We've known for quite some time that American Horror Story loves to play with time. I mean, the full span of the series alone takes up a good five or six centuries. This time around, Apocalypse has proven to be just as slippery. We begin at one point, then leap forward 18 months, then rewind three years. And though we've been dwelling in this three-years-prior flashback for quite a few episodes now, we're also experiencing flashbacks within that flashback. It's enough to give you a real headache. Even the most attentive fans may be having trouble.
On top of all this time-play within the eighth season, the fact that it's a Murder House and Coven crossover means we also have to keep the timelines for those seasons in mind while we navigate these evil waters. Whew. Lucky for you, I had the time, and I've compiled all the important dates from the previous seasons, plus nailed down a concrete timeline of everything we've learned in Apocalypse. If you're having trouble keeping track, this one's for you.
- April 2012: Michael Langdon is born just six months after being conceived by Tate Langdon and Vivien Harmon.
- 2014: Cordelia becomes the next Supreme, and a new era in the witch coven begins. Misty Day is trapped in Hell after attempting Descensum. Kyle strangles Madison Montgomery to death and hides her body. Myrtle Snow is burned at the stake for the second time.
- April 2015: At age three, Michael murders his nanny while under the care of Constance Langdon.
- 2015-2016: Michael begins to grow rapidly, and his sinister side quickly shows. He murders a string of animals and other people, including a priest and a lesbian couple. Constance kills herself. Michael's wicked, otherworldly powers begin to manifest, and the Harmon family attempts to kill him. He's discovered by the Church of Satan, and he meets Miriam Mead. His powers grow.
- Late 2015: Queenie books a stay at the Hotel Cortez. James March murders her, thus keeping her trapped on the cursed soil.
- June 2017: Three years before the bomb. Michael, age 5, is living with Miss Mead. He gets thrown in jail after murdering a supermarket butcher, but is then discovered by a coven of warlocks. We get a date confirmation in a time-stamped police surveillance video, in which Michael murders an officer.
- July 2017: After one month at Hawthorne, Michael demonstrates immense abilities that lead his teachers to believe he is the legendary Alpha, an all-powerful male witch.
- July/August 2017: Michael rescues Queenie and Madison from Hell, then performs the Seven Wonders. During his Descensum trial, he also rescues Misty Day.
- August 2017: Madison and Behold Chablis visit the Murder House to learn more about Michael. Cordelia begins to develop a plot to defeat him.
- April 2020: The bomb goes off, and the world as we know it comes to an end.
- Oct. 2021: Michael arrives at Outpost 3. We get a date confirmation in most recent emails, dated Oct. 2021, and we know it's been 18 months since the bombs first fell.
Obviously, there are still episodes left in the season, but we have a few things that haven't quite been accounted for. For instance, we don't know when Dinah, Mallory, and Coco were placed under identity spells, but we're assuming it will happen sometime soon. But there is one big question mark that we can't seem to make sense of: when the hell did Cordelia resurrect Myrtle Snow?
In the seventh episode, "The Traitor," Cordelia recounts how she used a powerful spell to bring back Myrtle; she sensed that dark times were ahead and she desperately needed counsel. We slip into a flashback within the flashback (we already have a headache, oof). The title card says: "Two years before the apocalypse." Hold up, now — these flashbacks are taking place "Three years before the bomb drops," aren't they? And isn't the dropping of the bombs supposed to be the moment the apocalypse really kicks into gear?!
Obviously, there are two options here: one is that the writers made a continuity error that was somehow never corrected. Though she is present for all of the three-years-prior drama, she only came back to life two years before the whole she-bang. I mean, it wouldn't be the first time we noticed a timeline error. The bomb-drop supposedly occurs in 2020, but in Hotel, the Cortez is still standing and civilization is still kicking in 2022. Unless the apocalypse is reversed, it's another big mistake.
The other option is a matter of semantics. To be fair, both title cards are worded differently: one is "before the bomb drops," and one is "before the apocalypse." This could be a reference to two different events. Perhaps the apocalypse officially begins sometime in the flashback to "three years before the bomb," meaning Cordelia revives Myrtle two years before that, in 2015. Even so, it's warranted confusion, and the fact that the show hasn't established a specific moment for the "apocalypse" seems pretty messy. Ryan Murphy, what are you doing to us?! I need a nap.