There always seems to be a point in each season of American Horror Story when the show somehow manages to go ‘off the rails’ and this was definitely that point for Apocalypse. Directed by Bradley Buecker this was by no means a complete waste of an episode but being only 38 minutes long it’s a struggle to say much positive about it, but I’ll start with that anyway.
The episode started off strong, which was expected given just how good the entire season has been up to this point, and we were treated to a mini showdown between Michael (Cody Fern) and Cordelia (Sarah Paulson). Set directly after last weeks episode we saw Michael discovering the identities of the burnt corpses through touch alone and it is on seeing his beloved Ms Mead (Kathy Bates) that he completely breaks down. When confronted by Cordelia she reveals that he’ll never be able to bring Mead back from the dead as she’s placed a spell on her soul that only she can break. This is where some confusion as to the strength of Cordelia’s powers come into play for me as earlier in the season she couldn’t save or bring back the souls of Queenie (Gabourney Sidibe) or Misty Day (Lily Rabe) but in episodes since she’s managed to bring back Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) from the dead and has the power to hide a soul in the afterlife from the Anti-Christ himself. Surely if she can perform a spell powerful enough to hide a soul then could she not have saved the others herself? We’ve seen her resurrect the dead after all. Cordelia tries to tempt Michael into joining her Coven or spend his life alone, but of course he declines and threatens her and the witches instead which results in him going on his way to begin his journey of discovery which is what the rest of the episodes focusses on.
Michael takes himself into the middle of nowhere, draws a pentagram in the dirt and proceeds to sit there for four days to wait for his father (Satan) to tell him what he should do. Since we’ve found out that Michael is actually the son of Satan, not Tate (Evan Peters), I’ve been struggling to understand the contradiction it makes to season one. In that season Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) tell us that the Anti-Christ will be a baby born from both the human and the spirit world, which is how Vivien (Connie Britton) came to pregnant. Raped by the spirit of Tate Langdon she had an accelerated pregnancy and gave birth to our Anti-Christ, Michael. But now the father is Satan? Not a spirit but the Devil himself? It doesn’t make much sense and I hate how they’ve subtly tried to change things we learnt as fact in the first season.
After his four days of isolation Michael begins to have a series of hallucinations which drop all kinds of horror movie related Easter Eggs which is fitting considering the episode aired on Halloween. Remember that amazing scene in The Exorcist when Regan transforms herself into Father Karras’s mother and asks, “Why you do this to me?” Well they literally recreate that scene, very briefly, with Miriam Mead in a bed in the woods asking that very question. It’s a cool reference especially considering that The Exorcist played a big part in the inspiration of some of the side plots in Asylum. We also see the short reappearance of the Black Pope, Anton LaVey (Carlo Rota), who tells Michael that he’s done a great job and he is everything they expected him to be. LaVey then turns into an Angel who tells him that “God loves him” before vanishing. Considering this season is about the Anti-Christ, religion hasn’t really played a big part of it at all until recently and we’ve only really seen things from the Satanists point of view. Then, in a nod to Black Philip from Witch, a black goat appears which Michael instantly butchers causing snakes to come writhing out of the corpse. We haven’t really seen snakes again this season since they somehow appeared in Outpost 3 right before Michael made his debut appearance, so was the goat another hallucination or was this actually a sign sent for him from his father? Either way it definitely has an impact on him as the next thing we see is Michael making his way to the Satanic Black Mass Church back in the city.
The church is run by Hannah played by the brilliant Sandra Bernhard who makes her AHS debut in this episode and she is absolutely perfect in this role. She’s angry, she rants about Trump, and isn’t happy with the level of sin being committed by her congregation. Petty theft and infidelity just isn’t a big enough sin to bring about the end of days so she tells us how she robbed a nursing home and gave the money to the NRA. None of them realise that the Anti-Christ is right there in the room, they assume he’s just another follower, and they don’t realise that their sinning ways have won.
In another excellent casting choice we’re introduced to the character of Madeline played by Harriet Sansom Harris who plays a villain so well, we all remember the evil Felicia Tillman in Desperate Housewives right? She cut off her own fingers to frame someone for her own murder, I’m surprised it’s taken them 8 years to get her in the show! She takes Michael under her wing and takes him home to feed him and tell her story. I’m not the kind of person that notices continuity and production gaffes, I’m usually too wrapped up in the story, but how did nobody notice that one minute Michael is holding bread and the next it’s a spoon, then it’s bread again? It changes almost every time the camera angle shifts and is such a noticeable thing—even to me.
