American Horror Story: Coven: Cunning Women With Un-cunning Plans
I have now figured out what about Coven truly bothers me this season... everyone in it is an idiot.
I'm not talking about the cast itself. Frankly, the show has never had a stronger cast. Between mainstays like Jessica Lange, Evan Peeters, Frances Conroy, and Denis O'Hare pulling off their usual magic and the newcomers like Gabourey Sidibe, Jamie Brewer, and Angela Bassett taking it to their limit the technical stagecraft involved in pulling off this story has never been greater. It's like money in the bank.
Here's the thing though... if you give the most badass soldier who ever lived a stone axe and told him to take down a 21st century army the odds are he is going to end up several hundreds flavors of dead. There's a reason 300 ends the way it did.
My point is that the writing is just plain awful, with less sense given to direction than Braille on a speed limit sign. There's a great moments of dialogue, certainly. I never get tired of Kathy Bates' as an ignorant, racist time-traveler baffled by everything from Barack Obama to Jack in the Box, and Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow is like a Time Lord hosting Project Runway while high on gin and stripped on ether. She's the main reason that I was sad there was no Christmas episode... God alone knows how someone that dedicated to gaudy baubles and pageantry would have planned to celebrate His birthday.
Then there's Danny Huston as the Axeman, who does in fact get to shine as a killer born for one blood soaked scene. Such puckish charm, such murderous exuberance. He's like Dexter if he spent all his free time cheering up in a bouncy castle. Aside from the moments when Sarah Paulson is the Zatoichi of witches (Which thanks to some new developments are a-coming 'round again), he's the best thing going on.
The problem is they perform all these miracles for exactly zero reason.
Leaving aside the fact that the resurrection powers of Misty Day rendered all killing in the show as meaningful as a promises to quit drinking made to the toilet you're currently vomiting into, I'm beginning to wonder if the writers have ever considered resolving a personal problem this season outside of murder.
The ghost of Spaulding convinces LaLaurie to try and kill Marie with crushed up Benadryl that he absolutely knows will not make her immortal. Why? Well, he knocks Marie out with a 19th Century doll and tells LaLaurie to bury her alive... making me wonder why the hell he didn't just do that in the first place. There have got to be better reasons for the camera to linger at Angela Bassett's chest other than having a butcher knife ineffectually buried in it.
Piece continues on next page.
Meanwhile, all the witches, who supposedly have circled the wagons to protect their precious coven, continue to try and run away, murder each other, set each other up, and then just for the heck of it preemptively kill the head of a giant corporation for fun. Death, death, martini, death, death, Jessica Lange being sexy, death, death, and more death. You could write this with a set of Cluedo cards and a roulette wheel.
Look, it's like this... you ever play a big online first-person shooter death match? It's fun, isn't it, all the shooting in the head with the rocket launchers and the tea-bagging of the corpses until they respawn. There's death and mayhem and cursing and all the glorious earmarks of war waged by people that are not actually being shot at or have anything to fear.
But those matches will never tell a story like a regular single-player campaign will. Endless gun-dicking is great for blowing off steam, but in a narrative there has to be a reason to die, a consequence for dying, and a pain to living.
Remove that and death isn't even scary anymore. Remove scary, and this show is just a soap opera with an R-Rating for graphic shots of entrails.
Still, I have high hopes for Cordelia now that she's re-blinded herself. Whenever Sarah Paulson is wounded in this show, you see exactly what scary truly is; it's her, living on to bring the pain. She's damn near our only hope left.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events