Dear Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk: if you needed help writing the season finale of AMERICAN HORROR STORY: APOCALYPSE, I’m a writer for hire—because what you guys delivered was a whopping mess of a disappointment.
After subsequent weeks of dragging its feet with filler flashback episodes, APOCALYPSE’s final episode, “Apocalypse Then,” bolted through its final scenes, and sadly ran out of time to cover many of the mysteries that fans have been curious about since this highly anticipated Murder House and Coven crossover season premiered in September.
Sure, there were a few satisfying and touching moments to spare: watching Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) tearfully say goodbye to her witches Coco (Leslie Grossman) and Mallory (Billie Lourd) before she casted an identity spell on them; Cordelia (predictably) sacrificing herself with a dagger so that rising Supreme Mallory could regain her powers and reverse the Apocalypse; the way-too-brief return of the fan favorite Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, (Angela Bassett) as she slits the throat of coven betrayer Dinah, (Adina Porter) as well as another brief return of Ms. Jessica Lange for another Emmy-worthy scene as Constance. However, all in all, this compacted, 64-minute (with commercials) AHS finale felt rushed and anti-climatic.
We begin with (yet another flashback) containing two delectably shady ladies, Myrtle (Frances Conroy) and Ms. Venable (Paulson) exchanging insults back and forth, before Myrtle uses witchcraft to make her way into the robot headquarters of Illuminati bros Mutt and Jeff (aka Beavis and Butthead, played by Billy Eichner and Evan Peters). She demands them to let Coco’s family buy her and Mallory $100 million tickets for Outpost 3, which further explains how the witches ended up there in the beginning. From here, we see Cordelia blow pixie dust into Mallory’s and Coco’s faces, as they are told that they will be kept safe at the Outpost after the apocalypse occurs, so Mallory’s powers can grow stronger and Michael will be none the wiser of their true identities, since they are the only witches he has not previously met before.
After a few wasted minutes of scenes taken from previous episodes, we finally get back to where we left off in Episode Four— after Cordelia, Madison (Emma Roberts), and Myrtle arrive to rescue their fellow witches from Outpost 3, to finally duke it out with Antichrist Michael (Cody Fern) and his robot foster mom Mead (Kathy Bates). Michael tries to make a deal with the ladies: they accept him as their Dark Lord and Savior, and he’ll let them survive in this new post-Apocalyptic world. Of course, the witches laugh in his face, and Cordelia blows robot Mead to smithereens (why didn’t she do that last episode when Michael and Mead showed up to their coven and killed everybody?) The episode wastes no time with the gory bloodbath— as episode writers Murphy and Falchuk likely realized they have too much ground to cover and not enough minutes to spare— and one by one, the witches (including Marie Laveau) attempt to stop Michael once and for all, before getting killed off in varying ways. Before you can bat an eye, Coco gets stabbed, Marie gets her heart cut out (and eaten), and Madison (who has really transformed into somewhat of a redeeming heroine this season) has her head blown off. Bummer. Coco’s vengeful ex Brock (Billy Eichner) then pops out, because he is still pissed at Mallory for taking what should have been his plane ticket back when the apocalypse first happened, so he stabs her. From here, Mallory is slowly slipping into deathly territory, so Cordelia decides to do what needs to be done, in a moving sequence that will surely garner Paulson an Emmy nomination next year: she puts a dagger into her own heart before Michael can kill her, claiming her coven is “legion”— allowing Mallory to now flourish into the powerful Supreme that she was destined to become, and enabling her to complete the time traveling spell that will reverse the events that got us here in the first place. Toxic men destroy the world, and righteous women sacrifice themselves to save it, but we knew that already. (That is the last we will see of Outpost 3, and it essentially meant nothing to the overall plot, in the grander scheme of things.)
As Mallory slips into her time travel, she makes her way into the year 2015, during the period of time that Michael is still living with Constance, as he is killing animals and priests alike, which we saw in “Return to Murder House.” A brief, emotional turn from Lange as Constance explains her frustrations with Michael, as she declares that she is tired of cleaning up after his bloody messes, and he must get the hell out of her house, once and for all. Michael leaves the home, and steps out to cross the street, leading to the most anti-climatic, let down of a death in the entire finale. Crash! Michael gets crushed by a Range Rover—not once, but three times, including in reverse— and low and behold, it is Mallory behind the wheel, as Constance looks on and decides not to grant Michael’s wish to die in the Murder House so his spirit can lurk forever.
