Ever since he arrived on the American Horror Story scene in a carriage drawn by dark, boil-covered horses, the precise nature of Michael Langdon has been a tantalizing mystery. Who, or what, is this man? (Apart from the proud owner of the most fabulous hair in the apocalypse, of course.)
In the cold open, we get our first hint of what lurks behind Langdon’s pretty, pretty face: something ancient, demonic, and on a very specific mission to remake the world in his image. As we open, the young man is questioning the survivors one by one. There are interesting revelations in each moment — including that Langdon and Dinah Stevens know each other from before the end of the world — but the biggest comes from Mallory, who has hidden depths and hidden talents. As Langdon questions her, she confesses that she feels like there’s someone inside her, trying to get out. A moment later, she tries to leave, and Langdon grabs her arm.
“Let me go!” she screams, and the room briefly erupts in flames as Langdon suddenly appears in the firelight not as a hunky young Fabio look-alike, but a thousand-year-old demon in desperate need of some moisturizer. Then it’s over, and:
“Who are you?” he asks her, shaken.
“Who are you?” she counters.
And not to get ahead of ourselves, but might Mallory be the first strand of this season’s long-awaited Coven crossover? The answer is coming, and it’s a surprise… bitch.
But that’s for later. When we return, Langdon is cutting himself and seeking clarity in a pentagram drawn from his own blood. “I thought I destroyed them all, but one survived!” he hisses, begging for guidance from his “father” as the blood begins to boil and writhe. Snakes erupt from the five-pointed star, and it looks like Langdon’s prayers have been answered by dear old demon dad. But how much of what happens next is the machinations of the devil — and how much is a different kind of sorcery, or simply happenstance?
For the next big twist, we’ll put our money on the latter: out in the wasteland beyond the compound, a familiar figure emerges from the mist. His eyebrows are gone and his hairline is a travesty, but we’d recognize him anywhere: Coco’s erstwhile husband, Brock, has survived the nuclear blast and is searching for her in the post-apocalyptic hellscape where former reality cooking show contestants are bickering with other radiation-scarred survivors over the best way to roast a human leg. Lucky for Brock (or is this the devil at work?), he manages to hitch a ride on a horse-drawn carriage bound for the hidden hideaway. When the carriage arrives, Venable and Mead find that it contains a trove of fresh, red apples — and don’t notice the stowaway clinging to the underside.
Meanwhile, Mead is coming to terms with the truth: she’s an android, and all her memories have been nothing but a Westworld-style backstory. Unlike some other robots, however (ahem, Dolores Abernathy), she doesn’t waste any time having a crisis about it. She remains loyal to Venable and declares the arrival of the apples a gift from God. (Extremely meta side note: What is a robot’s concept of “God”? Do they worship their creator, or their creators’ creator, or the ghost of Nicolas Tesla? Discuss.) Together, Mead and Venable come up with a new, nefarious plan: to kill off everyone in the compound, including Langdon, and make their way to the Sanctuary together.
The murder plot is a serious mashup of various fairytale tropes: poisoned apples, a masquerade ball, and even a Cinderella figure yearning for greater things in the background. While Gallant teases Coco’s hair into a Marie Antoinette-style atrocity, Mallory muses about the weird pyrokinetic moment she had with Langdon, wondering if the radiation from the world-ending blast turned her into a mutant. Coco sneers at her, ugly stepsister-style, and sends her away to start working on a costume. Cut to the party, where everyone looks fabulous and eager for a fun night — including Timothy and Emily, who I guess never bothered to go through with that plan to escape the compound together, and also never wondered why Mead didn’t die after they shot her in the heart, and also seem remarkably unconcerned about the fact that they were sentenced to death for fornicating like, less than twenty-four hours ago? Well, let’s just go with it.
The main event of the evening is a Halloween classic: bobbing for (poisoned, remember!) apples. But first, the guests are invited to dance, and Coco sways and chats with a masked man who she thinks is Langdon. Her monologue ends with a remarkably explicit offer, even by American Horror Story standards (side note: is this the first time anyone has said the word “analingus” on network TV?), and the two waltz off to her bedroom — where her masked partner, of course, turns out to be Brock. A happy reunion? Nah. He stabs her! Right in the brain! And it’s RIP, Coco, but also everyone else, because the poison plot goes off without a hitch. Coco’s exit is cleanest by far; the rest of the guests eat their apples and promptly barf themselves to death, as Venable and Mead watch, grinning, from above. All that’s left is to kill Langdon, which Venable still intends to do even though he compliments her on her mass homicide. Mead aims the gun — “I wouldn’t do that,” Langdon warns — and fires.
Venable, shot through the heart, falls dead.
And that’s how we learn that Langdon is Mead’s original programmer (and also probably the Antichrist) arrived to entice the compound’s survivors to do their worst to each other — which they did! A mere three episodes into the season, pretty much every character is dead.
…Which makes it the perfect time for a few new (old) faces to arrive. Outside in the mist-enshrouded world, the gates open to admit three hooded figures: Cordelia Goode, Madison Montgomery, and Myrtle Snow. Awwww, yeah: what’s up, witches?
“Find our sisters,” Cordelia says, and three corpses are brought out: Coco, Mallory, and Dinah. Cordelia closes her eyes — and all three dead women sit up. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Coven in the house. And Madison, striding forward, crouches in front of Mallory as the camera closes in.
“Surprise bitch,” she says. “I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me.”