It’s for FUN! And if we can’t have a little fun with the gods then what’s the point in a relationship with them at all? I’m sure even they get bored with all the pomp and circumstance, eh? So keep on creamin those panties & “manties,” i say…because the point is FUN- -fun which dually enough, serves the purpose in bringing outsiders in via curiosity and questions. And that, my friends, is a very good thing where Paganism and Pagans today are concerned in my humble opinion. !!!

    • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

      Speaking for myself: I didn’t dislike the season because I took it seriously; I dislike it because it was just bad television, bad storytelling, and it just came off feeling pointless. I also feel that very often when people make statements like ‘it’s just TV’ or ‘you’re taking it too seriously’ they are trying to deflect legitimate criticism. Criticism here meaning using one’s faculty to examine something critically, not just negative criticism. The second season did tackle some heavy subjects and it did it well (although I felt the whole thing kind of fell apart at the end), but this season felt like a huge, unfocused mess. It’s a bit facile to say, “Oh, it’s just silly TV; so I can’t apply any kind of standards here.”

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      It’s not about having fun with the gods, it’s about the perpetuation of ignorance and others having fun at the expense of other religions.

  • http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/ Peter M.

    I agree with Jason that the season was not well-plotted, but I think maybe the writers organized it around certain themes rather than story:

    – Bad mothers: Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett, and Patti Lupone all played really bad mothers. Kyle’s mother was also terrible. I don’t think there was a good mother on the show, but maybe Myrtle was the good fairy godmother.

    – Letting the past go: There was an undying Voodoo queen and an immortal racist, and Fiona was willing to stifle the next generation of witches just to keep on living. I don’t think any of them learned to accept a changing world until it was too damn late. Myrtle was the only one from the older generation willing to let a new order take hold.

    – A house divided cannot stand: The witch hunters were pretty weak villains, but they still caused a lot of trouble because the witches and voodooists spent all their energy attacking each other. I read somewhere that Ryan Murphy said the show’s main theme this season was how minorities fight amongst themselves rather than unite against common enemies. I think was supposed to be symbolically resolved at the end with Zoe and Queenie supporting each other and being the new council.

    – Women and men: I’m not sure exactly what the show was saying here, but there was definitely a female/male theme happening. For the first part of the show most of the male characters couldn’t speak (Kyle, the Minotaur, and the tongueless butler). Later, the two most powerful women (Marie Laveau and Fiona) ally themselves or have already allied themselves with men who ultimately undo them (Papa Legba and the Axeman).

    I was still frustrated by the loose plotting though. I didn’t mind the use of “coven” in the title because I just assumed it was used in its earlier meaning of a gathering of witches. If the show had been called “Circle of Pagans” or “Coven of Wiccans” that would have been another story!

  • https://celestineday.wordpress.com/ Celestine Day

    Definitely found myself side-eyeing the portrayal of Papa Legba, and I’m not even a Voodoo practitioner.

    Also found myself concerned about the Unfortunate Implications behind the fact that all of the Voodoo practitioners (read: black witches), with the exception of Queenie, end up dead.

  • maverickmann84 .

    Shaking with anger? He’s going to make them pay? Chill out dude. Setting aside the improvable argument of whether he has any powers or that was all made up (and all religions for that matter) don’t you think you’re the one who’s making fun of him the most by trivializing him and turning him into some petty petulant child who would throw a tantrum and attack someone for some dopey television show? If he was that pathetic then no one would believe in him (probably). It’s a show, I can assure you that no one who doesn’t believe in him even knew the character was based off a real person. Or will even remember his name. If anything be thankful that this awful show (and ur right it was really dumb) might get people to check out pagan/voodoo beliefs from curiosity.


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