American Horror Story: Apocalypse – “Fire and Reign” (S8E9)

Episode 9 “Fire and Reign” (written by Asha Michelle Wilson and directed by Jennifer Arnold) was a solid penultimate episode tying together some loose ends in spite of a brief detour to 1918 Siberia and setting up the pieces for next week’s Season 8 finale, or for Season 9 depending on who you ask. This episode revealed the answers to questions we’ve all had including why only certain witches are present in the current timeline (most of the coven died in the magic nails and shotgun arm massacre), why no warlocks made it to Outpost 3 (all perished in the pentagram of death), how the outposts got built (it all started with a binder), how Ms. Venable (Sarah Paulson) was put in charge of Outpost 3, and what an important role tech bros Mutt (Billy Eichner) and Jeff (Evan Peters) play in bringing on the apocalypse.

I’m a fan of Season 8 but I don’t love that Mutt and Jeff are the bowl cut masterminds who pull the strings to set up Michael the Antichrist (Cody Fern) and the Illuminati to nuke the world, all because Jeff was coked out and upset about how long it took for his coffee order to be ready (at least they got his name right) and by other people’s driving. I like my Antichrist with a little more agency, like I like my Ms. Venable. If Michael’s so lost and easily led and just basically a Trump boy man always looking for revenge in a grown man’s body (which he basically is due to his lightning fast ageing overnight as a kid), then we lose some of the menace, power and mystery he possessed in the earliest episodes of the season. Possibly he comes into his own before hopefully being defeated but we only have one episode left for him to get there.

We begin with Mutt and Jeff and a gun. If those names sound familiar it may be because Mutt and Jeff was a long running American comic strip that started in early 1908 and ran until 1983 about dimwitted horse race fans, one tall and one short, who became get rich quick scam buddies. Jeff is from an insane asylum as well, so do with that what you will, Asylum fans. An even more likely reason it might sound familiar is that the term Mutt and Jeff has come to mean any mismatched in height or silly pair. The good cop/bad cop police interrogation tactic is also called the “Mutt and Jeff”. So if there ends up being a plot development involving a good cop/bad cop scenario with these two or if one of them has a change of heart and becomes a true good cop, you heard it here first. This pair does seem like a joke with their excessive use of cocaine, escorts, “companion” robots and really bad haircuts but then most of the men in the world with access to the nuclear buttons might possibly be described that way as well. We soon learn that the threat is real with these two as they are the drivers of the events leading to the nuclear apocalypse.

The episode opens with the previously mentioned gun pointed at the camera. Jeff is having a robot arm play Russian roulette with him without bullets but next time he’ll have bullets. As mentioned above he’s coked out per usual and so bitter about the normal hassles of life-like the Wi-Fi being down that he proclaims that nothing’s working and everything needs to end and start over. He’s sounding downright apocalyptic. I wondered if he was being influenced by Michael when the episode started but as the episode unfolds we learn that they are leading Michael to ending the world. Jeff’s complaining that Michael isn’t doing anything about starting the world over but Mutt tells him to have some respect because “even Jesus needed time to figure shit out.”

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Ms. Venable, wearing her signature purple, interrupts their “end of the world” talk to remind them that they have a Cooperative meeting next week. She says that they promised her more agency as she’s given up her personal life for this job and demands they tell her what the Cooperative is. We also find out she has scoliosis when Mutt gives her a poorly delivered and misguided pep talk. Jeff tells her it’s not her place and wants her to just focus on hiring their favorite mile high escorts as the stewardesses on their flight. She quits and Jeff says it gives him a great idea on how to deal with their Antichrist issues.

Back at Miss Robichaux‘s Academy, Mallory (Billie Lourd) is having troubles bringing a bird back to life. She’s panicked that she isn’t strong enough to fight Michael but Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) and Myrtle (Frances Conroy) tell her she’s exhausting herself and that witchcraft is an art. Mallory worries she doesn’t have time to perfect her art because Michael said he’s going to come there and destroy them all. Cordelia reassures her that she’s put an aura shield protection over the house and no evil human, spirit, nor demon can get in.

