‘American Horror Story: Apocalypse’: Sympathy for the Devil

American Horror Story: Apocalypse
“Apocalypse Then”
November 14, 2018

If you’re looking for the episode before the finale, go here. KTHNXBYE

Somehow, it’s never explained how, I guess WITCHCRAFT!, Myrtle knows the following things: Langdon is somehow associated with a pair of Satanic robotics geniuses, their names: (Mutt Nutter and Jeff Pfister, natch), where their headquarters are, and that they are planning not only a holocaust but a whole sanctuary system. After witching her way past Ms. Venable (But only after Ms. Venable tells her that getting in to see Mutt and Jeff is as likely as her being able to explain Myrtle’s hair. This prompts Myrtle to reply that her hair “is an eternal mystery, never to be fully understood.” Bow down, witches.)

Once inside Mutt and Jeff’s inner sanctum, Myrtle literally disarms them, and then examines their plans for the outposts, looking specifically for Outpost 3. Mutt and Jeff reveal that it is built in an old school, The Hawthorne School (which, indeed, appears to be somewhere in the California desert so I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY JOHN HENRY WAS DRIVING TO NEW ORLEANS BUT WHATEVER). Myrtle instructs them that they will allow Mr. St. Pierre Vanderbilt to buy passage for his family, and they will place them in Outpost 3. With that, Myrtle takes her leave, lamenting that she can’t kill them both.

And let me just say, we’re going to have to come back to this whole scene BECAUSE I HAVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS, RYAN MURPHY.

Back in the Louisiana swamp, the witches have resigned themselves to the fact that Mallory is just not yet strong enough to alter the timeline, so instead they are going to have to go into hiding. Coco and Mallory will undergo identity spells, hiding their true nature even to themselves. In fact, Coco will receive Madison’s personality (which explains so much), and Mallory will be her personal assistant whom she will treat like shit so as to tamp down her powers. Then, thanks to Coco’s daddy’s money, the two of them will hide directly under Langdon’s nose in the outpost to ride out the apocalypse.

Spells are cast, and the next thing Coco and Mallory know they are careening through Los Angeles in an Uber driven by Madison, headed towards Coco’s first hair appointment with Mr. Gallant. There Coco happens to meet cute Boyfriend Billy Eichner.

Oh, and Madison happens to see an ad for Dinah’s new talk show on the side of a bus.

Back in Misty’s swamp house (seriously — the amount of time these witches are spending between LAX and Louis Armstrong Airport …) Madison tells Cordelia and Myrtle about Dinah’s TV show. While Madison and Cordelia are ready to burn the bitch at the stake, Cordelia instructs them to back off: they can’t afford to let Langdon know they are aware of any part of his plan.

And then the witches take a literal dirt nap until the apocalypse.

2020

… And that’s how we end up back in the events in “Forbidden Fruit” where Cordelia, Myrtle, and Madison have revived Coco, Mallory, and Dinah before it devolved into a bitchy hissing match between Langdon and Cordelia. Cordelia reminds the women that they need to stand together to defeat Langdon, but Dinah is like, “I know you raised me from the dead because you needed some powerful voodoo magic, but too bad so sad, witches, I’m Team Satan.”

Cordelia agrees: she does need the power of a voodoo queen, which is why she went to Hell and found herself one.

See, Cordelia managed to make that deal with Papa Legba after all, promising Dinah’s soul in exchange for Marie’s. And Marie wastes no time in fulfilling the deal, slitting Dinah’s throat with an impressive machete that I suppose she brought with her? Or did she find it in the Hawthorne School’s gardening shed?

Mrs. Mead reveals her handgun —

— but before she can shoot the witches, Cordelia casts some sort of robot spell that causes the beebot to esplode in a milky mess, and singing “Daisy Bell”  as she dies — the same song HAL sings as he dies in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And now you know.

Madison grabs Mrs. Mead’s firearm —

— and shoots Langdon while he’s busily grieving his robot pal. Which yay! Crisis averted! Except not really, he’s too powerful to just … die, and so after they grab a lock of Langdon’s luxurious wig, the witches hurry Mallory out of the room for the next stage of the plan: drown Mallory time travel.

