Ryan Murphy has been cursed. Whatever TV show he's working on, after a couple of great seasons he just goes beyond weird, bizarre and "what the fuck?". Luckily, American Horror Story has always been abnormal, to say the least, so the fact that Murphy's curse has started to affect it almost doesn't bother me.
All of the (significant) regulars shined in the first episode: Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy and Lily Rabe; many of the first season cast members are also back: Taissa Farmiga, Denis O'Hare and Jamie Brewer.
The episode begins with the flashback to the 19th century where Madame Delphine LaLaurie (portrayed by Kathy Bates) is torturing her black servants and turns one of them into Minotaur. This all gotta mean that the Great American Horror of this season is slavery.
In our days, Zoe Benson (Farmiga) inadvertently kills her boyfriend: she's a witch and her gift is the ability to cause men's blood seek its way out through the eyes, nose and ears when they have sex with her. This got to be the worst gift ever! Anyway, she's been sent to New Orleans special boarding school for witches. She meets a few fellow students: bloodthirsty teen movie star Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), the living voodoo doll Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and the girl who knows everything about everyone else and doesn't hesitate to make the information public Nan (Brewer). The school is run by Cordelia Foxx (Paulson) who's teaching girls to keep their heads low and use their gifts carefully. She tells them the story of a girl called Misty (Rabe) who wasn't careful enough when bringing dead things back to life and was burnt.
Meanwhile, Cordelia's mother, the Supreme witch Fiona (Lange) is on the quest for everlasting youth. She turns to science with all the stem cell nonsense, which naturally brings nothing but disappointment. Eventually, she comes to the witch school determined to teach the girls, despite her daughter's objections. (BTW, Fiona was the one to bring the name of Hogwarts up; self irony detected).
Madison and Zoe attend some party where the latter meets a nice frat boy Kyle (Peters), while the former is being gang raped by his pals. Kyle intervenes the activity and ends up being knocked out on the bus floor as the boys try to escape. Madison then uses her magic and flips the bus over. Tragic.
The next morning Fiona takes the girls to the LaLaurie house. The tour guide reveals Madame's miserable ending: one day the black witch who happened to be in love with the guy who turned to half bull half human avenged his suffering. But she did not kill the sadist socialite. Nan heard LaLaurie's cry for help from six feet under and showed Fiona where she's buried alive. Fiona with the help of two guys digs the damned woman out.
Zoe visits the hospital where the only two survivors of the bus crash were said to be. She prays for Kyle to be alive, but we all know that the worst ones always live: the rape initiator was still breathing instead. She can't let him go on, so she sits on top of him and uses her magic powers to drain him from his blood.
In my opinion, a few things were off: for example, Fiona seems to be able to magically convince people to do something for her (e.g. give the tour for free), yet she had to blackmail the scientist to give her the the treatment. I also think Zoe's gift is extremely uncool and I don't get why she would use it in the hospital, 'cause there are so many other ways to kill an unconscious guy. If they were going for the "poetic justice" of sorts, as the guy was kind of raped too, it didn't feel that way, not really. Finally, I didn't enjoy the occasional first person narration (I hate it in movies), all the more so, because Farmiga is not particularly good at monologues.
Clearly, Misty and Kyle are not really dead and there are so many spoilers by Murphy and the cast this season that we don't even have to doubt it.
Also, Coven reminds Murder House very much, not only because the actors from the first season are back, not only because of Farmiga and Peters duet, but because the characters personality-wise are very similar to those from the first season. Fiona is very Constance, Zoe is very Violet, Spalding at least as ugly as Larry and even Cordelia resembles Billie Dean.
All the minor issues aside, American Horror Story seems to be the only watchable series this season, so there's no surprise the premiere broke the show's ratings record: the viewers count was up by 44% comparing to the Asylum debut. I liked the glam, the witch stuff, the cast and characters and I'm very excited to see what happens next.