“American Horror Story” went to the end to find a new beginning.
After a few disappointing installations in Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s pulpy horror anthology series, “Apocalypse” debuted on FX Wednesday night with, well, a bombastic start that sets up a crossover between the series’ first and third seasons, “Murder House” and “Coven,” respectively, and also rejiggers a franchise that had begun to collapse under its own absurdity.
Combining two previous stories and rushing to the end of the world is a smart way to tap back into the series’ roots and bring back some of its best characters.
It also allows the writers to pull on some loose strings from those early seasons, like a certain murderous toddler murdering his nanny in the show’s very first season.
It also feels like a logical place for the series to end (although nothing has been announced).
But beyond that, the first hour of “Apocalypse” makes it seem like “AHS” is back to creative form, too.
There were whispers of something interesting in the first few episodes of “Cult” last year before the season devolved into predictable “AHS” drivel, but the opening scene of “Apocalypse” is a fantastic start.
The sequence is a propulsive, riveting peek at what might happen if the world, and particularly, a very American, very Southern California slice of that world, were confronted with its immediate demise, in all its human and cartoonish foibles.
The episode opens on a pleasant Beverly Hills afternoon for Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman), a billionaire socialite, who is getting her hair done by Mr. Gallant (Evan Peters) with her assistant Mallory (Billie Lourd) by her side.
Everything’s fun and games and jokes about L.A. traffic until the bombs of a nuclear holocaust start falling, and Coco’s parents call to tell her she’s got four tickets to a bunker that will keep her safe.
Gallant grabs his Nana (the delectable Joan Collins) and the foursome takes off in a private jet with no pilot, but not before Coco leaves behind her husband Brock (Billy Eichner).
It certainly has the cynicism “AHS” thrives on but the sequence also left in some moments of pure emotion – from a teen boy being ripped away from his family to a newscaster saying goodbye to his children, which gives some heft to the campier elements that come right after.
The panicked, gripping sequence sharply pivots into something far more claustrophobic.