Review: American Horror Story – Coven

Each season of the series deepens the mystery, creating more questions than answers


Normally when watching a TV-series people are used to three or more seasons of a show that  consists of the same beloved characters experiencing either hardships or comic situations depending on the show’s genre. The F/X Network show American Horror Story, however is not that type of series: it’s an anthology serial, composed of several interrelated short stories, making each season different than the previous. Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, bases most of his characters and stories on real criminals and events. The show is now in its third season, and has already been picked up by F/X for a fourth.

Season One’s central theme is infidelity and takes place in 2011. It follows the Harmon family: Ben, a psychologist, his wife Vivien, and teenage daughter Violet. The family moves from Boston to Los Angeles after Vivien has a miscarriage and Ben has an affair. The house they move into is referred as “Murder House” because of all the previous horrific deaths that have occurred there. In this season, the family meets the neighbor Constance and her daughter Addie who seems to always get inside the house. Violet meets and falls for Constance’s son Tate who also happens to be one of Ben’s patients. Soon the family finds out that the house is inhabited by the ghosts of the people who have died there.

S1 was great: it was intriguing and kept the audience on the edge waiting, with many mysteries to be solved. It also felt as if you were walking through the middle of the hallway where there are a number of doors and each one is a surprise. At its end, it left several storylines unresolved.

Much anticipation was built for Season Two, subtitled Asylum. Most viewers expected the previous storyline to continue, but were shock that not only was the series set in a different time period but all the characters were also different, despite having many of S1’s actors returning, but playing different roles. Set in 1964, Asylum is about insanity, following the patients, doctors, and nuns of Briarcliff Mental Institution, founded for the criminally insane. The start of S2 is set in the present time, with a couple entering the now-condemned asylum before it switches back to 1964 where the asylum was still active.

There the audience meets Sister Jude, the strict nun who monitors the patients, her assistant Sister Mary Eunice, and Monsignor Timothy Howard, the founder of the institution. The doctors treating the patients are psychiatrist Oliver Thredson and medical doctor Arthur Arden. Among the  patients are Lana Winters, a journalist sent to the institution for being a lesbian, accused serial killer Kit Walker, and Grace Bertrand, accused of killing her entire family. At first the series was confusing because there were many twists and turns, jumping ahead to the future then back to the past, like walking through a neverending maze of space and time. Some of the patients’ stories were told but not all — it was disappointing that not all were dramatized. S2 was completely different from S1: it was very strange seeing the actors as new different characters, and while the ending was more of a conclusion than S1’s, it was still left as a cliffhanger.

Like any good series, American Horror Story keeps the audience wanting more, but can be very confusing at times when you don’t understand what’s going to happen next, with every episode always being a surprise. Season 3, subtitled Coven,  premiered in early October. Coven’s central theme is oppression, revolving around a small group of girls who are witches, the last of their kind, their origins going all the way back to Salem, Massachusetts. Like the previous two seasons, many of the same actors from S1 and S2 have returned, but in different roles than they played before.

So far, I would say S3 is the best, focusing more on character drama and less on gruesomeness. Taking place in the city of New Orleans, it set more in the present than the past, with the witches in conflict with voodoo spiritualists.

In all three seasons, each episode is unique, following up on the previous one but also adding new and different storylines. At times, I feel as if they should go back to the previous seasons and finish the storyline or add more to it — we get attached to a character who is then quickly taken away from us, and we are forced to accept the new one knowing that they too will be taken away in a flash as well. Every episode is a cliffhanger that keeps the audience waiting for Wednesday nights, the whole experience different from any other show, like being caught up in a whirlwind where you never know where you’re going to end up.