American Horror Story Season 8 Episode 5 Review: Boy Wonder

American Horror Story: Apocalypse gives us a full Stevie Nicks performance. Who could ask for anything more?

This American Horror Story review contains spoilers.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse Episode 8

During Coven, there was a stand-out moment in which Stevie Nicks, one of the most famous ‘witches’ in popular culture, showed up at Miss Robichaux’s Academy to hang out with Misty Day and sing a couple of songs at the behest of the budding Supreme, Cordelia Goode. Certainly, it was a fun moment. There’s no denying the talent of Stevie Nicks, and so many of her songs in Fleetwood Mac make direct references to witchcraft, so she was a natural fit for Ryan Murphy’s spooky take on Southern Gothic swamp mysticism. That Coven‘s most charming character, Misty Day, was obsessed with Stevie Nicks, only made the sequence more adorable. Given that Apocalypse ties back to Coven, it’s only natural that as the witches come back to life, then Stevie Nicks needs to make another appearance.

After passing out at the reappearance of Queenie and Madison last week, this week, Cordelia wakes up screaming the names of all her friends: Myrtle, Zoe, Queenie (not listed? An offended Madison Montgomery). It wasn’t a nightmare, it was a vision, a vision of a horrible future in which everyone Cordelia knows is dead and she’s eaten by a pack of irradiated cannibals at the behest of a white-faced ghoul that looks suspiciously like the first-ever male candidate for Supreme, Michael Langdon. As if Cordelia wasn’t suspicious enough of her male colleagues, that dream won’t help.

But to become the first male Supreme, Michael Langdon will have to pass the Seven Wonders, with a slight difference: he’s got to bring Misty Day back from Hell, just like he did Madison and Queenie. The warlocks protest; no other Supreme candidate has had to do this before, but Cordelia has a reason behind adjusting the standards. The events that are coming will need a strong leader, stronger than perhaps any other Supreme has needed to be, and Michael, unsurprisingly, is that leader.

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One of the best aspects about the addition of Coven to the Apocalypse grouping is the politics involved in the witch world. There are wheels within wheels, and plots within plots. Cordelia is keeping secrets from her own witches in an attempt to figure out the scope of Michael’s powers. The warlocks are being used by Michael to gain control of the witches to put a stop to the one threat to his rise to power. The warlocks feud amongst themselves, with John Henry Moore and Chablis having or attempting to have secret meetings with Cordelia, Ariel working with Michael and Miriam Mead to ensure Michael takes over, and folks like Benedict (BD Wong) stuck in the middle.

The scheming, as laid out in John J. Gray’s script, is impressive indeed. Myrtle (the wonderful Frances Conroy) and Madison (Emma Roberts) pepper the script with fun, bitchy bon mots and asides. Michael and Ariel work their plot, the witches work their plot, and the clearly-defined group dynamics end up muddled at the end of the episode, with various factions and sub factions squaring off with one another. Michael, Miriam, and Ariel are clearly the most dangerous grouping, as they work together to make sure JH doesn’t sneak off to give information to Cordelia. Cordelia is using other methods to get information on Michael, dispatching Madison and Chablis to Los Angeles—to the place where it all started—to find out more about Michael (technically, Chablis invites himself along).

The dialog pushes through a lot of exposition, but it’s done efficiently and in an entertaining fashion. Certainly, there’s more gender politics involved this week, but it works. Myrtle is obsessed with the idea of male leadership taking over (she hilariously mentions dangerous, failed male leaders like Genghis Khan and Mark Zuckerberg). John Henry’s suspicions (and an act of kindness) get him into serious trouble, and lead to a nice confrontation with Chablis. Ariel’s obsession with the Alpha leads him into making a literal deal with the Devil.

The scenes themselves seem to move with greater efficiency this week, too. The stylistic touches, such as the silent movie presentation of the Seven Wonders, work very well. Not only does the picture turn to black and white, with appropriate title cards, but even the acting takes on a heightened style mirroring the performances of actors prior to talkies. Jon Jon Briones is particularly good at making these bigger, exaggerated expressions, with his laughing being especially amusing.

Misty’s personal Hell is decidedly not amusing. It’s familiar—we’ve seen her stuck in this cycle of resurrecting and killing a dissection frog before—but in Gwyneth Horder-Payton’s hands, it’s somehow more terrifying. There’s more blood this time, and the constant repetition only reinforces just how miserable this would be for someone like Misty, who is dedicated to life and light and twirling with Stevie Nicks. The scenes in Hell are uncomfortable and creepy, especially when Michael shows up and has a conversation with an open-mouthed chorus of demons.

Thankfully, that’s counterbalanced by a full Stevie Nicks song, with a weeping, deliriously happy Misty enraptured by the performance (to be fair, a personal concert by my favorite band would definitely help me feel better after being trapped in the netherworld). Lily Rabe is brilliant at both aspects of this performance. She looks anguished and terrified while in Hell, and she’s just the most charming, adorable person in her scenes with Stevie Nicks. If she’s not actually a fan of Stevie, then she’s an even better actress than I give her credit for, and I give her a lot of credit as a general rule.

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Much like the return of March last week, the revival of Misty Day is a nice surprise. She is a fan favorite, thanks in no small part to Rabe’s skill as a performer, and an unexpected return from the afterlife. In a series where the expected cross-over elements can still draw big responses (I cheered at the final shot of the episode as Murder House is revealed in all its glory), little surprises like that add to the feeling that anything can, and will, happen as the Murphyverse begins to contract and merge into a proper shared universe.

I can’t wait until Kit’s human/alien hybrid children show up with their guardian angel Nan to protect the witches from a cult based around Dr. Arden’s monster creations. Might as well bring all the worlds together at once, right?

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