American Horror Story: Apocalypse -“The Morning After” (S8E2)

American Horror Story: Apocalypse is back for its second episode, directed by 25YL favourite Jennifer Lynch, who wastes no time in diving into the scares. Emily (Ash Santos) is getting undressed in her room within Outpost Three; her lights go out and upon lighting a candle her wardrobe door creeps open. When she checks she’s greeted by snakes, which could be the first link to Coven given how much snakes were used in the advertising for that season. Timothy (Kyle Allen) runs in to save her and he’s quickly followed by Miriam (Kathy Bates) and the as-yet-unnamed character played by Erika Ervin (who AHS fans know as Amazon Eve from Freak Show), who quickly decapitate and capture the snakes. Miriam announces, “Boy this looks like good eatin’ huh?”

We then cut to the other Outpost residents being served the snakes as dinner with Coco (Leslie Grossman) protesting that she has “a rule against eating things with no legs or too many legs.” Andre (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) reminds her that she has no problem eating things with two legs after last week’s shock of Stu being the stew. After they heard the alarms going off signalling that somebody came inside, Emily and Timothy ask Wilhelmina Venable (Sarah Paulson) who’s in her office; she replies, “all questions will be answered in due course,” and tells them to eat as she taps her cane on the floor. At this point the snakes (which we previously saw as cooked soup) emerge very much alive from everyone’s dishes causing everyone to jump up from the table. Do the snakes signify the presence of Michael Langdon (Cody Fern), or are they foreshadowing the arrival of the Coven witches?

Whilst holding hands, Emily and Timothy question how snakes that were chopped up and cooked could come back to life. They notice they’re being watched by a very angry Miriam who quickly forces them to go their separate ways. After gathering together for a meeting we hear footsteps approaching the room and the Outpost residents get their first look at Michael, who dismisses Venable with nothing but a stare and announces, “My name is Langdon and I represent the Co-Operative.” He goes on to tell them that he won’t sugar coat their situation; humanity is on the brink of failure and his arrival is crucial to the survival of civilised life on earth.

We learn that the other compounds in New York, West Virginia, and Texas have all been overrun and destroyed. Six other international Outposts likely suffered the same fate as the people inside have been “massacred.” They are warned that the same thing will likely happen to “almost” all of them with Mallory (Billie Lourd) questioning the “almost.” The Co-Operative somehow predicted this situation might happen and decided to create a fail-safe called “The Sanctuary,” which we are told is a unique Outpost with certain “classified” security measures to prevent an overrun. “All that matters is that The Sanctuary will survive so that the people populating it will survive so that humanity will survive,” Michael explains to them, making it clear that the identity of the people in The Sanctuary is classified. Is it the witches from Coven? The occupants of the Murder House? Somewhere completely new?

They are then told that Michael is there to determine whether any of the residents are worthy and fit to join them in The Sanctuary through a series of questioning techniques they like to call “Co-Operating.” If they don’t go through the questioning then they quite simply have to stay in the Outpost and die, either from the feral cannibals that will come knocking or from the suicide pills Michael gleefully presents them with. Mr Gallant (Evan Peters) offers himself up to go through the questioning first.

The interview process begins by Michael telling Gallant that he won’t be able to trick the system or lie to him; if he does, he will fail, which will result in him being left to die painfully in the Outpost. The first question is about Gallant’s sexual orientation, to which he replies that he’s gay but he did have sex with a girl in high school; he “finished and everything, she did too…I think. It’s harder to tell with girls. I’m just saying that I can do that, you know for procreation if I have to.” Gallant obviously thinks that one of the purposes of the Sanctuary is to repopulate the planet, so offering this information might get him a place in there, but Michael quickly tells him that, “We have techniques for harvesting genetic material. We still need a woman’s womb to incubate the fetus…..for now, but your ability to impregnate some poor girl isn’t needed.” He then asks about Gallant’s anger, why it’s aimed at his Grandma (Joan Collins), and how she shamed him, suggesting that he may or may not have a file that tells him all of his secrets.

