American Horror Story attempts its first major crossover event with the Murder House and Coven worlds crashing together in Apocalypse.
It took me a day or so to fully form an opinion on FX’s latest American Horror Story entry, Apocalypse. This is the one many have begged for and dreaded with equal measure. For some reason, FX maintained an intense level of security around the property, opting not to submit screeners in advance of last night’s premiere. Usually, that’s a hallmark of a bad product, but after watching and considering last night’s pilot, it’s hardly the kind of disaster you’d hide. Nor does it hold the kind of secrets you desperately want to protect.
Instead, American Horror Story: Apocalypse appears to be a fairly standard beginning in the anthology series. It hasn’t shown much of its Coven or Murder House cards yet. Instead, it takes a depressingly realistic concept and executes it in a typical AHS manner, dressed and art directed to the nine’s.
While Donald Trump is only mentioned once in the pilot, the current political angst, depression, or fear (take your pick depending on how medicated you are) looms large over the first hour. Initiated by unknown forces, a series of nuclear missiles have been launched at hot spots across the world, including Los Angeles. There are several scenes of genuine and surprising emotional depth as many realize they’ve reached the end of the world. These scenes, of course, are punctuated with the typical Ryan Murphy bitchiness.
For example, Leslie Grossman’s Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (nearly the same character she played in Cult) calls her husband Brock (Billy Eichner) immediately following the missile warning sirens. She begs him to flee to the Santa Monica airport where she has a private jet chartered to fly them to safety. Stuck in traffic, Brock isn’t able to make it. As Coco’s plane flies overhead, Brock yells at the sky “Don’t you leave me in Santa Monica you bitch!”
Typical Ryan Murphy stuff, right?
The rest of the episode explores an underground outpost managed by Sarah Paulson’s Wilhemina Venable and Kathy Bates’s Miriam Mead. In the weeks following the nuclear blast, Venable and Mead have assembled genetically superior subjects to repopulate the world under the order of the Cooperative. The assembled cast, including Joan Collins, Evan Peters, Adina Porter, and Billie Lourd, lounge around both bored and anxious for fresh food. Only a mysterious gelatinous vitamin cube is served. That is until someone misbehaves – or punished for reasons unknown – and is made into food.
That gruesome discovery brings about one of the most hilarious, joyous, awful, crazy, wonderful lines of dialogue ever produced in American Horror Story.
“The stew is stu!”
So, is Apocalypse any good? Well, the pilot is absolutely fine. I particularly loved the design and lighting of the bunker community. The costumes, as expected, also work well to define the characters in a very Handmaid’s Tale feeling. But do I think it will eventually go off rails? Almost assuredly. Even thematically coherent seasons like last year’s Cult fall prey to a too-long season. Apocalypse seems poised to cater to Mr. Murphy’s worst instincts, throwing plots and characters into the proverbial blender just to employ his favorite actors. Will I be excited to see Jessica Lange return to her Emmy-winning role as Constance? Absolutely. Do I think any of this will make sense? Absolutely not.
Prove me wrong though. I’d love the chance.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs Wednesday nights on FX at 10pm ET.