Bitchcraft (American Horror Story)
|American Horror Story episode|
Four young witches with their mentor
|Directed by||Alfonso Gomez-Rejon|
|Written by||Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk|
|Original air date||October 9, 2013|
|Running time||49 minutes|
"Bitchcraft" is the premiere episode of the third season of the anthology television series American Horror Story, which premiered on October 9, 2013 on the cable network FX. The title is a portmanteau of the words bitch and witchcraft.
This episode was nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special and Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special.
The episode introduces a group of four young witches who are given instruction in how to use their powers at a boarding school in New Orleans run by Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson). Flashbacks tell the story of the cruel Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), a 19th-century New Orleans socialite who mutilated slaves as a part of her rituals for everlasting life. In the contemporary storyline, the world's most powerful witch and Foxx's mother Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) excavates LaLaurie in order to learn her secrets. Angela Bassett and Gabourey Sidibe guest star as Marie Laveau and Queenie, respectively.
"Bitchcraft" held the highest ratings of any episode of American Horror Story, before it was surpassed a year later by the fourth season premiere episode "Monsters Among Us". This episode is rated TV-MA (LSV).
Wealthy socialite Madame Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) holds an extravagant soiree in her mansion, where she tries to make romantic matches for her three daughters. Hours after the party has ended, Delphine is preparing herself for bed with her nightly ritual: washing her face with human blood harvested from her slaves, she receives word that something terrible has happened and she must come quick.
When she arrives in the parlor, she discovers her youngest daughter has had sex with Bastien, one of her houseboys, who swears she came onto him and he is not interested in her as he is promised to another. Nevertheless, Delphine furiously orders him punished. She arrives in her slaves' service quarters, which she has transformed into a horrendous torture chamber where she performs unspeakable horrors on her servants. She comes upon Bastien, who is chained to a wall, his face severely swollen from beatings. She explains that ever since she was a little girl she has had a fascination with Greek mythology, in particular the Minotaur, and is thrilled at the opportunity to finally have one of her own, as she takes the severed head of a bull and attaches it to the screaming Bastien.
In another flashback to 1834, it is revealed that Bastien was the lover of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), who arrives at LaLaurie's mansion claiming to have a vitality potion guaranteed to end her marital troubles. When LaLaurie drinks it, she begins convulsing and collapses to the floor, seemingly poisoned to death.
Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) arrives home with her boyfriend Charlie (Kurt Krause), intending to have sex with him while her parents are away. Charlie is nervous, because Zoe is a virgin, but proceeds anyway. While they have sex, Zoe notices Charlie's nose starting to bleed, and before she knows it he has a seizure on her bed and collapses in a pool of blood, dying from an apparent brain aneurysm. In narration, she explains that after Charlie's death her mother confessed to her that she has inherited this genetic affliction from her great-grandmother, who was a witch. She also explains that during the times of the Salem Witch Trials, the real witches were smart enough to migrate south to New Orleans before the trouble started, where Zoe's mother tells her she is sending her to attend a special school for "girls like her". Before she can answer, she is whisked away by a representative of the Council of Witchcraft, Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), and three mysterious albino men in black.
When Zoe arrives at the mysterious Miss Robichaux's Academy, she is snatched up by three mysterious cloaked figures, who pin her to a table. She discovers that the cloaked figures are simply her fellow students hazing her. They introduce themselves as Nan (Jamie Brewer), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), who Zoe recognizes from her career as a teen actress. She then meets the headmistress of the school, Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), who explains that every witch possesses a special power of her own, but in each generation there exists one all-powerful witch, known as a Supreme, who possesses all the powers possible. She then explains the history of the school, which was founded in the 16th century and purchased in the 1880s by the reigning Supreme at the time, who changed it into a school and safe haven for young witches, the population of which is going down rapidly due to a lack of reproduction. Cordelia tells Zoe that the reason witches are a dying breed is due to fear of reaction from the public, citing the case of Misty Day (Lily Rabe), a witch from a rural area of Louisiana, who discovered that she possessed the power of necromancy and was subsequently burned at the stake. Zoe discovers the powers that each of her schoolmates possesses: Nan is clairvoyant, Queenie is a human voodoo doll: whatever she inflicts on her body appears on whoever she chooses with no pain or injury to herself, and Madison has the power of telekinesis, which she used to kill a director who she hated. Madison deems that Zoe will be her best friend, and invites her along to a frat party she will be attending that night.
The scene cuts to Los Angeles, where we meet Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), the current reigning Supreme. She is meeting with Dr. David Zhong (Ian Anthony Dale), who is performing experiments to create a viable working youth serum and having positive results on monkeys. When he refuses Fiona's request for an unlimited supply, she sucks the life out of him to retain a bit of youth. Later, in a cocaine-induced stupor, she turns on the news to hear word of Misty's killing in New Orleans and instantly returns to the Academy to check in and help the girls prepare for what she thinks is brewing to be a war between witches and non-witches. Nobody is happy to see her, least of all Cordelia, who is Fiona's daughter. Fiona thinks that the girls should prepare themselves to fight for their rights, while Cordelia thinks that they should stay in relative anonymity for their own safety. Regardless of their differences in theories, Fiona makes it known that she will be staying for as long as she sees fit.
