With the grace of a bull-headed man in a china shop, Ryan Murphy has returned with an all new season of American Horror Story. We've been eagerly anticipating AHS: Coven for months now, mostly because this witchy installment includes Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett and even more Jessica Lange.
American Horror Story has always been good at creating meaty and dynamic roles for women and Coven takes it one step further by hosting an almost entirely female cast (I'll miss you most of all, Zachary Quinto). That's reason enough to pay attention, but once you add on how Coven is all about witches getting shit done, the contest is over — this is already my favorite show on television (even if last night's episode proved that this is one of the worst shows on television).
The Coven premiere was...insensitive? Graphic? Exploitive? Yes, yes and yes. The fact that Murphy and Co. were able to include a rape, racism, fat jokes and a bizarre Hurricane Katrina tie-in all in one episode would be impressive if it wasn't so offensive. Still, I almost have to respect the show's willingness to go so balls-to-the-wall campy in the very first episode. (Or I would respect it if I still wasn't trying to crawl out of my own skin.)
Even with all that, there was still some badass witchery to behold, which leads us to our new weekly ranking — Queen of the Coven: Who's the Baddest Witch?
We begin where we should always begin — with Jessica Lange. Lange plays Fiona Goode, a highly powerful and highly glamorous witch who is obsessed with finding a magical way around aging, which, well, yaaaaaawn. Jessica Lange makes getting older look so good that watching her freak out about it doesn't quite compute, but oh, well. I guess that's her deal.
Fiona is the Supreme, which means she's widely recognized by the witch community as the baddest witch (and baddest bitch) around. Unfortunately, all that power and strength doesn't stop her from losing her mind, dancing around to "In A Gadda Da Vida" and draining the life out of innocent people all to stop herself from getting forehead lines.
Why she's the baddest: Fiona is Head Bitch in Charge (30 points) and she has the whole magic thing down pat. She can use her mind to throw people into walls (7 points), she can literally suck the life out of you (15 points) and she wears very sexy skirt suits (4 points). Total points: 56
Why she's not: Fiona is petty (-3 points). She's so petty that she'll resurrect a vicious serial killer from her grave (more on that later) all to get her secret of eternal youth (-20 points). Total points: -23
Final Verdict: 33 points or not quite bad enough (at least not in a cool way)
Cordelia Foxx — surprisingly not a porn witch — is Fiona's daughter. Though they share a bloodline, the two have chosen very different paths. While Fiona is more the "Will Literally Suck the Life Out of You to Get What She Wants" type, Cordelia has chosen to educate young witches at New Orleans' Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies (Hogwarts for the Depraved) by teaching them to hone in on their power and hide who they are. If she fails, IT WILL BE SALEM ALL OVER AGAIN. (This sentiment was repeated exactly one million times.)
Why she's the baddest: Cordelia comes off as level headed (+2) and kind (+2). She seems to genuinely care about her charges (+6) and the threatened future of witchy-kind (+6). Total points: 16
Why she's not: So far, she is very boring (-20). Total points: -20
Final Verdict: -4 or not very bad at all.
Madison (unfortunately played by known boyfriend puncher Emma Roberts) is a Lindsay Lohan-eque, hard-living starlet who gets whisked away to Miss Robichaux's by her publicist after using her secret telekinetic powers to murder a director. Okay, that's ridiculous, but sure — I am on board. Now that she lives in the Big Easy, she really misses partying (because if there's one thing that's hard to find in New Orleans, it's a wild night out). To her relief, she gets "tweeted an invite to a frat party." (What? Tweeted invites? Was this episode written by someone who's only read about 2013 and hasn't actually lived in it?)
That's where her real trouble begins. At the party, Madison is roofied and graphically raped by a group of frat boys. (Seriously? Y'all couldn't wait until, like, episode four for this shit?) It was terrible and disgusting and honestly made me question why I even watch this show. Fortunately (and I use the word lightly), she gets her revenge by using her powers to murder the entire frat. You win some, you lose some? Never mind — everybody loses and now I'm off to sit under a running shower with all of my clothes on.
Why she's the baddest: Madison will make people pay for hurting her, even if it means overturning a speeding party only using the power of her mind (+100). Total points: 100
Why she's not: She doesn't care much about innocent bystanders (-7), she's a selfish asshole (-2) and she's played by known boyfriend puncher Emma Roberts (-11). Total points: -21
Final Verdict: 79 or bad and getting badder.
