It’s September, so it must be time for another season of American Horror Story. Every year, a devoted crowd of fans gets overly excited for the premiere of AHS. Ryan Murphy has managed to create a universe where the stories get more banana pants every year and the plot is kept top secret until the series premiere. The not knowing only amps up the excitement of the fans and the snarkiness of the detractors. It seems fair to say that AHS:Apocalypse is the most anticipated season yet because it’s a crossover of two of the most popular past seasons: Murder House and Coven. American Horror Story is, first and foremost, an anthology series, so yes, you can come in as a newbie to Apocalypse and enjoy it, HOWEVER, if you have been here for the ride since day one or even if you just binged yourself up to current status, there is just so much more to take in and speculate and debate over. So, grab some burnt champagne and hold on because it’s a bumpy ride into the nuclear winter. (Seriously, grab a drink and a snack because there is A LOT to unpack in this episode.)
Opening in present day Los Angeles, we find series mainstay Evan Peters as hairstylist Mr. Gallant and he’s, basically, perfection from the moment we see him. Peters is an undeniably talented actor, but he really excels in the Murphy universe. Could anyone else have so subtly pulled off that stink face when Coco told him he was on the path to being the next Chris McMillan? Don’t think so. After her appearance in Cult, Leslie Grossman seems to now be a regular part of the AHS universe as well. Although this character, Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt, kind of feels like an extension of Meadow Wilton from Cult, she’s still hilarious at expertly portraying a vacuous, entitled, self involved rich white woman who, of course, has an overworked and under appreciated assistant. Enter Billie Lourd as Mallory. Lourd first entered the Murphy fold in Scream Queens, but made the transition to the AHS universe in Cult.
When all of the cell phones in the salon send out a ballistic missile alert, Coco believes it’s a hoax just like the faux alert that the citizens of Hawaii experienced earlier this year. Her father calls to inform her that it’s real and there are four spots in a safe place reserved for their family. She calls her partner Brock (Billy Eichner) who is in a lobby where a tv news anchor is warning the public of the incoming missiles and before saying goodbye to his children he says, “This is it ladies and gentlemen, I can’t believe we actually did it.”
Over in Beverly Hills, Evie Gallant (Joan Collins) is introduced as the queen that she is, lounging in her spacious mansion while decked out in full hair and makeup and enjoying champagne. Wait. The champagne is burnt and her housekeeper gives zero fucks because it’s the end of the world. When her grandson enters and also tells her that missiles are coming, she blandly says, “So is global warming. It’s probably fake news. I’m going to call Donald.” (So, do you think Murphy voted against Trump?) When Mr. Gallant assures her that it is real news she declares, “Let’s have some burnt champagne.” YASSSS QUEEEENN
Ok, now Coco, Mallory, Mr. Gallant and Evie are at the hangar where their private jet awaits to fly them to safety. Lots of insanity and head wounds occur, but all I can think about is the logistics of driving that has been happening thus far. You simply cannot get from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica in such a short period of time; especially if everyone is trying to get somewhere and you also have to avoid suicides falling onto your windshield. And Brock says he’ll be there in ten minutes because he’s going to run? Truly, this is the most unbelievable part of a show that ends with the antichrist entering a bunker during the apocalypse. But it’s about to get even more unrealistic. When we meet Timothy Campbell (Kyle Allen), he and his nuclear family are celebrating his admission to UCLA when two vehicles show up and tell him that his DNA, which he submitted to an ancestry website (HOLY TOPICAL ,BATMAN), has made him a chosen person to survive and he has to come with them. It is currently 40 minutes until the missiles. Ain’t nobody going nowhere in forty minutes in Los Angels.
Anyhoo…new intro is a nice, creepy stroll down nostalgia lane of Murder House and Coven. And do I spy some visuals that were used for Roanoke?
Two weeks later, we see Timothy and Emily (Ashley Santos) travel to their new home; Outpost 3. It’s located in a minimal fallout zone, one of ten, where genetically superior people and people who could afford the ticket are surviving. How much is a ticket? According to Coco, it’s one hundred million dollars and hosting narcissistic assholes such as her is the only way to financially support the outposts. So, why can’t they afford food? More ranting on that later.
