With the latest entry of the anthology series now at a close, it is time to discuss all of the good, the bad, and the evil about American Horror Story’s 8th season. Announced at EW‘s Popfest in 2016, American Horror Story: Apocalypse is the first season in the show’s history to predominately feature characters and storylines from previous seasons. When announced as a crossover between Murder House and Coven, fans everywhere, including myself, were stunned as the series could now finally acknowledge the antichrist child that was seen at the end of Murder House. With so much hype surrounding it, and prior seasons not living up to fan expectations, did this season live up to the hype?
We begin this season in the near future, being introduced to new characters that would come to play an important part of the season. All around Los Angeles, people including main characters Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman) and her assistant Mallory (Billie Lourd), are alerted to an imminent nuclear attack and panic as they fear the end of the world is finally upon them. Coco is alerted by her father that the only way for her to survive is to go to a special bunker for those wealthy enough to secure a spot for the end of the world. As the Apocalypse is brought on by nuclear destruction of the world, we are introduced to characters Timothy (Kyle Allen) and Emily (Ash Santos). Both characters are specially selected based on their DNA to be brought to a survival outpost ran by an organization only known as the Cooperative. It is hinted early on that the two of them will have an important role to play at some point in the series.
At the underground outpost, we meet Wilhemina Venable (Sarah Paulson) and her associate Miriam Meade (Kathy Bates), who commands the outpost. The handful of survivors at the outpost are separated into two different classes, the purples and the grays. The Purples are of the elite and privileged who can enjoy what few luxuries the outpost has to offer while the grays act as servants to the purples. This makes for an interesting dynamic as the survivors of the blast must live without technology or even electricity and cannot leave the outpost due to the radiation. After eighteen months in the outpost, all hope of survival seems lost, but then one day, Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) arrives and changes the course of this series for the better.
For fans of Murder House, you’ll quickly recognize him as the offspring of Vivian Harmon (Connie Britton) and the ghost of Tate Langdon (Evan Peters). Fern is easily one of the best aspects of this season. His performance as the Antichrist is truly chilling and week after week you can feel just how truly evil this character is. His chemistry with the rest of the cast is electric: each moment he has with another character is truly amazing to watch. From his style and his mannerisms, to his overall presence on the screen, Michael Langdon will go on to be one of the strongest characters that American Horror Story has ever had.
Now you can’t talk about a season of American Horror Story without talking about the incredibly talented Sarah Paulson. In this season, we saw her play three completely different characters and play them all very well – the best of which was her reprisal of Cordelia Goode, the Supreme from Coven. With this season primarily focusing on the conflict between the Coven witches and Michael, this might as well have been called Coven season two. There was enough story outside of them to make this season its own standalone, but without Sarah Paulson dominating the screen in every episode, it’s hard to say that this season was anything less than great as a follow-up to Coven and its own season.
Speaking of Paulson, her directorial debut on “Return to Murder House” was one of the most anticipated episodes of the season. Fans of the series had been dying to see the characters of Coven interact with the spirits trapped in Murder House; and for myself, this episode was well worth the wait. While the episode only focuses on Madison Montgomery and warlock Behold Chablis in their pursuit of gaining insight into Michael’s origin, there’s still enough story and fan service to make this episode honor and even wrap up Murder House storylines to make fans happy. Paulson’s directing also made this episode stand out amongst the season to be the most beautifully shot episodes of the series so far. Going back to the place that made this series what it is today was one of the smartest decisions Ryan Murphy and his team have made in the show’s history. Murder House has always carried so much darkness and intrigue that left fans begging for more.
While this season as a whole was a huge step up from previous seasons, it wasn’t without its own set of problems. The main issues I had personally were episodes 8 and 9 feeling a little out-of-place so close to the finale. With this season being only 10 episodes, it did more bad for the show than good because they had to wrap up or set up entire storylines within an episode or two. Story-wise,I think episodes 8 and 9 were interesting as far as the development of Michael’s character and setting things in place for the Apocalypse, but I honestly feel like there should have been another episode or two prior to the finale to help tie things up more coherently.
Those issues aside, I truly feel that this season is one of the best in years. The finale, especially, was one of the best finales in the show’s history. With so many things to set up and finish in the finale, I honestly wasn’t sure going in if Ryan Murphy and his team could pull it off. But in a single hour of television, they successfully wrapped up this season in ways I wasn’t expecting, making me happy yet sad because it left me wanting more. That’s how a good season of this anthology series should end. Without spoiling the finale itself, I will say that seeing certain characters again made me feel really happy since I went in not expecting to see them at all. For having so much to do in a single episode, the finale ties up every loose end very well and makes any casual fan of the show, fans of Murder House, and fans of Coven leaving this season satisfied.
All in all, I think that American Horror Story: Apocalypse is a true return to form for this series. With the threat of Armageddon lingering in the real world, seeing that play out on the screen can be a little unsettling. Ryan Murphy has shown that he can take issues going on in our world and place them into this show to offer content that is relatable. Apocalypse does an amazing job of juggling several seasons worth of AHS characters and stories without feeling cluttered or messy. As a long time fan of the series, it’s nice to end a season with a big smile on my face, which is something I haven’t done since season 3. This season has welcomed back a lot of fans and for good reasons. If you’re just a casual fan of the show and maybe fell off at some point, I would say now is the perfect time to come back. American Horror Story: Apocalypse is definitely worth the time and is honestly one of the most enjoyable seasons of television I’ve experienced all year.