American Horror Story 301 Recap: Bitchcraft

It’s that time of year again. When the cloven-hooved infants scurry around the basement and the mutant people come out to play. The third season of FX’s horror series American Horror Story premiered last week, and I could not be more excited to be recapping this show. Why, you may ask? Because:


It so is.

How do I even begin to describe the rampant batshittery that is American Horror Story? It’s as if Stefon from SNL took a break from clubbing and created a late night premium cable series. Seriously, this show has everything: demon babies, mutants, Nazi doctors, Jessica Lange singing “The Name Game.” Dylan McDermott crying while masturbating (or as I call it, masturbating like normal. Is that bad?)

Yeah, that's bad

Yeah, that’s bad

This season is titled Coven and it takes place in my hometown of New Orleans. I can only assume it will look something like this:

Surprisingly accurate

Surprisingly accurate

So go out to your local Halloween store, buy a plastic, overpriced witch hat, and prepare to hold the fuck onto it!

We open in 1834, at a grand party at the mansion of Madame LaLaurie (played by the always amazing Kathy Bates). Madame LaLaurie is trying to entertain suitors for her daughters, but one daughter is more interested in making sexy eyes at a servant.

you know what they say about girls with big sleeves...

you know what they say about girls with big sleeves…

The servant is definitely not into it. We’ve all been there, am I right ladies?

We then move on to LaLaurie’s bedroom where we witness her night-time ritual of putting on some Neutrogena hand cream, a pair of cotton gloves, and the Colbert Report. Just kidding, she’s painting her face in the blood of servants as a beauty regimen.

This is the last time I join a sorority at clown college.

This is the last time I join a sorority at clown college.

Her ritual is interrupted by the sexy eyes daughter, who is caught trying to force herself onto the servant. TRIGGER WARNINGS: This is the first of multiple sexual assaults in this episode – all different, all extremely disturbing.

Madame LaLaurie is not thrilled, and blames everything on the servant. She then drags him up to her attic of horrors. Turns out, Madame LaLaurie is a serial torturer and killer with an attic full of caged and mutilated black men. It is terrifying and upsetting. LaLaurie has a child bring her a severed bull’s head (because those are just lying around New Orleans) and places it on top of the poor servant.



OPENING CREDITS. Holy crap, the credits haven’t even started yet. There is SO much upsetting racist content. Is this exploitative? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say yes, this is racist and dealing with the actual torture of actual slaves for shock value. I’m gonna need a drink, you guys.


Vogue September Hate Issue

This season, the opening credits feature Klansmen in white AND black hoods (which I assume are funeral hoods. I’m not up on the latest in Klan fashion), mouths sewn shut and a floating Jessica Lange. They use the same theme song every season, which sounds like the background music of a ghost porno.

Spooky cut to that classic horror staple: a cute, straight, white teen couple about to bang. You might recognize the girl as Violet (Taissa Farmiga), the daughter from AHS: Murder House. SPOILER ALERT FOR SEASON ONE: it’s a house that straight up murders people.


Here she plays Zoe Benson, a girl about to swipe her v-card when the strangest thing starts happening: her boyfriend gets a nose bleed and goes into a seizure. I liked this scene better when Anna Paquin did it in X-Men.

Cut to Zoe on a train, where we hear her angsty teenage post-traumatic voice-over tell us she’s a witch. Again, I liked this scene more when Julia Stiles did it in Save The Last Dance.

I'm never dancing/using my witch vagina again.

I’m never dancing/using my witch vagina again.

Turns out, killing your boyfriend with your witch vagina is a major faux pas, and Zoe is being shipped off to New Orleans to go to a witch boarding school that is definitely not Hogwarts. It is also definitely not Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. She’s being chaperoned by a group of six to eight albino black men and Frances Conroy aka Ruth Fisher, who is dressed like a grown-up Luna Lovegood.

Is it weird that I kind of want this outfit?

Is it weird that I kind of want this outfit?

Just farted.

Just farted.

Zoe is dropped off at Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies and is promptly deserted by her arguably offensive handlers.

This episode has more fish eyes than the entire ocean

This episode has more fish eyes than the entire ocean

Change your lens already!

Change your lens already!

She walks around the empty academy, seemingly unaware of the weirdos in Venetian carnival masks. I think we can all agree that Venetian carnival masks are the creepiest masks, right? Or do I just feel that way because as a child I accidentally watched Eyes Wide Shut?

the password is Fidelio

The password is Fidelio

Suddenly, the masked weirdos attack Zoe and one of them straddles her on a table. She takes off her mask, revealing herself to be… Emma Roberts!

On Wednesdays, we wear creepy masks

On Wednesdays, we wear creepy masks

She introduces her two accomplices, Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe!) and Nan.

If you break any of these rules, you can't sit with us

If you break any of these rules, you can’t sit with us

And you have to eat in the kitchen with the creepy butler.

And you have to eat in the kitchen with the creepy butler.

Zoe then meets headmistress Cordelia Foxx, played by Sarah Paulson aka Lana Banana Winters aka Cheekbones for Days. Cordelia informs her that Miss Robichaux’s is a safe haven for young witches, where they can learn to hone their powers and hide themselves from the general public. She says that witches are a dying breed, BOTP and such.

And that's why you always use extra lube. Any questions?

And that’s why you always use extra lube. Any questions?

She also explains that in every generation, a slayer is born. One to stand against the… whoops, wrong show. Every generation has a super witch, called the Supreme. If Diana Ross doesn’t cameo in this series, it will be a pun sorely wasted.

