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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

'American Horror Story: Apocalypse' hurtles toward its own Judgment Day

A promotional poster for 'American Horror Story: Apocalypse' is pictured.

“American Horror Story” (2011–) has always had a taste for glamour, gore and grand performances. Since its first season, retroactively titled “Murder House,” creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have developed a world where a common cast of actors play a variety of characters. Each season tells its own story in its own setting, an anthology style that inarguably has kept “American Horror Story” from bleeding out all these years.

Murphy confirmed this style would not last long when he told fans that all the seasons were connected in 2014. Murphy later announced that two of the show’s most popular seasons, “Murder House” and “Coven,” would have a crossover season. That crossover came earlier this fall with season 8, “Apocalypse.”

“Apocalypse” follows a nuclear war in early 2020 in Los Angeles. It seems the entire world is plunged into a nuclear winter, and the season spends its first three episodes in the mysterious underground bunker, Outpost 3.With oddly gothic Victorian costumes and what quite literally seems to be 10,000 candles, the season creates a claustrophobic atmosphere where no one can be trusted.

Outpost 3 becomes home to variety of characters, like the dark lipstick-wearing Wilhelmina Venable (Sarah Paulson), billionaire Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman) and her assistant, Mallory (Billie Lourd). It is a strange beginning for the season, dragging viewers along without much explanation as to how the apocalypse happened and what is to come. It is not until the arrival of Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) that the season begins to show its true horror.

Fern’s Michael Langdon is a grown-up version of the antichrist birthed in “Murder House” by Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton). With long and flowing hair and eyeshadow, Langdon is terrifying, intriguing and, according to many fans, the hottest part of “Apocalypse.”

“Apocalypse” also brings back “Coven” Supreme witch Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) and fan favorites Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). The season then dives into a flashback as to how the end of the world came to be, and this is currently where the show sits. With only three episodes to go, “Apocalypse” may be rushing towards its end, leaving fans with more questions than answers.

In the three-year flashback, fans learn that Mallory and Coco were witches in Miss Robichaux’s Academy, the New Orleans-based coven run by Cordelia. Mallory is the most powerful of the students at the academy, showing abilities that could be new Supreme-worthy. Coco’s power is gluten-detecting.

Meanwhile, Michael Langdon is at the Hawthorne School for Exceptional Young Men, a warlock school.The warlocks believe Langdon is the first male Supreme and want him to take the test of the Seven Wonders, which Cordelia is not here for. Langdon, in an effort to prove his power, does things Cordelia could not: He frees Queenie, a witch from “Coven” who was trapped in the Hotel Cortez during season 5, “Hotel,” and brings Madison Montgomery and Misty Day back from hell.

Eventually, Langdon takes the Seven Wonders test and becomes the Supreme, but Cordelia, smart as ever, reveals that she secretly planned for Michael to resurrect her dead sisters to build an army against Langdon. Hoping to learn more about Michael’s past, Cordelia has Madison travel back to where it all began, the Murder House.

“Return to Murder House,” the sixth episode of the season, is the highlight of “Apocalypse” and perhaps a highlight of the series itself. It wraps up many storylines from the first season while also allowing fans the chance to see some beloved characters, like Jessica Lange’s venerable Constance. It was Lange's return to the series for the first time since “Freak Show,” the fourth season, and her performance gave everything the fans needed, especially fantastic quotes. Constance's telling Madison she doesn’t “spill a drop of tea for free” was simply iconic.

But even Lange may not be able save “Apocalypse” from impending doom. At this point, the season has three episodes left — frankly, it seems impossible that  the season will end satisfyingly. Wednesday’s episode, “Traitor,” was barely slow-burning enough to be interesting, and it seems that next week’s episode is also still in the flashback timeline. The many different timelines and characters that “Apocalypse” is trying to tie together can be confusing for the outside viewer, but it seems to be a season made strictly for the fans.

There are many theories as to how the season will end. The sloppiest theory, and one Murphy could most definitely choose, is that the witches will reverse Michael Langdon’s birth, effectively cancelling the events of the entire first season. There are also ideas that the season will simply end with the rebirth of earth, with some fans thinking Mallory is Jesus Christ’s second coming who is here to stop Michael.

Either way, “Apocalypse” has to have a somewhat happy ending — season 5, “Hotel,” has a plot that goes to 2022, about two years after the end of the world, and with “American Horror Story” renewed for seasons 9 and 10, it seems unlikely Murphy would want “Apocalypse” to rule out any new plots in the present or future. With its final episode, “Apocalypse Then,” airing Nov. 14, the season has little time to wrap up its story. Sure, the season seems to be relying on "Coven"-esque glamour and iconic quotes, but that is not enough to satisfy the expectations fans have for this season. Here's hoping that Murphy has something up his sleeve and does not let “Apocalypse” blow up.