LOADING ...

American Horror Story: Apocalypse Turned the End Times Into a Fabulous Season of Television

Charles Pulliam-Moore Nov 16, 2018. 16 comments

From the very first episode, American Horror Story: Apocalypse has felt like a return to rare form for the series—in large part because this season incorporates a number of characters from previous seasons, but also because this story has always had a singular focus. The apocalypse is coming (or is already here), and it’s something no one wants except for the Antichrist.

While many of us were sold on the idea that this American Horror Story was going to incorporate each and every previous season of the series, it ultimately boiled down to being a showdown between the witches of Coven and the newly-adult spawn of Satan we first met in the show’s first season. Wild as that premise is on paper, it’s worked (and then some) on the screen, and last night’s finale, “Apocalypse Then,” was a stunning reminder that, as tiring as American Horror Story has sometimes been in the past, there’s still a fuckton of magic to be mined out of the franchise.

The beauty of American Horror Story: Apocalypse is just how planned out and encapsulated the entire season has been—something that becomes readily apparent as the events of the season’s finale unfold. What began as a somber story about a gaggle of weirdos doing their damnedest to survive in the world after an all-out nuclear war eventually became a rather fascinating examination of the nature of power structures, and the idea that power is something one must be willing to relinquish for the sake of the greater good.

Following the events of last week’s episode that left basically all of the show’s witches dead, “Apocalypse Then” opens with what might as well be the best, most scenery-chewing performance of Frances Conroy’s career. Having learned of Michael Langdon’s plot to initiate nuclear war with the help of the Illuminati, Myrtle Snow pays a visit to everyone’s favorite tech bros in order to ensure that the witches have at least a handful of their sisters embedded in one of the outposts first introduced at the start of the season.

With Michael becoming strong enough to kill witches and command humans to obey his will, the coven understands that the only possible way to save the world is to travel back in time to prevent Michael from ever ascending to power. But knowing that Mallory is the newly-ascendent Supreme of the coven is what makes their fight against Michael so perilous. As per the rules of American Horror Story’s magic, a Supreme can only truly come into her power once her predecessor is dead. But Cordelia Goode is still very much alive and understandably wants to remain so, partially because of her fear of what’s to come in the afterlife, but also because she has the deep desire to defend her fellow witches until the very end.

Sarah Paulson’s performances have always been a consistently fantastic aspect of each season of American Horror Story, but there’s an emotional depth to Cordelia’s story in this particular episode that feels distinct: Her death is the one thing that might just give humanity a fighting chance to be saved. While she doesn’t verbalize it in this particular episode, that’s a concept that makes you recall just how self-absorbed and harmful Fiona Goode (her mother, portrayed by Jessica Lang) was while she was alive. While Fiona reveled in the power that comes along with being the Supreme, Cordelia recognizes the responsibilities that come along with the title and the need for her to be willing to sacrifice herself for the greatest of goods—a quality of true strength and leadership.

Before the episode gets around to its satisfying climax, it also addresses one of the problematic aspects of the season, dealing with race in a way that’s equal parts surprising and satisfying. Coven’s plot exploring the feud between the coven of predominantly white witches and Marie Laveau’s group of black women who practice voodoo is something that never quite factored into Apocalypse, given that the events of her original season left Marie trapped in hell.

In Marie’s place, Apocalypse introduced Dinah Stevens as the new reigning voodoo queen and, powerful though she is, her role throughout the season was mainly to act as an antagonist towards her fellow witches, which came across as petty and small-minded given the season’s stakes. Once again, Dinah chooses to align herself with Michael in his final showdown against the witches, but in what can honestly be described as one of the best television twists of the season, Cordelia explains that Dinah’s presence is all part of her own larger plan to bring Marie Laveau (and, ahem, Angela Bassett) back to the world of the living.

