One of the best and shadiest American Horror Story: Apocalypse tweets on Thursday morning dragged the FX drama for throwing the century-old mystery of Anastasia Romanov (Emilia Ares) into the mix just one episode before the season 8 finale. Penultimate episode “Fire And Reign” did seem to ask: Why wrap up a single major plot line so close to the end when you can pointlessly toy around with one of history’s most tantalizing obsessions instead?
But, it’s possible the story of Anastasia, who is revealed to be a witch in this world, wasn’t merely a flight of fancy for AHS. Instead, as we head into next week’s Apocalypse finale, the story of the Romanov dynasty’s last princess may be the key to undoing the entire apocalypse in the first place.
The most important detail of “Fire And Reign” is that the enigmatic Mallory (Billie Lourd) might be the world’s ultimate savior — she just hasn’t reached her full potential yet. We know this because she sliced open a choked-to-death Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt’s (Leslie Grossman) throat, removed the pastry that killed her, and brought the socialite back to life in “Traitor,” completing a feat no one has ever managed. Similarly, Mallory brought a dead deer back to life and made it young again this season.
Yet, in “Fire And Reign” Mallory can’t even resurrect a measly dead bird. Supreme Cordelia Goode (Sarah Paulson) and trusty advisor Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) agree the young woman is “pushing” her powers too hard, which is exhausting her body and limiting her abilities. The stress of Michael Langdon’s (Cody Fern) imminent Antichrist assault against the witches, and the fact Mallory’s ascension is inextricably tied to Cordelia’s death, is putting a damper on Mallory’s possibly boundless powers.
This tension takes us to our trip to 1918, when Mallory attempts to travel back in time and save Anastasia from Bolshevik execution. By the time Cordelia and Myrtle hatch this plan, they’re convinced the only way to stop the apocalypse involves sending Mallory back in time before this entire Antichrist nightmare even begins. But, Mallory has to be strong enough to do so. So, they decide to use Anastasia has a test run. According to Cordelia, saving Anastasia is far enough in the past, and removed enough from Michael’s orbit, that Mallory’s failure or success won’t tip Michael off to the coven’s time travel plan. Plus, the Russian princess is a witch herself, so that somehow helps.
Yes, this is a terrible plan that would definitely create the kind of century-long ripple effects Michael would notice. But, this is American Horror Story. If it’s taken nine full episodes to get get to a wildly questionable character decision, we’re looking at a successful season.
When Mallory goes back for Anastasia, things don’t exactly go as planned. While she is able to keep the protection spell going longer than the princess initially could do solo, Mallory’s presence is spotty. The 21st century witches fades in and out of the space until finally disappearing as Anastasia dies. Mallory arrives back in her present gasping for breath with blood pouring out of her eyes.
This means Mallory can travel back in time, but her powers are still not strong enough to change the past. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean they couldn't be in the future.
That is how Cordelia’s apparent finale plan comes into focus. From what we can guess from the “Apocalypse Then” trailer, it appears the Supreme is going to let Michael end the world, only to use Mallory and her powers to undo the apocalypse when the young witch is ready. That is why Cordelia removes Coco and Mallory's memories of the supernatural and sends them back into the world linked together forever. In their final pre-apocalypse years, Coco returns to her position as an excessively wealthy heiress who would survive the nuclear attack — she’s clearly the daughter of a Cooperative member, or at least, someone Cooperative-adjacent — and Mallory becomes Coco’s loyal, impossible-to-get-rid-of assistant. With this setup, both women, whom Michael has never met, are protected from him and able to hide in plain sight.
Since Cordelia is now in the bunker in the most “present” version of the Apocalypse timeline, which is about two years after the events of “Fire And Reign,” it’s possible a bunker-trapped Mallory is finally strong enough to travel back in time and end Michael before he even begins. But first, she’ll probably have to do the Anastasia test run. After all, if the coven is this close to reversing the apocalypse, there is still no reason to tip their time traveling cards to Michael.
With only one episode left in all of American Horror Story season 8, we’ll find out soon if Anastasia, and the world at large, can actually be saved.
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