American Horror Story: Apocalypse
September 12, 2017
Welcome to another season of American Horror Story, my lovelies, and my apologies for being so late with the blog. I’m afraid that between the Bachelor in Paradise, the Emmys and … just … everything … in general … that is happening … everywhere, I’ve been dealing with my own horror story and it took me a while to get started.
As was well publicized earlier this year, this eighth season of AHS is all about the end of the world, a fate that in our current political environment we are all terrified could become very real (and kinda sorta secretly hope for?). What is interesting to note about this particular theme is that despite the sense of finality, this season is not the last for American Horror Story, and that it will be an explicit crossover season, bringing together in a significant way characters from “Murder House,” AHS’s first season, and “Coven,” the third season.
So get your brooms ready, witches, we’ve got an apocalypse to survive.
Meet Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt. Daughter of Mr. Billionaire St. Pierre Vanderbilt. Aspiring Instagram influencer.
Coco is at the salon having her hair did by her hairdresser,
Tate Kit Kyle Jimmy James Rory Kai Gallant, when she and everyone else in Los Angeles receive the text alert that they’re all gonna die in a nuclear hellscape. Coco, however, is nonchalant, having lived like the rest of us through the Hawaii false alarm earlier this year. (YES. THIS YEAR. I KNOW IT FEELS LIKE IT’S BEEN 10 YEARS. IT WAS NINE MONTHS AGO.) But then Mr. Daddy Billionaire Facetimes her from Hong Kong alerting her that this is the real deal. The bad news: he, Mommy Billionaire and Brother Billionaire are moments away from perishing in a radioactive mushroom cloud. The good news! He has reserved four spots for their family (spots of what is unclear) and there is a private plane waiting for her in Santa Monica to take her to safety. With that, POOF! He and the rest of the Billionaire St. Pierre Vanderbilt family is gone along with all of Hong Kong.
Bye, Hong Kong! Bye!
Panic, running, screaming, real wrath of God type stuff, fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!
Coco and her assistant Madison flee to a waiting SUV from which Coco tries to call her husband Billy on the Street. She urges him to meet her at the Santa Monica airport which should be super easy in the middle of an unimaginable crisis in the second largest city in the country whose traffic on your average Tuesday night is a fucking nightmare.
Meanwhile, our hairdresser friend, Gallant, has somehow managed to navigate the chaos to arrive at his grandmother Joan Collins’ house, to collect her, her wigs and her burnt champagne …
Grandma Joan poo-poos the nuclear war news as FAKE! and offers to call President Toad Penis, but there’s NO TIME GRANDMA JOAN.
Meanwhile, Coco and Madison (who she has convinced to accept one of the four spots her family reserved because she’s helpless without help) arrive at the private plane hanger where they are met by Gallant and Grandma Joan — who, again, somehow managed to get from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica with no trouble — looking to take the other two available spots. Coco wants to wait for Billy on the Street, but he’s trapped in Century City traffic, and the airport employees — who just moments ago were calmly minding their business — have suddenly noticed that there is a private plane justrightthere. The employees’ rush the plane, but Coco’s very understanding and self-sacrificing driver fends them off as Coco, Madison, Gallant, and Grandma Joan board the plane and fly away to safety.
Bye, Billy on the Street! Who is literally left on the street screaming into the sky as his wife flies away! Bye!
Before we go any further, I have some geography questions. I am not from Los Angeles, but I have spent enough time there on visits to have a basic grasp of where things are and … I’m confused. We know that the plane is in Santa Monica. We can assume Grandma Joan’s house is in Beverly Hills — and, in fact, for this to work at all, Beverly Hills would be much more generous for the timeline than, say, Bel Air or Malibu. I am going to then take a leap and say Gallant’s salon is in West Hollywood, and that Billy on the Street, who at the time the news broke of the incoming missiles was in an office building working on a deal to turn Free Willy into a limited series, is somewhere in Century City.
So explain to me how Gallant was able to beat Billy on the Street to the airport:
Once in the air, Madison goes to ask the pilots their final destination, only to discover the cockpit is empty …
… but the horror of that particular revelation is forgotten by the nuclear cloud that appears over Los Angeles.
Bye, Los Angeles! Bye!