In her own final battle with Michael, Cordelia willingly stabs herself in the chest, a fatal blow that enables Mallory to tap into her true power and project herself back in time to a point before Michael was fully aware of his own destiny. Because this is a finale, of course Jessica Lang reprises her role as Constance Langdon, Murder House’s original antagonist, and we see that even she was unable to tolerate Michael’s (her biological grandson) presence.

For all the pain and suffering Mallory and her fellow witches went through in order to stop Michael, the way they end up stopping him is decidedly camp in true American Horror Story fashion. Mallory pulls up to Michael’s house, runs him over with her car, backs up, rolls over him again, and then makes sure to do it one more time to ensure that he’s a mangled mess when she drives away. He dies, the future changes for the better, and the world...well, it’s saved. For the time being, at least.

On the whole, American Horror Story has never really dallied in stories with happy endings, but Apocalypse’s finale was a break from form. Even though the show’s been renewed for multiple seasons (meaning that more bad shit is going to befall the world), Apocalypse gave a number of the series’ franchises a fitting closure that retrospectively enriches the seasons we first met them in. For all of American Horror Story’s failings, Apocalypse came to remind us all why we first latched onto the show in the first season, and in a truly magical way, breathed new life into the series that’ll leave you at least partially excited to see what happens next.

16 Comments

Other Charles Pulliam-Moore's posts

A Long Simmering Conflict Takes Center Stage in the Supergirl Season 5 Trailer A Long Simmering Conflict Takes Center Stage in the Supergirl Season 5 Trailer

The larger Arrowverse is changing , and Kara Danvers along with it. In the first trailer for Supergirl’s upcoming fifth season that just dropped at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, the Girl of Steel is back and facing off against technology, a secret organization, and her own best friend.Last season Kara Danver’s best friend, Lena Luthor, learned she was...

Exclusive: Infinity Train's New Comic-Con Trailer Promises One Hell of a Wild Ride Exclusive: Infinity Train's New Comic-Con Trailer Promises One Hell of a Wild Ride

Your browser does not support HTML5 video tag.Click here to view original GIFScenes from Infinity Train.Image: Cartoon NetworkEveryone’s felt that sinking sense of dread as a too-full train car pulls into the station and you realize that you’re going to have to fight for your life as part of your commute. In the latest trailer for Cartoon Network’s Infinity Train...

Tom King and Mitch Gerads Stand By Heroes In Crisis' Polarizing Finale Tom King and Mitch Gerads Stand By Heroes In Crisis' Polarizing Finale

During this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Heroes in Crisis collaborators Tom King and Mitch Gerads made a point of addressing the intense wave of backlash that followed the series’ finale. To put their response simply: they’re more than aware of some of the reasons why the series threw people for a loop, but they stand by the choice to...

Steven Universe: The Movie's First Trailer Is Here to Save San Diego Comic-Con Steven Universe: The Movie's First Trailer Is Here to Save San Diego Comic-Con

Trailer FrenzyA special place to find the newest trailers for movies and TV shows you're craving.  It’s been months since we last saw Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems as they did what Pink Diamond couldn’t and convinced the Homeworld Diamonds not to the Earth. Now, though, the Gems are back in the first trailer for Steven Universe: The Movie,...

Suggested posts

Game of Thrones' Final Season Cleans House With a Record-Breaking Number of Emmy Nominations Game of Thrones' Final Season Cleans House With a Record-Breaking Number of Emmy Nominations

The 71st Emmy Awards , celebrating the biggest television shows out there, just announced all its nominees. Of course, everyone is dying to know how Game of Thrones’ divisive eighth and final season would fare on its last trip to the ceremony—and the show has gone and done it again. The final season may have not have endeared itself...

ABC Is Planning a New Marvel Show Based on Female Superheroes ABC Is Planning a New Marvel Show Based on Female Superheroes

Morning SpoilersIf there’s news about upcoming movies and television you’re not supposed to know, you’ll find it in here.  The Russo brothers want you to look hard at an incredibly vague Avengers 4 set photo. Aubrey Plaza and Bryan Tyree Henry could be joining the Child’s Play reboot. Pennywise has a close encounter with Bill Hader in new It: Chapter...

