I love the structure of American Horror Story which offers a completely new start each season – new story, new setting, new characters and new horror. It means that I was able to dislike season 2 (Asylum) and give up after a couple of episodes, but still come back for season 3 (Coven).
My issue with Asylum was that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, and because it was set in the past in an entirely unfamiliar setting, I found it very hard to engage and care about any of it. Moving Coven back to the present and having a couple of more accessible characters made it feel less like an uphill battle.
Mind you, part of what made it easier to watch is also something of a failing – I just didn’t find it particularly scary or unpleasant. Yes, there were moments and ideas that were grim, but as things went on and everything just layered on top of each other it became diluted. While avoiding spoilers as much as possible, there was so much coming and going, that every time a character departed it felt less and less permanent. And eventually you just become numb to the physical tortures, like you’re watching an old Batman where the violence is mitigated with ‘pow’ and ‘bam’ stickers. I wasn’t shocked, horrified, or appalled by anything. I really hope that says more about the show than it does about me!
The core story was a good one though, a modern day school for witches and the politics within their ranks. Jessica Lange once again gets a juicy part to play as the current leader whose power will desert her as her successor is revealed. The various teenage witches meanwhile are varyingly powerful, ambitious, out of control and bitchy, although at time they feel a little too one dimensional. Sarah Paulson’s character sits in the middle and is probably the most interesting and ‘normal’ of the lot of them, which sadly does leave her feeling a little plain in comparison.
I enjoyed the dozen or so episodes, but that was about it. While the first season felt like it was putting a fresh spin on traditional horror tropes and bringing them to a new audience via television, this just felt… disposable. It just didn’t seem to have the depth that the first season had which left me wanting to re-view it to follow through all the connections and implications. But as I said at the beginning, the beauty of the format is that each season is a chance to start again, so we’ll see what comes our way next year.