If you've been watching American Horror Story: Apocalypse with absolutely zero idea of when in the timeline this season is taking place... you're not alone. Fortunately, the latest episode of the series may give us a big clue as to when all of this horrific drama is taking place.
The eighth season of American Horror Story is more than just a story about the end of the world: It's also the season which ties the universe of the anthology series together. Though Apocalypse was billed as a crossover between season 1's Murder House and season 3's Coven, season 8, episode 4 brought fans back to DTLA's haunted Cortez, where Hotel took place.
As fun as it is to see our old stomping grounds, it didn't exactly make the timeline any easier to figure out. In fact, all these connections to previous seasons makes figuring out exactly when the action is taking place, a lot more complicated.
So let's try to unpack it all, shall we?
Creator Ryan Murphy teased back in April that season 8 would take place 18 months into the future. Then, in the premiere episode of the season, the show jumps ahead that amount of time as well, when the Outpost 3 residents are waiting for a rescue. When Timothy (Kyle Allen) and Emily (Ash Santos) look at the laptop supplied by Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) after that time jump, the computer reads "October 2021."
The real problem with this is Michael: If American Horror Story's first season did take place in 2011, when the show premiered (and we have no reason to believe it didn't), then Michael would be... 11-years-old. Obviously, that's not the case, so is this a huge plot hole?
Maybe, or maybe it can be explained away given the fact that Michael is the Antichrist and, as established during his mother Vivian's (Connie Britton) pregnancy during Murder House, grows at a faster rate than the average person.
Okay, so let's say that Michael is secretly a lot younger than he looks: Whatever age he is, when does everything else happen within the Apocalypse timeline?
Let's look at the flashbacks in episode 4.
We learn that Michael (with shorter but still fabulous hair) attended a school for warlocks, in the place where Outpost 3 would later be built. He was so good at all things magic that he was declared the male Supreme — called the Alpha, because men — by his fellow warlocks. Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) was not convinced, because testosterone blocks magic, and refused to test him with the Seven Wonders for Michael's own safety. Michael's not happy about this so he hatches a plan to prove to Cordelia that his abilities are superior to hers.
At this point, Cordelia has seemingly been running the show as the Supreme for a while now. Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) is a teacher at the school, and Myrtle (Frances Conroy) is still kicking and as pretentious as ever. Mallory (Billie Lourd), whose memory was apparently wiped, is a student at Miss Robichaux's Academy, and a talented witch.
Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), however, is trapped in the Hotel Cortez, the place she was murdered around 2015 or so, and even Cordelia can't bring her back. Madison (Emma Roberts) is also dead, but she's in hell — which, for the former actress, means working a retail job and getting mistaken for Lindsay Lohan.
In Apocalypse's fourth episode, Michael rescues both Queen and Madison, and brings them to Cordelia to exert his power.
We can assume that the events depicted in episode 4 take place several years after the end of Coven, which bowed out in early 2014. So let's say that Michael rescued Queenie and Madison around... 2017? That would give Mallory enough time to have her memory wiped and work for her boss Coco (Leslie Grossman) as a personal assistant for a few years. (Coco, by the way, is also a witch, though how she fits in here is... unclear.)
If you're wondering where the tricky part is, it's in this: In Hotel, Billie Dean Howard (Paulson) conducts an interview that takes place in the year 2022. Specifically, it's around Halloween, 2022 — one year after the events of episode 3 of Apocalypse, "Forbidden Fruit," and, obviously, after the world has already been over for over 18 months.
But there may be an answer for this as well — and it all has to do with Murphy's cryptic spoiler for the new season. Murphy told Entertainment Weekly that the season has a big "hook" and that "there's a huge thing that happens in episode 5." Jessica Lange will reprise her Murder House character Constance Langdon in episode 6, returning to the show for the first time since season 4's Freak Show — a very big deal to fans.
While it is entirely possible this episode will be told through flashbacks, that "huge thing" that happens in episode 5 might be something really, really huge — like, say, time travel. If Cordelia plans to stop the Apocalypse, the only way to do so is to, well, prevent it from happening in the first place... which might mean preventing Michael from ever being born.
It also would mean preventing a whole bunch of annoying plot holes from happening. And really, isn't that as good a reason to incorporate time travel into a TV show as any?
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