We actually knew a fair amount of what to expect for American Horror Story: Apocalypse ahead of the premiere compared to what we knew about other recent seasons, but that doesn't mean we could have predicted anything the premiere of the Murder House and Coven crossover season featured.
As the season's title made clear, Apocalypse is about the end of the world. Or, more specifically, it's about the new world that has sprung up in the wake of the destruction of the world we knew. Let's break down the dystopia and the deadly twists and turns from the season premiere.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
For a season that was so heavily promoted as the Murder House and Coven crossover, they sure are taking their sweet time before bringing in any of familiar faces. Instead, the premiere focuses on setting up the new characters who will populate this season.
First, there's my pick for this season's MVP, Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman), the daughter of a billionaire who's trying to become an Instagram influencer to assert her independence. Then there's Mallory (Billie Lourd), Coco's underappreciated personal assistant, and Evan Peters' new role, Mr. Gallant, an upscale hairdresser. We also immediately meet Mr. Gallant's grandmother Evie (Joan Collins), who is such a parody of an old rich lady that if she were played by anyone other than Joan Collins, she would be as flat as Peters' abs.
When the news breaks that nuclear missiles are heading toward major cities around the world, Coco's dad calls her from Hong Kong shortly before it's destroyed to reveal that their family has four spots reserved at a fallout shelter but that he, her mother and brother won't make it. A grieving Coco immediately springs into action, giving one of the tickets to Mallory and calling her boyfriend Brock (Billy Eichner), instructing him to meet them at the private jet.
Much to Coco's devastation, Brock isn't able to make it to the jet before they are forced to take off to avoid an angry mob commandeering it. But don't worry — her two extra tickets don't go to waste; Mr. Gallant, clearly a sneaky little bugger, overheard Coco's conversation with her dad and convinces her to give himself and his grandmother the last two spots in the fallout shelter.
Elsewhere in L.A., Timothy Campbell (Kyle Allen) is celebrating his acceptance to UCLA with his mother and brother when his father interrupts to reveal the news of the impending nuclear apocalypse. Just as the family is accepting their fate, a car pulls up to the house and two well-dressed people storm inside and reveal that Timothy has been selected by The Cooperative — clearly a clandestine organization that is up to shady shit — because his genetic makeup makes him a prime candidate to survive the apocalypse. Timothy insists he'd rather die with his family than go off with these strangers, but they don't give him a choice and have him forcibly removed from his house and put into an underground cage. It's in this cage that Timothy meets Emily (Ashley Santos), who was snatched by The Cooperative from jail after being arrested for protesting on her college campus.
WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD
Two weeks after the bombs dropped, Emily and Timothy are finally let out of their cages and taken to Outpost 3, where only those with enough wealth or the right DNA have been allowed to live — which, as it turns out, is a pretty small group. Also living in Outpost 3 are former daytime talk show host Dina Stevens (Adina Porter), the happy couple Andre (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and Stu, and of course, Mr. Gallant, Evie, Coco and Mallory.
Upon arriving, Emily and Timothy are given the CliffsNotes for the fallout shelter by Wilhemina Venable (Sarah Paulson), the leader of the outpost. As she explains, there are two classes of citizens within the shelter: the Purples, aka the chosen ones and the wealthy; and the Grays, the servants, of which Mallory is forced to be despite her ticket into the joint costing $100 million. The other rules include no unauthorized sex and no going outside under any circumstances, and any breach of these rules are punishable by death. During Venable's little info dump, she also drops the interesting tidbit that the outpost used to be an exclusive boys school before The Cooperative took ownership. Given that this is a Coven crossover season, our witch and warlock alert immediately went on high alert at this remark. But sadly, that's the closest to Coven we got in this episode. Yup, no Cordelia, no Madison; none of the witches came back in the premiere.
We did, however, get a little ghostly hint toward the Murder House connection though. When Timothy emerges from his first shower in the outpost, the numbers 666 have been scrawled in the steam of the mirror and a woman's voice warns him to "beware." Beware of what, exactly? The ghost (Vivien? Violet? Moira? Is that you?) could have been warning him about any number of things because Outpost 3 is way more messed up than I first imagined.
THE RULES DON'T APPLY
While Venable puts on the façade of being the compliant face of The Cooperative, in reality she believes the rules of the outpost's benefactor apply to her about as much as the previous rules of civilized society. Along with her right-hand woman Ms. Meade (Kathy Bates), Venable is just using this fallout shelter as her own personal funhouse of torture, punishing and even killing residents for her pleasure. She and Meade even faked radioactive contamination to justify murdering Andre's boyfriend Stu, not-so-coincidentally before serving the residents their first hot meal since arriving. This suspicious timing led to Andre's already iconic line "The stew is Stu," which was immediately followed by Coco's equality amazing delivery of, "Mallory, come here and put your finger down my throat!" (Evie, on the other hand, doesn't give a shit if she's eating human stew or not because it'd be full of nutrients either way. This bitch is loony and I love her!)
This little brush with potential cannibalism doesn't have a great effect on the residents, who begin to spiral. Jump ahead 18 months later and the Outpost 3 residents aren't faring too much better. No one else has died, but they're on the brink of insanity and almost out of supplies. Three other outposts have been overrun already, and this one doesn't look like it will survive much longer. And with nuclear winter having arrived in full force, the surface is deadlier than ever, so venturing above ground with no destination or transportation isn't an option.
There is, it seems, only one way any of them will survive much longer. A representative for The Cooperative shows up at Outpost 3 in the episode's final minutes to reveal he's discovered another facility that is fully stocked and completely impenetrable. Now, it's up to him to select who is worthy of living in this new shelter... and who will die.
I don't put a lot of value in The Cooperative representative's ability to make sound judgments on the residents because, oh yeah, it's the Antichrist Michael Langdon (Cody Fern). So this should be fun. For us at least, definitely not for the people living in Outpost 3.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX.