Biblical imagery permeates the third episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse, appropriately titled “Forbidden Fruit.” Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) continues his search for the select few who will gain entrance into the Sanctuary, but with a clearer vision in mind: He aims to rid the world of hypocritical religion—he aims to create a world in favor of those who are not only willing to eat the “forbidden fruit,” but who would “cut the tree down and burn it for f—king firewood.”
Witchcraft returns in the beginning of the episode, but not with the witches American Horror Story fans came to know and love in Coven—at least not at first. Mallory (Billie Lourd) reveals her unknown power in a fiery conversation with Langdon about her fitness for the Sanctuary, eventually causing flames from the fireplace to flood the room during a momentary heated exchange. A creeping mysticism pervades the scene when Langdon’s face morphs into a ghastly, demonic appearance, causing both characters to exchange frantic questions about each other’s identities.
Apocalypse finally lessens the comedic relief in its third installment, allowing suspense and fear to sit in the driver’s seat, rather than letting satire and disbelief take viewers down endless backroads. Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman) still manages to get in her moment—while some believe going to church can get them into heaven, Vanderbilt believes the act of “analingus” will get her into the Sanctuary. To the enjoyment of the viewer, her demise arrives when she finds her offer has been made to a caped old flame rather than the decider of her fate.
While “Forbidden Fruit” improves upon the absolute mess of its predecessors, some wreckage remains. Rather than concealing a mutinous mass-murder and leaving it to the astonishment of the audience, writer Ryan Murphy lays out the plot from its infant stages in explicit detail—what ever happened to the subtle build of terror in Murder House or the shocking twists of Asylum?
The third episode adds necessary backstory to reclusive characters, including Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates), who details her history with horror through a timeline of Halloweens past: her first time trick-or-treating, her first date at a Halloween screening of Rosemary’s Baby, and the first time she killed a man. Watching Mead strangle her domestic abuser added a layer of sympathy to the cold character, although her romantic description of their last “waltz,” or the wall-smacking, glass-shattering fight leading up to his death, reveals that she enjoyed much more than the revenge of the act. Ironically, the murderous matron does not relish her last kill, an involuntary gunshot to the chest of her partner-in-crime Wilhelmina Venable (Sarah Paulson).
Much like a Shakespearean tragedy, most of the main characters lie as corpses throughout the safe zone by the end of the episode. But in American Horror Story, death is hardly permanent.
Ushered in by The Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow” at the eerie touch of a record player needle, Coven’s Cordelia Goode (Sarah Paulson), Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) return to resurrect a select few who they deem to be their sisters, revealing additional supernatural powers in the house. Although it might seem strange for a show to essentially scrap its original plot in the third episode, American Horror Story is known for its unexpected twists, and Murphy might just have some tricks up his sleeve this time around.
In the final scene of the episode, Montgomery delivers her iconic line: “Surprise bitch, I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me.” The witchy women just might be American Horror Story: Apocalypse’s saving grace.
Featured Image by FX