For some of us, the summer sun may still be beating down and relegating us to shorts and tank tops, but thanks to the return of American Horror Story, as of Wednesday it is officially fall. We don’t know much about this season, "Apocalypse,” but what we do know has us very intrigued: The season will bring together Season 1, “Murder House,” and Season 3, “Coven,” in some manner, meaning the return of many fan favorites.
In true AHS fashion, we’ll see recurring cast members like Adina Porter, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Billy Eichner, and others in new roles, but what we’re most excited about is the returning characters we loved and, in most cases, lost along the way. Series all-stars Sarah Paulson and Taissa Farmiga are back in dual roles as both their Season 1 and Season 3 characters (Billie Dean Howard/Cordelia Goode and Violet Harmon/Zoe Benson), as well as Evan Peters doubling up as his Season 1 character Tate Langdon (and perhaps Rubber Man?) and a new character. We will also see the return of characters like Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange), Ben and Vivien Harmon (Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton), Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), Misty Day (Lily Rabe), Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), and of course Stevie Nicks as herself(ish).
To prepare us for the bringing together of two of our favorite seasons, we've compiled a list of the crucial episodes you need to get in the “Apocalypse” spirit.
Season 1, Episode 6: “Piggy, Piggy”
In this episode, we learn the backstory of dreamy-emo-ghost-bae Tate: He’s a high school mass murderer. This understandably is a bit of a turnoff for Violet, and she attempts suicide. Also her mom Vivienne is pregnant with the devil, natch. While American Horror Story’s first season was definitely batsh*t from the jump, it took a few episodes to fully reach the mix of devastating drama, campy madness, self-awareness, real-life references, and unapologetic weirdness that would define the entire series. “Piggy, Piggy” remains to this day not only the perfect combination of all these things but one of the best episodes of the whole series.
Season 1, Episode 10: “Smoldering Children”
Violet has been missing school, and Tate tries to save her from being sent away to boarding school. Meanwhile, there’s a mysterious fly infestation and something that scares an exterminator to death (with a little help from Tate). While Violet and Tate’s storyline is the most important (and still among the series’ most shocking reveals), another highlight of this episode is Tate’s mother Constance as we discover the depths of her cruelty. This bitch is ice cold and we stan.
Season 1, Episode 11 and 12: “Birth,” “Afterbirth”
In the penultimate and ultimate episodes of the season, Vivien gives birth and the dynamic of the family changes completely. Don’t let my earlier focus on Violet and Tate underplay the excellence of Ben and Viv this season. While Dylan McDermott spent the whole season matching the energy of his infamous crysturbation scene in the pilot (and we were all blessed by it), Britton remained relatively understated (“relatively understated” in a Ryan Murphy show means you’re still gnawing on scenery, just with slightly fewer teeth than everyone else) until these two final episodes, where she lets loose to our sheerest of delights. And while Lange’s shine would go full nova in later seasons, enough cannot be said about the quiet wickedness of Constance Langdon, a mother so chilling Joan Crawford would bow down.
Season 3, Episode 1: “Bitchcraft”
It’s almost quaint looking back on Season 1 once you’ve watched Season 3. Devil babies? Rubbermen? Sob-jacking? Sure, that all seemed like a lot a couple years ago, but hard-cut to 2013 and this season has EVERYTHING. Racist ghosts, a slave turned into a minotaur, a voodoo priestess hell-bent on revenge, death by virginity loss, death by first-time-after-virginity-loss, human voodoo dolls, telekinesis, fratboy murder, and bus flips. And very honestly I’m just skimming the surface of the season premiere.
Season 3, Episode 5: “Burn, Witch, Burn!”
For the first five episodes of the season, Cordelia Goode is a bit of a wet blanket, the least interesting character and surely not deserving of Sarah Paulson and all she's capable of. Until, that is, this episode, where Cordelia loses her sight and gains a purpose and a backbone. We also get the (first!) burning of Myrtle Snow at the stake, because you can't keep a good witch down.
Season 3, Episode 7: “The Dead”
One of the highlights of this season was the strange friendship between Queenie and Kathy Bates’ Madame LaLaurie, the aforementioned racist ghost, and this episode is the pinnacle of that relationship. From getting their burger on to shocking but still deserved betrayal, those two are a delight together, as are Queenie and Angela Bassett’s Marie Laveau. Basically, we love Queenie at all times. Need more? How about a throuple with two witches, one of whom is dead, and a be-Frankensteined Evan Peters? We told you this season had everything.
Season 3, Episode 13: “The Seven Wonders”
This one opens with a Stevie Nicks music video that seems to actually be happening in real time in the world of the show, and it’s one of the most perfect, most AHS moments of all, and the episode only goes up from there. While the season was jam-packed—for better or worse—the finale keeps things fairly enclosed (again, in Ryan Murphy speak and three seasons in, that still means utterly bananas bonkers, just with fewer locations than other episodes) as we uncover the true Supreme. Above all else, though, this episode is pure Myrtle magic. Frances Conroy is the MVP of absolutely everything she’s ever done or been part of, from Six Feet Under to The Wicker Man, but as Myrtle Snow, she embraces the Ryan Murphy of it all in a way few can, and this episode is iconic for that very reason. BALENCIAGA!