Essentially, director Bradley Buecker manages to make what looks like an art installation from Burning Man look like the only salvation in a very desolate apocalyptic wasteland and those plague doctor oxygen masks are the coolest things ever. After witnessing two executions, Timothy and Emily go though a decontamination room and the only thing I’m wondering is if it was all for show. Did they really have to go through decontamination?
And here is the moment we have been waiting for: reigning queen of AHS, Sarah Paulson announces herself with the tap, tap, tap of her cane first and then enters the room looking like a vampire cosplayer complete with her Gary Oldman as Dracula hairdo, a coffin shaped belt buckle and a white candle that drips black wax. Of course, it’s Sarah Paulson, so it looks amazing on her, but let’s be real; she looks like an escapee from an Anne Rice cosplaying cult. As Wilhemina Venable explains that the bunker they’re housed in used to be an exclusive boys school (like the exclusive girls school that her character Cordelia, who will also be a character this season was the headmistress at) is now owned by The Cooperative. When The Cooperative realized what was coming, they converted it into a technology free (because technology destroyed the world) refuge where only the select few could survive into…what? Is this the end, as the title of the episode would suggest? Nope. It’s the beginning. “The Cooperative has plans far beyond the temporary cleansing fire the bomb. The Cooperative is not made of nations or armies. It’s a collection of the dozen greatest minds mankind has to offer; the visionaries.”
As Wilhemina shows Timothy and Emily their rooms and new wardrobe, she explains that society still requires a caste system to function, hence, the “purples” and the “grays”. Purple, historically the color of royalty, is only for the rich assholes who paid to be there and the genetically elite. Gray is for the worker ants. “Social media gave people the illusion they are all equal. The natural order will restore itself.” Murphy loves to remind us how much he hates social media, although without it, where would he be? Essentially, there are a lot of rules in Outpost 3 and as the episode rolls along, it becomes more and more clear that Wilhemina and her right hand woman, Miriam Meade (Kathy Bates), seem to be running their own rogue program and, perhaps, not all of these rules are actual Cooperative rules. No voluntary copulation? Why? And does that mean that rape is acceptable? Seeing Wilhemina and Miriam meet up to secretly wear purple and talk about how much they enjoy punishing the others is unsettling; are they performing their very own Stanford Prison Experiment? Think about it: people paid one hundred million dollars PER ticket and there isn’t enough provisions past 18 months, but makeup and hair products seem to be in abundant supply. They have these people dressing the way they tell them to and expect them to show up at specific places at specific times for what purpose? And they clearly pulled Mr. Gallant and Stu into the decontamination showers just for show and to exert their power. While “The stew is Stu” is an instant classic, I find it hard to believe they’re actually eating Stu. It was a power move and besides that, Wilhemina isn’t going to be eating such a poorly butchered piece of meat.
A completely unnecessary love story is revealed between Timothy and Emily and it’s so cliche and so very YA Dystopian Novel that I really hope it turns out to be something more than just a throw away Romeo and Juliet thread. Perhaps they threw this in to help along the feeling of boredom that the characters, and by extension, this viewer was beginning to feel after 18 months of a nuclear winter. Thank Xenu for the arrival of Michael Langdon. Clearly another escapee from the Anne Rice cosplay cult where he was a redheaded Lestat, he arrives in spectacularly biblical/plague time fashion with a horse drawn carriage. The antichrist himself, he is the genetically blessed offspring of Vivien Harmon and Tate Langdon from Murder House. For the uninitiated, Tate Langdon was a ghost who raped Vivien and as Billie Dean Howard (another Paulson character who also appears in Hotel and, ostensibly, this season) explains, a child conceived by a mortal and a spirit is an abomination of the immaculate conception (ie) The Antichrist. Cody Fern (an alum of American Crime Story:The Assassination of Gianni Versace) is visual perfection as Michael Langdon. We have been waiting seven seasons to see him all grown up and he does not disappoint. In case you’re wondering how Michael could have been a toddler at the end of Murder House and now a full grown adult, please remember that Vivian’s pregnancy with him went an accelerated pace.
Besides, he’s the Antichrist. He can do whatever the fuck he wants.
