For fans of American Horror Story, the show’s return each year marks the beginning of the fall and Halloween season. The anthology horror series’ eighth season, American Horror Story: Apocalypse, premiered last Wednesday on FX.
The season begins, naturally, with the end of the world. People in Los Angeles receive notifications about the threat of nuclear annihilation. Most of the human population is killed following the mushroom clouds. The Cooperative, a mysterious organization, led the attacks in an effort to breed a new population of superior humans. They selected the people with the best genes to survive the blasts and stay in outposts until the effects of the nuclear missiles subside.
The most terrifying part of this season so far is the fact that it’s easy to imagine the same nuclear fallout scenario happening in real life given the current, tumultuous state of world politics. The Cooperative directed the attacks because they believed that technology and social media would lead to the downfall of humanity — and some people in the real world think the same thing, albeit not as fervently.
Unfortunately, for some AHS fans, there are not many genuinely scary moments beyond the premise. None were unsettling enough to really make a strong impact, with the exception of a cannibalism scene in the outpost where much of the season will presumably take place. (“The stew is Stu!” might be one of the best one-liners in the show’s history, despite the gruesome context.)
A highlight of Wednesday’s premiere was seeing the iconic cast of AHS on the screen again with new characters. Stern Ms. Wilhelmina Venable (Sarah Paulson) and Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates) lead their outpost strictly on behalf of The Cooperative. Paulson and Bates’ dark performances will likely be the foundation of the rest of the season.
Season eight was advertised as a crossover of seasons one and three, Murder House and Coven, respectively. However, there were few allusions to either season for the majority of the premiere. Actors like Taissa Farmiga, Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott were absent from the premiere but are all confirmed to be reprising their old characters.
Seeing the lack of references to either of the popular seasons made it easy to question how strictly the idea of a crossover will be followed. It’s possible that Apocalypse will follow a previous format, consisting of only small connections between characters and scenes from different seasons.
However, the end of the premiere brought the biggest surprise. Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) arrives and informs Ms. Venable about the bleak future of her outpost. He says that he will select which people from the outpost will be able to leave and survive. The character’s return from season one was highly anticipated yet served as a well executed surprise.
In season one, Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton) is raped by Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), a ghost, and later gives birth to the Antichrist, Michael Langdon. Michael’s reappearance in season eight shows him transformed from a young toddler into an adult capable of total violence and destruction.
The surprise ending to the premiere was an effective allusion to the show’s prior seasons and also gives fans a reason to look forward to where this season will go.