BUT! Before they can deposit Mallory into the hot tub time machine, out of nowhere pops up Boyfriend Billy Eichner who stabs Mallory in the gut because he’s still pissed he was left behind by Coco. Myrtle does not take kindly to this nonsense and sets his already mostly melted ass on fire.

Meanwhile, Langdon begins to wake up and as his first order of business, he pops Madison’s head like a balloon. While Cordelia struggles to heal Mallory, Marie Laveau offers to hold Langdon off for as long as she can. This proves to not be very long as Langdon literally rips her heart from her chest while also telekinetically snapping Coco’s neck. Still, it’s long enough for Myrtle and Cordelia to deposit Mallory in the hot tub time machine. Unfortunately, Mallory is still not strong enough to do anything about it.

And so, as Langdon makes his way upstairs towards the witches, Cordelia goes to greet him. He gloats about how he wanted her to survive the nuclear holocaust so that he could enjoy watching her die, and she’s like, “Oh, bitch, you’re going to watch me die, but you’re not going to like it,” adding:

“Satan has one son …”

She then magic-yoinks the knife out of his hand and proceeds to stab herself in the chest with it — which, sad! But, because she dies, Mallory is able to come into her own as Supreme and do what needs doing: some time travel.

2015

So, remember when Constance found that dead priest in Michael’s room and, for some reason, she explained that this was the last straw for her because dead nannies, sure, but a dead priest, A BRIDGE TOO FAR, and that it was after this incident that she took herself over to Murder House, swigged a bunch of pills and cognac and ghosted herself?

We go back to that moment when Constance confronts Michael about what he’s done and he whines that he had to kill the priest, he was chanting a bunch of Latin at him and it hurt his ears, so what is he supposed to do, not murder him? Constance, having had enough, and recognizing that Michael isn’t exactly her grandson, but rather something else, something evil, grabs his jacket out of the closet and orders him to leave. Michael grabs her by the throat and considers killing her but when she challenges him to DO IT, he hesitates, and she calls him a coward.

Michael tearfully leaves her house and walks out into the street where he is promptly hit by a huge SUV. Driven by Mallory. Which she throws into reverse to run over him again. And then pops back into drive to run over him one more time. Just to be sure.

Constance goes to him as he is dying and he begs her to take him into Murder House so that he can be with her forever, but she’s all, LOL, NOPE, ROT IN HELL, ASSHOLE, and leaves him on the street to die.

ALTERNATIVE 2015

Mallory — with the knowledge that she changed the timeline and the only one with the memory of everything that happened — arrives at Miss Robichaux’s as a new student where she is welcomed by an alive Cordelia. (OK, but …. who’s Supreme now???)

Cordelia takes her on a tour of the school where Mallory sees that Zoe is alive but Myrtle, alas, is not as she was never summoned by Cordelia. Queenie is also alive and excitedly talking about her upcoming trip to Los Angeles where she intends to stay at a funky old downtown hotel and Mallory is like, “ZOMG DON’T DO THAT STAY IN VENICE BEACH PLEASE AND THANK YOU,” and Queenie agrees, thank goodness.

Mallory voice-overs that they know where Madison is: back in Bed Bath and Beelzebub. They will retrieve her, but not just yet.

And that’s when the door opens to Nan who delivers Misty Day to an overwhelmed Cordelia. Apparently, because Mallory killed the son of Satan, she got some points from the working stiffs down in Hell who did her a solid. Nan, however, isn’t staying; she likes Papa Legba and is heading back to Hell. Cordelia is still confused as to why Misty is back, but Nan isn’t talking, instead she looks pointedly at Mallory and instructs Cordelia to “just say thank you.”

Mallory does wonder what she also changed by changing the past and worries that evil doesn’t just give up.

And in fact, it does not!

ALTERNATIVE 2020

Hey, remember those attractive teens who were brought to Outpost 3 because their 23andMe suggested there was something special about them? Timothy and Emily, otherwise known as Adam and Eve? Well, in the nuclear holocaust averted (for now) timeline, they manage to meet cute outside a coffee shop that Emily is protesting because child labor laws or something.

ALTERNATIVE 2021

Emily gives birth to Timothy’s child.

