“AHS: Coven” 1.01: Upstairs, Downstairs Business


Hell’s horses! Yes, the first image of American Horror Story: Coven is a few close-ups of screaming horses. Will this season’s witch-centered storyline earn a yay or a neeeeeeigh? Let’s dig in!

We’re in the French Quarter and the time is… ago. Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) – wearing a voluminous dress that would have given Maria von Trapp carpal tunnel just to look at – is holding court at a party, showing off her various daughters (most of whom seem to be named Marie) to eligible men. We notice that the youngest – Pauline Marie – has a sassy tongue and an eye for the black servant. I think I like her.

We then join Delphine in her bedchamber, where she is putting Olay Human Blood Regenerist with SPF 215 on her face and begging her neck waddle to tighten when her husband comes in to summon her downstairs. Turns out Pauline has dallied (or at least attempted to dally) with the servant – so Delphine says that they will spread a lie that he raped her (he protests) and has him brought… upstairs.

Upstairs is…. well, upstairs is a f*cking nightmare. There are dozens of slaves in cages, some with their limbs nailed to things or the skin peeled off of their faces. Sheesh. Bastien – the servant from earlier – is strung up (and yet still managing to look pretty damned strapping) and Delphine has a young black child (did she really just say “pickaninny”?) bring her a freshly-hollowed bull’s head to stick on him, going on at length about the Minotaur of Greek myth. This whole torture chamber would be completely over-the-top and ridiculous, except that it actually happened in the mid-1700s. Gah.

I do want to point out that while this references the Minotaur shown in the promotional materials, there is a notable difference between this Minotaur and the other. See if you can see what’s different:



Opening titles. Deranged, jarring, creepy as all get-out. Just the way we like them.

We then jump to the present, where spritely Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) and a boy go at it in her room while her parents are away. Kids these days! It’s her first time, and Charlie wants to be sure not to hurt her. Turns out he needn’t have worried, because within minutes blood is pouring out of his nose and he’s spasming to death beneath her. Sorry, Charlie!

On a train to New Orleans, Zoe recalls the aftermath of her first time, with her mother telling her that she is a witch (it has skipped several generations) and that now she must go somewhere that she will be safe. She is then whisked off by a batty-looking Frances Conroy – in a Sideshow Bob wig and a British accent, because witches – and a team of albino men. Nope, nothing strange going on here!

Zoe brushes up on her Salem Witch Trials, where most of the women killed weren’t even witches.

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