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Meanwhile Dinah (Adina Porter) is out front doing voodoo, easily breaking through the protection spell. It makes you wonder if it was too easy; will she be a double agent or just have a change of heart later? Queenie (Gabourney Sidibe) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) are instructing the newer witches as Bubbles (Joan Collins) looks on about how to put negative energy in little cups called Guardian’s Chalices which are “bear traps for bad juju” and teaching them a mantra that make them powerful. “Evil presences leave this space. Only light and healing energy is allowed here.”

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With the barrier gone, Michael and robot Miss Meade (Kathy Bates) come storming in during the mantra and start killing witches. Michael can’t help but to point out that “Clearly that mantra is bullshit.” Miss Meade shoots with her shotgun arm, announcing “I was built for this.” Michael kills with magic and the nails in their Guardian’s Chalices become shrapnel.  We see Zoe, Bubbles and Queenie die. Misty apparently is off gallivanting with Stevie Nicks. Dinah asks Michael if they’re good. He says they’re more than good and that “Satan just green lit her talk show for 13 episodes.” Dinah looks with sadness and possibly shame at the slaughtered witches.

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Frustrated with not getting the witches he was after, Michael vents about their failure to Miss Meade, who we find out is still being controlled by Mutt and Jeff. They spy on Michael through her camera and control the advice she gives him. They have her tell him that he should go to them for advice on how to end the world. Michael is lost and admits his plan to destroy the world was to become an ambassador or become the president’s most trusted adviser and then eventually (like if AHS had a Season 14) become the president which is essentially the plot of the Omen III. Mutt and Jeff through Miss Meade call him out for it as they recognize the movie plot and he sheepishly admits that there are no manuals out there for how to destroy the world as the Antichrist. However they take it one step too far when they have Miss Meade say that they’re good looking. Michael seems to get that they’ve hacked into Miss Meade at that point and gives a meaningful look to the camera when he says “OK we’ll go.”

Michael meets with Mutt and Jeff for their world ending advice and they explain that the Cooperative is the rebranded name of the Illuminati, the secret society of world leaders, tech giants, and cultural influencers who control the world. They reveal that members include Putin, General Kim, Clinton (Bill not Hillary) and Buffet (Warren presumably not Jimmy). Even better, they’ve all sold their souls so Mutt says, “your dad set you up bro so they have to do what you say–they’re your army. You don’t need magic to end the world, just science.  You will reign for a 1000 years of fire.” After showing him the book of Revelations, they tell him about Dead Hand which is a Russian defense system set up for mutual assured destruction since if nuclear bombs go off, counter missiles are sent automatically even if all the commanders are dead. Mutt tells him “With the people we know in positions of power, all you need for Armageddon bro are three people in the right places pushing the right buttons.” Michael only cares about killing the witches and when they assure him that this would do the trick, he looks pleased.

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Myrtle, Cordelia, Madison (Emma Roberts) and Coco (Leslie Grossman) had escaped the Robichaux Academy and are safe in Misty’s swamp shack in the bayou. Side note, if I ever start a frozen alcoholic drink bar where tarot card readings are offered, I’m calling dibs on the name Misty’s Swamp Shack. Cordelia is astral projecting to the Academy and is seeing all of her dead girls. She tries to feel their souls to bring them back but she can’t feel anything. Madison then belatedly remembers to tell her that Michael can erase souls. Cordelia slaps her for not telling her earlier and they realize they will need to take extreme measures.

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Myrtle pulls out an old tome and the witches prepare Mallory in a black bubbly bath to attempt a possibly deadly time travel changing history test run that will be below Michael’s radar. She will attempt to travel back to Siberia 1918 to help prevent Anastasia Romanov (also a witch) and her family from being assassinated. She successfully time travels to the right location and works on a protection spell with Anastasia but is unable to maintain it and watches her die with her family.  She returns traumatized and wanting to go back with blood coming out of her eyes.

Myrtle and Cordelia have a heartfelt talk about how Mallory almost died but she did it, she went back in time and pierced the veil. She’s their hope in the battle to come against Michael and the Cooperative but she’s not strong enough yet. Cordelia worries that she must die to allow Mallory to access her full powers but she doesn’t want to go yet. Myrtle reassures her about death with this gem as only she could deliver it, “We all die, Petal. Some of us make rather a habit out of it.” When Cordelia expresses concern that she’s selfishly holding on to her life and power like her mom, Myrtle assures her she is nothing like her mom. She says Fiona is “like a flicker, a shadow” and then uses interesting language when she says Cordelia is “like a fiery conflagration in the sky.” Cordelia considers proceeding with the Sacred Taking, pouring her powers into Mallory and dying in the process but Myrtle says they don’t need to stop Michael, just to buy some time to allow Mallory to develop her powers.