Instead of feeling satisfied that the Antichrist is gone for good, we feel a tad sorry for him, as he cries and is left for dead in the street. There wasn’t a more creative way to kill the freakin’ Antichrist?? Because I can think of several ways. One, the witches, (not just Mallory, but the entire Coven) could have figured out a way to travel back in time and open the “portal to hell” that the Murder House supposedly contains underneath of it, and dropped Michael into the fire-y flames, as his daddy Satan looked on. Or, they could have gone all the way back in time to that Murder House scene in which a young Michael kills his nanny, and walked into Constance’s house and gotten rid of him for good, right then and there. Hell, they could have even went so far back as to preventing his birth entirely, changing the entire conjecture of the MH plot, giving Vivian and Ben the chance to survive that damned house. Wouldn’t that have been wild? At least that scenario would have taken some balls, because what they gave us was a weak cop out.
After Mallory succeeds in killing Michael, she finds her way back to Miss Robichaux’s Academy (still in the year 2015) where she re-meets the likes of Cordelia, Queenie (a completely wasted Gabourey Sidibe), and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), alive and well, who do not remember what had happened to their future selves— that is Mallory’s secret. A few happy-go-lucky exchanges back and forth then lead to brief returns of Misty (Lily Rabe, also completely wasted) and Nan (Jamie Brewer), as Mallory gives us a piece of exposition-y dialogue about energy never being destroyed, because its vessel just gets changed…which then leads us into an annoying cherry on top of an already frustrating finale.
We now jump forward to the year 2020 (or maybe 2022, who can keep track?) and the world is safe and sound… or so we think. We watch on as the most boring characters of the season, Timothy (Kyle Allen) and Emily (Ash Santos) return, re-meeting again for the “first” time, quickly falling in love, and yadda, yadda, yadda. And, as was predicted by many AHS fan theories, Timothy and Emily become pregnant, only to give birth to…you guessed it! Another version of the Antichrist, suggesting that the Devil will always find a way to bring upon his evil into the world— nope, the world apparently cannot escape its fate. In a scene that directly mirrors the one from Murder House where young Michael kills the nanny and Constance walks in and see his bloody hands— Timothy and Emily also walk into their home to discover their toddler son covered in blood after slashing his nanny’s throat. Hmm…okay…so we all remember that they were selected to be in Outpost 3 because of their “DNA” that the Cooperative deemed “special.” However, now you’re telling me that, two seemingly normal, living people can create an Antichrist baby, after we learned seven seasons ago that the Antichrist could only be born from copulation between a living person and a ghost? Come on now.
In the final moments, the couple gets a knock on the door from Satanic Church leader Anton LaVey (Carlo Rota) and his cardinals, the same ones who we saw come to see a young Michael, earlier in the season. They claim to “want to help,” and thankfully, we at least get one more shot of Kathy Bates’s hauntingly ominous smirk, and the episode ends.
With such a rushed final episode, APOCALYPSE failed to answer many of our burning questions and linked very few aspects of what we had previously seen in earlier episodes. For one thing, what/where was the “sanctuary” that Michael supposedly wanted to take some of the “worthy” Outpost 3 survivors to? Sure, he was probably lying to them, but couldn’t that have been explained, either way? What was the real reason behind Michael’s arrival to the Outpost? Additionally, aside from just being a cool callback to Murder House, what was the point of Rubber Man, and why did he have sex with Gallant (Peters)? Was he just a seductive entity? Also, what specifically was so special about Timothy and Emily’s DNA? And, why did any of that crazy stuff happen in Outpost 3, if ultimately, it was to be eliminated by adverting the apocalypse altogether, and having no merit for later in the season? So many dots, yet so few connections.
One of the most interesting things to look out for from every AHS season finale is a possible hint for the next season. While I can’t say I noticed anything too specific for Season Nine within the finale, I did, however, pick up on a possible clue in last week’s penultimate episode, “Fire and Reign.” After Mallory had returned from her time travel to 1918, blood poured from her eyes similarly to the artwork from Season Two’s Asylum, in which blood pours from the eyes of a nun. Could we possibly be getting another crossover season, only this time, dealing with Asylum and other seasons like Freak Show, Roanoke, and Cult that APOCALYPSE did not deal with? We shall see.
Overall, APOCALYPSE was still a mostly fun season, returning many of our favorite characters and giving some of them (but not all) redeeming moments to shine, especially with stellar performances from Paulson, Fern, and Bates— as well as giving us one of the greatest AHS episodes to date with “Return to Murder House.” If only its conclusion was as equally satisfying.