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American Horror Story’s penultimate episode revealed the true nature of The Cooperative

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The events of the first few episodes are starting to make more sense

Cody Fern’s Michael Langdon leads a meeting FX

In the past few weeks, American Horror Story: Apocalypse has been in flashback mode, reveling in the crossover potential of the season as the Coven from season three attempts to stop Michael Langdon, the antichrist born in season one.

Apocalypse’s penultimate episode jumped ahead to the near past, and revealed just how Michael finds the enigmatic Cooperative and sets off the apocalyptic events that kickstarted everything. It was also a return to the gleeful absurdity of AHS that gives the more dour moments a little kick and turns some of the backstory drag into a well-earned chuckle.

[Ed. note: The rest of this post contains major spoilers for AHS: Apocalypse through “Fire and Reign.”]

In the first episode of Apocalypse, a nuclear blast decimated the world and drove a few select survivors to safe houses run by the mysterious Cooperative. The first episode saw Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) arrive at Outpost Three, to decide which survivors were worthy of making it into his super safe Sanctuary. Then everyone died, but Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) and the surviving members of her coven appeared on the scene, resurrecting three of the safe house residents, who were revealed to be witches.

The rest of the episodes this season focused on events before the nuclear fallout, following Michael as he first crossed paths with the Coven and attempted to take over as a male supreme known as the Alpha. All the Coven witches returned, a few of them visited the iconic Murder House to learn more about Michael’s past and Cordelia sentenced those who helped Michael to burn at the stake, including his mother figure Ms. Mead (Kathy Bates).

Desperate, Michael sought out guidance from his father, before stumbling to a Church of Satan and revealing his true nature. He’s still pining for his beloved Ms. Mead, so one of the members of the Church of Satan sends him to an elite robotics facility run by Satanists Jeff (Evan Peters) and Mutt (Billy Eichner). They construct him the robot replica of Ms. Mead and want him to bring fire and fury onto the world, but Michael just cares about personal vengeance.

[Ed. note: The rest of this post contains major spoilers for “Fire and Reign.”]

michael langdon in american horror story apocalypse FX

This week’s episode starts off with Mutt and Jeff complaining about Michael’s lack of ambition. They want to set the world ablaze, but Michael seems disappointed, at least for the supposed Antichrist. Their assistant Venable (Sarah Paulson) reminds them about an upcoming Cooperative meeting — a name we haven’t heard in a few episodes — which gives Jeff an idea.

The witches, meanwhile, prepare to safeguard their house from Michael. Cordelia meets with Myrtle (Frances Conroy) and Mallory (Billie Lourd) upstairs, while Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) leads a ritual in the dining room. But Dinah the Voodoo Queen (Adina Porter) breaks the spell on the house, leading Michael and robot Ms. Mead in, where they immediately murder all of the witches downstairs. Dinah, it seems, has made a deal with the devil to become a talk show host — a nod to her profession in the season’s first few episodes, before the identities of the witches were revealed.

Cordelia, Myrtle and Mallory manage to escape. Michael is furious and vents to Ms. Mead, who’s secretly being controlled by Jeff and Mutt. He comes up with some outlandish plan to become president (“This sounds like the plot of The Omen 3,” says Jeff through Ms. Mead), before the programmers make Mead tell him to seek them out.

So he returns to their pristine tech hub, where they reveal that they’re members of the secret Cooperative, an organization which also includes former President Clinton, Warren Buffet and Vladimir Putin. Oh, and the Cooperative is also a fake name. They’re actually the Illuminati.

The Illuminati.

They try to convince Michael that the next step in his great plan should be to usher in the apocalypse and that the powerful members of the Cooperative can make it happen in one giant nuclear blast. Michael is still only concerned about getting revenge on the witches for murdering Ms. Mead, but hey, if a nuclear blast is gonna kill the witches, he’s in.

The surviving witches have gathered in Misty Day’s swamp shack. Coco (Leslie Grossman) and Madison (Emma Roberts) also made it out and we’re told that Misty (Lily Rabe) and Stevie Nicks (herself) are safe. Cordelia returns to the house to resurrect her girls, but their souls aren’t there. Madison remembers what the ghosts of Murder House told her; Michael has completely eviscerated their souls.

They’re desperate, so Myrtle comes up with a completely wacky plan: There’s a rare power that some witches have to reverse time and change past events. The ability is so rare that it’s basically myth at this point, but she’s convinced that the very powerful Mallory might have it. They decided to do a test run, which apparently involves the Romanov murders, because Anastasia was a witch. Sure, why not!

They send Mallory back, seemingly in an attempt to stop the Bolshevik revolution. Mallory makes it to 1918 and tries to help Anastasia cast a protection spell, but she fails, the Romanovs are murdered and Russia still falls into communism, and Mallory hurtles back to the present.

Cordelia believes she needs to die in order for Mallory to rise to full power. She and Myrtle have a heart-to-heart, in which Cordelia confesses she feels as selfish as her mother before her, but Myrtle insists that the Coven needs Cordelia’s guidance. The two of them decide to seek out the warlocks, hesitant to go to men in their time of need, but they’re running out of options.

It’s too late. Michael got there first, murdering all of the warlocks and arranging their body in a sick pentagram. So it’s back to the tech facility with Jeff and Mutt who tell Venable about their plans of mass world destruction and offer her a position to be in charge of one of the outposts, which explains how Venable lands her formidable rule in the season’s beginning.

Michael makes his way to the Cooperative — er, the Illuminati — retreat in some posh country club somewhere and strides into a room of masked figures. He presents them with binders of information to plan the coming destruction of the world. Who knew that the Apocalypse was so bureaucratic?

All things are set in motion for this season’s finale. We know just how the Cooperative got into power and how they made their safe houses. We know the witches are bent on stopping this. And most importantly, we know that there is a spell, somewhere out there, that can reverse time and stop all of this before it happens.

There’s still the question of why everyone in Outpost Three had secret identities and if the dead witches can even be recovered (the fact that Joan Collins’ Bubbles was one of them is a good indication that they can).

The season finale of American Horror Story: Apocalypse airs Nov. 14 at 10 p.m. EST on FX.