[TV Review] “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” Travels Through Time and Prepares for the End In “Fire and Reign”

“American Horror Story: Apocalypse” sets up the final pieces of its Armageddon, but it builds to the way the world ends not with a bang, but a whimper…

“Math is way more powerful than magic.”

This episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse opens with a close up of an empty revolver that attempts to unload its inexistent ammo. The firearm delivers one hollow, unsatisfying click after another, the gun’s user hopelessly repeating the same action and expecting different results. This depressing image practically feels metonymic of the AHS: Apocalypse’s last few episodes. There’s a shiny, impressive presentation with lots of potential, but the chamber keeps coming up empty. And here we are, continuing to pull the trigger.

It’s pretty damn depressing that we’re an episode away from the end of the season and it turns out that two assholes with impulse control and bad haircuts named Mutt and Jeff are the puppet masters for this whole apocalypse she-bang. We have the literal Antichrist here and it turns out that he’s just a catfished mouthpiece for two random idiots (who seriously thought we’d get more Mutt in this season than Eichner’s original character, Brock?). There’s a fascinating idea buried deep inside all of this where it’s actually mankind that ushers in the apocalypse and Michael is just the conduit to do the dirty work. Jeff and Mutt are the ones who hate the world and declare that “nothing works.” If more altruistic individuals were speaking through Mead then Michael might have developed an entirely different purpose.

As stupid and lazy as it is, I kind of love the idea that Michael wrestles with aspirations to become president, but it’s purely because of fictional Antichrist, Damien Thorne’s, trajectory in The Omen III. It’s a perfect distillation of just how lazy and lost Langdon is, but damn if I don’t love a good Omen III riff. I can also appreciate the parallel between this Antichrist’s brief goal to become president and set off nuclear bombs and the idea that our actual bomb-happy president may not be that far off from this image. Has Trump ever seen The Omen?

previous episodes, but now she struggles over basic resurrection incantations. In spite of her fluctuating powers, Mallory attempts the dangerous time travel spell since they really don’t have any other options here. Mallory successfully travels back to 1918 Siberia to reach Anastasia Romanoff, but she’s not powerful enough to actually save her and alter the flow of the past (due to how Cordelia is still the Supreme and has some of “her” energy).

“Fire and Reign” spends a lot of time on this time travel spell to the point that it’s almost a certainty that it will be the key to victory in the finale. Otherwise, this lengthy trip to Russia during the height of battle will feel like an even bigger waste of time. And once again, really, time travel? And not only that, but this spell is literally only mentioned now when it suits this dire storyline? American Horror Story at least could have teased this when Mallory inadvertently tested her powers against Michael in the post-apocalypse timeline. Maybe she could have seen a flash of the past then. Or maybe season nine will just be all about the Romanoffs (take that Matthew Weiner and Amazon)…

“Fire and Reign” ends at a place that basically connects most of the lingering dots to the show’s post-apocalypse timeline. There’s a lot of information on the Cooperative, the people behind it, the creation of the Outposts (as well as Venable’s cushy position at Outpost 3), as well as the rules that govern them. In spite of all of this technical progress, there’s still a lot to cover in next week’s finale (which not only has to tie these narratives together, but also wrap them up). A more leisurely finale with a very clear goal (a la AHS: Cult’s finale last season) might have been a better position for AHS: Apocalypse, but we’ll see just how crowded and disjointed this conclusion is when it all comes to a head next week. Jesus may have needed time to figure out what to do with his purpose, but for American Horror Story, time is up.

Hail Satan, indeed.

‘American Horror Story: Apocalypse’ concludes next Wednesday at 10pm (ET) on FX