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Have I sung praise for “American Horror Story “ yet? No? That’s a scandal, because I believe it’s among the most precious gems to be found on television today, and that means ever! It is exactly the kind of show that would be designed for target audience “me”: It is violent where it needs to be, sexy where it wants to be, politically incorrect to make a point throughout, completely over the top, and now that we have reached the end of season 3: silly and goofy as well, and aware of it.

The concept alone is magnificent: each season stands on its own feet, with a dedicated theme, setting, storyline and cast of characters (season 1: murder house, season 2: mental asylum, season 3: witch coven…). As some of the main cast is recurring, however, there is a spooky feeling of déjà vu, an atmosphere of loops of fate, a Groundhog Day-like notion of inevitability, sometimes despair. Whatever these guys do, whichever way the last turn ended, they will show up next season, and new misery will ensue… The casting principle is formidable, with some of the cast coming back for the new season, but with completely new characters. Unfortunately we lost some great actors along the way, no doubt because of excessive success in other media business segments. Most prominently Zachary Quinto did not come back for season 3, James Cromwell as Nazi doctor (season 2) and Joseph Fiennes as weirdo priest only had one-season appearances. Or the nice guy Duncan from “Hostages” (Dylan McDermott) – are they lost to the show after two seasons, or will they show up again when a new opening in their schedules comes up?

On the other hand, the casting agents and writers pull no punches in filling those gaps, and season 3 introduced the impressive presence of Gabourey Sidibe as obese black angry witch. And there’s Stevie Nicks. If you think it’s weird to not only have Stevie Nicks introduced as a White Witch paying a visit to a coven of witch sisters, but also for her to be declared role model of all good witches, and to perform a couple of songs with them, and to actually have a video of her “Seven Wonders” open the season 3 finale – if you think that is weird, then think again. It’s all perfectly normal in the context of this show.

As is that I forgot to mention the tiny detail of Angela Basset’s and Kathy Bate’s outstanding performances, there is just so much going on. Those two share the fate of being immortal, and the pendulum swings from this being a blessing to being a curse quite frequently. Especially Kathy Bates has a respectable amount of suffering to do, and that only after having been awakened at the opening of Season 3 from being buried alive for a couple hundred years… The writers are very interested in elaborating what “immortal” really means, and come up with an interesting variety of treatments to find out what can be done to an immortal person until that word does not apply anymore.

One spot, however, is reserved: the throne of crazy, the supreme witch, the comeback of the decade. Maybe if not for American Horror Story, very few people would have thought the words “Jessica Lange” again, one of those former lady stars kind of fading into oblivion despite her impressive track record, Academy Awards and all. Jessica Lange is back with a vengeance, the rips the tv screen in half with her voice growling at her less talented staff and coven tenants, her lips sucking her cigarettes as if she wanted to tease them into an erection, she is seductive to the men and cruel to the girls, she is willing to sacrifice and kill whoever stands in her way, and if she has one weakness, it is her vanity and her fear of ageing and fading away, and this weakness makes her fight only more savagely against all adversaries. If ever there was a 64 year old actress who blows away all the pretty girls that dare to stand in the same frame, Jessica Lange takes the prize and dances on the graves (or burning remains, or pieces of chopped off body parts) of her doll bystanders. She pays a high price for this (oh, by the way: the devil shows up at some point. And he looks like Tom Waits if Tom Waits had more Jamaican blood in his veins.), but wasn’t it worth it? We’ll ask her in a couple of million years, when she will have had time to settle in her new arrangements.

Season 3 (or rather “American Horror Story: Coven”) almost put me off early on with its silly mix of Harry Potter boarding school, teenage girls bitchfighting and the introduction of a specific skill to bring people back from the dead (always a bad thing: the stakes immediately plummet). As most of these elements are mixed into a very thick witch’s soup with plenty of eyes floating in it and the resurrection yielding some interesting contributions to the cast (“It was fun making him. It will be more fun un-making him”) I soon started to accept the premise, however. No: this is different from Season 1 or 2, this deviates from a very good, but rather straightforward horror show to a “let’s go craaaaazyyyy!” – and with Jessica Lange leading me by  the hand, I would go down any road anyway!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Horror_Story

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