That night at the party, Zoe feels out of place, until she meets good-hearted frat boy Kyle Spencer (Evan Peters), who falls for her instantly and is determined to get to know her better. Given her recent discoveries about her tragic power, she has extreme misgivings about opening up to Kyle, but allows herself to talk to him anyway. Meanwhile, Madison is tricked by Kyle's frat brother Archie Brener (Grey Damon) into using a spiked matchstick for her cigarette, and he subsequently drags her into a room with the other frat brothers and they gang-rape her. Zoe notices that Madison is missing, she and Kyle go throughout the frat house looking for her, eventually discovering her. Kyle pulls the other frat boys off of her and chases them back to their bus, before being knocked unconscious. Brener and the other frat guys commandeer the party bus, trying to delete the videos they took of the attack, and escape. Zoe, not wanting the frat boys to get away with it, runs after the bus. Madison follows Zoe and using her telekinesis flips the bus as they are driving away.
The next day, Fiona announces to the girls that they will be taking a field trip to visit a "holy place", an unofficial monument to an alternative coven started in the 1970s, but on the way Nan gets distracted by hearing someone say "help me", and leads the group to a tour of Madame LaLaurie's mansion. The present-day tour guide reveals that LaLaurie's body has never been found to this day. Fiona meets Nan outside, where Nan tells her that LaLaurie is buried under the concrete.
After hearing word on the news of the status of the boys in the bus crash, Zoe goes to the hospital to find that Kyle has died from his injuries, but Brener, the ringleader of the rape, is still alive. In what she deems an act of retribution, she has sex with his unconscious body, deliberately killing him in the same way she accidentally killed Charlie.
Fiona returns to the mansion in the late hours of the night, where she has the area Nan indicated dug up, revealing a very much alive Madame LaLaurie, who she invites back to the house for a drink.
In its original American broadcast, "Bitchcraft" received a 3.0 18–49 ratings share and was watched by 5.54 million viewers, which was the highest total viewers of any American Horror Story episode until the fourth season premiere "Monsters Among Us".
Rotten Tomatoes reports a 79% approval rating, based on 14 reviews. The critical consensus reads, ""Bitchcraft" jump-starts American Horror Story: Coven with an ambitious setup, lively characters, and stylized action, though the overall narrative may come off shallower than intended." Entertainment Weekly awarded the episode with a series high rating of A−, writing, "The season opener, "Bitchcraft", is a witty critique of our cultural uneasiness with female power, sexual and otherwise" and applauded the strong characters: "[Ryan Murphy's] sharp take on a woman's role is both funny and mordantly serious." Cinema Blend gave the episode 4 out of 5 stars, stating, "The season premiere offers a little bit of everything we've come to appreciate about American Horror Story, in that it pulls no punches, twisting violence, sex and gore into a wickedly dark but altogether entrancing introduction to Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk's next dark tale."
Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club gave the episode a C+, citing uncertainty about the tone of the program but hope that the rest of the season will be good. His review ends, "Yes, we know vaguely what the show's approach is going to be, and yes, we can expect that when Lange and Paulson are on screen, things will be pretty good. But we're also left wondering whether that minotaur is meant to be a campy joke or a very real horror and whether anyone involved understands what the divergence point is between those two things."
At The New York Times, Neil Genzlinger characterized the episode as "an eclectic mix" that "ricochets raucously between hilarious camp and blunt brutality." Genzlinger notes that thanks to the cast, such drastic shifts work "particularly well" in this episode. Along similar lines, The Huffington Post writer Maggie Furlong pronounced the episode "delightful," "fun," and "accessible," with a "lighter, more comedic tone" than previous seasons of the show. Rakesh Satyal of Vulture awarded the episode 4 out of 5 stars, calling it "one action-packed, satisfying, yet hurl-worthy episode".
- Kondolojy, Amanda (October 10, 2013). "Wednesday Cable Ratings: Duck Dynasty Beats American Horror Story: Coven + MLB Baseball, Bad Ink, South Park & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- "Bitchcraft – American Horror Story: Coven, Episode 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
- Maerz, Melissa (October 9, 2012). "American Horror Story: Coven (2013)". Entertainment Weekly.
- West, Kelly. "American Horror Story: Coven Review: FX's Dark and Twisted Drama Returns with 'Bitchcraft'". Cinema Blend.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (October 10, 2013). "'Bitchcraft'". The A.V. Club.
- Genzlinger, Neil (October 8, 2013). "Each One Witchier Than the Next: American Horror Story: Coven Has a Big-Star Lineup". The New York Times.
- Furlong, Maggie (October 4, 2013). "'American Horror Story' Season 3 Preview: Why 'Coven' Is Ryan Murphy's Favorite Season". The Huffington Post.
- Satyal, Rakesh (October 10, 2013). "American Horror Story: Coven Premiere Recap: Schoolhouse Wreck". Vulture.
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