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American Horror Story: Coven is the third season of Ryan Murphy's acclaimed anthology series. It follows a group of girls who are witches, and, as such, have unique supernatural powers. They attend a small school for girls like them in New Orleans, and must deal with the trappings of what inevitably happens when unstable teenagers are given immense destructive power. Things only become more complicated when the Supreme, an incredibly powerful witch with all of their powers and much disdain for the human race, decides to move in and teach them how to defend themselves in the wake of a modern-day witch burning.The story proper begins in the 1830s, with New Orleans socialite Delphine LaLaurie, who is working to marry her daughters off to wealthy men. She tries to make herself younger using blood, and puts her slaves through horrific torture, sewing their mouths shut and using them in Satanic rituals. One of the slaves she tortures is the lover of New Orleans voodoo queen Marie LaVeau, who enacts brutal revenge on LaLaurie. We then fast-forward to the modern day and a teenage girl named Zoe Benson whose boyfriend dies during sex. The authorities chalk it up as a brain aneurism, but her family explains that she was actually the one who killed him, albeit unintentionally. They are actually from a line of witches. Sometimes the powers skip a generation, but Zoe was not so fortunate, and now must travel to the above-mentioned school in order to learn how to control her abilities.
American Horror Story: Coven provides the following tropes:
Joan and Luke Ramsey's subplot is rather abruptly ended when Joan smothers Luke and Nan kills Joan as revenge.
Delphine has a slow redemption arc through her friendship with Queenie which seems to come to a head with her weeping with emotion while being forced to watch movies about black oppression to try and force her to empathise with coloured people but right afterwards she goes back to cutting people up.
The Minotaur. After being featured in almost all of the trailers, posters, and spots, the character had only brief appearances in three episodes before being revived in the present and then killed by Fiona , then disappearing from the show.
The same can be said to Kaylee, who was killed almost immediately.
It's hard not to feel sorry for The Axe-Man after he has his heart broken by Fiona and kills her out of rage. And despite the fact he did exactly what the coven wanted to happen, they end up killing the man anyway while he's defenseless and still suffering from his breakdown. Gets more to a head when you find out it was a memory implanted from her to fake her own death to find out whom the next Supreme was.
Fiona. She finally has a heartwarming conversation with her daughter before dying as they embrace. And then it's revealed that she's going to spend all of eternity locked away inside a cabin at the mercy of the Axe-Man.
Ancient Conspiracy: The Witch-hunters claim their organization predates the Salem Witch Trials.
Anyone Can Die: Zig-Zagged at first. While the show had no problem killing off the characters, quite a few of them came Back from the Dead, thanks to Misty Day. However, from "Head" onwards, it's pretty much played straight, with the final 5 episodes seeing the permanent deaths of many significant characters, 4 of them in the finale alone! By the end of the season, only Cordelia, Queenie, Zoe and Kyle are alive.
The Artifact: Evan Peters. It's pretty obvious the writers felt obligated to hang onto him, since he'd been a regular cast member since season 1, but they seemed to have pretty much nothing to do with him for this season, since the story revolved entirely around female characters. So, he spent most of the season suffering from severe brain damage, and we see him about once an episode to remember that, yes, he's still on the show.
Artistic License – Biology: Dead bodies decompose extremely fast in swampy New Orleans soil, making Marie's army of zombies ( especially Delphine's daughters) very improbable.
Artistic License – History: The black mob that killed LaLaurie's family and imprisoned her is implausible to the point of absurdity. If any such mob had formed in 1830s New Orleans and attacked a fabulously wealthy woman and her family (of aristocratic French pedigree, no less) in the heart of New Orleans' most upper-class districts, the consequences would have been very dire indeed, but not for LaLaurie and her family. Still, justified in that Marie Laveau has magic.
The historical Marie Laveau was a devout Catholic and incorporated Catholicism into her rituals. Aside from a cross incorporated into her throne, the Marie of Coven doesn't display any religious convictions.
The Axe-Man of New Orleans really did publicly threaten to kill someone in a house that was not playing Jazz on March 19, 1919. However, in the show he was killed by the Coven that morning and that explains his sudden disappearance. In reality, he didn't commit a murder that day, but did commit three more attacks afterwards before disappearing.