Michael explains that, essentially, all of the outposts are crumbling under the myriad stresses of the apocalypse and Outpost 3 is one of the last remaining and he is here to decide who will travel with him to the one that is impenetrable and has enough resources to last a decade. Convenient. Wihemina immediately tries to dole out some Big Dick Energy at him and I absolutely cannot wait for these two to tussle over supreme (pun intended) leadership.
Apocalypse is a mere ten episodes and they seem to have gone back to the Roanoke way of doing things: there are no previews for the next episode and, allegedly, the events of episode five will change everything. Perhaps this is where the Coven witches come in. Billed as a Murder House/Coven crossover season, I think some people were expecting exactly that, but this isn’t CSI. AHS isn’t trying to seduce you into watching a spinoff or extended universe. This is the universe and it has always been stated that all of the seasons are connected to one another in some manner. Apocalypse kind of looks as though it is shaping up to bring nearly all of the seasons together; not just Murder House and Coven. So, while it will be exhilarating to see Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange) one more time, she doesn’t appear until after the life altering fifth episode and she is only in one episode. We should always keep in mind that Ryan Murphy only tells us what we want to hear and then watches us take off on social media, his very fickle mistress, and prognosticate until we’ve made ourselves insane.
Speaking of which…if they refuse to use electricity in Outpost 3, then why waste precious generator power on hot water for all of the personal hygiene going on in this place? Everyone’s hair is on point; not a root job to be done or a haircut to shape up. While we can all agree that Coco’s hair seems to get wilder as she becomes more unhinged, are they spending all of their time getting their hair done and doing their makeup? And so much ironing to be done on this clothing. And Miriam’s hair needs a touch up at least every other week. And what is powering the generator? Is Kimmy Scmidt down in the basement just getting through anything for ten seconds at a time? And Coco is right; there isn’t one bag of Pirate’s Booty in the whole place? WHERE DID THE ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS PER TICKET ACTUALLY GO? And it’s only a dozen minds who have created The Cooperative? If Michael Langdon, the antichrist, is merely one of them, who the the hell are the other eleven? Or is he just an agent, as his ID tag stated? But again, then who the hell is so powerful that they are the boss’s of the apocalypse? So many questions, but overall, it was a fun first episode and it will be interesting to see where this is all going. Especially since The End is actually the beginning.
“This is it ladies and gentlemen, I can’t believe we did it,” uttered by the news anchor, is prominently shown twice in this episode. Is he making a general comment to society in the sense of, “well, we finally shit the bed with our nasty attitude and brought the end of the world” OR is he a member of The Cooperative?
“Jesus, what happened to your hair?” is the first thing Mr. Gallant says to Coco at the airport. As a fellow hairstylist, I can 100% guarantee that is the first thing he noticed and cared about.
Did anyone else find the visual of Coco, Mallory, Evie and Mr. Gallant in the private jet while a mushroom cloud destroys LA make them wonder about that urban legend of of Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando taking a 9/11 road trip?
Why is hair in the future or post apocalypse always so extreme and wacky?
Outpost 3 looks like the Murder House home and the Roanoke home had an exceptionally beautiful baby.
“So, you’re not a purple.” GIIIRRRLLLL
Cancer puss monsters allegedly lurking beyond the gates just reeks of Asylum. As does the song in the common area remaining on repeat.
“You don’t know what disappointment is until you’ve slept with Yule Brenner” So far, Joan Collins seem to simply be playing Joan Collins, but I am 100% here for it. Also, she will appear as other characters, not just Evie Gallant, this season.
Is this a record for seeing Evan Peters naked? In upcoming seasons, we should start taking bets on how long we have to wait to see his bum. And on that note, AHS has been renewed through season 10 on FX and you just know that Murphy already knows what the story is for all of that.
One of the songs they are subjected to was also prominently featured in both the pilot and finale episode of Murder House.
Yes, that is Amazon Eve from Freak Show as one of Miriam’s aids.
If we didn’t see Brock die, he’s not dead. Cant wait for his reunion with Coco.
I really hope Adina Porter has more to do than just be a second rate Oprah.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont
Images: Hidden remote & Deadline