There’s a line from a John Mulaney bit that seems strangely fitting for tonight’s episode, and a lot of TV today: “This might as well happen.” It might be easy to think that with a season that relies heavily not only on the existence of an Antichrist with a My So-Called Life level of teenage angst but a cyborg Kathy Bates, no plot point could really seem too out of left field. But that was until the witches go back in time to save Anastasia.

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Season’s eight penultimate episode is full of a lot of stunning imagery without a lot of substance. While some of the big pieces of the puzzle that will get viewers to the end (which actually is the beginning of the season), it’s still unclear how some of the characters get where they ultimately end up when the bombs drop. More importantly, time is now being spent on two tech bros whose story, beyond last week’s parade of jokes, isn’t as compelling as the witches’ narrative, or even the story of Satan Jr.

Every time the camera comes to rest on those dual bowl cuts, it’s clear the audience is in for ten more minutes of unconvincing rage and reminders of how much they love cocaine. Since they’re such familiar actors in the AHS universe, and this season in particular, you could argue that Peters’ and Eichner’s line-snorting, flight attendant-loving new roles aren’t really new characters added, and given a lot of screen time, in the season’s final act. And it’s true that like so many other characters in Apocalypse sharing an actor, they could actually be guys we’re familiar with who have their memories, and thus identities reset sometime between this episode and the finale. But right now there’s nothing interesting enough to warrant how much time is spent on this dense duo.

The one bright spot in this week’s episode was the witches’ defeat at the hands of a cooly vengeful Michael and a well armed Ms Mead. In a show full of bloodshed, a character death that matters seems even more important, and Queenie and Zoe’s death should hit fans hard. Sarah Paulson is incredible as always as Cordelia bends over a dead Zoe, then Queenie and watches them disappear; her fevered thrashing in real life is nothing compared to the agony on her face in her vision. With the realization Michael might have destroyed their souls permanently, there’s clearly only one solution: use Mallory, in her full flower crown Coachella goer in mourning outfit, to go back in time.

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When the significantly shrunken coven (RIP Queenie, Zoe, and scores of other unnamed girls in white button downs) decides their only hope to save their fallen sisters is to send Mallory back in time and prevent Michael’s massacre from ever happening, even though it had never been done before, even though attempts to do it normally end in death, it seems reasonable enough. Things, in general, work out for the witches when they really need it too. But time traveling to early 20th century Russia to help Anastasia out with a protection spell felt conspicuously random, like the writers had a dart board set up with historical mysteries tacked on it. The whole scene served little purpose beyond convincing Cordelia she would have to seek help from the warlocks, and a new backstory added this late in the season should have a weightier reveal than the subject of the 1997 animated classic was actually a witch.

Michael’s storyline, and overall motivation has gotten no less frustrating as the season progressed. Evan Peters’ tech bro realizing the Antichrist’s plans for total world destruction is cribbed from The Omen 3 is a funny line, but it also highlights just how annoyingly directionless the spawn of Satan has been all season. It’s an intriguing idea to have the one the Satanists have been waiting for be not quite sure about his place in the world. But when he seems to find the answers he’s been searching for at the end of every other episode, only to be right back where he started, full of doubts and insecurity by the end of the next week’s opening credits, it gets frustrating.

Next week this season ends with the promise of total annihilation, and quite possibly a convenient time travel power that will un-do everything. But will the show ever explain what drove Michael to grow out his hair to sexy vampire length?

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Stray observations

  • Myrtle quickly bats away the idea that changing a monumental piece of history could have any sort of butterfly effect. Myrtle shouldn’t be in charge of anything.
  • Queenie making Ms. Mead slit her own throat only to see nothing but robot juice was effectively chilling.
  • There has to be some kind of legal ramifications for suggesting real, named politicians and business men are not only members of the illuminati, but sold their souls to the devil to join that club.
  • While at first glance it looked like the illuminati members were all outfitted with Daft Punk helmets, it turns out their accessories are closer to the Death Eater look.
  • There are a ton of stunning images in this episode, from the warlock pentagram to the rows of shimmering illuminati members moving as one.

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