Some 40 minutes earlier, in another part of town, Isabelle “Dizzy” Flores is super excited when her elder son is accepted to UCLA, but the whole exercise is of course rendered moot by the events of the day. Mr. Flores comes bursting through the front door, soon followed by paramilitary goons who announce they are here for Elder Son, who, according to a DNA sample he submitted to 23 and Me or whatever, is a “prime candidate” for survival and they promise to spirit him away to safety. But only him. Mr. and Mrs. Dizzy try to convince them to at least take their other son, too, but the goons are like NOPE! and then they peace out with Elder Son in tow.
And another aside, if you will indulge me, but as a parent who is currently going through the college application process with my son, I honestly don’t know what would piss me off more: the end of the world, or the end of the world just as I found out my kid had gotten into college.
Elder Son is taken to some sort of bunker where he, Timothy, meets another detainee, Emily, who was snatched out of her jail cell (for protesting on her college campus) with no explanation. And that’s when the bomb shakes the bunker.
Bye! Bye civilization! Bye!
Two weeks later, our new Adam and Eve are wrapped up in hazmat suits and driven to one of 10 “outposts” strategically located outside of the fallout zone. Once there, they are greeted by a steampunk plague doctor who leads them through the gates, and past a live execution of a young couple. Welcome to your new home!
Adam and Eve are lead inside a bunker, are decontaminated, and then welcomed to Outpost
Exposition 3 by their hostess, Wilhemina Venable, who has a whole look going on:
She leads them further into the bunker which for a fallout shelter is pretty swanky: libraries and fireplaces and fancy dining halls and dorms. Ms. Venable explains that it used to be an exclusive boys school before The Cooperative — an organization of the world’s 12 “greatest minds mankind has to offer” — was like, “OH SHIT, TRUMP ACTUALLY GOT ELECTED? TIME TO ENACT PROJECT APOCALYPSE.”
Ms. Venable shows Adam to Eve to their rooms and their new clothes which are entirely purple because the greatest minds mankind has to offer are: Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin, Dez Dickerson, André Cymone, Gayle Chapman, Miko Weaver, Eric Leeds, Atlanta Bliss, Susannah Melvoin, Jerome Benton, Wally Safford, and Greg Brooks.
As Purples, Adam and Eve are the elites chosen for survival, and they will be waited upon by Grays, who are the lower, servant class just grateful to survive. (And, notably, the couple who was executed outside were Grays, just so we’re keeping track.) As for Ms. Venable and the rest of the employees of The Cooperative, they rock the black.
Ms. Venable then delivers Outpost
Exposition 3’s rules:
- They may never leave the building
- Call her Ms. Venable
- No unauthorized sexytimes
With that, Ms. Venable instructs them to dress for dinner and join everyone for cocktails at 6:30.
Adam takes a pre-dinner shower, and after finds “666” written in the steam on the bathroom as a female voice whispers “beware,
Timothy Adam.” He seems to shrug this off as no biggie despite being trapped in an underground lair with a bunch of intense goths at the end of the world.
Dressed for dinner, Adam and Eve join the rest of the occupants while The Carpenters’ “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” plays over a radio and Gallant (who is somehow a Purple) bitches that it’s been playing on a loop for the past two weeks straight. Madison, who is a Gray, passes everyone their mineral water “cocktails,” while whinging about her low status, but Coco is like “Whaddya gonna do.” Although I have to say, unless there’s some backstory here where Coco secretly requested that her assistant be a Gray, this is some bullshit since Mr. Daddy Billionaire paid good money for Madison’s spot.
Among the other Purples, besides Gallant, Coco, and Grandma Joan, there is Dinah Stevens — basically Oprah — Dinah’s son Andre, and his boyfriend, Stu. Soon, dinner is served: a small gelatinous cube that supposedly contains every vitamin their bodies need. Coco, however, has HAD ENOUGH OF THIS JELLO BULLSHIT and screams that for $100 million a ticket, GORDON FUCKING RAMSAY SHOULD BE IN THE KITCHEN. This earns her a sharp slap across the face by Ms. Venable who exposits that they have enough nutrition to get them through 18 months, but if their situation doesn’t improve, there will be less and less. SO QUIT YER BITCHIN.