Artistic License – Religion - Papa Legba does not trade immortality for innocent souls...just...no... He isn't even a Death God. That's Baron Samedi. This is particularly bizarre because Samedi is usually the only Loa that shows up in Hollywood Voodoo, and Legba was dressed like Samedi in this depiction. Why they didn't just make him Samedi is anyone's guess.
The Big Easy: The primary setting. The only supernatural element the city is associated with missing is vampires.
Bittersweet Ending: Ultimately averted, in contrast to the other AHS seasons. Cordelia is the Supreme and leads the Coven into a golden age; Fiona gets her comeuppance; and Zoe and Queenie become the new Council. What might dip this into bittersweet territory is that Myrtle is executed for her murder of the corrupted witch's council, but she demanded it for the sake of Cordelia, and was happy to oblige. Misty also got stuck in Hell during the Seven Wonders test, killing a frog and reviving it on a loop. Also, for the Madison fans out there, Madison was killed by Kyle.
Big "NO!": Kyle when he finally snaps from his mom's sexual abuse and kills her. It's the first word he says since his resurrection.
Black Comedy: While American Horror Story has never been a stranger to dark humor, this season plays it up even more strongly than previous seasons.
Blatant Lies: Fiona and Marie's explanation for Nan's death after they drowned her is pretty weak, to say the least.
Fiona: "And so it is with great sadness we must say goodbye to Nan... [Beat] who fell in the tub.
Nan is clairvoyant, which causes her to get severely affected by the cries of deceased souls, such as those that still haunt Madame LaLaurie's house, as well as the thoughts of other people she hears constantly.
The whole concept of the Supreme; you get unlimited power, but also a shortened life, and you have to die in order for the next Supreme to come into her powers.
Blind Seer: After Cordelia is blinded in an acid attack, she develops clairvoyant powers that let her see things she refused to accept. She calls it a "bad cosmic joke".
And this came after she got into an argument with Queenie that led to Queenie demonstrating her "human voodoo doll" powers (she stabbed herself with a fork but only injured Madison, then threatened to slash her own throat to drive the point home further). Then later, she got telekinetically thrown into a wall after insulting Fiona, not knowing she was sassing the Supreme of witches.
A young girl, Misty Day, who did not understand her powers as a witch was actually hunted down by religious fundamentalists and burnt alive—in modern day America. This is what motivates Fiona to teach the girls how to defend themselves.
Myrtle Snow was burned alive by her own coven. Twice.
Butt Monkey: Cordelia. And to a lesser degree, Madame LaLaurie.
Call Back: In "Bitchcraft", Madison expresses her irritation with Nan's comments by saying "yeah, we get it, you're clairvoyant", however in "Head", the midseason finale, the reanimated Madison defends Nan's powers to Joan by saying "Bitch, she's clairvoyant".
An inter-seasonal one. In Asylum, Grace is murdered mid-sentence by an axe to the back. In Coven, Fiona is murdered mid-sentence by an axe to the back.
So far, a character has said the lines "This is wrong. It's all wrong," in every season of American Horror Story. Nora Montgomery when she wanders her house and witnesses it change over the ages, Sister Jude after she's taken to her old office and finds it changed after the Church sold Briarcliff to the state and discovers that two years have passed, and Misty Day when she returns from being burned from the stake and encounters the alligator poachers.
Came Back Wrong: Kyle and in a fashion, Madison. Suggested in "Head" with Myrtle.
She later does manage to have sex with Kyle and Madison, since they are already dead(ish).
Carpet-Rolled Corpse: Fiona murders Madison in cold blood and the body is promptly rolled up in a carpet by the butler/secret-keeper Spalding and taken away. The carpet is obviously missing afterward, which baffles the others in the house.
Casting Gag: As in Asylum, the creators love to re-cast the actors in roles playing off their previous characters.
In Murder House, Evan Peters tries and fails to save Taissa Farmiga, but the house resurrects her as a ghost. In Coven, Taissa tries and fails to save Evan, but her friend resurrects him as a zombie.
In Asylum, Peters eventually ends up in a three-way relationship with two women, with two of the three having been resurrected from the dead. In Coven, he again winds up in a three way relationship with two different women, again with two of the three having been resurrected.