This leads us to the first flashback for these characters, set during one of “Nana’s bullshit suburban gay lunches” in which we see Evie in her element as the lady of the house, sat at the table fanning herself accompanied by three gays: Walter, Morris, and Mario. We’re told how they all secretly hated her, her lunches, and listening to her stories but believed that if they all attended, one of them might snag Gallant and get Evie’s money when she dies. What they failed to realise was that she’d already left all of her money to a cat charity. Enter Gallant in a ridiculously stereotypical 80’s outfit of a leather vest, leather pants, leather cap, and shades, carrying a CD player blasting Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.” Evie tells him, “this isn’t proper dining attire,” and he responds by sitting down with a gas mask on, inhaling his bowl of bisque whilst making overly sexual noises. Nana tells him, “You’re pathetic.” According to Gallant, this was the last time she ever tried to tame him, but Michael is more interested in whether he likes leather. Could this be a hint at something to do with the rubber BDSM suit worn by Michael’s father, Tate Langdon, in Murder House? After Gallant asks him about his own sexuality, Michael announces that they’ll continue the conversation another time.

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Timothy and Emily continue to break Venable’s rules by hooking up once a week to kiss, except this time Emily decides she’s had enough of life in the Outpost and doesn’t fancy hanging around to find out if Michael will choose them. They come up with a plan to steal some food and two hazmat suits, and take their chances on the road with the hopes of finding Sanctuary themselves. Timothy is the cautious one, worrying that there’s “something wrong” about Langdon, but Emily appears to have no fears at all, claiming they can both prove they’re smarter than Michael.

Gallant lays pleasuring himself in bed whilst dreaming of Michael saying to him “Tell me who you really are.” Interestingly we see very brief flashes of a naked Michael sat in an unknown room, in what appears to be a pentagon drawn in blood, and chanting—could he be practising witchcraft here? A sudden knock at the door stops Gallant from his pleasure and as the door swings open a Murder House favourite stands there: Rubber Man, who we know is Michael’s father, Tate. In Murder House we were told that the spirits trapped within the house may only leave once a year on Halloween, so does this mean the current date is October 31st? Or has the Apocalypse somehow changed these rules? Thinking that it’s Michael wearing the suit (and maybe it is him and he stole the suit from the Murder House) the two end up having sex. Nana Evie sees them and looks mortified, at first. She then quickly tries to use her discovery to her advantage by reporting the sexual act to Miriam in the hopes it will stop Gallant from being taken to Sanctuary, thus opening up a space for her to go instead.

Emily and Timothy make it into Michael’s room and immediately open his laptop. They see an email sent a week ago by the West Virginia Outpost and question how that was possible when there’s no infrastructure. (In the rest of the inbox, I managed to spot conversations about tests on DNA of a fetus failing and something to do with positive radiation mutations.) We know Emily and Timothy were both brought here because of their DNA; will these fetal tests be linked to them in the future? Is it possible that they’re both descendants of Kit, Alma, and Grace from Asylum, meaning that they have alien DNA? That would sure make them special.

They see an email about Venable and the introduction of her own rules forbidding sexual contact, which states that she has “deviated from operating protocols.” The email then says he plans on executing Venable and Gallant after the interviews, and that so far there are only two promising candidates but he still has doubts over them. Does he want to execute Mr. Gallant or Evie? As the camera pans down we discover that their actions are being watched by none other than Rubber Man, who is positioned on the ceiling. Has Michael brought his father with him? Maybe the Antichrist holds the power to free spirits from their eternal prisons.

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Michael confronts Venable over her creating the no sex rules. She tells him that before the communication lines went down, she received her orders from an encrypted message from the Co-op and was instructed to destroy it after reading. They then bicker about what may have caused the apocalypse. Venable blames it on men, claiming that they were too busy swinging their dicks around so much they managed to blow the whole world to hell. Does this have something to do with her rules and her vision? Maybe she hopes to create a world run by women.

We get a glimpse of what may be Michael’s human side as he tells a story about his journey to the Outpost. He encountered a woman and two children who had severe burns and tumors from the radiation. One of her children was already dead and she was begging for him to kill her other child to save it as she didn’t have the strength to do it. He claims that he didn’t do it, but during the story he actually cries. Is he crying because he brought about the apocalypse and he’s sorry or that this isn’t what he wanted? Then he begins the process of testing Venable to see if she can gain a ticket to Sanctuary, but this time she has to remove her dress for a physical examination; he wants to see her shame.

There’s that word again—shame: the exact thing he was so interested in during his interrogation of Mr Gallant. What’s so special about someone’s shame? Is Michael’s own shame his origin? Upon opening her dress we see Venable’s deformed spine bending to the side, which Michael strokes and asks her if it brings her great pain. Just like the interview with Gallant, it appears to be filled with sexual tension—maybe something Michael uses to get into their heads—but it’s quickly dismissed when he tells her she failed to pass. Afterwards she secretly tells Miriam that she thinks Michael and Mr. Gallant previously knew each other and are up to something.

