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American Horror Story: Coven - Chapter 3, “The Replacements” - Teaser Review

They say that television is a writer’s medium and typically I agree. In fact, it’s what has always drawn me to TV over film: the ability to follow a story, to create a dialogue over time, to watch a character grow and change and react to an expanding world. But whenever Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is directing an episode of American Horror Story, damn if I can pay attention to the characters or dialogue. It’s incredibly hard to stand out as a director in television but from his work on the first two seasons of this franchise alone I can pick up when he’s directing an episode almost immediately. In season 1’s Murder House saga Gomez-Rejon directed the Pilot episode as well as “Birth” (one of my favorite installments of the series to date) and also helmed two of the second season’s strongest offerings “I Am Anne Frank, Part 2” and the finale “Madness Ends”. From the beginning of this weeks episode “The Replacements” Alfonso leaves his mark all over the place - the eerie, lingering shots of scenery, fish-eye lens views of action, disorienting rapid cuts, unsettling character-POVs. If anyone knows how to use a camera to scare the crap of out you, it’s this guy. While he also directed the first episode of this season, episode 3 is the first this year to feel truly creepy to me. That’s not thanks to the director alone, though, because nearly every story really kicks into high-gear this week after a second episode that felt like a lot of exposition and set-up.

We open with a flashback to 1971 New Orleans at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies where we get our first glimpse at a young Fiona as well as the then-Supreme, Annalee Leyton. The scene sets the tone for the rest of the episode, and while I don’t want to give away exactly what transpires between the two it certainly gives a little more insight into Fionna’s character and how she came about as a Supreme. Much of the episode deals with Fionna’s continued obsession with youth, especially troubling when she begins to discover that one of the students at the Academy is much stronger than she thought, which may have disastrous effects for the elder witch. Her daughter, Cordelia, is also chasing a phantom - still unable to conceive after the voodoo performed last week, she seeks guidance from a familiar face, though not necessarily a friendly one.

It’s hard to pick a stand-out this week - while only appearing in one scene, Misty Day is seriously fantastic. Lily Rabe has been exceptional in all of her Horror Story incarnations and in episode 3 we really get a feel for who Misty is. It's a fantastic scene (backed by Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara”) between Zoe, Kyle and Misty and by the end of it you won’t know if you feel bad for the revivalist or are terrified of her… maybe a tad bit of both? That works. Even Peters as a reassembled Kyle is also phenomenal, very possibly my favorite element of the season so far and a perfect example of Ryan Murphy’s genius twist on old-school scary movies.

Horror Story in its past sagas has been one of the most wonderfully ridiculous, awesomely unpredictable and consistently original series’ in recent years. It’s revival of classic horror tropes mixed with modern terror is only more impressive when you consider how frequently they get us to feel for these often-monstrous characters they create. And much of “The Replacements” is about feelings. Mare Winningham (Lexi's mom from Grey's Anatomy!) gives a fiercely unforgettable performance as Kyle’s grieving mother who, after a visit that Zoe hopes will help ease her pain, serves up the first holy-crap-did-they-really-just-go-there moment of the season. And it’s not the only one in the episode. We're getting into the thick of things here, and the final 10 minutes of this episode are seriously not to be missed. Buckle in tight tomorrow night, shit's about to get real for these witches. I’ll be back after the episode airs with a full recap & discussion. You can catch me on twitter here & check out some final teasers for tomorrows episode below.

Stuff You’ll Love:

- Our first glimpse of the minotaur slave as a villain
- LaLaurie’s discovery that Barack Obama is President of the United States (Yes, really)
- Patty Lupone as the Academy’s uber-Christian new neighbor
- A hint at how Dennis O’Hare’s so-far-silent house-keeper Spalding lost his tongue
- How creepy-weird it gets. Multiple times… seriously.

American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 10 on FX. "The Replacements" premieres this week.

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