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How the Wild Finale of 'American Horror Story: Apocalypse' Totally Changed the Show

american horror story apocalypse finale
FX

This story contains spoilers for all episodes of American Horror Story: Apocalypse.

American Horror Story rarely ends with a bow. The horror anthology series may occasionally give the appearance of a happy ending, but it's usually with a bittersweet twist. Murder House ends with the Harmon family together -- but they're all dead. Coven ends with the public acceptance of witches -- but half of the witches are trapped in Hell. The latest season, Apocalypse, follows suit. Its episode 10 finale, "Apocalypse Then," manages to reverse the eponymous nuclear event -- but a new Antichrist is born anyway.

But what led to that point, and how is this season of American Horror Story different from the rest? Let's break down that finale beat-by-beat, and get into what the repercussions of Apocalypse might have on past -- and future -- seasons.

Mallory traveled back in time to kill a young Michael.

As we theorized last week, Mallory was indeed the key to ending Michael's reign and reversing the apocalypse. Thanks to a series of intricate plans laid out by Cordelia, Coco and Mallory had their memories altered, were disguised as regular people, and were sent to Los Angeles, where Madison -- posing as an Uber driver -- delivered them to Gallant's salon.

The idea was to protect the girls with Coco's family money, assuring their place in Outpost 3 (with a little magical assistance from Myrtle), and for Coco to treat Mallory terrible to suppress her powers. Everything went according to plan, and the events as they happened in the first three episodes played out offscreen. Eventually, Cordelia, Myrtle, and Madison -- who survived the apocalypse by burying themselves in the powerful Louisiana mud outside of Misty's shack -- arrive at the outpost, resurrect their girls, and continue with their initial plan: For Mallory to perform the incantation that will send her back in time.

From there, things get a bit messy. Marie Laveau returns from Hell to help the coven, but Michael is too powerful to contain. He kills Madison, Coco, and Marie, while Coco's mutant ex Brock appears and stabs Mallory to death. Cordelia is unable to revive Mallory, so she confronts Michael, utters the best line of the season ("Satan has one son, but my sisters are legion, motherfucker!") then slits her throat so Mallory can assume her powers.

It works. Mallory wakes up in a bath and is able to transport herself through the water back to Michael's childhood, on the day he magically aged a decade overnight and killed the priest Constance brought in to bless him. In this version of the timeline, Constance doesn't give in to Michael, and kicks him out of her home after bitterly dressing him down. Michael runs into the street, clearly upset, and is struck by a car, with Mallory behind the wheel. She runs him over several times, and Constance rushes to his side. As he bleeds out, his legs twisted in various directions, he asks his grandmother to take him into the Murder House so they can live together forever. "Go to hell," she replies, and walks away, letting him die.

ahs apocalypse finale
Tim, father of the new Antichrist. | FX

The Antichrist comes anyway. 

Everything looks like sunshine and rainbows at that point. Michael dies, and so the apocalypse as Cordelia saw it never plays out. Mallory -- with full memory of what's occurred -- heads to Miss Robichaux's Academy to apply as a student. Because it's now 2015, three years before the nuclear blast, Cordelia is still alive, as are the students who were slain by Michael in the future. Madison is still trapped in Hell, though Mallory plans to retrieve her, and Misty is returned to the living by Nan; Mallory's apocalyptic prevention put her in good graces with the underworld demons, and she negotiated Misty's revival. Myrtle remains dead, as Cordelia never needed to resurrect her for help. Mallory appears pleased, but wonders in a voiceover what the cost of changing the past might have been.

Smash cut to Emily and Tim. Remember them? In Apocalypse's opening episodes, they were two of Outpost 3's inhabitants, selected for survival based on their pristine genetic composition. In the first days post-nuclear holocaust, Tim was haunted by whispers, and a mysterious "666" was drawn on his bathroom mirror. All of this seemed random, and was never referenced again; Tim and Emily were later poisoned and killed by Meade's apples.

But in the new timeline, they meet anyway, as fate would have it. We see them come together, and a year later Emily has their son, a boy named Devan. We then flash-forward three more years, as the couple come home from a night out to find their toddler son has murdered his babysitter, the exact way Michael killed his back in Murder House. Outside, the sky turns red and crows flock to the family's house. They suddenly get a knock at the door, and open it to Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan cardinals, including Meade. They say that they've been waiting for this day -- the same thing they said when they first found Michael.

"Prophecy is inevitable."

How could it be that another Antichrist is born? Wasn't Michael supposed to be the only one? It appears that the Devil was always destined to win, and that the apocalypse was meant to happen no matter what. In the absence of Michael, fate course-corrected so that a new Antichrist could be born. Remember what Michael snipped at Cordelia shortly before she slit her throat? "Prophecy is inevitable." No amount of changing the past can prevent what's meant to be.

That means that even if the witches are able to track down Devan and prevent another end of the world, an Antichrist will pop up, again and again, until Satan's plan is seen through. Emily and Tim were placed in the bunker together are proof that fate will always put those two in the same space. There likely exists infinite possibilities for the future of mankind in the outposts, proof that all of these people will keep coming into contact until the "right" solution is discovered.

The events of Apocalypse change more about AHS than you may realize.

So yes, the apocalypse is prevented, and Michael is killed before he can grow up, meaning the timeline after that point is changed. Though this ending doesn't alter the events of Murder House or Coven, it does affect a different season: Hotel.
In "Apocalypse Then," Mallory warns Queenie not to stay at the Hotel Cortez on her upcoming visit to Los Angeles, and she seems to comply. That means she won't go there to die, which means the events of Hotel would unfold differently.

There are a lot of what-ifs that go into this, and lot of possible avenues the story might go down without her, but it seems like her absence would have an effect on Ramona Royale and the Countess's storyline. As Twitter user lustforahs points out, the ramifications of this could even lead to a totally different ending, where the Countess leaves Hotel Cortez without an owner.

The finale also changes one of the season's big episodes: "Return to Murder House." Since Mallory killed Michael before he joined the warlocks, Behold and Madison would never have to go to the Murder House for clues. That means the events that played out in the episode -- the reconciliation between Tate and Violet, Moira's release from the house and the reunion with her mother, and Constance's death -- never happened.

Of course, as discussed, fate seems to be a big factor in this season, so it's possible those things would have played out similarly with or without Mallory's intervention. But if she did mess with those storylines, could the ramifications of her actions bleed into future seasons? We know the show exists in the same universe -- since every season has connected to another in some way -- so future seasons will have to grapple with this new timeline, and the fact that they're all on borrowed time. Will we be able to enjoy whatever's next knowing that the destruction of humankind is just around the corner? That's hard to say just yet, but there's no doubt that American Horror Story: Apocalypse shattered the foundation of the series. It's up to season 9 to build something new.

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Lindsey Romain is a writer and editor living in Chicago. She covers politics for Teen Vogue and has also appeared in Vulture, Birth.Movies.Death, and more. Follow her on Twitter @lindseyromain.