Anyway, she reveals she sold her soul to the Devil in exchange for a middle class home, a full cable TV package, not getting the sweats from heroin, and every Wednesday night she fucks Brad Pitt till the sun comes up. We see the proof of the middle class house so we have to assume that she’s telling the truth and she does in fact get to have sex with Pitt on a weekly basis. I imagine that some of the other followers deals with the devil are pretty much the same kinds of carnal pleasures, even though we never learn of anybody else’s story. It appears that their side of the bargain is to make the world as horrible as possible and that doing so will usher in the end of days. We learned little of the world in the earlier seasons so we can only guess that the world must have been in a pretty dire state for Michael’s conception to work. Michael disapproves of her lifestyle and obviously she takes great offence so tries to slit his throat. She see’s the 666 on his neck and she drops to her knees in shock to begin worshipping him. Obviously the rest of the church believe it when they see it too. If I got a 666 tattooed behind my ear would they worship me too? It feels like they believe him a little too easily from just the brand and don’t require a demonstration of power.
Just before Michael is introduced to the church the rest of the followers are in the middle of sacrificing a social worker and a volunteer for ‘Doctors Without Borders’ because doing so will make the world a little bit more shitty. Surely if Hannah wants the world to be a shittier place then she should be happy Trump is in power right instead of hating him? Michael takes over and commits the sacrifice himself which results in the Satanists all bowing to him. Earlier in the episode Cordelia told Michael that he was alone and would continue to be alone if he followed the path he was on so is this his way of proving her wrong? He’s surrounded by followers who worship him but where are they exactly in the present day post apocalypse? If their belief is true they will all perish in the apocalypse and enter hell to serve Satan, so are we to assume that Michael was cool with that in the end? Considering he doesn’t handle loss very well he does a great job of making sure all the people following him end up dead.
Remember the unnamed crazy Mexican from Asylum that somehow knew that Sister Mary Eunice had been possessed by the Devil resulting in her murder? Well the actress that played her, Gloria Laino, has finally returned to the show in an all too brief role as one of the Satanists at the church. Who’d have thought that the actress playing a woman terrified of and actually being murdered by Satan would return to the show years later to play one of Satan’s followers. It’s a fun little nod to Asylum that most people will probably miss due to how ‘blink and you miss it’ the scene is. She’s offering Michael food at a potluck dinner the group always host. Michael tells Madeline he lacks guidance of what to do since the only person he ever cared about, Miriam, is dead so she whisks him off in her sports car (another gift from the Devil no doubt) to a place that can apparently bring back Miriam. It’s pretty much from this point onwards that the episode plummets rapidly into a frustrating, second half so I will try to keep this next bit brief. I genuinely love American Horror Story so don’t want to spend much time giving it a load of shade.
We’re approaching the end of the season fast so it feels unnecessary to introduce new throwaway characters played by some of the regular cast at this point. Given how ridiculous Jeff (Evan Peters) and Mutt (Billy Eichner) look and act in these scenes it honestly feels like the crew realised they had no actors for the roles on the day of filming so just threw two basin wigs at these two and let them do whatever they wanted for the camera. What we get is something that borders on a parody and feels massively out-of-place compared to the rest of the season, this kind of stuff would have been more at home in Cult where it might have worked but it’s sadly lost here. They’re two tech nerds who love cocaine so much they snort huge amounts from a ladle, get regular oral sex from their assistant and are also secretly Satanists, sigh. I can only assume they sold their souls for the company and equipment they have as them being the owners of this makes zero sense any other way. They meet Michael and agree to make him the android version of Miriam we met in the first few episodes and this episode ended with her finally waking up. Did we genuinely need such a lengthy explanation of her creation especially when it was coupled with two of the worst characters ever created in the shows history? The only positive to these scenes was we got to saw Sarah Paulson reprise her role as Venable only this time she wears bright purple and feels very different to the one we knew. Here she’s nothing but a secretary/assistant which perhaps gives us an insight into how she came to run the Outpost in the way she did, she see’s how awful these men are and wants to reshape the future in a female vision. Is this tech building the Sanctuary we heard about post apocalypse? Is the company that built the android the Co-operative or will they help Michael form that company in preparation for the end of days? Either way I can only keep every part of me crossed in the hopes that Jeff and Mutt did not survive it.
A good half of the episode was wasted on these scenes and on characters who quite frankly were a joke which is so frustrating considering how good the rest of the season has been. We only have two episodes left of this season and all this episode did was supply us with answers to all the wrong questions. There’s so much happening in the present day scenes from the start of the season that we know nothing about yet the main bulk of the episodes have been a flashback to the events leading up to the apocalypse. Perhaps if we didn’t already know Mead was an android her creation story might have had more of an impact but at this point in the story it felt unnecessary to spend so much valuable time on it instead of giving us something more worthwhile. Remember Timothy (Kyle Allen) and Emily (Ash Santos) who were mysteriously taken to the Outpost after the apocalypse because they had special DNA? Yeah I’m struggling to remember them too as it’s been so long since they were even mentioned I’m starting to think that there’s nothing special about them at all. Even a brief mention of something DNA related in these flashbacks would be enough for us to tie it to them but there’s been nothing at all.
The show has a tendency to rush it’s finales by cramming so much into them at once it’s really hard to take it all in and get the answers we want, given how much time was wasted with this episode I think we might be heading for a similar kind of ending.