This weeks American Horror Story begins with a flashback to a younger Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) and the woman who the Miriam Mead cyborg (Kathy Bates) is based on—whose name we don’t yet know—probably just Miriam too. Although an age isn’t given I’d say Michael is possibly in his late teenage years and he claims that “I don’t know how she found me”. Him being found potentially hints that he was missing, so at some point in his life between childhood and this event, he must have left the care of Constance (Jessica Lange). But what’s happened to Constance? Given that Jessica Lange is returning for at least one episode I genuinely hope it isn’t to just be killed off in a brief flashback as it would seem like an awful waste of getting her back. AHS has a history of introducing a character from one season into another just for them to swiftly meet their end. Queenie (Gabourney Sidibe, more of her later) and Marcy (Christine Estabrook) in Hotel spring to mind.
As we see a shrine to Satan behind the dining pair, Michael says he’s “finally found a real home” and the two say a prayer to the Dark Lord himself. The differences between Miriam Mead and the woman she’s based on are noticeable, it seems a bit obvious to say this but this woman feels more human. She laughs and jokes about killing her first three husbands and you can actually see emotion in the character; something which was missing (now that I watch it back) from Miriam in the beginning. Flash forward to present day in Outpost 3 and we have Michael explaining to Miriam about why she was based on that woman and why she is so important in helping him with the monumental task of rebuilding the world. We still don’t know what exactly caused the apocalypse. I know what you’re going to say, “The bombs right?” Yes, but what exactly made them go off in the first place? Was it Michael or were they launched in an attempt to kill him to prevent him from remodeling the world? After she helps him change his bloodstained jacket, he asks how he looks to which she replies, “Hail Satan.” He tells her that he’s, “not quite, but I appreciate the sentiment,” just as he senses a powerful presence in the Outpost. He clearly senses that the Coven witches are nearby, but what’s confusing is why he didn’t sense them sooner.
In the final scenes of last weeks episode we saw the witches enter looking to find and resurrect their sisters, which then lead to us seeing Mallory (Billie Lourd), Dinah (Adina Porter) and Coco (Leslie Grossman) being brought back to life. Was it the witches that Michael was really looking for to take to the Sanctuary? One of my personal favourite witches, Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) tells them they’ve been brought back to life and released from an identity spell at the same time. The identity spell was placed on them all at some point in their lives to stop them knowing that they’re witches and that they have powers. Does this mean that Mallory is a potential future Supreme witch? Given that she seemed to know subconsciously that something wasn’t right about her and that she could still use magic does seem to imply that she’s something very powerful indeed.
Dinah tells them that she hasn’t signed anything so won’t be helping them with their plan, whatever that may be, and Madison (Emma Roberts) tells her: “Who cares, like you could defeat anyone with that backwards Voodoo shit.” Now, remember Queenie from Coven who eventually met her end in Hotel? She’s the only other witch we’ve known to possess the power of becoming a human Voodoo doll which basically means that she can transfer self-inflicted pain onto another person, so does this mean that somehow Dinah is related to Queenie? They confront Michael who tells them that given the state of the world he has already won, to which Myrtle tells him she “always thought the world would end with fire and ice, not witches and warlocks.” The bitchiness of Myrtle and Madison instantly reminded me of Mean Girls which is quite fitting considering this episode aired on October 3rd. Before the season started I had in my mind that the showdown between the witches and the Anti-Christ would be something that the whole season was building up to, given that this confrontation has happened by episode 4, I’m fascinated to know where the rest of the season will go.