In Asylum, Sarah Paulson is raped by Dr. Threadson, and spends the remainder of the season trying unsuccessfully to abort his child, who grows up to be evil. In Coven, she is barren and tries unsuccessfully to cast a fertility spell.
In Asylum, Lily Rabe plays Sister Eunice, who was possessed by the Devil, and ultimately killed and then cremated. In Coven, she plays Misty Day, and her first scene is her character being accused of demonic possession and being burned alive.
In Murder House, Jessica Lange (Constance) and Jaime Brewer(Adelaide) play mother and daughter, respectively, and when Adelaide dies from a hit-and-run, Constance is grief stricken. However, in Coven, evil Fiona(Lange) is the Supreme witch, a leader and mother figure of sorts, to Nan(Brewer). Fiona ends up drowning Nan in cold blood to use her soul for a sacrifice.
In Murder House, Alexandra Breckenridge (Young Moira) dies from a bullet to the head after a married man tries to rape her and his wife catches them. In Coven, the married man is her lover, she doesn't know he's married, and he's the one who kills herï¿½ by shooting her in the head.
Both of Denis O'Hare's characters are physically deformed (burn scars in Murder House and no tongue in Coven) and in love with Jessica Lange. Who takes advantage of them, using them as her Igor.
In Murder House, Jamie Brewer's character Adelaide (who lives next door to the main characters) is locked in a closet by her mother as punishment. In Coven, Nan finds Luke (who lives next door to the main characters) locked in the closet by his own abusive mother.
In Asylum, Evan Peters' character Kit takes in a sick and out-of-her mind Jude out of his good heart and his children restore her her sanity. In Coven Fiona seemingly restores Kyle's mind, but it's suggested her intentions are much less altruistic.
Not a specific actor but both Murder House and Coven have the spirit of a dead killer residing in the house, who falls in love with one of the girls that moves in.
In "Murder House," they put Taissa Farmiga in a lot of hats. In "Coven," they put her in even more.
Central Theme: Oppression of minorities (women and people of colour) and power and how it corrupts people.
Dawson Casting: While not dealing with teenagers, the real Marie Laveau would have been in her 30s wehn Madame La Laurie's crimes were discovered. She's played by Angela Bassett, whose in her 50s.
Deader Than Dead: Due to the revolving-door nature of death on this show, it seems the only way to ensure that the newly-departed won't be resurrected is to obliterate the body, such as with acid, cremation, or feeding it to alligators.
Averted. When Zoe forces herself upon one of the frat boys in the hospital as revenge for what he did to Madison, causing him to bleed from every orifice and die, the show doesn't treat it as wrong, but that's strictly due to Protagonist-Centered Morality with a touch of Pay Evil unto Evil, not a gender-based double standard. (Particularly given that it was really more "murder" than "rape" anyway.)
Also averted with Kyle's mother's sexual abuse of him, which is used to present her as an incestuous creep and an Asshole Victim.
Cordelia's completely unable to gain her mother's approval for anything, as well as having been "bitchslapped" by her a few times, resulting in a completely unstable relationship with her. At one point, Cordelia even plans to kill her mother to save the Coven.
Misty's grown up on the swamp, away from civilization with strange powers that make it so she has no friends (her parents aren't there, either). Because of that, she is desperate to not be alone and will do absolutely anything to make one friend (she also breaks down when anyone who could even possibly be her friend leaves her.)
If Madison can be trusted, her mother was doing a plethora of drugs and blaming it all on her daughter, resulting in, as Queenie put it, a "stone cold bitch."
Although we don't get many details, Queenie claims to have come from a broken home. Because of this, she eats a lot, telling Madame La Laurie that the problem isn't food, it's not getting enough love in her childhood.
Cordelia has a jar of acid thrown at her face, blinding her, at the end of "Fearful Pranks Ensue".
Myrtle Snow gouges out the eyes of Cecily and Quentin with a melon baller during "Head".
Cordelia again, stabbing out her eyes with gardening shears in "Protect the Coven".
Face Death with Dignity: Harris Renard. After he sees all his witch hunters get slaughtered right before his eyes, he calmly gets a cup of tea and admits that Fiona and Marie bested him, shortly before Fiona kills him.
Also, Myrtle Snow, with regards to her second burning at the stake.