ALTERNATIVE 2024

Emily and Timothy come home from a night out without the kid, noting that they deserved it. Toddlers are hard! Especially super angry devil toddlers! As they go inside, Timothy notices that the sky is an unnerving shade of red and a murder of crows seems to be circling the house. “Huh,” says Timothy.

Once inside, Emily and Timothy find the bloodstain going down the hallway, and anyone who watched “Murder House” knows what’s next:

But good (?) news! As opposed to Constance who was stuck raising the son of Satan all by herself — and with disastrous results — Timothy and Emily have the benefit of some assistance from none other than Anton LaVey, Red Shirt Cape and one Mrs. Mead who just happened to be walking by when they saw the signs. They’re here to help.

I’m going to start with the positive — of which there is plenty I’m happy to say. This season of American Horror Story might very well be my favorite — it certainly was the most cohesive, coherent and maintained the strongest internal logic of any previous season. It was evident — perhaps for the first time — that the writers actually planned the season ahead of time and weren’t just flying by the seat of their pants, episode to episode. Plot threads weren’t completely abandoned halfway through the season (thank goodness they returned to Emily and Timothy — while it might have been silly and predictable, I would have thrown a table if we hadn’t resolved that particular storyline) and characters — even minor ones like Ms. Venable — made a certain sense when understood as part of the greater whole. Granted, the whole “NO SEX IN THE OUTPOST” rule ended up being something of a red herring, but hey, they aren’t all winners.

And I want to give the writers credit for doing a decent job with time travel. I tend to be on the side of “whatever happened, happened” — meaning that ultimately one can not change the past because it creates a paradox in which one creates a present/future in which they don’t go back and change the past. If that makes sense.

But for reasons purely related to telling a narrative, there is a danger in writing a story that you are just going to obliterate with time travel. It’s hard to make audiences invest in a character’s development and struggle if in the end none of it meant anything because it never happened. The best example I can give is Lost: there were plenty of fans who once the characters began time traveling, wanted them to somehow prevent the plane from crashing in the first place. While that’s a “nice” idea, it would have completely erased all of the emotional development the characters achieved while on the island and eliminated all of their interpersonal relationships with their fellow castaways — which is the exact opposite of what the entire show was ultimately about.

Here, the writers avoided that mistake by focusing on a period of time that was literally apocalyptic, and which there was no upside to preserving. While it’s sad to lose Myrtle all over again, and Coco and Mallory’s friendship might have to start over from scratch, there wasn’t a whole lot we, the audience, feel we lose in rebooting this piece of the timeline.

That said, if you enjoyed the fanservice this season did with “Murder House,” if you were happy that Tate and Violet and Ben and Vivienne finally reconciled, and that Mona finally was laid to rest, I have some bad news for you: none of that ever happens now, because the witches literally have no reason to visit Murder House. Sorry.

Also, Mallory rebooted the timeline before events in “Hotel,” “Roanoke” and “Cult” took place. We already know that she changes what happens in “Hotel” — Queenie never goes there, she is never killed and trapped, Ramona never drinks her blood. Does that have an effect on the rest of the story? Or do events still unfold the same way? I doubt there would be any real effect on “Roanoke” and “Cult” mostly because those two seasons are so disconnected from the rest of the American Horror Story timeline, but who knows.

Finally, I applaud the writers for making Langdon such a complicated antichrist. He did seem genuinely hurt to be rejected by both Constance and Tate and he clearly flourishes in the love that Mrs. Mead offers him. And his pain at this rejection and loss is what fundamentally drives him: he just wants to avenge Mrs. Mead’s death — the death of the one person who loved him — and if that means burning down the whole world to do so, so be it. He’s just a confused boy, manipulated by other people and their ambitions. There might have even been a chance for him to not be evil had he been loved by the right people. (Except probably not.) And so when Mallory runs over young Michael and kills him (which she is able to do because she chooses a moment before he completely comes into his powers thanks to the Church of Satan folks), it’s pathetic, it’s almost sad. I’m impressed they made me have actual sympathy for the devil.

As for my problems with this episode, they are similar to my issues with the season as a whole which is to say what exactly are the rules regarding the witches’ powers? For instance: How does Mallory know the exact moment to go back to so as to kill Langdon? Constance doesn’t tell Madison and Chablais about kicking Michael out, so can Mallory see it somehow? And if she can, then why did Madison and Chablais need to go to Murder House at all, couldn’t they just somehow psychically access Michael’s story?

