While the premiere of American Horror Story: Apocalypse read more like a bad episode of Big Brother than an extension of Ryan Murphy’s Emmy-winning horror series, the second episode takes a stab at reality from a new angle. “The Morning After” ditches the pomp of outlandish humor to issue thinly veiled social commentaries.
Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) incites frenzy in the safe zone upon telling the house guests of his mission to determine who is fit to repopulate the Earth and move to a safer location known as “The Sanctuary.” Vying for a chance at survival, the residents launch mudslinging campaigns that create an artificial paranoia within the fortified walls.
Murphy highlights tensions between former generations and millennials while detailing the adversarial relationship between Mr. Gallant (Evan Peters) and his grandmother Evie (Joan Collins). The flamboyant hair stylist reveals Evie’s attempts to mold him into the “perfect gay” during their pre-apocalypse lives.
“Sucking d—k used to be a way to get off and an act of political rebellion,” Mr. Gallant spits in his interview with Langdon, exposing his resentment of the almost caricature-like gay stereotypes of modern society.
Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman) also plays into this generational gap, charging that Evie and Dinah Stevens (Adina Porter) are complacent in their new clockwork life because of the simplicity of their upbringing. The former socialite cites the loss of endless choices among superficial goods such as pomeranian dog breed variations and movie stars named Chris as the source of her unrest.
Meanwhile, Wilhelmina Venable’s (Sarah Paulson) tough exterior starts to crack under Langdon’s rule: The merciless matron shakes under his touch while he reminds her of his power over her fate—her rule does not extend past the walls of her safe zone. Paulson’s supreme acting shines in the scene as her teary eyes and trembling jaw add a dimension of vulnerability to the cruel character.
Traditional values rival houseguests’ desire for sexual liberation as the rubber-suited stranger from Murder House returns to wreak havoc on the safe haven. Emily (Ash Santos) and Timothy (Kyle Allen), who believe they have been saved because of their desirable DNA, defy Ms. Venable’s strict no-sex policy under the beckoning gaze of the concealed figure. Mr. Gallant mistakes the incognito figure for Langdon while they engage in deviant sexual acts, creating a mystery around the suited man’s identity that only becomes more complicated when Mr. Gallant violently murders the stranger in an enraged haze.
Murphy proposes a psychological horror approach in the second episode as the house guests begin to sweat from their seemingly terminal cabin fever, but scenes in the trailer for the third installment further complicate the doomsday vision with an added religious component: Langdon reads from the Ten Commandments while snakes writhe on the screen. Viewers’ earth-shattering expectations for the ambitious crossover are left unsatiated by “The Morning After”—AHS: Apocalypse struggles to clarify its vision when the smoke clears in the explosion’s wake.
Featured Image by FX