Just loan the butler some of your conditioner and he'll leave you alone

Just loan the butler some of your conditioner and he’ll leave you alone

We then get the story of a witch named Misty Day, who had the power to resurrect the dead. Unfortunately, people freaked the fuck out about it, and burned her alive. Because of this, Cordelia thinks it’s all the more important for the teen witches to conceal their powers.

Jessica Lange is back and thank Goddess, because this show would be garbage without her. I mean, even more garbage-y without her. It’s still pretty bad. This season she’s Fiona the supreme witch, and she looks amazing. She is also on a quest for eternal youth/immortality, which means she obviously hasn’t looked in a mirror and beheld her own magnificence.

There’s some boring stuff with lab monkeys and rejuvenation serum, but I can’t be bothered to care because the next scene is Fiona rocking out to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Fiona swans around smoking, snorting coke, and dancing into some curtains like a drunk mom at a Fleetwood Mac show.

I can't believe I'm doing another season of this show!

I can’t believe I’m doing another season of this show!

The mirror has drunk faces.

The mirror has drunk faces.

Oh, she also kisses a doctor and sucks the life out of him like a Dementor. It’s non-consensual.

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Chelsea Steiner was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, where she works as a screenwriter/blogger/sex educator. She's the writer/director of Thank You Come Again, a queer sex positive web series based on her experiences working the Pleasure Chest, which you can follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She’s obsessed with dachshunds, Buffy, 90's dance parties, and roller derby. She loves the word "Jewess" and wishes more people used it to describe her. Follow her ramblings on Twitter and her cute puppy pics on Instagram.

Chelsea has written 46 articles for us.


  1. I have three major feelings about this show/episode.

    1.) I’m way too much of a scardy cat to do more than read recaps on the show, so I’m speaking from a place of never seeing a single ep of AHS (but I’ve read recaps of all the previous seasons.)

    2.) I find it super terrifying that both Marie Laveau (the first major voodoo queen of New Orleans) and Madame LaLaurie (the serial killer infamous for torturing, mutilating and experimenting on her slaves in her attic) were real women. I think those are the scariest parts of every season of AHS (real-world horror stories.)

    3.)****TW RAPE****

    This is the biggest feeling of all… why is that nearly every major show that bills itself as “feminist” always features rape? Why do so many “strong women” stories have to involve someone attacking/killing their abusers? Why does strength and change have to come from violence or because of a man? Ugh. I’d say BoTP, but I feel like it’s such a dangerous trope that’s almost become a given. Of course when Murphy said this would be the most feminist show on TV he’d open with multiple sexual assaults. I feel like these stories are so often the least feminist on TV. I don’t know how to put all my feelings into words except to say it makes me feel so gross and uncomfortable.

    • I’m right there with you on point number 3. I’m so sick of this stuff. And sick of Murphy’s misogyny all over TV. And now it’s on autostraddle. I can’t escape it it seems.

  2. I’m here for the Kathy Bates and the Angela Bassett. Can’t wait. I think they are both exceptionally stellar.

  3. Much appreciating both the feminist critiques, smokin references and the acknowledgement that AHS really isn’t a good show.

    fuck, that’s three nvm this comment is now NULL N VOID

  4. That scene before the opening credits (and the credits themselves, to a lesser extent) totally grossed me out. Hopefully in future eps there is less of that and more of all these bad ass gorgeous ladies being bad ass and gorgeous. Seriously, Jessica Lange is 64 years old and, well… you all feel me.

  5. Ugh I don’t think I could handle this show so I will just have to live vicariously through your recaps, Chelsea. Even though WITCHES, but I kind of can’t handle all this sexual assault on my screen.

  6. Though I do agree there’s a lot problematic about American Horror Story (any season of it, really), I still really enjoy it just because of how over the top it gets. I’m the sort who’s attracted by, not scared off from, crazy B-movie horror flicks.

    Also, Jessica Lange, anyone? I swear, she’d be my AHS idol if it weren’t for Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Gabourey Sidibe, and (still counts if it’s not this current season) Zachary Quinto. Ugh, and Lily Rabe too! I can’t wait until tonight’s episode. :)

  7. Haven’t even read this BUT I googled “ahs bitchcraft recap” and this was the first result and oh. my. god. I’m so stoked Autostraddle is doing this one!

    • Not to sound nitpicky, but Madison flipped the bus, not Zoe. I mention this only because it seems relevant to exposition/character development.

  8. I adore this show unabashedly and love that, next to Orange Is The New Black, it’s the best place for actresses on TV. And they pick the BEST ONES. And I’m especially psyched that they brought Jamie Brewer back this year.

    That said, I may not be in good company on my opinion regarding the show’s merits but I am beyond thrilled that Autostraddle is covering this season! And these recaps are hilarious.

  9. While I have many of the same concerns about this show (esp re: rape feelings), overall the horror film fanatic in me is crazy excited about this season. I’d have styled a lot of the character development differently, but love the historical context of the story in general. This season is akin to works like Rice’s “The Witching Hour” in a way that keeps me glued to the screen (except for the trigger scenes). I am holding my breath in the hopes that Murphey doesn’t ruin this one by taking too many exaggerated liberties and perpetuating all the stereotypes (as he’s wont to do).

    Also, I am so obsessed with Jessica Lange and everything she’s ever done. She’s played a few intensely disturbed characters since her Frances Farmer days, and she’s so natural it’s scary. (Also, I may have a tiny (read: enormous) crush on her!)

  10. Instead of supervising the teen witches, Cordelia is in the greenhouse working on her potions. You know, witch stuff. Fiona shows up, and it turns out she is Cordelia’s mother. Fiona apparently disapproves of Cordelia for not accomplishing more with her life, proving that not only is she the Supreme, she is also a Jewish mother.

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