The Troubled Y: The Last Man TV Series Gets a New Showrunner The Troubled Y: The Last Man TV Series Gets a New Showrunner

When last we heard about FX’s live-action Y: The Last Man series, every indication seemed to point toward it being dead in the water . Showrunners Aïda Mashaka Croal and Michael Green announced that they were parting ways with the adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s comic in April. Now, though, it seems as if there might...

Evolución de los efectos visuales a través de las películas que han ganado el Oscar a la categoría Evolución de los efectos visuales a través de las películas que han ganado el Oscar a la categoría

Your browser does not support HTML5 video tag.Click here to view original GIFSi hay una sección en el cine donde el paso del tiempo supone un avance palpable a la vista, esa es sin duda la de los efectos visuales. Ahora que nos acercamos a la gala de los Oscars es un buen momento para recordar cómo han evolucionado desde...

Updates From the Nightwing Movie, Legends of Tomorrow, and More Updates From the Nightwing Movie, Legends of Tomorrow, and More

Morning SpoilersIf there’s news about upcoming movies and television you’re not supposed to know, you’ll find it in here.  The Phantom Tollbooth’s adaptation has a new director. The fifth Purge movie could be the last in the franchise. Stephen Amell’s got more behind-the-scenes pics from the big DC/CW crossover, Elseworlds. Plus, a new Star Wars Resistance clip, and see the...

The 10 Best (and 4 Worst) TV Shows of 2018 The 10 Best (and 4 Worst) TV Shows of 2018

Year In ReviewWe look back at the best, worst, and most significant moments of the year, and look forward to next year.   It’s part of our job to watch TV here at io9, and it was a damn good year for the airwaves—you wouldn’t believe how spirited the debate was as we narrowed down our list of best shows,...

Simon Kinberg Hints at an Intriguing Tone for the Gambit Movie Simon Kinberg Hints at an Intriguing Tone for the Gambit Movie

Morning SpoilersIf there’s news about upcoming movies and television you’re not supposed to know, you’ll find it in here.  Tim Allen teases an emotional Toy Story 4. There’s a few tiny rumors about the progress of The Batman. Joaquin Phoenix takes a miserable-sounding call in new Joker set footage. Plus, what’s to come on The Flash and Black Lightning, two...

The Trailer for American Horror Story: Apocalypse Is Crammed Full of Naughty Delights The Trailer for American Horror Story: Apocalypse Is Crammed Full of Naughty Delights

American Horror Story: Cult spent an entire season reminding us of the very real nightmare enveloping all of us after the 2016 election. Though the next season—which will feature characters from previous AHS seasons “Murder House” and Coven—is titled Apocalypse, this first trailer looks fun and campy as hell. Something (the rapture? Where’d the airline pilot go? Where’d the...

American Horror Story: 1984 Might Have Lost Another Major Star American Horror Story: 1984 Might Have Lost Another Major Star

Morning SpoilersIf there’s news about upcoming movies and television you’re not supposed to know, you’ll find it in here.  The new Ghostbusters movie adds a few more to its cast. Charlize Theron, Car Sorceress, is back for the next Fast & Furious. Jon Watts is already talking about what villain he’d want in a third Spider-Man. Plus, more new footage...

Even More Star Wars: Episode IX Casting Rumors Even More Star Wars: Episode IX Casting Rumors

Morning SpoilersIf there’s news about upcoming movies and television you’re not supposed to know, you’ll find it in here.  There are more wild rumors about Elsa’s love life in Frozen 2. Special effects legend Greg Nicotero is joining Spawn. The sequel to A Quiet Place has landed a release date. Mr. Robot is coming to an end. Plus, a new...

Language