American Horror Story: Coven the third iteration of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s gothic frightfest, centers on the sorcery of witches in New Orleans in both the slavery days of the 1830s and the present.

On Wednesday night, Coven opened at a high society party in NOLA’s French Quarter at the mansion of the very real Madame LaLaurie, here played by Kathy Bates. She mixes and mingles and attempts to pimp her daughters out to men, like their father, who can provide opulence and all its trappings. When she finds her daughter getting intimate with a slave – against his will – she takes a break from applying an anti-aging blood poultice and takes him to her sinister attic of torture where she turns him into a mythic Minotaur.

Jump forward to modern times, high schooler Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) has brought her boyfriend back to her house with the ambition of losing her virginity. Soon after they move on from foreplay, the boyfriend begins to bleed out of every facial orifice and ultimately dies. Benson is horrified and doesn’t know what to make of it; the doctor’s decide it was a brain aneurism. Mrs. Benson, however, knows that it was no brain aneurism – it was her witch bloodline coming alive through her daughter.

After the accidental murder, Zoe’s mother has her transported to Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies (Enter obligatory Harry Potter joke here.) As she rides the train, Zoe’s voiceover reveals that the Salem Witch Trials resulted in the deaths of the innocents, and the elusive real witches made their escape to New Orleans. The Academy, created by a suffragette, at one point catered to 60, but now has an enrollment of only four girls – including her.

As soon as Zoe arrives at the school she’s put through a bit of hazing by the school’s three other students – Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nan (Jamie Brewer). Madison arrived at Robichaux’s from Hollywood where she’d been a hot young actress on the rise. She’s also telekinetic, which led to her killing a director by causing a lighting device to fall on his head. Queenie is a human voodoo doll. Nan is clairvoyant.

Headmistress of Robichaux’s is Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), who offers some history about the school and witchery itself. She reveals that the diminished population at the academy is due to families choosing to not procreate for fear of birthing a witch. Cordelia also tells the new girl that in each generation of witches there is born a “Supreme,” who possesses all of the possible powers bestowed upon a witch. Is Cordelia a supreme, is Zoe? It doesn’t really matter because Cordelia’s teaching philosophy is to help her students focus on controlling their powers, rather than honing them. She gives an anecdote about a girl named Misty May (Lily Rabe) with the power of Resurgence who was recently burned alive for exposing her power.

Meanwhile, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) attempts to convince her doctor to give her a revitalizing serum that’s still in the testing stages. Somehow, she manages to convince him to give it to her, but she’s not satisfied with the results. When he comes to Fiona’s swanky apartment at her insistence, he finds her high on coke and wanting more serum. When he refuses, Fiona literally sucks the youth out of the doctor. (Supreme? Supreme.) Then, she heads to Robichaux’s to give her daughter – Cordelia – an earful about her inadequacies as a molder of young witch minds.

Madison, who’s decided Zoe is her new best friend, takes to her to a nearby frat party. There, Zoe meets a sober frat member named Kyle (Evan Peters) and the two begin to hit it off while Madison unknowingly drinks a roofie cocktail. Zoe starts to worry when she can’t find Madison, and she should be, as she’s getting gang-banged by a handful of drunken frat boys. Kyle stumbles upon the scene and freaks out, chasing his frat brothers to their party bus. Coming to her senses Madison follows Zoe outside as the bus speeds away. With the flick of her wrist, the bus overturns. One of the two boys to survive is the one who orchestrated Madison’s gang rape. Zoe pays him a visit in the hospital to kill him with a minute of sex.

The next morning, after Fiona makes it known she’s fully aware of what happened the night before, tells the girls to get decked out in black – they’re going on a field trip. Fiona, sans Cordelia, takes the girls to downtown New Orleans, where Nan gets drawn to Madame LaLaurie’s old mansion as a tour is going on. The rest follow her inside and join the tour, but Nan is soon pulled to the backyard. She senses that LaLaurie, who was poisoned by the Minotaur slave's former love Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), is buried there. Fiona later hires men to excavate and there she finds LaLaurie – alive and looking every bit frozen in 1834.

– Chelsea Regan

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