They are also informed that they received a message from a carrier pigeon that there are no more governments, just starving people and piles of rotting corpses, and that they are among a dwindling number of civilized people left in the world. In fact, three of Outpost
Exposition 3’s fellow outposts have already fallen, so they must be vigilant and FOLLOW THE RULES. And no one at this point is like, “Yeah, but about those rules. Like, I get the ‘never go outside’ part, but if we’re here to repopulate the Earth, shouldn’t you want us to make the sexytimes? Like … all over the place?”
Instead, Ms. Venable’s second-in-command, the formidable Miriam Mead, announces that there has a radiation spike detected in the building. She then proceeds to wave a Geiger counter around, before declaring that Gallant and Stu are dirty, and will need to be cleaned.
And by “cleaned,” I mean stripped down and scrubbed with giant brushes over their manbits. After, Mead sweeps them with the Geiger counter again and Gallant is clean, yay! Stu, alas, is not and so Mead shoots him in the head because who wants to go through that whole scrubbing process again, amirite?
Later, Mead sneaks into Ms. Venable’s room where they pretend to be purples and go over some crucial exposition: Mead is ex-military; Stu wasn’t really contaminated, Mead killed him for shits and giggles; Ms. Veanable and Mead are just making up rules; and Ms. Venable is all, “FUCK THA COOPERATIVE.”
The next night, Ms. Venable and Mead have a surprise for the Purples: instead of their jello cube, HOT STEW! WITH UNIDENTIFIABLE MEAT CHUNKS! WHICH ARE DEFINITELY STU! BECAUSE STUEW! Not that it bothers Grandma Joan who declares her intention to eat finish every drop.
After dinner? The next day? Whenever? The group argues whether or not they had eaten Stu or just stew when the radio abruptly stops playing “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” and begins playing “The Morning After” by Maureen McGovern. Gallant is all, “IT’S A SIGN! SOMETHING IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN! WE’RE GOING TO BE RESCUED!”
18 MONTHS LATER
“The Morning After” is still playing, no one has come to rescue them, and nothing has changed except that Adam and Eve are now sneaking kisses, Coco’s hair …
… and the food supplies which are beginning to dwindle. This leads to a FREAKOUT by Gallant which is only paused when the alarm system begins squalling, alerting them to a perimeter breach. Mead and her team head outside to investigate, where they meet a horse-drawn carriage carrying one Michael Langdon …
… Important Cooperative Person. He tells Mead he needs to speak with Ms. Venable before instructing her to “tend to the animals” — which she does by killing the poor tumor-riddled things.
Inside, Langdon commends Ms. Venable for the job she’s done keeping Outpost
Exposition 3 up and running, especially considering three of the other outposts have been overrun, and six others are about to be. But good news! There is an impenetrable sanctuary, and he’s there to evaluate the lot of them to see if any of them are worthy to be transferred. He could take all of them or none of them. Who knows!
As noted earlier, this season was hyped to be a crossover between the first season of American Horror Story — “Murder House,” and the third season, “Coven,” also known as Therese’s favorite two seasons of American Horror Story.
As you surely know by now, Michael Langdon is from the “Murder House” season, the adult version of the child who was conceived when the ghost Tate, wearing the latex rubber suit, raped the mistress of the house, Vivien. She dies in childbirth, and Michael is subsequently raised by his grandmother (mother of Tate) and next door neighbor, Constance. Last we saw Michael, he was a toddler who had just murdered his nanny.
When “Murder House” first aired, it was not immediately clear (at least to yours truly) that American Horror Story was going to be an anthology series, taking place in different locations and time periods. I originally assumed every new season would be set in the house with different families — and I also assumed that Murder Baby would be a factor in every subsequent season:
AND I LOVE MURDER BABY. I love the threat of this tiny, murderous Damien being raised by Constance within the shadow of this terrible, powerful house. (And I loved the nod to The Omen with the nanny’s death. The question is how did Murder Baby murder Flora? Or did he?) And I love that they remain ambiguous as to what Murder Baby’s true nature is. Is he the Antichrist or is he just a precocious version of his sociopathic father? It’s a solid storyline that can (if Ryan Murphy doesn’t spin too far off the rails) sustain through many seasons of this series.
We all know that proved not to be the case, but I am happy to see him now, grown, and in full-on Louis de Point du Lac realness.