Fake Guest Star: Angela Bassett (Marie Laveau), Gabourey Sidibe (Queenie) and Jamie Brewer (Nan) are billed as guest stars despite appearing in more episodes than some of the actors who are billed as the stars.
Fantastic Racism: The Voodoo Queen's kind and Witches aren't exactly on good terms at the moment. It also has undertones of normal racism, as voodoo seems to be practiced mostly (or exclusively) by black people, whereas the witches (being descendants of the Salem witches) are mostly white women.
More a case of Un Equal Rites - Marie once referred to herself as a witch, and the Salem descendants have referred to the New Orleans Voodoo community as witches. Marie once helped Fiona with a spell.
In "Bitchcraft", Queenie threatens to slash Madison's throat. At the end of "The Replacements", Fiona murders Madison by slashing her throat.
Myrtle claims that if she could pluck out her eyes and give them to Cordelia she would. In the same episode, she gouges out the eyes of the other Council members to replace Cordelia's damaged eyes.
Friendless Background: Misty's only friend before she joins the Coven is Stevie Nicks. Really, you can just assume that anything having to do with being lonely or having no friends is a trope that fits Misty.
Gender-Restricted Ability: Mostly. Two warlocks have been seen (one of them in flashback) compared to dozens of female witches.
Historical In-Joke: Like Murder House, Coven provides a supernatual explanation for a famous mystery: Who was the Axeman and why did he retire? He was a drifting Jazz musician who was himself murdered by a witch coven
Hollywood Homely: In-Universe. Delphine refers to her daughters as "plainfaced" and refers to one of them as having the "face of a hippo," but when we actually see them they're all fairly attractive.
Hope Spot: Misty's "hope spot" for a friend is when Kyle finds her in the woods. However, he, in a flashback to traumatic events, destroys the shack she lives on and crushes her "eight-track player" and "Leather and Lace" tape, making her see him as a monster, seeing as Stevie Nicks is, of course, her only friend.
Hot Witch: Majority of the characters. Take your pick.
A House Divided: As the episodes wear on, the in-fighting and betrayal becomes more and more prominent. Until they start killing one another off.
At one point, the person she believes could be her only friend breaks a multitude of items in the place the calls home when he has a flashback to his mother's sexual abuse; among these items was her eight-track player and her "Leather and Lace" recording, thus making it seem to her that her connection with the most important thing to her, Stevie Nicks, was broken. However, by the end of the series, she ends up making a few more friends after joining the Coven.
Indulgent Fantasy Segue: As Laveau explains the fertility ritual to Cordelia, the latter pictures herself successfully performing it. Only for Laveau to yank the rug out at the end of the conversation and say 'Not for you, at any price.'
Queenie travels to hell in the penultimate episode and the finale, and finds herself in a former fast food restaurant described by Papa Legba as the worst part of her life.
Delphine LaLaurie and Marie LaVeau experience the same Hell. The virulent racist LaLaurie is imprisoned in her own torture chamber, while LaVeau is her torturer, robbing her of her righteousness.
In the finale, one of the Seven Wonders requires going to Hell and back. Quennie's Hell is described above, Madison's is being cast in a terrible network TV adaptation of The Sound of Music, Zoe's is having Kyle break up with her over and over, Misty's is being sent back to middle school to vivisect and revive a frog for all eternity, and Cordelia's is being told by her mother Fiona how worthless she is. Misty never makes it back, she just can't let that frog die.
Fiona's Hell is being forced to spend eternity in a loveless marriage to the Axeman, living in a smelly shack.
Jerk Jock: The group of frat brothers who gang rape Madison. Except for Kyle.
The frat brothers who gang raped Madison, save for Kyle, who was also killed despite having tried to save her.
Later on it's revealed that Delphine, the woman who inflicted unspeakable tortures upon her slaves in the 1830s, died when she was poisoned by Marie Laveau, a voodoo medicine woman who'd given her a poison in the guise of a love potion as revenge for Delphine's mutilation of her lover. Then it turns out that she was alive the entire time, Buried Alive under her manor and freed by Fiona.
The two poachers in the second episode are killed when Misty resurrects the gators they'd killed.
Kick the Dog: When Marie explains to Cordelia—who's desperate to conceive—how the voodoo spell for fertility works, and how much money she charges for it, only to laugh in her face and refuse to perform the spell for any price due to her bad blood with Fiona.