They set up an interrogation of their own with Gallant, whipping him and asking what he’s up to with Michael, but they sense that he may actually be enjoying it. Venable calls a stop to it and they leave him chained up. Eventually Michael enters and begins stroking the cuts from the lashes on Gallant’s back, gently saying that people will “never be free of the desire to be cruel to fellow man.” Gallant can’t stop thinking of his time with Rubber Man and can’t believe that it wasn’t Michael behind the mask. Michael appears to take pleasure in telling him that he has no interest in him whatsoever because he’s too needy and, to add salt to the wound, informs him it’s his Nana’s fault this happened to him. As he closes the door on his way out of the room, the chains around Gallant’s wrists suddenly open.

Meanwhile a dispute between Evie, Coco, Mallory, and Dinah (Adina Porter) about who has the most to worry about in life—the youth or geriatrics—is interrupted by a now clothed Gallant who asks Nana if she’s shocked to see him. They begin to argue and she reveals that she deserves to live because she can bring culture to the new civilisation; her one life is worth fifty of his because he’s been nothing but a failure to her. She concludes by telling him that she can’t love and accept him because “It’s just not in my nature.” Elsewhere in the Outpost, Timothy and Emily begin having sex as Rubber Man watches them from the shadows.

As a distraught looking Gallant sits alone in the lounge we hear the static sounds from the radio that mean the song is changing; this time it’s “Gold Dust Woman” by Fleetwood Mac—another hint towards the coming Coven crossover? Gallant is summoned by Rubber Man who he quickly follows around the corridors and into the bedroom. After pinning him to the bed, still believing it to be Michael, he grabs the scissors and stabs through the rubber until he’s covered in blood. Unsurprisingly the bedroom door opens to reveal a smirking Michael and as Gallant slowly looks down, he realises he’s actually sat on top of Nana Evie and it’s her that he just butchered. Is this the result of Michael getting into his head? Can he make him see what he needs to?

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Timothy and Emily are caught having sex by Miriam and the tall woman who quickly take them to Venable. They protest their innocence as they know all about her making up her own rules and that they can have sex if they want to. After being slapped about they are both dragged off to await their punishment, which “can’t come quick enough,” according to Venable. We know from the previous episode that the punishment for sex is execution and as they are led to another room Timothy is made to kneel as he prepares to be shot. He manages to knock out the gun-wielder and shoot Miriam himself but is knocked out by the tall woman. As Miriam runs from the room she lifts her shirt, giving us a glimpse of her wound, which we expect to be a typical bloody mess. But it’s not. Whatever is coming out of her is white with what appears to be wires. Miriam is a robot? Who saw that coming? As we hear a faint electric spark she cries for help and the episode ends.

Roanoke and Cult weren’t great seasons for me personally so I was dubious about this one. After a strong season premiere, this episode has got me well and truly hooked. I think the atmosphere is perfect and the not knowing yet of what things are truly like outside of The Outpost works so well in creating that atmosphere—the fear of the unknown. Whilst upset that Joan Collins has been killed off so quickly, I have recently heard in an interview that she’ll be playing multiple characters in this season so it will be interesting to see who she appears as next. Maybe a previous Supreme? While we haven’t gotten a strong link to Coven yet (only the snakes and a Fleetwood Mac song) we’ve now seen an even stronger link to Murder House with Rubber Man. Fans wanting to see the huge crossover event have been told to be patient, it will happen, but for now we’re going to be teased by it. As long as this season stays as strong as it’s started I don’t mind being teased at all.

Favourite Quotes from Season 8 Episode 2:

  • What is this, The Hunger Games? This is bullshit.
  • He’s looking for people to repopulate the earth not fill a bingo hall.
  • You were 52 when Elvis took his last shit.
  • No need for rules anymore, the chaos has won.
  • We have at least four Chris’s that can star in a movie, how many did you have?
  • Humanity might be in a sorry state, but it deserves better than you.
  • Sorry darling, it’s just not in my nature.
  • The world is strewn with the unburied corpses of 7 billion people and all you can think about is fornication and I’m the sick one?

Unanswered Questions from Season 8 Episode 2:

  • How has the Rubber Man left the Murder House?
  • Why is Michael so interested in people’s shame?
  • Does Michael know the Rubber Man is there and that it’s his father?
  • How are emails being sent when the Earth is destroyed?
  • What are the DNA tests being done on fetuses?
  • Just what or who in the world is Miriam?

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