Taissa Farmiga (of AHS: Murder House) is back as Zoe, the emotionally tortured teenage girl who discovers she's a witch while losing her virginity (long story short: Zoe's vagina is lethal and her boyfriend ends up bleeding to death out of his eyeballs). Her mother decides it's best if she's sent to Miss Robichaux's and has her picked up by the goooorgeous Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) and a team of security guards who are all albino black men. How fetishizing!
Zoe goes with Madison to the frat party where she meets Kyle. Kyle is played by the adorable Evan Peters, who — sidebar — once refused to make eye contact with me outside a coffee shop. Does that mean we're dating? Let's just say it means we're dating. Anyway, this is a bit of a romantic reunion seeing how Farmiga and Peters also played love interests back in season one.
Kyle is a member of the same frat as Madison's rapists, but he's one of the good ones. In fact, he's the only good one, as demonstrated by the fact that he breaks up Madison's assault and is then beaten unconscious by his monstrous frat brothers. His goodness doesn't help him in the end — he gets murdered by Madison alongside the rest of them. RIP Kyle.
Zoe — who fell instantly for that blond, cow-eyed moppet — is heartbroken and goes to the hospital where the one surviving member of Madison's attack lies in a coma. Wouldn't you know it — the only one who made it is the same one who roofied Madison in the first place. His good luck doesn't last long. To avenge Kyle (and Madison, too), Zoe straddles him and magic-vaginas him to death.
Why she's the baddest: Zoe will defend the people she loves (+20) and she looks very good in a hat (+4). She also has some good one-liners (+3) and seems like a decent person (+5). Total points: 32
Why she's not: Um, using your witch vagina to rape a rapist who is in a coma still counts as rape — I mean, I'm not crying over his suffering or anything, but the whole thing is pretty questionable (-12). She is also super emo (-4) and gets attached way too easily (-2). Total points: -18
Final Verdict: 14. Not very bad, but there's potential for future badditude.
Kathy Baaaaaaaaaates! Bates plays Madame LaLaurie, an actual New Orleans historical figure who, legend has it, brutally tortured and murdered slaves in the mid-18o0s. The truth of these allegations have been called into question, but the myths persists — and honestly, it's hard to care too much about the soiled reputation of a slave owner. Coven buys into the legend 10-fold, portraying LaLaurie as an evil sadist who tortures black men in a dungeon, all so she can a.) exercise her cruelty and b.) use their blood and organs to create an eternal youth serum because you know ladies — they hate aging/love senseless murder.
LaLaurie eventually fucks with the wrong the wrong guy. Not because he rescues himself (no, his fate — having a dead bulls head planted over his own — is absolutely horrifying), but because his lover (Angela Bassett) is a powerful Voudon who gets revenge by poisoning LaLaurie and — I think this is what happens, but someone will have to clarify — burying her alive for what's supposed to be eternity. Unforch, Jessica Lange comes along and digs her up, so Bassett would have been much more effective if she just chopped the woman's head off.
Why she's the baddest: She's truly evil, but she's also a total coward for preying on the vulnerable so no points there. I'm also not sure if she's even a witch. Still, she is Kathy Bates and being Kathy Bates is worth a hundred points. Total points: 100
Why she's not: But fuck her (-100) and fuck this whole element of the show (-100). I love historical horror as much as the next person, but to portray a bunch of faceless black men (and some of them are literally faceless — like, they've had their faces CUT OFF) who never get a voice or backstory is just exploitive nonsense (-1000).
Final Verdict: -1,2000
Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) is widely considered the most famous voodoo queen in New Orleans history and she is undeniably badass. Not only does she take out LaLaurie with ease (side note: while both her and LaLaurie are based on real people, their relationship is entirely fictional), she also doesn't turn her back on her newly minotaur'd boyfriend. Previews suggest that she survives into 2013, still as powerful and stunning as ever. (Speaking of eternal youth, the real-life Angela Bassett does not seem to age.)
Why she's the baddest: She takes out LaLaurie without hesitation (+100), is probably immortal (+150). Total points: 250
Why she's not: She probably should have picked a more final end for LaLaurie (-10), otherwise too soon to tell. Total points: -10
Final Verdict: 240 or Queen Witch.
But the winner?
ONE BILLION POINTS FOR SERVING UP SOME GRACE CODDINGTON REALNESS.
(Honorable mentions: Gabourey Sidibe as Queenie, Jamie Brewer as Nan and Lily Rabe as Misty Day — also not a porn witch. All three have cool powers, but none of them have gotten enough screen time to showcase them.)