The third season of American Horror Story (aka Coven) ended this week, with a shrug-worthy whimper. I’m too disappointed by all the wasted potential to write a full and impassioned critique of my own, but The AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff echoed many of my feelings in his review of the season finale. To shorthand it, I loved the idea of a boarding school for witches… I loved seeing so many gorgeous actresses gothed-up and throwing their magickal weight around… and I particularly loved Lily Rabe’s turn as a hippy-chick “swamp witch”, who managed to resurrect herself after being burned at the stake… but there was just too much other random crap interrupting and undermining that good stuff to make for a satisfying viewing experience. To quote TVDW:
“In the end, American Horror Story: Coven just didn’t have any f*cking clue what it wanted to be. It lurched drunkenly from idea to idea, never settling on one long enough to build anything of worth. “But, Todd!” you might say. “That was also true of Murder House and Asylum!” Which is sort of true. Both of those seasons kept adding weird bullshit right up until the very end. But in both cases, the show added items at the periphery, while keeping the core of the show more or less sound. Murder House was about a troubled family that moved into a haunted house, and while it was frequently ridiculous, it kept being about that, no matter how many pigmen hid in Eric Stonestreet’s shower. The even more successful Asylum was about a woman wrongly confined and the woman who confined her, tracing their twin arcs over decades of the country’s history and subjecting both of them to all sorts of traumas that revealed more and more of what they were truly made of, before bringing them to moments of unexpected release… The problem with Coven, then, is that it kept adding stuff to the core, and it ended up destabilizing everything, so that even the crazy stuff stopped being fun and just got sort of boring.”
Weirdly, a friend of mine claimed that this was the best season of AHS so far, and TVDW admits that his/our take on the show is by no means the consensus view: “I am apparently very much in the minority on this season if outside critical reaction, ratings, and comments sections at other websites are any indication. And that is more than fine! Like what you like! But if you try to argue with me that this season was somehow better than Asylum, you need to accept that your opinions are bad, and you should feel bad.” Amen, brother.