Earlier in the season we learnt that the current fallout shelter, Outpost 3, was formerly a school for boys and I think it became quite obvious that this was going to play a part in the story at some point. This episode gives us that history with the rest of the scenes from now onward being entirely flashback to the life of Michael and his connection to the Coven witches three years prior to the apocalypse. We discover that this school for boys is not just any old school, but it’s actually the Hawthorne School for warlocks who are basically a male counterpart for the female witches. Coven was very much about female witches and we were told or learnt next to nothing about their male equivalents, so this school added a sort of twist on the Coven mythology. In the flashback we’re introduced to the staff of the school including the eccentric Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) who is currently teaching a class on how to combine powers to fix a broken glass orb. Combining powers to fix something feels like it could be an important theme in this season, we don’t know whether the warlocks are going to be using their powers for good or bad, but it would appear that the female witches plan on combining powers to defeat evil and “fix” the world. The lesson is interrupted by an unnamed character (BD Wong) who tells Behold he’s been summoned by John Henry Moore (Cheyenne Jackson) and Grand Chancellor Ariel (Jon Jon Briones), which feels something of a rarity for either of them to be present at the school. They discuss their quest for finding an Alpha Warlock, a male witch that will basically have powers that will exceed a female Supreme, who will help them “take their rightful place” at the top of the magic chain. Whilst Coven was very much about the fight to the top and becoming the next Supreme, the search for the Alpha Warlock is very different. All taking place quietly underground and out of sight it’s very different to the bitchy, murderous world we’re used to in the AHS magical mythology. They think they may have found their new Alpha—Michael Langdon, obviously.
We see Michael via CCTV footage from a police station. He’s been arrested for murder, then after being brutally interrogated he proceeds to kill the cop with what else but witchcraft. The thuggish cop gets thrown around the room whilst his limbs get snapped and eventually—before crying “save me”—his head explodes. Lovely! John tries to play it down by claiming it’s just a “classic case of demonic possession,” like that’s just a common thing to be happening in the world, but the rest are convinced he’s the Alpha. Interestingly they view him as an Alpha Warlock instantly and never even consider or discuss that he may be something far worse, perhaps they think that an Anti-Christ is a thing of myth. Instead they seem more interested in gaining power over the female witches and begin discussing how Michael may be the one from the prophecy that can pass the test of the Seven Wonders. The Seven Wonders was a series of tests we learnt of way back in Coven, which would ultimately reveal the new Supreme but at the same time causing the death of some of the witches including Misty Day (Lily Rabe) and Madison. So how is Madison alive and being a bitch in this season you ask? Well we find out later in the episode. Ariel decides he needs to meet Michael ,so heads to the police station to find out about his powers and why he was arrested. In another brief flashback we see the ‘mother’ Miriam was based on in a butchers shop demanding a goats head for her incantations. After he refuses to serve her, she refers to him as “Mr Butcher Man” with a definite emphasis on the word butcher; you might remember that Bates played The Butcher back in season 6, Roanoke. After he calls her a “bat shit crazy bitch” we see Michael’s powers begin and as his eyes roll back into his head multiple knives fly into the butcher killing him. It’s hard to know at this point whether he intentionally killed him or was it a spontaneous reaction to somebody dissing the woman he thinks of as a mother? Back in the jail cell, Ariel opens the cell door with his powers but Michael acts shocked as though he’s never seen anything like it, is he just lulling the warlocks into a false sense of security so that they don’t know his true identity? As they leave, unbeknownst to Ariel, Michael slyly flicks his wrist and snaps the neck of a policeman while grinning to himself. He definitely doesn’t want them to know who he is and the power he possesses. Does he himself even know at this point that he’s the Anti-Christ?
Remember at the end of Coven when Cordelia decided to go public about witches and magic so that they would no longer have to survive in secret? She wanted young witches, too scared to reveal themselves, to know that it was okay to be who they were. It turns out that those actions are what lead the Hawthorne School to be underground. We learn that above the now Outpost 3 there used to be a huge building with wooden beams and windows that allowed you to see for miles. After Cordelia’s outing of the magic world they were forced to retreat underground after the locals burnt their school down. But why were only the warlocks forced to retreat? We know from Hotel that witches are very much still living an openly public lifestyle. Michael is introduced to his fellow students and told that he has finally arrived at his true home. It makes me wonder just where the other students and teachers have gone in the past 3 years. Absolutely nothing remains of them in the school/outpost, none of the spell books or paintings, nothing! Did Michael kill them all for using him in their quest for power or they safe and sound in the sanctuary? It seems strange to move them to the sanctuary when they already live in a ready made fallout shelter, so my guess is he killed them. They begin testing him on particular things, not quite the Seven Wonders, but still enough to test him and assess just how powerful he might be. When he almost kills them all through changing the water in the rooms air to snow they realise that he may be what they’re looking for, but we know otherwise.
