Witches, warlocks, Hell, demons run amok in ‘American Horror Story’

In the fourth episode of ‘Apocalypse,’ we learn of the Antichrist’s growth to power and how men are always weaker than women, but especially in magic.

This review contains spoilers for the newest season of “American Horror Story,” as well as seasons one, three and five.

Each new episode of “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” seems better than the rest. Especially as in episode four, a majority of the beloved “Coven” witches are shown in a flashback sequence that encompasses nearly the entire episode. We also finally get to learn an interesting amount of backstory about the Antichrist, which is certainly always fun.

We begin at the kitchen table of a teenaged Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) and a Satanist mother who is a lookalike of Mead (Kathy Bates). This is who the robot Mead is based on, appearance, thoughts and all. This is surprising, as I suspected when Michael said that Mead was based off a mother figure that it would certainly be Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange), who stole Michael away as a baby from the Harmons. Perhaps he ended up killing her, as he did his childhood nanny.

In the present, Mead confirms her loyalty to Michael by stating she feels as if it’s the first time she’s known her place in the world, finishing it off with an exuberant “Hail Satan!”

The two then go to check on the dead Outpost residents when Michael feels a change in the air. They see the three witches, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson), Madison (Emma Roberts) and Myrtle (Frances Conroy), and the three revived residents, Coco (Leslie Grossman), Mallory (Billie Lourd) and Dinah (Adina Porter). After insults are thrown between the witches and Michael, he confidently asks them, “how can any of you defeat me when I’ve already won?”

The episode then takes a jaunt to the past for the rest of the episode and shows the Outpost before the apocalypse hit. We already knew it was a boys school, but we now learn that it was actually a male version of the coven, a school for young warlocks. The warlocks in charge see a video of Michael using intense, seemingly magical power to kill a detective who’s questioning him for murder. Although a couple members of the head group believe it to be demonic, they go to recruit Michael anyway, who kills more people on his way out of the station. Good to know that the Antichrist has always been terrible, even as a teenager.

According to the head group of warlocks and Cordelia, men are never as powerful at magic as women are. Or in anything, the witches snidely remark. That’s why they are graded on their prowess in a much simpler test than the intense Seven Wonders that the coven uses, and simply graded on a zero to four scale. A man has never been close to a four, which is also deemed as an ‘Alpha,’ or a man who is just as powerful as the female supreme. Similar to season three with these same characters, they seem to push a female empowering, yet man-hating agenda I find perhaps realistic to their situation, but still don’t feel completely happy with.

During the test to decide his rating, Michael excels with flying colors. However, he also briefly loses control and nearly kills the head warlocks in his temporary state of darkness. At this point, he clearly doesn’t know he’s the Antichrist yet, and he seems bewildered and apologizes for losing control. Even with the fear of his recklessness and darkness, the warlocks see true power in Michael and believe him capable of being an Alpha and standing up to Cordelia, who they dislike for outing the existence of magic to the world at the end of season three.

They then call an emergency meeting as an excuse to ask Cordelia to administer the Seven Wonders test to Michael to fully test his capabilities. Cordelia arrives with Myrtle and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) in tow and adamantly refuses the warlocks request to administer the test. She cites that men are too weak and that she’s already lost someone while taking the test and is reluctant to submit anyone again who may not be ready as it would be, in her eyes, a death sentence.

In a moment of vulnerability, she reveals how she’s lost yet another one of her own in Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), who was killed at the Hotel Cortez of season five. Even after trying to retrieve her from it for multiple days, she was defeated by the darkness in the hotel and forced to give up. Michael, with some sort of omniscient power, is aware of this and decides to try his own hand at it to prove a point.

Since Michael is already an evil being, he has no issue navigating through the horror of the Hotel Cortez. He easily saves Queenie from playing cards forever with, in a surprise appearance, James March (Evan Peters), the head ghost at the Cortez. He then goes to save Madison, who is in Hell after being murdered.

In immense millennial relatability, her personal Hell seems to be performing a menial, customer service driven retail job that includes a horrible boss, horrible customers and horrible khakis. Michael has no issue going to and retrieving Madison from Hell. He brings the two girls back to the school to present to Cordelia and upon seeing them again, and with a male nonetheless, she faints.

While I’m still waiting slightly impatiently for more of the characters from season one, I’m very pleased with how this season is going and excited to see so many familiar characters and faces once more and see how their lives are continued, even into the apocalypse. I also find myself wanting more details on the new, recently deceased characters, but hopefully this will be touched on in later episodes.

Additionally, surely in episode six titled “Return to Murder House,” we will finally see the promised characters of season one’s “Murder House.” I’m also excited to see the surprise crossover of season five this episode and if any other seasons are also shown before this season’s out. After “Could It Be … Satan?” I find myself asking, could it be…the best season yet?

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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