As has become his signature, Ryan Murphy’s latest AHS introduction was a wild mishmash of familiar figures redressed as alternate characters, with viewers left to discern jumbled goings-on and possible connections to seasons past. Through a quick rundown with a few Cult-ish friends, now in high (and low) places, it’s established that devastating missile attacks — WW III — have left Earth a radioactive wasteland and save the chosen genetically and/or financially blessed few (plus their hangers-on), its population has been largely wiped out. It’s not a terrible — though haphazard — premise and presented through Sarah Paulson’s (“Call me Ms. Wilhemina Venable”) expositional introductions to Outpost 3, the new world order is quickly established. Follow the rules and be accepted into the “Cooperative” fold; break them and be killed and … eaten (“The stew is Stu!”).
By private plane, Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman), her assistant, Mallory (Billie Lourd), hairdresser “Mr. Gallant” (Evan Peters) and his Nana, Evie Gallant (Joan Collins) make their questionable escape. Gathered up for dinner (cubes) alongside desirables Emily (Ash Santos) and Timothy (Kyle Allen — who, coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to returnee, Connie Britton’s once and former costar, Kyle Chandler) and a few others, the privileged group suffer various indignities, culminating in the (now mandatory) nude scene, involving a Silkwood scrubdown and poor Stu’s (Chad James Buchanan) apparent stewing.
For an elitist organization run by vindictive, questionably coiffed (and attired) women, this “collection of the greatest minds mankind has to offer” — the Cooperative — doesn’t seem to have thought things through very well. Not enough food/supplies, no on-site therapist or group activities other than formal dinners (dress up to down a tasteless, one inch cube in thirty seconds flat?), no “unauthorized copulation” (is there sanctioned sex?) and worst of all, no proper music catalog. Of course, these fine folks shitheads are going to self-combust — and a swift slap from Ms. Venable ain’t exactly the cure for all that ails.
Not to worry, folks, because by hour’s end and at the edge of boredom and despair (and that’s not just the audience; ba-dum-dum), the star of the hour and that Murder House connection everyone was waiting for, finally arrives. Dramatically descending upon the outpost by diseased-horse-drawn carriage through the radioactive fog, a properly badged Cooperative bigwig makes his entrance; our little do-no-gooder is all grown up and ready for Judgement (his) Day. “I’ve been assigned to evaluate the people here and select who’s worthy of survival. I could take all of you or none of you. Those who make it, live. Those who don’t end up like my horses.”
Sorry to say I’m a bit disappointed in this season opener, which wasn’t terribly scary and featured Sarah Paulson doing something rarely seen — reading lines. Maybe it was just too much exposition for anyone to carry off (her explanations to Timothy and Emily, and then the whole group at dinner) and again, that’s unusual for Murphy and Co. As per my own personal usual, I’ll give it time to settle in, and hope for the best — mostly because I adore Murder House, and I can’t wait to see how the connections play out. By far, the best moments of the hour were the tête-à-tête between Paulson’s Ms. Venable and Bates’ Ms. Mead, and Cody Fern’s Fabio-lus Michael Langdon (ACS: Assassination of Gianni Versace, House of Cards). I can’t wait to see more of him, especially since he’s also the Antichrist (conceived by human, Vivien Tate and spirt, Tate Langdon in AHS: Murder House).
Speaking of, take a hint, Timothy. That 666 on the mirror was not for nothing.
‘Twas fun to see Cult‘s Billy Eichner back in the saddle — if only for a short time — and once again husband to Leslie Grossman’s Coco, screaming “You bitch!” as he watched her plane fly from disaster … without him. “I release you …”
As always, Joan Collins was glorious as Evie, delivering lines like “I don’t care what it is, and it’s full of fibre. I’m going to finish every drop” to utter perfection.
The end of the world scenario is feeling a little too close to home, these days. As crazy as it sounds, we need AHS to go full bonkers — away from reality, not toward it.
Songs This Hour:
The Carpenters (covering Klaatu), Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day)
Maureen McGovern, The Morning After
Patience and Prudence, Tonight You Belong to Me
So you’re not a purple?
There’s no excuse for tardiness when there’s nothing else to do.
Someone went outside and touched something dirty.
Killing is in my DNA, but I still respect the chain of command.
People do strange things. I started masturbating with my off hand.
The stew is Stu!