American Horror Story: Apocalypse - Review
American Horror Story has gone in a very gratifying sci-fi direction, in the latest series, and you can probably guess what direction that is based on the series title, American Horror Story: Apocalypse. I’m guessing this won’t please every fan of the show, but it sure puts a smile on my face. I love post-apocalyptic shows, like Jericho (I absolutely loved Jericho), The Walking Dead, and Falling Skies. I even loved an absolutely batshit crazy show called Extinct.
Before I get into my hot take on the first episode of this new show, I should warn any reader brought here by Google that I am not averse to sprinkling my commentary with spoilers. If all you want to know is whether this show is worth watching, without any of the details being spoiled, I would unequivocally say yes. It isn’t pure sci-fi, but there is enough of a sci-fi sensibility among the gore and jump scares that this is very much in the wheelhouse of the other shows I sing the praises of on this site. I would be more hesitant of recommending it to a horror fan than a sci-fi fan, in fact. If you want to know a little more before giving it a try, buckle up for some light spoilers and find out a little more about the show, and if it is worth your time.
The particular apocalypse chosen for this show is an old-school nuclear version, but the fact that the people envisioning it are the American Horror Story team means it is easily as creepy as a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion. American Horror Story: Apocalypse gets going without any hanging around, throwing us right into the action. We start with the happy shiny world of modern-day USA, seen from withing a comforting bubble of wealth and security, where people’s biggest problems are getting into college or how many likes their latest social media post will receive, but we don’t get to inhabit this comforting bubble for very long.
Very soon the bombs start to fall, and we are whisked away to Outpost 3, where we are told about the Cooperative, which seems to be a bunch of Luddites who see the bombs as a cleansing fire. I even suspect that these bad guys will turn out to be behind the nuclear war, but that is just idle speculation and has no bearing on the meat of the show. The show is a theater of cruelties, which are visited on the inhabitants of Outpost 3 by a kind of evil school principal.
Outside Outpost 3, its inhabitants are told, is nuclear winter, cancer, and death. Survivors may never leave the building, and are not allowed to return to it if they do, for fear of contamination. There are a bunch of other rules that are based around imposing a rigid social order, with a whiff of eugenics, but the two main characters we are first introduced to inside Outpost 3 – two of the elites, the ones chosen to be there – are a white male and black female, so thankfully I don’t think any stupid ideas about race are going to raise their head, even if eugenics turns out to be more than set dressing. The rest of the elites we are introduced to are also a diverse group, racially and in terms of sexuality, which is great, though the show does focus its attention on the white people, at least so far.
The elites are a mix of rich people who bought their tickets to escape the end of the world and subjects with a desirable genetic profile. They find out that society has completely broken down within two weeks. There is already mention of monsters, and there are strange disembodied whispers. Everything is a little off, none of it based on science, but that’s fine because this is American Horror Story, not Jericho.
The first episode introduces us to this off-kilter word in many more ways than I have already given away in the relatively minor spoilers above, and we get to discover it in the company of a wonderful group of characters. The character played by Joan Collins, yes, that’s right Joan Collins, is a particular delight in this rogues gallery of entitled, soft, fools.
The production design is great, too, which is always important to me. The radiation suits worn by the operatives of Outpost 3, for example, are clearly modeled on the masks worn by Venetian doctors during the plague. Such masks are still for sale in the tourist shops of Venice today, among the more colorful masks intended for Carnival. Living in Venice, La Serenissima, as I do, that is a particularly endearing touch to me, but the entirety of the show, from sets, through equipment, to costumes, looks great.
I enjoyed the first episode a lot, and I’m hoping the entire series will be as good as this one.
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