Spoiler Alert: This mentions key plot points in the first episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse starts with more than one literal bang. Residents of Los Angeles are initially miffed when they are bombarded with incoming ballistic warnings on their phones. Expositional news segments tell us nuclear explosions went off across the globe, and quickly, people realize this is not a drill. Sirens blare, and chaos ensues as Angelenos attempt to flee the city.
Audiences watch the terror of an impending nuclear holocaust unfold onscreen. Select citizens - either the incredibly wealthy or those with "elite" DNA - make their way to ostensibly impenetrable underground fortresses, while society's morality quickly devolves as everyone seeks out safety.
Some viewers may scoff at the over-the-top madness of it all - after all, juggling 12 things at once in the name of drama comprises 90% of AHS creator Ryan Murphy's wheelhouse - but the truth is, the chaos presented in Apocalypse would be a drop in the bucket compared to a real-life, global nuclear war.
The first episode of Apocalypse opens with Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman) getting her hair done by stylist Mr. Gallant (Evan Peters). As Coco's assistant Mallory (Billie Lourd) gives Coco a pressed juice as a prop for an Instagram picture, everyone's phones start buzzing with an alert of an incoming ballistic in the next hour.
The warning reads "THIS IS NOT A DRILL," and even though everyone in the salon sees people outside panicking, it isn't until Coco gets a teary FaceTime from her father in Hong Kong - which is about to be bombed - that the message sinks in. Her father tells her he has four tickets to a plane that will take her to a safe place, so she, Mr. Gallant, Mallory, and Mr. Gallant's nana (Joan Collins) make their way to a tarmac in Santa Monica.
But before departing, Coco insists on waiting for her husband Brock (Billy Eichner), who is stuck in a sea of cars. Unfortunately, she can't, as airport workers attempt to hijack the plane to escape themselves. A guard starts shooting the employees, and the four barely escape before the mushroom cloud billows over the City of Angels.
In real life, we wouldn't even have the cushion of an hour warning. According to public service campaign Ready, a nuclear attack "may occur with or without a few minutes warning."
In Apocalypse, we don't know who sent the missiles - or where they originated from - but we know they were traveling fast. If they were intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), the same bombs tested by North Korea in November 2017, they could travel anywhere between 3 and 4.2 miles per second. This means if an ICBM was blasted from North Korea to Los Angeles, it could get there in roughly 38 minutes.
These bombs are easy to spot upon launch and can be detected in seconds, so fortunately, warnings could likely get out quickly - but even the most adept warning team would take a couple of minutes to organize and send out a message, and every second counts.
In American Horror Story: Apocalypse, Los Angeles citizens are urged to take immediate shelter to avoid injury from the blast and lethal fallout. Despite this warning, many people enter flight or fight mode and try to fly - hard.
Pandemonium is unleashed as people attempt to leave the city. Drivers blare their horns in bumper-to-bumper traffic. People abandon their vehicles, opting to flee on foot. Others enter full riot mode. Coco's husband screeches at her on the phone, "Coco, do NOT leave me in Santa Monica!"
Given the short amount of time city officials have between learning of an incoming nuclear bomb and its arrival, many cities do not have evacuation plans like they would for natural disasters like a hurricane or tornado. MySafe: LA, a private professional fire prevention organization, advises citizens to take shelter: "If you hear that an attack is imminent, you must take shelter. There is no other good survival option."
On January 13, 2017, when officials accidentally sent an emergency warning to Hawaii residents telling them to "SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER" from a ballistic missile threat, there were no plans to evacuate. Citizens panicked for 38 minutes, after which officials quickly course-corrected and admitted their mistake.
According to Rear Admiral David Simpson, the chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau from 2013-2017, the United States's emergency management system is comprised of many isolated systems, a majority of which lack sufficient funds. This means staff are working with outdated technology, which can lead to mistakes like the one in Hawaii.
Even before everyone receives the doomsday text in Los Angeles, high school senior Timothy Campbell (Kyle Allen) is sweating bullets. He paces back and forth as he works up the courage to open up an email telling him whether or not he was accepted into UCLA. He finally opens it, and celebrates the favorable results with his mom and younger brother.
Timmy's father enters the home flustered, and soon the rest of the Campbells learn of the impending end of the world. As Timmy tries to accept that his bright future is being tragically cut short, two suited federal agents - the Cooperative - bust through the door. They say they are bringing Timmy to a safe place, as he has the optimal DNA to survive. How do they know? His AncestryDNA kit, of course.
At-home genetic testing kits like AncestryDNA and 23andMe have been under fire for their privacy policies. When you spit into a test tube and send it off to a genetic testing company, you are giving them information that many deem more sensitive than even your social security number or bank routing number: your genetic code.
Your DNA sequence doesn't determine every facet of your being, but it can give pretty strong indicators of your personality, family history, and your overall health. When you send off your genetic sequencing to some of these at-home DNA kits, you are effectively signing your biological identity over to the company. Companies like AncestryDNA say you "own your DNA rights and can ask us to remove your data from our systems at any time," but they also have clauses like this:
Also, by submitting User Provided Content through any of the Services, you grant Ancestry a sublicensable, worldwide, royalty-free license to host, store, copy, publish, distribute, provide access to, create derivative works of, and otherwise use such User Provided Content to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered.
This means private companies that have your DNA can sell your information to other third parties, like AHS: Apocalypse's Cooperative. Chances are, however, if you are a female over the age of 29 or a male over the age of 40, a shadow government wouldn't select you to survive, given your falling fertility rates.
If anything, your DNA would hurt you long before a nuclear winter, disqualifying you from insurance due to pre-existing conditions or completely destroying your identity.
When the selected elite make it to Outpost Three - run by a villainous, New World Order type, Ms. Wilhemina Venable (Sarah Paulson) - they are afforded few luxuries. They manage to have a daily cocktail hour, but when it comes to food, the survivors have one very bland option: a gelatinous cube the Cooperative claims has all the necessary nutrients and vitamins needed to survive. The Outpost Three residents eat the cubes with contempt, with Mr. Gallant going as far as to say he'd rather be dead.
Researchers at the University of California at Davis have developed gelatin shots they say aid in collagen production, and Nestle makes iron-fortified Maggi Cubes to distribute to iron-deficient people in West Africa, but there are no magical gelatin cubes that can provide the human body with all its necessary nutrients. Even people who have experimented with replacing every meal with nutrient-dense Soylent admit to also snacking on fruits, and nutrition experts constantly tweak the recommended intake of various minerals, fats, and vitamins.