AHS: Apocalypse’s Structure May Be A ‘Traitor’
by Ben Martin
[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 8: Apocalypse, Episode 7: Traitor DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode 7: Traitor can be seen on FX, FX+, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]
For those of you keeping up with my recaps of American Horror Story: Apocalypse, you know that I think the show has been on a streak. Mind you; this is despite my reservations over Apocalypse being a crossover season that ties together the Murder House and Coven seasons of AHS. Alas, with the episode in recap, Traitor; my feelings have changed. I believe my fears and reservations about this season’s structure getting sloppier than Joe may be coming to fruition.
The episode opens, once again, before the titular Apocalypse. The plot gets thicker as does the blood that spews from the chest of the woman having her heart ripped out by Dinah Stevens (Adina Porter). Before being put under the identity spell, it turns out that Dinah was a voodoo queen; making money off rich housewives by putting their philandering husbands under love spells. However, Dinah sees the opportunity for a big payday when Cordelia Goode (Sarah Paulson) comes to her; seeking a meeting with Papa Legba (Lance Reddick). One which Dinah agrees to arrange for one-hundred thousand dollars. Alas, the meeting doesn’t go well. Papa Legba’s conditions are too step for Cordelia. The voodoo devil agrees to help, but only in exchange for the souls of Cordelia’s entire coven. Understandably, Cordelia refuses this singular offer.
Meanwhile, Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) shows up on a made-for-TV, B-movie set. Madison is there to summon a fellow witch and actress, Bubbles McGee (Joan Collins). It’s clear that no love is lost between the two women. Nevertheless, Bubbles agrees to join Madison and Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) to find out why she is needed. Later, as the three have dinner, it’s revealed that Bubble’s can read minds. Needless to say, with that ability, Bubbles’ would be invaluable in defeating Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) and the warlocks.
On the upside, the help the witches desire may be closer than they know. After she witnesses, Mallory’s (Billie Lourd) power of resurrection; Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) tells Cordelia that she believes Mallory “Could be the next Supreme.” However, that does not mean that the witches are not taking every measure to get an upper-hand on the warlocks. As such, Myrtle and Bubbles host Ariel Augustus (Jon Jon Briones) and Baldwin Pennypacker (BD Wong) for dinner. Of course, Bubbles reads the warlocks minds throughout the meal. In doing so, the witches find that not only did the warlocks kill one of their own in John Henry Moore (Cheyenne Jackson). But furthermore, the wizards intend to murder the witches’ entire coven!
Desperate times call for drastic measures. As a result, Cordelia, Myrtle, Zoe, and Mallory travel back to the site of John Henry’s murder. At the old, roadside gas station, Mallory resurrects John Henry. A process which once again utilizes the old black and white Nocturne gimmick; as used in The Seven Wonders sequence, earlier this season. John Henry doesn’t seem surprised to find out that his fellow warlocks had a hand in his death. However, John Henry does surprise the witches when he tells them that a woman murdered him.
The witches soon find that this woman, Langdon’s insider, is Ms. Miriam Mead (Kathy Bates). Using Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman), the coven kidnaps Ms. Mead. Alas, they still have two birds to kill with the same stone. Those being, Ariel Augustus and Baldwin Pennypacker; who have developed a lethal powder, designed to kill witches. Of course, the warlocks did this by stealing a formula developed by a witch and reversing the affected gender. A fact which is reiterated to the wizards as the witches bust their plot.
For the witches and warlocks, the punishment for betrayal is clear. Thus, the next morning, the three traitors: Augustus, Pennypacker, and Ms. Mead are burned at the stake. John Henry’s given the honor of casting the flame. The three traitors burn as the morning sun beats down. After a moment, the coven, along with John Henry and Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) turn and walk away. They have no more time to spare as the end is nigh.
I’m a fan of non-linear storytelling. But, I do feel that it has to be the best fitting format for the narrative in question. AHS creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have long been fans of employing non-linear, non-traditional storytelling. (The latest example of which is the AHS spin-off, American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018).) Such storytelling only worked for me to a certain extent there. After a while though, I found the choices being made with the narrative structure to be irritating. And, I’m sad to say that the same thing happened with Traitor.
Don’t get me wrong; this episode was entertaining overall. It’s filled with good performances and a few interesting plot twists. At the same though, Traitor feels marred down by its non-linear narrative structure. Apocalypse’s plot seems to be getting overly-complicated, or at the very least overcrowded by its plot structure. Traitor is this series’ seventh episode; seeing as there are only 10 episodes in this season, I think we need to get on with it. I look forward to seeing the remainder of this series unfold, but the structure needs to be cleaned up a bit.
Episode 7: Traitor can be seen on FX, FX+, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service. Recap of Episode 8: Sojourn Coming Soon!