American Horror Story: Apocalypse doesn’t waste any time with pleasantries in the premiere, so I won’t either. The eighth season of Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology opens with a billionaire heiress, Coco (Leslie Grossman), in the salon explaining her plan to become an Instagram influencer so that she can “make something of herself.” It’s the kind of mundane chit chat that we know leads to mayhem. And it does. All the phones in the salon are inundated with emergency alerts warning them of an oncoming missile that is about to obliterate Los Angeles. There is literal chaos in the streets as people try to make their way to safety that doesn’t really exists.
But here, being rich comes in handy for Coco and her executive assistant Mallory (Billie Lourd). She gets a FaceTime call from the rest of her family in Hong Kong. They are also expecting a fatal blast at any moment, and knowing that she has more time, Coco’s father has reserved four spots for her on a private jet for her. Ultimately Coco, Mallory, Coco’s stylist Mr. Gallant (Evan Peters), and his rich grandmother, Evie Gallant (Joan Collins), are the only ones who make it onto the aircraft. Coco’s boyfriend Butch (Billy Eichner) isn’t so lucky. Neither is the pilot, who gets attacked by a mob of airport employees who are also trying to seek a haven. Somehow the jet still takes off and makes it into the air. It is only then that its passengers realized that they are alone and likely going to crash. From their position in the sky they can feel and see the blast clearly when it makes contact. They’re all shook as the plane goes down.
Timothy (Kyle Allen) is checking his college application status just 40 minutes before the blast — just to give you an idea of how quickly L.A. was sent into a state of emergency. But things get really weird for him when a couple of officials (one of whom is Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order: SVU) show up at his family’s door to take him, and him only, to a bunker. Apparently his genetic makeup, which was identified when he submitted DNA for an ancestry service, made him one of the lucky people to be picked for survival. So off he goes, mostly unwillingly, to some secret underground location where he meets Emily (Ash Santos), a fellow selected survivor whose DNA was grabbed after she was arrested for protesting on campus.
Two weeks later, the pair is headed off to more permanent facilities, and if the view is to be believed, shit got real when the bomb hit. It’s so foggy that they can barely see in front of them, and there is hardly a trace of civilization. That changes when they arrive at Outpost 3. Hooded figures in gas masks escort them into the gates. Apparently Outpost 3 is home to selected people like Timothy and Emily, and a few wealthy individuals who could afford tickets. It should be a relief to see other humans two weeks after the world has basically ended, but the two people executed in cold blood as Timothy and Emily enter the compound raises some red flags.
Wilhemina Venable (Sarah Paulson), is the warden/orderly/house mother for Outpost 3. She welcomes Timothy and Emily, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a warm welcome. She is essentially the bearer of more bleak news. The rest of the world is gone. They can never go outdoors. They can’t copulate unless it’s “authorized.” They must dress formally for dinner and arrive promptly on time. Because they were selected as the best of the best, they are part of the elite crew of purple wearers. They are waited on by a group of people who wear gray. Other Purples include Coco, Mr. Gallant, and Evie (they survived the phantom plane ride!), while Mallory was relegated to the Grays. Wilhelmina and her second-in-command, including Miriam Meade (Kathy Bates) are neither Purple nor Gray. They wear authoritative Black.
Twelve “visionaries” who call themselves The Cooperative are responsible for the creation of Outpost 3. They had the foresight to see that the end — or the beginning, according to Wilhemina — was coming, so with the help of benefactors and investors, they made provisions. They operate under principles of totalitarianism that relegate people to certain classes. Under their rhetoric, social media and technology fooled people into believing in quality, and that under their new world order — one that involves eating increasingly small cubes that contain enough vitamins and nutrients to sustain them — people can only claim their rightful spot in society. Or at least we think so.
It becomes clear that Wilhemina and Miriam are operating under their own set of rules. The two of them play dress up as Purples in Wilhemina’s room, laughing about the unnecessary torture and punishment (including murder) that they’ve inflicted on the inhabitants of the Outpost. At this point Wilhemina has already slapped Coco for complaining about the food (or lack thereof), and Miriam has killed a man for a crime (going outside) that she knows he didn’t commit. It looks like the power and control they have over their residents helps break up the monotony of living in a souped up bunker everyday.
In the 18 months that pass after Emily and Timothy arrive, they go through their same routines daily. Outpost 3 is basically hell for anyone with a low attention span. But this is the cost of being the final remnant of civilization. The solace that the two young people have found is in each other, as they’ve fallen in love. They ration themselves one kiss per day to avoid suspicion. It would be romantic if it weren’t the literal end of the world.
Here are a couple of other weird things that you should know after “The End”: Timothy sees a 666 written into the steam mirror after his shower, and an unseen voice whispers “beware.” It’s a bad omen if there ever was one, and this has secret society written all over it. I’m pretty sure Miriam and Wilhemina served the residents human flesh in order to boost morale after they killed a bunker resident. And last, but certainly not least, Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) shows up with great hair, stunning makeup, and change on the horizon. He was sent to evaluate those at Outpost 3 to determine if they qualify to join him at some other, better equipped facility.
How I would have died in this episode: I can’t afford to pay my way into any safe haven, and I know that my predisposition to being fat would have ruled me out of any genetic lottery. So I would have definitely been hit by a car in the street chaos before the bomb even struck. No purple or gray for me.