In that same vein, how do they know about Michael’s connection to Murder House? Even if they were able to track down information about his childhood, it should have led them next door to Constance, not Murder House. So how did they know?

And how is it that Myrtle knows that this robotics company is associated with Langdon and Satanists, but she doesn’t know where the Outposts are or who will be in them? What is the logic there? Why does she seem to have some psychic foreknowledge, but only so much?

And how did Cordelia know she needed to resurrect Myrtle? She doesn’t have her dream about the white-faced demon until after she’s resurrected Myrtle and has met Langdon so … why does she violate Myrtle’s wishes?

And why the whole identity spell thing? Why not just bury Coco and Mallory in the swamp with the other witches? I mean I get from a narrative angle that you want to have characters that you ride out the entire arc of the series with in the first episodes — those characters being Mallory and Coco — but if they’ve resolved themselves to not being able to beat Langdon until after the apocalypse, wouldn’t it have been safer to keep the family together?

Another plot hole includes the question of how Emily and Timothy make the antichrist. Langdon, we are told, is the literal son of Satan because he’s born over a Hellmouth, but Timothy Jr. here appears to be born in a regular ol’ hospital. Sure, we’re told that Emily and Timothy are “special,” and they were clearly handpicked by the Satanists to ride out the apocalypse as some sort of backup, but why? How? How does one just make the spawn of Satan?

But in the end I’m choosing to not let the plot holes that Ryan Murphy scatters all over the place like so much glitter bother me too much, and, like Nan suggests, instead just say thank you that for once the writers of American Horror Story gave us a season that felt complete and satisfying. It shouldn’t be a lot to ask, but some eight seasons later, here we are.

Alright, my little goat-worshippers, we have at least two more seasons of this nonsense! See you in the next timeline!

Timeline:

March 2012: Michael Langdon is born inside the Murder House. His mother, Vivienne 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.

2013-2014: There is a power struggle in the witching world when the Supreme witch, Fiona Goode discovers she is dying of cancer and blames the younger witches. Eventually, Fiona succumbs to death, and her daughter, Cordelia, assumes the mantle of Supreme. Marie Laveau is murdered by Delphine LaLaurie and descends to Hell.

2014: Cordelia reveals the existence of witches; The Hawthorne School for Exceptional Young Men is burned down.

2015: Constance raises young Michael who begins killing small animals Michael Langdon murders his nanny. Michael grows into a man overnight and tries to kill Constance. Constance realizing she was out of her depth commits suicide in Murder House, joining most of her children.

Ben Harmon then takes over raising Michael. Michael is rejected by Tate and turns even darker, murdering some new residents of Murder House and obliterating their souls.

The Church of Satan finds Michael at Murder House and perform a dark mass to help bring Michael into his full powers. Vivienne attempts to murder Michael, and he tries to obliterate her, but Tate saves her at the last moment. Michael leaves Murder House and Vivienne and the other ghosts never see him again.

2015: Queenie checks into the Hotel Cortez and is murdered by Mr. March. Sometime after, Cordelia resurrects Myrtle sensing that something bad is coming.

2016: Cordelia attempts to rescue Queenie from the Hotel Cortez but fails.

June 2017: Michael Langdon, being raised by Mrs. Mead, kills a butcher, is rescued from prison by Ariel Augustus and brought to the Hawthorne School for Exceptional Young Men.

July 2017: The warlocks test Michael’s abilities and petition Cordelia to have him perform the Seven Wonders. She refuses. Michael then rescues Queenie and Madison from the afterlife. Cordelia has an apocalyptic vision and agrees to allow Michael to take the test of the Seven Wonders.

Back in New Orleans, Coco’s father enrolls his daughter at Miss Robichaux’s. At Hawthorne’s, John Henry is killed by Michael’s caretaker when he tries to leave for New Orleans to discuss Michael with Cordelia.

Two weeks after Cordelia’s vision, Michael passes the test of the Seven Wonders, bringing Misty Day back to life in the process. Cordelia sends Behold Chablis and Madison Montgomery to Los Angeles to investigate Michael’s childhood.