As for his appearance in this season, we learn a bit more about him in the next episode, but for now, I will just point out that he arrives in a carriage pulled by black horses at the Outpost just at the 18-month mark, the same moment when food supplies begin to become scarce.
From Revelation 6:
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
The third rider on the black horse, the one carrying scales, is commonly understood to be a symbol of famine. Langdon, who is here to judge them (the scales) arrives with black horses just as the food begins to run out. I should note that I don’t think Michael = Famine, but I do wonder if he might not be the very thing that is overrunning the Outposts.
Revelation is a weird book, full of baffling symbolism, and it has consumed Biblical scholars and Christians for centuries, trying to make sense of it either as a piece of historical figurative literature or as a literal guidebook to the end of the world. I will add for our purposes, the rest of Revelation 6, particularly the events after the sixth seal is opened, sounds a bit like this episode:
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
The moon turns to blood, the stars fall from the sky and the mountains and islands are moved from their places, leaving rich and poor alike to want to crawl underground for shelter? I mean.
Then there is the clue from Revelation 13, which was written the condensation in Adam’s bathroom mirror:
11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.
The images from Revelation are not the only religious allusions in the episode — for one thing, the end of the world does inspire certain theological thoughts, and for another, Ryan Murphy is much too much of a Catholic schoolboy to not hammer us over the head with obvious symbolism.
For instance, Timothy and Emily — or Adam and Eve, as I obviously nicknamed them — are just that: they are our first couple of a new age, thrown together in a strange, guarded place that protects them from certain death, but where they are given strict, explicit rules to follow — rules that they are tempted to break, at risk to their own lives.
An interesting theory out there about Timothy and Emily (but not mine originally, don’t give me credit), is that they might be related to Kit’s alien hybrid children from the second season of American Horror Story, “Asylum.” (If you remember, Kit’s wife and asylum girlfriend were both abducted and impregnated by aliens, and the three lived and raised their children together. Later, the children revealed they had magical healing powers.)
The idea here being that what makes Timothy and Emily “prime candidates” for surviving a nuclear catastrophe is their alien DNA — something that The Cooperative was looking for in those Ancestry.com results. Timothy and Emily are too young to be Kit’s children, Julia and Thomas, but they’re not too young to be Julia and Thomas’ children:
And it would explain the “NO SEXYTIMES UNDER PUNISHMENT OF DEATH” rule — incest even among hybrid aliens probably is not the best way to reboot the human race.
And it would finally close up one of the threads of “Asylum” that always drove me batty and kept me from enjoying the season — the damn aliens. In the middle of a season that had everything from a Nazi doctor, a serial killer, a possessed nun, Anne Frank for God’s sake, why did the writers also feel the need to shoehorn in alien abductions which didn’t even really seem to play much of a role in the overall storyline?
However, if they were playing the long game, maybe the writers added them to set up this season as a conflict between the forces of evil and these good alien hybrids who might somehow save the human race.
There’s a slight problem with the theory, though: we know that Timothy’s (Adam’s) last name is Campbell, and not either Walker (Thomas’s father’s last name) or Bertrand (Thomas’s mother’s last name). How could Timothy be son of Thomas? Unless … unless the reason Timothy had his DNA tested was because he was adopted and he was searching for clues to his birth family. This particular theory is interesting because SPOILER ALERT! SORTA! over on the American Horror Story wiki, for a hot minute on Timothy’s character page, they had his parents listed as “adoptive.” It’s been taken down now, and I don’t know that this information was posted by someone just speculating or someone who actually knows something, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Additionally, there’s the song that is playing on the radio when Timothy and Emily arrive, The Carpenters’ “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.”
All Hit Radio!
Alright, you’re listening to All Hit Radio
And it’s 53 degrees at 30 minutes past the hour
And right now on our all request line
I’ve got Mike Ledgerwood on the phone
Hey, babe, what would you like to hear?
We’ve been observing your Earth
Hey babe, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you too well
You’re gonna have to speak a little closer into the phone
Okay, babe? What would you like to hear again?
We are observing your Earth
Hey Mike, I’m sorry babe, but that’s not on our playlist
And by the way, you sound great over the phone
Anyway, if you’d give us your request
We’ll be glad to play it for ya, babe
So let’s hear it!