Killed Off for Real: Rather hard to determine in this show, due to the fact that one of the main characters can bring back the dead and does so on a regular basis. The ones we can confirm have no chance of coming back so far:]]
Surprisingly, Spalding. When he regains his tongue in "The Dead", he proceeds to chew on his every line. "OUUUR SUPREEME."
Myrtle Snow may love a key lime pie more than an ile flottante but her favourite dessert is clearly the scenery.
Lighter and Softer: Especially compared to the previous season. Ryan Murphy even said this season would be lighter and more "evil glamour."
Magic and Powers: As is to be expected. Comes in more than one flavor in the show:
Ritual Magic: Favored by Marie Laveau and the voodoo practitioners. The Salem Coven also use it to a lesser degree.
Witch Species: The Salem Witches are born with certain magical powers; so far, Telekinesis, Pyrokinesis, Clairvoyance, Injury Transferance, Mind Control, Sight, Resurgence, Life Drinking, Teleportation, Illusionism, and a Killer Vagina have been used.
Masquerade: Witches have to hide their powers to avoid another witch-hunt. This might also be why, despite Fiona's scoffing, Marie is content with owning a single hair salon in a rough part of town; it lets her keep a low profile.
Men Are the Expendable Gender: By the end of the season, every single male character has died, one of them twice, and the only one still alive at the end was killed in the first episode.
Excluding of course, Papa Legba who's still kicking around by the end of the season, although it could be argued he's not a man, he's a God
Missing Mom: Many characters' mothers are unseen, but the only one who's definitely gone is Misty's.
Mugging the Monster: The Ax-Man tried to kill the wrong woman and ended up being killed by the entire coven of witches. His spirit was trapped in there until freed later on.
Never Speak Ill of the Dead: After Fiona's death, the girls of the coven describe Fiona as a great Supreme. Subverted by Cordelia, who tells them that she was the worst thing to ever happen to the coven.
Never Trust a Trailer: The "Initiation" trailer" shows dozens of girls walking into the school and Marie, Fiona, and Delphine standing together in black dresses and masquerade masks, implying that they would be teachers, or are at least working together. There are only four students at the school in the present day, and out of the three older women, only one of them—Fiona—is actually connected to the school, and none of them are on particularly friendly terms.
However, the Initiation Trailer may have been incredible foreshadowing of the events of "The Seven Wonders", since tons of girls arrive at the school (the girls from all over America), Cordelia opens the door, (She's the Supreme), Kyle inside the house looking out at the new arrivals (he's the new butler), Zoe and Queenie are the only two of the initial four girls to wear the "witch uniforms"(Madison and Nan wear their own clothes) which possibly tells us they would live on to help solidify the coven during its golden age as the new council, and Fiona, Delphine and Marie with masks and black clothing, all "up in the sky" (they're all dead, in hell).
New Powers as the Plot Demands: One of the show's biggest criticisms. Most witches are born with a single power that they can perform without ritual. It was originally a big deal that Madison could perform several powers at once, making the others think she'd be the next Supreme, but by the end of the season, all the younger witches were suddenly sprouting multiple powers out of nowhere.
Kyle is the only fraternity member who stops the other members gang raping Madison and tries to seize the video of it. He ends up getting killed by Madison in the bus crash.
Luke takes a bullet for Nan and ends up in the hospital. When he finally wakes up, his own mother kills him because he found out what happened to his father.
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: While most of the witches aren't necessarily from Louisiana, none of the frat boys in the first episode sound remotely Southern. Even the alligator hunters sound nothing like they would in real life.
Truth in Television: Many young people in the US don't have the accent that is associated with their location despite having lived there their whole lives. This is thought to be because people are watching more and more television and therefore ending up with the generic American accent heard on most TV shows.
With the Frat Boys, this is more than likely a Justified Trope. New Orleans' universities attract a lot of out of state students.
Nothing After Death: Madison claims this after her death, but given that the Axe-Man was lingering until they freed him it's arguable.
This could be Madison's version of hell; after all, an attention whore's greatest fear must be a place where she can attract no attention because she's all alone.
After the frat boys rape Madison, they get back in their party bus and boot the driver before taking off. This coincidentally saves the innocent driver from Madison's wrath.
