FX’s American Horror Story
Season 8, Episode 1: “The End”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
* For a recap & review of Season 7 Cult, click here.
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Morning After” – click here
Young billionaire Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman) is getting her hair done at Mr. Gallant’s (Evan Peters) place and doing sponsored Instagram posts, along with the help of her assistant Mallory (Billie Lourd). Then, on everyone’s phones, there’s an alert of a serious disaster occurring. Missiles are headed for Los Angeles. Coco’s dad calls to let her know the threat is real. They’ve got spots reserved at a private, secretive bunker. Immediately, people are whipped into a panic across the city, as well as everywhere else across the country. Coco takes off for the airport with Mallory, calling her man Brock (Billy Eichner) to tell him to meet her.
At her mansion, Evie Gallant (Joan Collins) doesn’t seem concerned about “the end of the world” calling it “probably fake news.” She’s young Mr. Gallant’s nana. He rushes to find her so they can get someplace safe. Because in the streets there’s chaos, between violence, suicides, and escalating riots.
Gallant and his nana go to the airport, where Coco gives them a lift. In the end, Ms. St. Pierre Vanderbilt has to leave Brock behind when people from the airport try commandeering the private jet. In the air, Mallory discovers there’s not even a pilot on the plane with them. Below, missiles are exploding, and Los Angeles goes up in a mushroom cloud.
Skip back to forty minutes prior. Timothy Campbell (Kyle Allen) discovered he’s going to UCLA. The family are all happy, breaking into a chant. However, it’s right then they all get the word of a possible “World War III” about to commence. The news says “nuclear ICBMs” have blown Hong Kong, London, and other places have been wiped off the map. A newscaster says: “I can‘t believe we actually did it.” Make America Great Again, right?
The Campbell family are interrupted by people who say Timothy has an “exceptional genetic makeup” fit for survival and he was “selected by the Cooperative” after submitting DNA to one of those ancestry websites. This is the only way Tim’s going to live. He’s forced to leave his family behind. Tragically brutal. He’s whisked away to a secure facility, kept in a cage along with others, such as Emily (Ash Santos)— a woman arrested for protesting. Outside those walls, the world’s falling apart.
Jump ahead two weeks. Emily and Tim are brought to a different facility, where the rich people who’ve financed the Cooperative’s operations are housed. The two young people are given Hazmat suits, then sent through a huge gate onto a massive property where they meet another Hazmat-wearing figure with a plague doctor mask. They also see a couple people executed . Further on is a facility, where they head inside. They’re decontaminated and then they get those suits off.
Afterwards, they meet Wilhemina Venable (Sarah Paulson): “Welcome to Outpost 3.” The house used to be a school for boys, converted into a fallout shelter by the Cooperative— a “collection of the dozen greatest minds mankind has to offer.” It’s all about survival, a new beginning for the natural order of things, or some such shit. There’s even class distinction: the bourgeois elite wear purple, the proletariat wear grey. The house has rules, too. Obviously no leaving, unless you never want to come back. Ms. Venable makes reference to “cankerpuss monsters” out in the radiation. Oh, and no unauthorised banging! Yeah, that’ll last. Tim’s already finding the place strange, seeing 666 steam on his shower door and hearing a ghostly voice.
Downstairs, Gallant and the others are relaxing— or trying to, anyway. Some people have cabin fever more than others. There’s lots of talent in the room, including well-known host Dinah Stevens (Adina Porter), and certainly Evie who’s “slept with Yul Brenner” among other achievements. At dinner, Coco starts flipping out because of the dietary restrictions placed on them. She gets a slap in the face for it from Ms. Venable. They’ve got enough nutrition for 18 months. Unless things get worse. Other outposts have fallen. Only two weeks and civilisation has officially been destroyed. Worse, there’s a radiation spike inside. Ms. Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates) checks everyone in the dining room to see who’s giving it off. She starts picking up heavy readings off Gallant, so he’s taken from the room, as is one of the other men. They’re given a Silkwood shower. Gallant’s clean, but the other man’s not as lucky. He’s labelled “dirty” and executed right on the floor.
Looks like the elites are breaking the rules on their own. Alone together, Ms. Venable and Ms. Mead let us in on secrets. Such as the man Miriam shot— he was made to “sound like Chernobyl” after the Geiger counter was rigged. This is all a game to them, toying with the lives of those left over post-apocalypse. The Cooperative don’t know, so it’s a hush hush thing between the women. Miriam’s ex-military, explaining her cold nature, so she feels a sense of duty, yet Wilhemina urges they’re on their own now.
Later, the group’s treated to some actual good food. Everybody digs in, though Andre (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), whose lover Stu got his brains blown out, isn’t as excited. The rest of them are happy to eat the tasty meat provided. Father Gore bets they’re chowing down on human. “The stew is Stu” = one of the great horror lines of the 2000s. Ms. Venable claims it’s not people, but I doubt that. Not that Evie cares, she’ll get her protein one way or another.
18 months later and no Cooperative to save them. Everybody’s lost hope long ago, and a few wonder if cannibalism ain’t so bad of an option. Life goes on in the “nuclear winter.” After a while, Tim and Emily came closer together. But nothing’s enough to cure the perpetual boredom.
Ms. Venable lets everybody know the meals are being cut back to one per day. Everybody’s pissed off eating cubes of nutritional supplements. Some like Dinah see it as a challenge. Gallant, Coco, and others feel like they’d rather leave and take their chances in the wasteland. Suddenly, an alarm goes off signifying a breach.
Outside, the gates open and a carriage comes in drawn by horse. A man called Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) comes to meet Miriam, asking to speak with Ms. Venable. He’s ushered inside to a familiar American Horror Story song from Patience and Prudence— listen here. We’ve heard it before.
Do you recognise the name Michael Langdon? You should. He’s the one Constance (Jessica Lange) was raising at the end of Murder House, the little blonde boy conceived in a union between human and ghost. Oh, shit. He’s also come to see who’s deemed able to survive. And if they’re not? They die.
I loved this first episode! No secret, Father Gore’s a huge fan of the series, despite what others might feel themselves. Every season’s so weird and different, even if every episode isn’t perfect there’s always something to love. Excited for all the crossover action, which we’ve started to see already in this episode with Michael’s appearance.
“The Morning After” is next time.