creators: Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
starring: Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, Angela Basset and Frances Conroy
number of episodes: 13
first aired: October 9, 2013
After two great seasons of horror, everyone was pretty much pumped up and ready to go for the third. No one though thought, that the creators would pretty much drop the ball and lose focus so easily. Leading us to the conclusion, that even a show with a lower episode count of 13 episodes, can still be quite the disappointment. Nevertheless, with one to many subplots too count, misleading the audience a bit more than expected and not taking advantage of their own material and story direction. The third season still manages to be a fun and bloody ride of young and old witches wreaking havoc on the world.
Season 3 follows once again a new set of characters, with consistent flashbacks of their lives in the past. Set in present day New Orleans, we follow the day to day life of a witch Coven. The Coven's purpose is to keep witches united and safe from persecution.
Head of the Coven is the "Supreme" Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), with the school being run by her daughter Cordelia Goode (Sarah Paulson). Each witch has a special skill that they are noteworthy of, but only the supreme has all 7 powers combined. The witch coven though, isn't the only supernatural player in town. With them is the voodoo clan of Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). She too has the same goals as the witches of the Coven and many powers of her own.
With time their rivalry may fall or be heighten when a third player comes to town. As well as the Coven needing to be resurrected from the top down. With the Supreme's reign coming to an end and the ritual passing of the torch may commence.
No matter the current season's many wrongly taken creative decisions, it still overall had many great moments of horror, incredible performances by the well-respected cast and also with a great amount of superbly crafted, directed and orchestrated scenes. Being one of the few shows that take the step further, when it comes to arranging a scene from camera angles, to style, to framing and even to the colour palette and the era its located in. By and large these elements make "AHS" a rarity on Television.
However, even with an anthology season TV series, they're can always be dips in quality. Most likely I would say it was due to the over-amount of focus on too many characters, the quick killing off of some of those characters, the confusion the audience felt with who to root for and concentrating on subplots that led to nowhere or nowhere necessarily important enough. Resulting in the climax of the season being far too anticlimactic for a heavily enhanced and aspiring season of witchcraft. Which in hindsight, what the season needed most was Rob Zombie as a creative consultant after his spooky film "the Lords of Salem".
But all kidding aside, the season's biggest sin was in coordinating who would be the lead heroine. Especially when it had its characters come in and out of nowhere, killing others unexpectedly and raised many issues and scenarios that went nowhere. I'm not mentioning examples in fear of spoiling. As I like keeping my reviews to be an insight on the show or the movie and not a revelation of it. But just as with "Asylum", "AHS Coven". Brought many characters to the forefront and at times juggled with keeping in touch with all of them. A perfect example is last season’s subplot of the concentration camp prisoner, that came and left and this season's subplot of the mother and son neighbours. Both nice subplots by themselves, but they played no factor whatsoever to the overall story of the show and its conclusion.
Another complaint I have is with the structuring of the episodes. Which they've have done in a similar fashion since the beginning, but seems to be getting more and more obvious as the seasons progress. What I'm referring to is the flashback usage and its foreshadowing of the rest of the episode. Great example of that is last season with the wife of Evan Peters character. Where we find her with an ax in hand and blood all over her. Immediately afterwards we are anticipating her to kill someone, instead of it being left as a surprise. This season also had a couple of moments were they used this method to introduce characters or character behaviors. Notable example is with the voodoo demon and with Kathy Bates character's fascination with blood. My problem with this method to structure an episode, is that it steals the element of surprise from the audience. Either of a character introduction, character action, death or anything else. Plus, once done to many times it gets old.
Lastly a gripe of mine that I have had ever since, CGI came to the scene of horor films & TV. Is how it preventing the quality and pure rawness of horror to reach its peak. This is because of the inconsistent mixing of CGI blood and of the prosthetic and makeup effects. Best place to notice this great contrast is the episode of the meeting between the witch-hunters and the Supreme. Where a huge group of people get killed and its all done with CGI blood. Looking fake, making the scene lose grasp of reality and the integral aspect that violence is disgusting and vicious not be felt.
Immediately after the scene in question. A man has his neck cut out in the most violent manner possible with makeup and prosthetic involved and its one of the coolest horror effects I've ever seen. When there is this major contrast of style in the same episode and the very same scene! I have to call out the creator’s judgment and creativity into question and flat out say they are lazy. I understand time and scheduling come into play when dealing with makeup, but when you are a filmmaker and in the horror genre. You don't make monetary cuts to makeup effects. Except if! it’s an impossible effect or you’re on a really low budget production, or your talented enough to mix in the fake and the real together and finally if the overall style of the film or director is to use mainly CGI blood.
As of yet "Coven" is the coolest thematic narrative of the series, with witches, covens and voodoo. Sadly, it didn't turn out the way we all anticipated. It so happens that the clichéd and overdone "Haunted House" season and the crazy and psycho "Asylum" season were of higher quality. Not only thematically, but also in character focus, content originality and overall feel of the genre. Because of Season 3 lack of this strong elements and its connective tissue to them, it’s more a disappointment, than a failure.