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To this end, Cordelia and Myrtle go to ask the warlocks to work with them but Michael has sacrificed the warlocks including Behold (Billy Porter) and the recently resurrected John Henry (Cheyenne Jackson) (that guy can’t catch a break) and arranged them in a pentagram shape with dismembered arms forming the circle.

Mutt and Jeff inform a purple wearing Ms Venable who is packing her things, having recently quit, that the Illuminati, rebranded as the Cooperative, will be destroying the world and that she would be perfect to be in charge at the outposts and make up her own rules without having to answer to anyone. Her eyes light up. We finally see how she became the Ms Venable we met in the first three episodes of the season.  One answer we don’t have is how Miss Meade forgot she was an android in Outpost 3 since she was definitely aware of it when she used her shotgun arm to kill the witches in this episode.

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Michael and Meade head to the Cooperative retreat to plead his case. He’s nervous but Meade reassures him. He asks, “Why would the world’s wealthiest, the .1% choose to wear so much flannel and Patagonia?” Michael presents his plan to the silver reflective masked members of the Cooperative and tells them when “fire reigns down on the unwashed masses” they and their families will be safely squirreled away, spared in luxury fallout shelters for $100 million each. The shelters will take a year or two to build which gives time for Mallory to build on her powers, Michael to grow out his hair, and Dinah to become as successful as Oprah. He talks about all the land they own in New Zealand and Bora Bora. and mentions a bunker under a Texas ranch. The episode ends as he tells them all to turn to page 6 of their binders.

Are we heading into a finale or setting up Season 9? It seems like the only way the writers can wrap up this season in one episode is to go with the Mallory time travel magic that either kills Michael or stops him from ever being born, thus preventing the apocalypse from ever happening which would explain next week’s episode’s title of “Apocalypse Then.” There’s a theory on Reddit that they won’t be able to wrap it up in one episode so there will be a “to be continued” and the battle will continue as Season 9. Evidence that seems to be in support of this includes the fact that Season 9 was green lit at the same time as Season 8 and that Season 9 was originally supposed to be the Coven/ Murderhouse crossover season. Additionally, I agree with people who say there could’ve been a whole post-apocalyptic season just set in Outpost 3 with all of the tension, odd rules and strange bedfellows living together with a separate season dealing with the flashbacks about the Antichrist coming to power and stopping him. Instead we got the post apocalypse Outpost 3 shelter with promising tension filled story lines only covering three episodes before they killed off all of those characters. Now personally I much prefer the flashbacks and not being in the bunker but I do agree that it was a strong premise with lots of things that could’ve been explored.

I’m all for the season being neatly wrapped up next episode because I’m invested enough in all of the characters (except Timothy and Emily, aka Adam and Eve, since we never get to know them at all) that I’d rather not have them perish via nuclear Armageddon (nor do I want to see them suffer through a Season 9 of nuclear aftermath). Also nuclear war is terrible for your skin—just ask Brock. Speaking of Brock, is he still wandering around Outpost 3? I’m guessing we’ll find out next week but I’m not too concerned. However that brings up the theory some have that Brock and Mr. Gallant are just Mutt and Jeff under an identity spell since they were both in Coco’s life pre-apocalypse. I do think we’ll get the answer to that question next week.

The finale episode preview shows Cordelia letting the witches know that in order to save the world, they must let it burn and shows her putting the witches under identity spells presumably to buy time so Mallory can increase her powers and defeat Michael when he expects that they’re all already defeated.  Also we see a Murder House scene with Jessica Lange! Here’s hoping the finale is an early holiday gift with all the wrappings, and doesn’t feel like a visit from Krampus, for the fans who have liked this season.

How would you like to see Season 8 end or do you prefer that this story line continues in Season 9? Please share your theories and finale hopes in the comments.


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