American Horror Story Season 8 Episode 10 Review: Apocalypse Then
American Horror Story wraps up its most ambitious season with an appropriately crazy mix of bloody violence and returning favorites.
This American Horror Story review contains spoilers.
American Horror Story Season 8 Episode 10
American Horror Story is a show where, somewhere during the course of the season, everything seems to go haywire, both within the plot and outside of the show itself. Granted, anything said about the production of television or the inner workings of a writers’ room by someone far on the outside is just speculation, but what appears on the screen always has a lot of ideas packed into it and what could charitably be described as muddied endings. Rarely does everything get wrapped up in a neat little bow on American Horror Story, but that’s not always a bad thing.
The finale of American Horror Story‘s most ambitious season manages to mash together two different series, marry separate mythologies, and somehow form a coherent season out of the chocolate and peanut butter of Murder House and Coven. For the first half of the season, the show felt solid and propulsive, moving forward at a steady, albeit quick, pace. The second half of the season falls into some of the standard AHS indulgences, wandering a bit and indulging in a lot of flashbacks and side-trips, but overall it’s been satisfying and entertaining, and it establishes the fun time travel bits (and the flash-forward) that allows the events of the apocalypse to be undone by the witches.
That might be a spoiler, but it was also blatantly set up by the previous episode. It was a clunky introduction of a new power that no other witch has save the Supreme of Supremes, but despite that landing with a thud, it doesn’t really detract from the episode. American Horror Story is not subtle. American Horror Story is camp, Grand Guignol, borderline psycho-biddy, and as such, if it were too nuanced, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Apocalypse leans into everything that could be complained about—violence, gore, bringing characters back from the dead, jumping forward and backward in time, melodrama—and attacks them directly, like a coven of witches fighting off the Antichrist.
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Part of what’s always made American Horror Story work is complete commitment. The writers pick a direction, and they go for it, no matter what it might be or how it might be perceived. If anyone can come back from the dead, then everyone is going to come back from the dead, and it wouldn’t be a Coven series without brief reappearances by Delphine and the surprise return of Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen, who takes back her throne from the usurper Dinah Stephens with a well-timed quip and an even better-timed swing of a machete. (The resulting spray of blood from an opened artery is absolutely beautiful, like a scene from a ’70s samurai flick.) The reassembled coven does its best to stop Michael’s merciless onslaught, but as Cordelia confirms, he’s too powerful. He snaps necks with a snap of his fingers. He rips out a heart. He fights through magical barriers and sheds off being shot a dozen or more times.
The only thing that can stop Michael is, of all things, Mallory’s ability to travel through time. Writers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk aren’t reinventing the wheel, but time travel does give the two an opportunity to bring back Jessica Lange as Constance again. Her exchanges with Michael are some of the best on the show, with Lange really digging into the material to find more emotional core and Cody Fern doing a solid job of matching her as the younger, more pathetic version of Michael.
Cordelia, prior to the time jump, calls him out as a scared little boy, and Fern does a good job of performing that. He makes his voice higher and his body language timider, cowed by the fierce anger of Constance despite his great power. Even when he grabs her by the throat, she’s still very much in charge and he’s still very much afraid (especially after Mallory stops his rise to power before it begins). Even though the episode leans towards voiceover by the end, as Mallory explains her status as the Billy Pilgrim of the American Horror Story universe, it’s still a very satisfying ending.
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The quality performances are played up by director Bradley Buecker. He shoots Michael differently depending on whether or not he’s fully in his power or if he’s a scared kid; Antichrist Michael seems to be shot at an upward angle, making him more imposing. His assault on the invading witches is a lot of fun. The fights, such as they are, are fun, and the special effects, for the most part, look good. (The only dodgy bit is his broken leg, but it’s forgivable since it’s a brief shot.) The gunshots look good, and the blood is appropriately splattery. It’s satisfying, even if it only lasts a minute.
Buecker saves his best visual work for Cordelia’s sacrifice. The shot of her dead in a puddle of blood at the bottom of the stairs is mirrored by the last shot of Michael, laying in blood, mangled by an SUV.
That the witches mostly get a happy ending is nice. Nan continues to serve Papa Legba, and Myrtle gets to stay dead, but everyone else seems to end up in a good place. There’s no telling just how this move changed things for the world, but as the final scene establishes, some things are predetermined and evil never rests.
Timothy (Kyle Allen) and Emily (Ash Santos) have a meet-cute at a protest, and after having a child together, they return from a nice night out to find their adorable son sitting on a rocking chair, covered in the blood of a dead babysitter. The more things change, the more things stay the same. This time, however, Anton LaVey (Carlo Rota), Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates), and Samantha Crowe (Naomi Grossman) are ready to help the Antichrist’s beleaguered parents.