We are observing your Earth
Uh, listen Mike, I’m sorry babe but we can’t-
And we’d like to make
I’m sorry Mike, we there’s-
A contact (uh)
With you, babyIn your mind you have capacities, you know
To telepath messages through the vast unknown
Please close your eyes and concentrate
With every thought you think
Upon the recitation we’re about to singCalling occupants of interplanetary craft
Calling occupants of interplanetary, most extraordinary craftCalling occupants of interplanetary craft
Calling occupants of interplanetary craft
Calling occupants of interplanetary, most extraordinary craftYou’ve been observing our Earth
And we’d like to make
A contact with youWe are your friendsCalling occupants of interplanetary craft
Calling occupants of interplanetary, ultra emissariesWe’ve been observing your Earth
And one night we’ll make
A contact with youWe are your friendsCalling occupants of interplanetary, quite extraordinary craftAnd please come in peace, we beseech you
Only our love we will teach them
Our Earth may never survive
So do come, we beg youPlease, interstellar policeman
Oh won’t you give us a sign
Give us a sign
That we’ve reached you
Oh doWith your mind you have ability to form
And transmit thought energy far beyond the norm
You close your eyes, you concentrate
Together, that’s the way
To send the message we declare World Contact DayCalling occupants of interplanetary craft
Calling occupants of interplanetary craft
Calling occupants of interplanetary, most extraordinary craftAh ah ah ahhAh ah ah ahhAh ah ah ahhCalling occupants
Calling occupants of interplanetary, anti-adversary craftSongwriters: John Woloschuk / Terry DraperCalling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft lyrics © Peermusic Publishing
I mean, come on.
So this is definitely how this season is tied to “Murder House,” and may be how it is tied to “Asylum,” but what about the other season we were promised? “Coven?” Based on previews, it does appear that our favorite witches will be arriving later in the season. As for this episode, the only passing reference to “Coven” — which might not even be one — is that the bunker had once been an “exclusive boys’ school,” which sounds potentially similar to Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies.
But there is something else I keep coming back to that might be related to “Coven” because I overthink things. But the word “apocalypse…” The word “apocalypse” obviously is understood to mean the complete and utter destruction of the world. In fact, the name of the Book of Revelation in the original Greek is “Apocalypse,” which is what it describes: the Biblical understanding of how the world will end as envisioned by the prophet and apostle John.
But the etymology of the Greek word apocalypse is: apo- which means “un” + kaluptein– which means “cover.” Apocalypse literally means to uncover, to reveal … as in “a revelation.” It’s this idea of revealing some kind of truth that I keep coming back to, that perhaps what we are seeing has not actually happened yet, but perhaps like John’s vision, a prophecy, a glimpse into a possible future, perhaps by one of our witches who has the gift of The Sight: our High Supreme, Cordelia.
This notion that this is a possible but not set future would also help solve a nasty little timeline problem that we have with the entire American Horror Story universe. This is a small spoiler for the next episode, but based on a document we see, we know that the events that take place in this episode span from April (possibly late March) 2020 to October 2021. HOWEVER. We know that American Horror Story: Hotel ends with an adult Scarlett going to the Hotel Cortez on the eve of Halloween night, 2023, to spend it with her family. So how can the Hotel Cortez (and all of Los Angeles) be intact in 2023 if the bomb goes off in 2020?
Unless it doesn’t.
March 2012: Michael Langdon is born inside the Murder House. His mother, Vivien dies in childbirth; his father is murdered by murder ghosts; his twin is stillborn. Michael is raised by his next-door neighbor and his sorta-grandmother (it’s complicated), Constance.
2015: Michael Langdon murders his nanny.
April 2020: A nuclear war kills off most of humanity. A small group of survivors, including Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt, Mr. Gallant, Grandma Joan, Dinah Stevens, Andre Stevens, Stu, Timothy Campbell (Adam) and Emily (Eve) reside in an outpost run by Ms. Wilhemnia Venable, her second-in-command Miriam Mead and their soldiers on behalf of a mysterious group called The Cooperative.
October 2021: The outpost is visited by a higher-up in The Cooperative, an adult Michael Langdon. He reports that the other outposts run by The Cooperative have either been overrun or about to be.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs on FX on Wednesdays at 9/10 p.m.