Not only do we now return to Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, we are treated to another big return from Coven, Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga). The Zoe we see here feels very different to the one we originally saw in Season 3. Obviously she’s changed over the years, but she is now a more confident woman and witch, teaching magic to a class with a familiar student, Mallory. She and Cordelia are impressed by her power, even stating that her bloodline goes right back to Salem, which reaffirms my earlier point that Mallory is very important and powerful. Maybe she will be the one to eventually go up against Michael, we’ve already seen him shocked at her power. The witches and warlocks meet, with the males wanting Cordelia to conduct the Seven Wonders test on Michael but she refuses saying she can’t let more people die from enduring them. They remind her that she let one of her own die and did nothing to save her, Queenie.
We were told from the beginning that this would be an epic crossover between Murder House and Coven but we weren’t prepped for an even bigger crossover, Cordelia entering the Hotel Cortez in an attempt to rescue the trapped spirit of Queenie. Hotel was one of my personal favourite seasons so to get quite a big scene set back there was huge, it felt right that they tried to resolve Queenie’s rushed and unnecessary death in a previous season. Evan Peters also got to reprise his role as James March which was a treat for his fans, I’m sure. Obviously Cordelia fails in rescuing her spirit, we’ve been told in Murder House that the spirit remains trapped for all eternity in the place they die and Cordelia’s magic isn’t powerful enough to save her. Michael’s on the other hand, the evil spirit himself, March knows the walls of the Cortez are no match for his power so lets Queenie leave. How did he know how powerful Michael was? Does he have some sort of strong connection to the dead? Clearly he does as he leads Queenie’s trapped ghost right out of the doors and tells her they have somebody else to save. It’s a shame that we got to revisit the Hotel Cortez and didn’t get to see any other characters, a cameo from The Countess (Lady Gaga) would have been amazing, especially considering she got a Golden Globe for that role. I said earlier we’d find out how Madison had risen from the grave, well here’s your answer. In Coven we got a glimpse of Misty and Fiona’s personal hell, a place they’re trapped in forever after they die, something that happens to witches apparently, and now we see Madison’s. She’s stuck working in a department store being stung with a cattle prod, sorting towels, and dealing with rude customers for all eternity. Michael has other ideas; he brings her back. I was never originally a fan of Madison, I don’t know whether it was Emma Roberts herself or just the character in general but then Ryan Murphy made Scream Queens. That show gave Roberts a platform to showcase her talent and show us all how funny and entertaining she could be; it actually made me fall in love with the character of Madison so I’m delighted that she’s back. In the previous two episodes we saw that Rubber Man—Michael’s father Tate—had somehow left the Murder House, so I guess now we know how his spirit left. Perhaps Michael has released all spirits from their holding places and they can now freely walk around the apocalypse. Is Michael just building an army of the undead to wage war on Cordelia with? Speaking of Hotel, that season finale flashed forward to 2022 and the world was fine, there was no apocalypse which is baffling. Is this some sort of mistake on the writers part or a sly hint that by the end of this season the world will be fixed? It seemed odd at the time to suddenly flash forward to that particular year so maybe we should treat it as some sort of clue.
The episode ends with Cordelia, Zoe and Myrtle leaving the school only to be confronted by Michael, Madison and Queenie, only to result in Cordelia fainting at the sight of her dead students. She’s the Supreme, the most powerful witch, yet she couldn’t save them so she clearly knows Michael outranks her. There’s a whole three more years from this point to the apocalypse so what’s happened in that time? Has Michael resurrected or released anybody else? We know that Jessica Lange doesn’t return till episode 6 which will no doubt be a very Murder House heavy episode but we’re finally starting to get some answers about how things are connected. This feels like such a good season and it’s a big return to it’s roots. Roots that made it such a great and unique show to begin with. I was shocked this week at how big of a role the Hotel Cortez played, so I’m hoping they have some more tricks up their sleeves and we may see the return of some locations and characters from other seasons. The Angel of Death or the Aliens from Asylum would be a superb and appropriate thing to have come back in this season, fingers crossed!
Favourite Quotes from Episode 4:
- Bad news bitch, you’re back from the dead.
- It’s almost as bad as your dinner jacket, but at least the world can be saved.
- You’re a snack and I haven’t had a good dicking in ages
- The fetid stench of unwashed boy makes Bourbon Street smell like Chanel No. 5.
- I’m the fucking Supreme.