Into the Labyrinth: American Horror Story Coven
For every good television program, there are a thousand bad ones. For every new idea, there are a thousand recycled ones. Sacrifices need to be made on the alter of good taste in order for things to move forward. Some of these sacrifices are unnerving and painful to watch. If you’ve been with American Horror Story from the beginning, then you’ve already seen your fair share of flinch worthy material. We’re entering the third season, and are now deep into the labyrinth of nightmares and pain and lucky for us; the pain is delicious.
Many centuries ago on the Greek Isle of Crete, King Minos suffered a moment of doubt and prayed to the Gods to show him a sign. Poseidon hearing his prayers sent forth the most beautiful white bull any human had ever set eyes on rising from the sea foam. Poseidon had planned for Minos to sacrifice it in a ceremony in his honour, but Minos had other plans. He substituted one of his own prize calves instead and kept the white bull for himself. Poseidon was not amused with the deception, so he decided to teach Minos a lesson. Poseidon bewitched Minos’ wife Pasipha to fall in love with the bull and she in her delusion employed the great architect Daedalus to construct a wooden bull decoy for her to climb into to fool her new love. The plan worked and the Minotaur was born.
Minos found himself the foster father to a hideous monster. Daedalus was once again called and a labyrinth was built to house Minos’ problem child. The Minotaur was imprisoned but not forgotten, Minos arranged annual sacrifices by tyrannizing nearby Athens who had to supply seven youths and seven maidens for the Minotaur to devour. On the tenth year of the sacrifice, the hero Theseus counted himself among the seven. On his arrival to Crete, Minos’ daughter Ariadne fell in love with the Athenian. She couldn’t bear to have her crush chomped by her half-brother, so she came up with a way to help him. She gave Theseus a ball of string and a sword and had him hide them near the entrance to the labyrinth. He used the sword to kill the Minotaur and the string to find his way back out of the maze. He swiftly left Crete, taking Ariadne with him, later abandoning her on a island while she slept. You can see his ship sailing away on the left side of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne. Jerk.
Apparently, the Minotaur didn’t die that day in the labyrinth, but was resurrected at the hands of Madame LaLaurie (played by the tour de force that is Kathy Bates) in 1832 Louisiana. Bates’s character is based on a real woman who actually did unspeakable things to the people in her charge. According to AHS lore she was cursed for her atrocities with immortality and buried for 180 years by Marie Laveau -Voodoo witch played by Angela Bassett. Madame LaLaurie is dug up in modern day New Orleans and is quickly whisked off to the local finishing school for young witches. In the first two episodes of Coven we’ve been introduced to death by sex, franken-boyfriend, a homicidal child star, a human voodoo doll, Stevie Nicks and our good friend the Minotaur among other things.
American Horror Story Coven is already deep into the labyrinth, how far you might ask? Who knows, I threw the string out seasons ago. I’ll go anywhere they want to lead me as long as Jessica Lange’s the tour guide. This show is so over the top it transcends both good and bad and has become its own thing. AHS jumped the shark halfway through its season one opening credits. You don’t watch American Horror Story for the subtlety or what passes for substance these days, you watch it to see Jessica Lange chew through everything in her wake. (This season judging by the cast, she has some fine sparring partners to go toe to toe with.) I’ve been lost in this maze of Horror tropes, mixed messages, great one liners and paint yourself into a corner plot-lines for a few years now and have grown very fond of the monsters and dead ends I’ve found here.