"Fire and Reign" – American Horror Story S08E09 Review

Okay, now they're just getting silly.

Joan Collins, American Horror Story S08E09

The only thing that happened of any import is Zoe and Queenie were killed. Along with Joan Collins, who was killed off, and then brought back as a different character, only to get killed off again. Wha? Her playing two different characters in the same season of American Horror Story doesn't make any sense unless they're the same character due to some kind of resurrection and identity erasure and lots of other magical technobabble (magi-babble?). But that doesn't make a lot of sense, either.

And they pretty definitely say Zoe is wiped out beyond any chance of resurrection. But she's at the end of episode 3 in the post-apocalyptic "present". So apparently anything is possible.

What the heck am I talking about? What the heck is the creative team talking about? Let's look at the plot of "Fire and Reign" and find out.

The episode opens with Mutt and Jeff's android hand attempting to shoot Jeff with an empty gun. For no reason at all that I can tell from any kind of directorial standpoint other than to provide a dramatic cold open. Wilhelmina questions M&J about the Cooperative, but they're not talking.

At the witch school, Mallory can't bring a dead bird back to life. Why not? She brought a deer back to life pretty casually. But now Cordelia says Mallory is pushing herself too hard. Whatever that means. When she's resurrecting a deer, she's great. When they need her to defeat the Antichrist, she's useless. All-righty.

Cordelia has magically sealed the school against intrusion. For some reason this keeps Michael out, but Dinah is able to penetrate the wards. Or Michael could but couldn't be bothered so he asked Dinah to do it. Michael and Miriam go in, Michael kills a bunch of students with levitating crystal shards, and Miriam guns down Zoe and Queenie. Cordelia, Myrtle, and Mallory climb out the windows and escape, and we're spared the sight of watching Frances Conroy climbing out the window.

Cody Fern, American Horror Story S08E09

But credit where credit is due: director Jennifer Arnold filming the slaughter at the school is effective in a "whirlwind of violence" sort of way. Queenie uses her self-voodoo powers to cut Miriam's throat, but it doesn't take since Miriam is an android. Miriam lays waste to some of the students with a shotgun arm. The Michael-magically-throws-crystals thing is effective, even if it's not the first time the shot has been used. Zoe doesn't do anything but get gunned down.

The witches hide out at Misty's shack in the woods where we're told Misty is out with Stevie (Nicks). So what was the point of Cordelia's plan to have Michael brings Misty out of Hell to help them, if Misty couldn't be bothered to stick around? And why isn't Stevie helping, since she's the White Witch?

And now for something completely different, we go on a detour to 1918 Siberia. Anastasia was a witch, but she failed to save herself and her family from the soldiers because she wasn't powerful enough. Cordelia and Myrtle figure Mallory can do time magic, and they decide to have her do a test run by going to 1918 and keeping Anastasia alive. This doesn't make sense in so many ways that I don’t know where to start. Setting aside the whole time-travel aspect here--if Mallory changes history, there's no original series of events for her to go back to change, so she didn't change them, so they happened--they send her to 1918 to test her powers and so Michael won't find out what they're up to. Michael couldn't even penetrate Cordelia's barrier, but we're supposed to believe he can sense temporal disturbances?

However, because Mallory is still powerless except when she's not, she fails to save Anastasia and the Royal Family gets gunned down. Mallory returns to the present and Cordelia and Myrtle decide to have a conversation about Fiona. And again, why? The whole Fiona/Cordelia thing was five years ago. It has no bearing on the plot of "Apocalypse". Myrtle assures Cordelia she's not Fiona, and Cordelia accepts that and moves on with her life. Five-minute crisis of faith, resolved. Nothing to see here, move along.

Cordelia and Myrtle go to LA to recruit the warlocks, only to find Behold and the others slaughtered and their bodies laid out in a pentagram. Which, granted, is an effective visual. There's also some talk about Cordelia dying so Mallory can gain the full power of the Supreme.

Meanwhile, M&J have put a camera in android-Miriam's eyes and can control her speech. They realize Michael wants to become President because he's been watching The Omen 3, and since they want the world destroyed more than Michael does, they have Miriam convince Michael to come to them. They explain about the Illuminati, which has rebranded itself as the Cooperative, and how they can destroy the world with mutually assured destruction.

Michael gets on-board with this, and Wilhelmina threatens to quit working for M&J. They tell her about the Collective and offer a position as overall Administrator at the post-apocalyptic Outposts. And she presumably accepts.

In the last few minutes, we get Michael addressing the gathered Collective and explaining his plan to destroy the world with nuclear weapons. He assures them they'll be safe in their Outposts, and that they'll charge $100 million a head for anybody else to get in, assuring the best of the best. Or at least the richest of the rich.

Cody Fern, American Horror Story S08E09

And that's it. There are a few cool visuals. But nothing happens that actually accomplishes anything. Cordelia's barrier doesn't accomplish anything. Mallory's time traveling doesn't accomplish anything. Everything else was stuff that we either didn't care about, or things we could have figured out for ourselves. Do we need a conference meeting with Michael tells the Collective how they will build Outposts to survive the Apocalypse? No: we already know they built the Outposts. Do we need to know how Wilhelmina came to become the Administrator? No.

The only thing the episode might do is establish time travel. Which means potentially that Mallory could time travel and hit a massive reset button on the whole end-of-the-world scenario. I suppose it would be satisfying to see Michael get his ass-kicked, for no other reason than that... he's such a wienie. Yes, he had at least one super-growth spurt when he was five, as we saw in "Return to Murder House". But he switches from near-uselessness to demonic killer and back again so often that it's enough to give me windburn and a sore neck.

"Fire and Reign" is a good example of this. Michael makes a great dramatic entrance, and along with Miriam does a brutal and efficient job of wiping out the witches. But then the two idiots, Mutt & Jeff, play him for a sucker with the whole "talking through android Miriam" thing. It doesn't say much for Michael's evilness if two coke-sniffing bewigged dopes can manipulate him so easily.

There are ways the creative team could play this all that might be a bit more palatable. Making Mutt & Jeff something other than total idiots, for instance. But overall, there just doesn't seem much point to it since everything we're seeing since episode 3 is a flashback, or a prequel, or whatever, we know how it ends. And we're not getting any deep insights or meanings in what we are seeing.

Since episode 3, the series seems more like "Coven" fan fic; like the creative team wasn't that interested in the whole Apocalypse situation, and just saw it as a way to get them into a Coven reunion. Cordelia has Michael bring Misty back so she can have all of her girls together. But then Misty leaves and the girls aren't together. Madison was okay as the person who found out what went down with Michael's birth, but it wasn't anything Queenie or Zoe couldn't have done. Ditto for Coco: other than act as bait so the Albinos could take out Miriam--and Miriam came back anyway, sort of--Coco hasn't had any impact on the proceedings, either. The whole thing seems like Emmy-bait for Paulson, Conroy and/or Bates. "Look what great actresses they are! See? See?" But it's boring to watch.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Written by Gislef on Nov 8, 2018

Comments

hekiv posted 10 days ago

OMG this explains so much. I can't believe it.

WayneInNYC posted 11 days ago

I think the reason Michael is so unmenacing is because he is only ten years old (ish).
Yes, he had an overnight growth spurt, but he didn’t have any actual emotional experiences of aging.

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