So long as Misty's around, the main cast has no need to fear death. Just ask Madison and Myrtle.
Unless of course one were to turn the remains to ashes, dissolve them in acid, or otherwise decompose them. In the words of Misty herself, "Even I can't bring back gator shit." Just ask Luke, or the Council Members.
Police Are Useless: Averted. The NOPD figure out everything that happened in the party and the hospital in a matter of a couple of days and break Zoe with ease. This forces Fiona to intervene.
Protagonist-Centered Morality: Tons of. Fiona, Madison, Marie Laveau, Zoe, Queenie, and Misty are all some combination of murderer, rapist, or torturer, and the morality of their actions is never really brought up, only their recklessness. Aside from a few of Fiona's murders and Kyle's death, none are portrayed in anything like a negative light. Indeed, they tend to congratulate each other on their horrific deeds. Even Nan doesn't call out Queenie for effectively sticking a man's hand into a deep-fat fryer for at least a full minute. And all this is apparently because they're witches.
Hank goes on a rampage and murders all the voodoo witches in order to erase them as a threat to Cordelia, fully knowing he might die, and does.
Queenie attempts to invoke this in Delphine, by telling her she won't kill her until she gives up her racist beliefs.
Redemption Rejection: Twice in the penultimate episode. Queenie tries to get Delphine to renounce her racism, the Axe-Man tries to get Fiona to leave with him. Both reject the offer, and are murdered for it.
Sequel Hook: Sort-of. Originally the plan was to spin this season off into it's own show, but that was eventually decided against (presumably the producers realized they'd basically have to come up with an entirely new cast for the next season of AHS if all the current cast were doing Coven), and they tried to wrap things up. That said, however, this does remain the only season to date in which a sequel would be even theoretically possible only about half the cast is actually dead, rather than the usual Kill 'em All, and the Coven is growing.
Shipper on Deck: Myrtle for Kyle/Zoe, evidenced when she gives them bus tickets to Orlando and looks heartbroken when they come back.
Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: One wonders how many hours in the days Miss Robichaux's devotes to actual classes with all the time its pupils have to have mid-day cocktails with the current Supreme (not that Cordelia could stop her mother...) and taxi resurrected love interests to and from swamps, plus all the time Cordelia has to look into baby options (especially since she seems to be the only teacher and headmistress).
Likely Justified in that the "school" is more of an alias for a protective coven for young witches.
Silver Bullet: Witch-hunters use blessed silver bullets to kill witches.
Averted by Queenie, who uses one to kill Hank with her Voodoo power by shooting herself in the head. She spits the bullet back out and tells the others that she's something beyond Witchcraft and Voodoo, something that not even silver bullets can stop.
Myrtle: Oh yes, call the council! I hear they're not seeing anyone right now!
Stock Unsolved Mysteries: The Axeman was a real serial killer active in New Orleans in 1918 and 1919, who famously threatened to kill anyone who wouldn't be playing jazz music on the night of March 19, 1919 and who was never apprehended. In the show that night he attacked the witch coven, which didn't end well for him.
Team Title: Coven means gathering of witches. That being said, they spend most of their time snarking at each other.
There Can Be Only One: As one Supreme gains power, the other begins to lose their own. There can only be one for the position. Fiona killed the last Supreme, and then killed Madison out of fear that she'd take her place.
Throw the Dog a Bone: Cordelia finally catches a break in the finale, where it's revealed that she's the Supreme. She even gets her eyesight back.
Trauma Conga Line: Cordelia. First, she finds out she's infertile, then it's revealed that her husband's cheating on her. In the same episode, someone throws acid in her face and blinds her. Two episodes later, she finds out about her husband's affair, and in that same episode, she's nearly killed by a resurrected serial killer.
Uniqueness Decay: Misty's power to bring back the dead. Fiona displays this power, Zoe gains this power, and it's one of the Seven Wonders.
That could be up for debate. Misty's power is inherent to herself, as she's been raising animals since at least middle school, if her personal Hell is anything to go off of; The Seven Wonders ability Vitalum Vitalis is more like liquid assets; the ressurection spell is something specifically designed to emulate people like Misty who were born with the ability.
The Unmasqued World: After her ascension as Supreme, Cordelia reveals the existence of witches to the world on national television, in order to bring an entire generation of young witches into the fold.