Madison and Chablis learn about Michael’s history from Constance, Ben, and Vivien. They bury Moira’s bones near her mother’s grave and Madison helps Violet see that Tate was controlled by the evil of the house. Tate and Violet have their happily ever after.

Cordelia convinces Dinah to summon Papa Legba who agrees to help Cordelia against Langdon in exchange for the souls of all of her witches. Cordelia declines.

Madison finds Bubbles, a witch who can read people’s souls, and she confirms that Ariel and Baldwin killed John Henry and intends to kill the coven.

Cordelia, believing Mallory is the next Supreme, has her perform the Seven Wonders and resurrect John Henry. Upon returning to life, John Henry reveals that a woman killed him. Somehow the witches determine this woman is Mrs. Mead. The witches kidnap her, and she, Ariel and Baldwin are burnt at the stake.

When Langdon discovers their bodies, he vows revenge on the witches and retreats to the wilderness to learn what’s next. Eventually, he finds his way to a Church of Satan where he reveals his identity and is worshipped. One of the members of the church introduces him to Mutt and Jeff, robotics geniuses, who build him an android Mrs. Mead.

2018: Langdon and his android kill most of the witches at Miss Robichaux’s Academy, though Cordelia, Mallory, Coco, Myrtle, and Madison survive.

The surviving witches go into hiding in Misty Day’s swamp house, and Myrtle and Cordelia try to teach Mallory how to time travel. Her trip back to post-Revolutionary Russia to save Anastasia is mostly unsuccessful.

Cordelia and Myrtle go to Hawthorne Academy to solicit the help of the remaining warlocks, but they have all been slaughtered.

Meanwhile, Mutt and Jeff introduce Langdon to The Cooperative — The Illuminati — and suggests that he use them to hasten a nuclear war. Langdon calls a meeting of The Cooperative to introduce himself as the son of Satan and to explain his plan for nuclear annihilation and the whole outpost scheme. Mutt and Jeff invite Ms. Venable to run one of the outposts.

Myrtle arrives at the robotics lab and learns the location of the outposts and instructs Mutt and Jeff to give Coco’s family four spots in Outpost 3.

The witches place an identity spell on Coco and Mallory and set them loose in Los Angeles.

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 11, 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.

October 2021: Langdon interviews Gallant and Venable. Timothy and Emily discover Ms. Venable’s rules are fake. Gallant murders his grandmother. Ms. Meade bleeds white.

October 31, 2021: Brock sneaks into the outpost and kills Coco. Ms. Venable and Mead poison a trove of apples, killing the other residents of the outpost. When Ms. Venable tries to kill Langdon, Mead turns the gun on Venable, killing her. Witches Cordelia, Madison, and Myrtle arrive at the outpost and revive their “sisters:” Coco, Mallory, and Dinah.

Dinah pledges her allegiance to Langdon, but Marie Laveau, who was released from Hell, kills her. Cordelia destroys Mrs. Mead with a spell, and Madison uses Mrs. Mead’s gun to shoot and temporarily kill Langdon.

Cordelia and Myrtle hurry Mallory to a tub to perform the time travel spell, but Brock stabs her. Myrtle kills Brock, but Mallory quickly loses her strength. Meanwhile, Langond kills Madison, Marie, and Coco.

Cordelia kills herself and her Supreme powers are given to Mallory who is able to perform the time travel spell.

NEW 2015: Mallory goes back to Murder House at the moment when Constance kicked Langdon out. She runs over Langdon with an SUV, killing him. Constance chooses to not turn him into a Murder House ghost.

Mallory enrolls at Miss Robichaux’s Academy where Cordelia, Zoe, and the other witches are alive once more (but not Myrtle or Madison). She warns Queenie to not stay at the Hotel Cortez. Papa Legba returns Misty Day to the witches as a thank you to Mallory for killing the son of Satan.

NEW 2020: Emily and Timothy meet outside a coffee shop.

NEW 2021: Emily has Timothy’s son.

NEW 2024: Emily and Timothy come home to find their three-year-old has murdered the babysitter. Anton LaVey, Mrs. Mead, and another Satanist arrive at the house to “help.”

American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs on FX on Wednesdays at 9/10 p.m.

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