After last week’s season premiere proved to be about as riveting as Ben Stein singing show tunes, American Horror Story: Coven wasn’t doing the best job of getting me excited to see this week’s episode. But I’ll just come right out and say that yes, the second episode “Boy Parts” (titled thusly because the show gets off on shock value so why not have the title be unnecessarily provocative?) is a marginal improvement. Admittedly however, it’s worth saying that this episode is better than last week’s “Bitchcraft” is equivalent to saying a slap in the face is a step up from a kick to the groin.
Briefly opening with a bayou necromancer (played by Lily Rabe) dispatching a pair of idiotically trigger-happy trappers, “Boy Parts” transitions straight into the aftermath from last week’s murder-spree as Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) and Madison (Emma Roberts) find the police at their door. After Zoe has a panic attack and spills her guts to the cops, the pair are saved by Deus B***h Machina in the form of Fiona (Jessica Lange), who silences the police and attempts to intimidate the girls into obedience. From there, the episode splits into two separate plot lines; one focusing on Zoe and the other on Fiona. The former involves Zoe and Madison sneaking into a forensics lab (after they’d been warned to lay low by the headmistress of a school that exists SOLELY to help young witches do just that) in order to revive Kyle (Evan Peters), the flirting frat boy that Zoe knew for all of ten seconds in the premiere. The latter concerns Fiona’s imprisonment of the newly dug up Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), whose revealed curse of immortality from voodoo queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) is of great interest to the youth-seeking Fiona.
It’s a shame that the series’ “protagonist” is less engaging than a rusty spoon because I was honestly entertained by the storyline centered around Fiona and LaLaurie. Jessica Lange’s shameless exuberance of arrogance and power are enjoyable to watch, and coupling her fear of death with the immortal LaLaurie’s desire to die is working well for me from a writing standpoint. In addition, Bassett herself is a nice third member to this trio of malevolent mistresses, holding her own in a great confrontation with Lange and coldly dispatching Bates in a quick flashback. Any time they were on screen I was highly entertained, though not to the point where I couldn’t notice the ludicrousness of this new “Witches Vs. Voodoo” angle that the episode pushed. Diluting the horror and internal character struggles with ham-handed dialogue masquerading as some allegory for racism is both pretentious and more than a bit unnecessary.
Of course I’d take all the pretentiousness in the world if it meant not having to return to the godawful witch school itself, where its principles make no sense and the students are unlikable, stupid, or both. It’s a location apparently founded on the idea of protecting young witches from the outside world and preparing for a possible war with humanity, which would be fine except EVERY SINGLE ONE of these girls whip out their powers at the drop of a hat and the school just lets it all slide. Sure they get a “stern talking to,” but that’s about as effective as trying to cure a zombie with hugs instead of bullets. Of course the school probably shouldn’t worry too much since apparently Fiona is literally all-powerful (as demonstrated against the cops) but that raises even further questions about why this secret school would need to operate the way it does if it has the godlike middle-aged version of Santana from Glee around to clean up every mess. It’s just one of many baffling paradoxes plaguing this show and cutting holes into its writing big enough to fly the U.S.S. Enterprise through.
Now I will admit that this episode was a little bit better shot than last week’s, and the increased inclusions of Lange, Bates, and Bassett goes a long way towards making this show watchable. That being said, this world makes little to no sense as a whole and watching these moronic one-note main characters are about as enjoyable as being diagnosed with herpes. Sure this episode was an elevation from the last one, but it’s only American Horror Story: Coven‘s pitiful rise from atrocity to mediocrity.