Everyone knows that this season of American Horror Story is supposed to be a crossover between Murder House and Coven, right? Then why didn’t I see even one witch? Where was Connie Britton having sex with a sex gimp and Dylan McDermott’s impossibly-toned-for-56 bare ass? Where was Emma Roberts being horrendously bitchy while using her magic powers to move shit around the room with just a thought? And I thought this was supposed to be about the Murder House Antichrist? I came here for an Antichrist and all I got was Billy Eichner running around the street screaming. Girl, I got that for like three seasons on TruTV for free. It’s called Billy on the Street.
I’m just pulling Ryan Murphy’s chain because, while it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, this was one of the strongest premieres in American Horror Story history. It set a clear expectation for what the season was going to be about, introduced us to some delicious characters, had a great balance between scares and camp, and evoked a clear mood and visual style. It even clocked in right at the 60-minute mark, which is rare for run-on-sentence Murphy these days. All in all, I say very well done.
The episode starts with, well, the end of the world, something that we’re more and more obsessed with these days, considering the ongoing destruction of our planet and some — how can I put this? — instability around the person who has his orange finger on the button that launches the nuclear weapons. In the show’s first several seconds, we learn that L.A., and the rest of the world, is about to be destroyed by nuclear missiles. Who launched them and why is still one of the many mysteries we’ll be left unraveling this season.
We immediately follow Coco (Leslie Grossman) a spoiled wannabe Instagram influencer and daughter of a billionaire, who is going to be whisked off to a private bunker where the ultrarich can survive such an ordeal. Since the rest of her family can’t make the journey because they’re in Hong Kong, she is accompanied by her assistant Mallory (Billie Lourd), her hairdresser Mr. Gallant (Evan Peters), and his grandmother Evie (Joan Collins).
Immediately, Evie is my favorite character. She tells her maid that the “Champagne is burned,” a callback to a scene in Dynasty that has become a classic in certainly, shall we say, homosexual circles. From there she tells us about the disappointments of sleeping with Yul Brynner and continues to eat “every last drop” of the stew they’re served at dinner, even after she finds out that the meat in it is clearly a man named Stew. I love her almost as much as I love Myrtle Snow.
The Richie Riches are joined at their exclusive facility by two people who were whisked off from their friends and family just as the world was about to end, Timmy (Kyle Allen, this season’s shirtless shower twink) and Emily (Ash Santos). We find out that Timmy sent his DNA to Ancestry.com and that is how a shadow organization called the Cooperative knew that he was genetically superior and worth surviving in the event of a nuclear holocaust. See, people. We know not to share our data with FarmVille or else it will be harvested by Cambridge Analytica, now you’ll know not to find out that you’re 0.3 percent Cherokee or else weird paramilitary organizations will whisk you off in the middle of the night.
Joining all of these clowns at Outpost Three are Andre (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman), his lover the ill-fated Stew, and former talk-show host Dinah Stevens (Adina Porter). Apparently, Timmy is the only cis het male allowed to survive the impending nuclear winter.
The Outpost is pretty impressive, however. It’s marked only by a Richard Serra–esque sculpture above ground and consists of an old boys’ school that was somehow buried underground. It’s lit only by candles and looks like some sort of crazy immersive theater project where you pay $125 to run around after ecstatic dancers through a crowd of people from New Jersey wearing white masks. The mood is like a slumber party gone wrong and I absolutely love it.
Outpost Three is lorded over by Wilhelmina Venable (the venerable Sarah Paulson) dressed like a crazed Russian ballet teacher complete with silver-tipped walking stick and a bun wound so tightly it could probably compress a charcoal briquette into a three-carat diamond. Her henchwoman is Miriam (Kathy Bates) who looks like a chic lesbian dressed up as Sesame Street’s the Count for Halloween.
We learn from her that the Cooperative is really 12 of mankind’s greatest minds working to ensure the survival of the race, and that much of their work was funded by selling the slots in these bunkers for $100 million dollars a pop. That’s what allowed “scholarships” like Timmy and Emily to come through, as well as “the grays,” the servants who serve everyone in this pseudo-Victorian madhouse.
For some reason Mx. Venable and Miriam have deviated from their orders and have decided that they’re going to terrorize the people that they’re in charge of protecting. That means faking a Geiger counter reading so that they can get away with killing Stew, making everyone listen to the same song in the living room for months on end, forcing the crew to dress up for dinner in purple outfits that make them look like rejected Disney princesses — or in Mr. Gallant’s case, an all-purple version of a very gay Fred from Scooby-Doo.
The biggest way to torture everyone is to keep them from “any sort of copulation,” as Mx. Venable says, or else they will be murdered. This seems like it’s only going to drive Emily and Timmy closer together, because the one thing that will make horny teens even hornier is if you tell them not to have sex at all. They start stealing kisses and falling in love after a few months in the bunker, but haven’t gone all the way yet. What else do they have to do in that bunker? I would have even slept with Evie by this point just out of boredom.
The other thing that is creepy about Timmy is that his first night in Outpost Three, we see in the steam of the shower in the mirror the numbers 666 appear and then disappear and the whispers of far-off dead girls whisper for him to “beware.” Is he the Antichrist that we were promised?
Just as everyone in the Outpost is about to lose their shit on Mx. Venable, a visitor arrives. We see him in his buggy pulled by horses wearing gas masks, it’s as creepy a sight as I could possibly imagine. Even scarier than Miriam and her enormously tall henchwoman dressed up in their steampunk end-of-the-world garb. He tells Miriam to take care of his horses, which she knows means to go shoot them and discard their bodies where they can be ravaged by the radiation that is eating away the outside world.
Inside we meet a man who is dressed like he’s impersonating Tom Cruise in Interview With a Vampire. He tells Mx. Venable that six of the Collective’s outposts have been attacked by a mysterious enemy and have fallen, and that the same fate will soon happen at this Outpost. He’s there to decide who should be taken to a much more secure stronghold with enough resources for everyone to live for a decade. Those who pass will live and those who do not will die, but we still don’t know what the qualifications are. Then I’m reminded that this nice man, played by AHS first-timer Cody Fern, is named Michael Landon, the name given to the supposed Antichrist born to Connie Britton in Murder House. Oh snap! Did we finally get our wish? Is he really here? Is it really happening? It seems like it is, and the season is off to a great start.