SPOILERS AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
IT’S FINALLY HERE, Y’ALL! American Horror Story: Apocalypse debuted last night with a literal bang – within the first few minutes, the cast is sent hurtling into full-on nuclear holocaust mode.
Things open with in a hair salon in Beverly Hills, where Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (played by the inimitable Leslie Grossman) is gettin’ her hair did by Evan Peters’ character, Mr. Gallant. (Coco’s assistant Mallory is there, too, and she’s played by none other than Billie Lourd.) Everything goes to shit in seconds, however, when out of nowhere the missiles start flying. Coco’s dad calls from Hong Kong to say that he and the rest of the family are toast, but that she should book it to the airport and hop aboard a private jet to safety. There are four spots total on board, so Coco, Mr. Gallant, Mr. Gallant’s fab grandma (played fantastically by Joan flippin’ Collins) and Mallory hustle the hell over there (while dodging falling bodies of people who begin committing suicide from LA buildings) and take flight. (They would have been joined by Coco’s husband, Brock, who’s played by Billy Eichner, but there’s no time to wait for him to arrive. C U L8R, ALLIG8R.)
The jet is pilotless and pre-programmed to fly them to one of several designated bunkers, which are run by a faceless organization called “The Cooperative”. This particular bunker is overseen by Wilhelmina Venable (the first of three characters played by Sarah Paulson this season), who is the stuff of Victorian era nightmares. Fellow guests are a mix of wealthy folks who paid to be there, and two young adults named Timothy (Kyle Allen) and Emily (Ashley Santos) who were selected by The Cooperative to survive the fallout since their DNA is apparently ideal for the aftermath.
Everyone dresses in clothes that feel very Hunger Games meets Downton Abbey, and you better believe there is a class system involved, even in the midst of nuclear holocaust – the servants wear grey, while the rich people wear purple. Venable wears neither color publicly, but later we see her and Kathy Bates’ character Miriam (a glorified henchwoman) locked away in a bedroom sporting the purple clothes, and joking about how great it is to torture these guests who’ve paid dearly (or been forced) to be there.
And it’s pretty awful, you guys. Sure, they’re alive, but scant meals (which will allegedly run out after eighteen months) consist of square cubes of vitamin-packed gelatin. Meanwhile, sex between guests is forbidden unless authorized (whatever the hell that means), and the only source of “fun” is a cocktail hour (cocktail = water), during which The Carpenters’ “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” plays endlessly on repeat.
Is it better than being dead and/or struggling to survive in the outside now-barren, heavily contaminated world? It gets tougher and tougher to say as the episode goes on. Venable and Miriam’s torture game gets extra fucked up when one of the purples named Stu is killed under false pretenses. If that wasn’t rough enough, they SERVE HIM FOR DINNER. Stu’s companion stands up from the table and screams “THE STEW IS STU!!!” Which is both hilarious and horrifying. Joan Collins basically says, “I don’t care what it is, it’s delicious!” and continues eating like it ain’t no thang. (Bunker life will do that to people.)
So things are bleak AF, apart from the romance that begins budding between Timothy and Emily. And this is BEFORE Michael Langdon (you know, the demon baby that Vivien and Tate produced in Murder House) turns up in true Antichrist fashion in a carriage drawn by two black horses. (Contaminated, the poor things are shot and left outside the bunker to rot. Or, they would have if they weren’t dragged into the forest by god knows the fuck who.)
Since their eighteen months of guaranteed survival are up, he’s there to offer salvation to some of the guests – if he approves of them, they’ll join him in another bunker which is allegedly equipped to withstand another ten years. And if he doesn’t, well, I guess we’ll find out, but it sounds like certain death awaits.
I’m stoked to find out what happens next week, because so far, I’m really digging what I’m seeing. I’m also interested to see how Murder House and Coven will continue to be incorporated into the story.
That being said, I really didn’t expect to have similar feelings of IRL terror watching this season as I did Election. Last year’s show hit FAR too close to home in the aftermath of Trump, but the idea that we could be headed toward global disaster in a similar apocalyptic fashion is not that far-fetched, and thinking about it brings me unshakeable fear.
Here’s to endless nightmares and many more episodes of quality television, you guys.