With only one episode left of American Horror Story: Apocalypse, I still decide if I want the season — one of the shortest in the entire franchise — to have more episodes or less. Last week’s “Sojourn” was noticeably short and felt like a space filler leading up to what I fully expected to be an action-packed penultimate episode. Unfortunately, there was some action in “Fire and Reign,” but it wasn’t the firey, apocalypse-bringing action that I’d hoped for. Here is what did happen in episode 9.
It turns out that the two tech bros that we met last week are way more important than we thought. Satanists Jeff (Evan Peters) and Mutt (Billy Eichner) are excited about the arrival of the antichrist, but are more than a little antsy for Michael (Cody Fern) to get to the business of bringing about the end of the world. And when their secretary Ms. Venable (Sarah Paulson) gets all huffy about not being appreciated at the company, Jeff is struck with an idea to force Michael’s hand.
Since they created the robot version of Ms. Meade (Kathy Bates) that Michael has come to love, they can also see everything she does and feed her lines to say to him. She convinces the naive spawn of satan to return to Jeff and Mutt’s (I know, the name just as ridiculous as his wig) headquarters and they drop some knowledge on him: There is a more efficient way of ending the world than using his dark magic. He can instead use the Illuminati, which has recently rebranded itself as The Cooperative. [I can hear the YouTube conspiracy theorists of the late aughts rejoicing in their vindication.] Anyway, the combined wealth, access, and power of The Cooperative — comprised of a bunch of world leaders who sold their souls to the devil — can help Michael orchestrate a worldwide bombing, and create outposts to keep them and the rest of the uber rich safe.
Michael is into the idea, but he doesn’t have time to waste in getting his personal revenge against the witches. Miss Robichaux’s Academy For Exceptional Young Ladies is supposed to be impenetrable thanks to a protection spell cast by the Supreme, Cordelia (Paulson) and fortified by the help of her young student witches. Bubbles (Joan Collins) looks on as Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) and Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) are teaching the less experienced witches at the academy how to do this spell, completely clueless to the fact that it’s about to be broken. Voodoo Queen Dinah Stevens (Adina Porter) casts her own spell at their doorstep that allows Michael and Ms. Meade to waltz right in. Here is where the first bout of action happens and it’s bad so brace yourself.
Michael and his hotwired mom kill every witch in the room with a combination of flying nails and a machine gun attached to Ms. Meade’s arm. Luckily, Cordelia, Myrtle (Frances Conroy), and Supreme-in-training Mallory (Billie Lorde) were upstairs in a separate room. They hear all of the commotion and manage to escape, which enrages Michael. Dinah’s reward for setting up the witches? Michael puts in a word to his father to get her show greenlit for 13 episodes.
In Misty’s (Lily Rabe) swamp shack, Cordelia is not handling the massacre of her students well at all. Myrtle, Mallory, Madison (Emma Roberts), and Coco (Leslie Grossman) look on as she writhes as convulses recalling her failed attempts to bring Queenie or Zoe back from the dead. In fact, when she attempted to revive them, they simply disappeared into thin air. This prompts Madison to remember something she learned at Murder House: Michael can do this thing where he erases people’s souls. With this new information, Cordelia and Myrtle think it’s time to take drastic measures. They want Mallory to attempt a spell that can basically alter the events of history. However, no witch has successfully pulled it off and lived to tell the tale.
Because the spell is so dangerous, the more seasoned witches suggest a practice test, one that won’t alert Michael to what they’re up to. Mallory's mission? Stop the 1918 execution of the Romanovs. Leave it to Ryan Murphy to make this kind of reach. In his reimagining, the oldest daughter is a witch whose own attempts at a protection spell failed to protect her family. If this is the practice test I can’t imagine what the real thing would entail.
Anyway, Mallory’s trip to the past is unsuccessful. She simply isn’t ready to enact magic of that magnitude. And Cordelia posits that the only way for Mallory to actualize her full potential and defeat Michael is to kill herself. Remember: a new Supreme only comes into power when her predecessor dies. This self-sacrifice will also prove that Cordelia isn’t like her late mother Fiona (Jessica Lange), but that’s a personal crisis that none of us have time for right now. Thankfully, Myrtle is a voice of reason and more than comfortable telling Cordelia not to be so dramatic just yet. If they can simply bide some time for Mallory’s powers to grow, they’ll stand a chance against Michael and keep Cordelia alive. They return to the warlock school — which will later be the site of Outpost 3 — but every last one of the men, including our dear Behold (Billy Porter) and the recently resurrected John Henry (Cheyenne Jackson), are dead. Their remains have been placed in the shape of a pentagram.
Now let’s return to Silicon Valley. Wilhemina Venable is still over the way her bosses have been treating her. She packs her desk and is ready to quit her job on the spot when Jeff and Mutt (seriously, I cringe every time I type it) reveal the sinister plan that The Cooperative is about to roll out. The world is ending, there will be a few safe havens left, and they’ve selected her to be the administrator for one of them. She won’t have to answer to anyone and she can impose her own rules onto the guests (like having them wear all purple as a sign of importance). Ms. Venable smiles at the thought.
Meanwhile, it’s time for Michael to meet his Illuminati henchmen and get them all on the same page about building outposts for the inevitable apocalypse. We don’t get to see any of their faces because they’re all rocking these silvery headpieces that remind me of Daft Punk. But they fall in line with Michael’s plan, and the apocalypse is officially on.
How I would have died in this episode: My brain would have exploded from watching hours and hours of videos about the Illuminati after overhearing Jeff talk about it during a butt dial.