TV Review – American Horror Story: Apocalypse
This is now the eighth season of this series. With few exceptions, the average primetime TV show doesn’t make it past seven seasons. The co-creator of this series is Ryan Murphy and his most popular show was Glee (2009), but even that show ran out of steam after six seasons. This series has been green lit for a season nine and 10. One reason this one has been able to last is because it’s an anthology, meaning each season is a completely different story with completely different characters and often completely different actors.
Previous seasons have referenced seasons that came before but this season is the first where characters from previous seasons come back in significant ways. This season is, in fact, more of a sequel to Season 3 but characters from season 1 and 5 make appearances here as well. Now, Murphy and his co-creator Brad Falchuk could be doing this because they really love those past characters and really want to utilize them again. It also could be that Murphy and Falchuk have run out of new ideas and have gone back to old ones.
Actually, the latter is an easy dig. Murphy and Falchuk do have new ideas, but as is their preference, they burn through those new ideas rather quickly. What happens in the first three episodes is so much material that it could have filled six or eight episodes, if Murphy and Falchuk had slowed down and drilled down.
They introduce a half-dozen or so characters trapped in one location who then begin to turn on each other until they’re all dead. They set up this “Ten Little Indians” scenario, but instead of drilling down into those characters and allowing us to get to know them beyond the superficial and concocting situations that build conflict and develop them, Murphy and Falchuk tear through them so fast or skip over them to get to where they land in Episode 4.
The “Ten Little Indians” scenario is that a nuclear war has broken out in the United States and a handful of people have been saved by taking shelter in a secure, underground facility. The first, three episodes depict the nearly two years those people spend in that facility. In a clever way, it does what The Walking Dead does and examine issues of survival and what humanity can devolve into being, while also attacking elitism and sexism. It does so in Murphy’s usual style of humor and injection of campiness and pop cultural ticks.
For example, Evan Peters is a young actor who has been in previous seasons of this series. He’s also been in the recent X-Men films. What does Murphy do? He of course has another character reference the X-Men to Peters’ character here. Nevertheless, it would have been fascinating to dig into Peters’ character and the others around him, but, literally words appear on screen saying “18 Months Later” and Murphy’s show skips over any digging. So, if one is curious about this series, you could also skip over the first, three episodes and seemingly not miss anything. Maybe, Murphy will circle back by the end, but it’s unlikely.
Sarah Paulson (The People v. O. J. Simpson) stars as Cordelia Goode, the character from Season 3. Paulson has been a part of Murphy’s company of actors since Season 2 and she’s played a different character every season, but her Season 3 character is the one who returns here. Cordelia is a witch, literally a witch, a very powerful witch who is referred to as the Female Supreme, meaning she’s like the president of all witches.
Cody Fern (The Assassination of Gianni Versace) co-stars as Michael Langdon, a teenage boy who is revealed to be a warlock, or a male witch. He goes to a school for warlocks where the men there think that he’s just as powerful as the Female Supreme. The warlocks tell Cordelia this, but she believes that it’s impossible for a boy to be as powerful as a girl. Michael, however, becomes hellbent on proving her wrong, so he’s a really evil Harry Potter. Actually, the prophecy the warlocks believe is similar to the prophecy in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, so arguably Michael is the witch-version of Darth Vader.
What Murphy has on his hands, intentionally or not, is a perfect parable of what’s been happening in the culture presently, specifically in regards to the Me Too and Time’s Up Movements. What some people have seen as part of the backlash to the Me Too and Time’s Up Movements is a rise of men’s rights groups, most online, including the so-called Incel Movement. Men’s rights groups have existed prior to the Me Too Movement, but certain men’s rights groups have been exacerbated like the Incels. This series, as it stands in Episode 4, could be an interesting metaphor for those men’s rights groups.
Yet, that hook isn’t enough to sustain continued watching. When it comes to TV shows about magic or those kinds of metaphors, one is better off turning on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (1996), Charmed (1998), which is being rebooted, or even Supernatural (2005), which has been on the air for 14 seasons. It’s one of the aforementioned primetime shows to be the exception to the seven-season average. Supernatural is the magical version of Law & Order. It’s more fun than this.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 10PM on FX.