Spoiler Alert: this recaps every episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse and also discusses events from previous seasons. Proceed with caution.
When American Horror Story debuted in 2011, people were as enthralled and sufficiently creeped out by the show's opening credits sequence as they were by its contents. Created by Kyle Cooper and his company Prologue - the group also responsible for the Walking Dead and Se7en title sequences - each new season of American Horror Story's opening credits tease how events will unfurl in the episodes ahead.
"The title sequence is almost like a mystery. By the time you see the ninth episode of this season, every image in that title sequence will be explained... Each time you watch it and you watch the week's episode you'll be able to say, 'Oh, that's why that's in there!'" Murphy told Entertainment Weekly of Season 1, Murder House.
AHS: Apocalypse's opening credits are no different. Combining imagery from the Murder House and Coven openings with new flashes of atomic bombs and snippets of Dante's Inferno, Apocalypse's title sequence is an eerie riddle that fans are all too eager to solve. The images from AHS Season 8's opening credits hint at what may happen to the characters and how previous seasons of the show may tie into what has been deemed the Infinity War of American Horror Story seasons.
Shoutout to Redditor /u/PrinceOfTheDam for uploading the title sequence stills.
After Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Leslie Grossman) and her assistant Mallory (Billie Lourd) make it to Outpost 3, Mallory is disappointed she is not one of the elite who gets to wear purple. Instead, she wears gray, the color of the "worker ants," as Venable puts it. Fortunately for Mallory, her social status may flip sometime during the season.
It seems highly unlikely that the artwork behind Lourd's credit during the title sequence is coincidental. The piece is a lithograph by Joseph E. Baker, published by George H. Walker & Co. around 1892. Its title? The Witch, No. 1.
This fanciful depiction of the Salem Witch Trials features a witch escaping judgment. A man lies dead near her feet, and the other judges cower in terror as she summons lightning, freeing herself from her shackles. Onlookers watch in a mix of shock and awe as she strikes down her accusers.
In Coven, witches don't always know they are witches from birth. In Coven's first episode, Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) discovers she is a witch after accidentally killing her boyfriend right as they were about to have intercourse. Mallory may be a witch who doesn't know it yet. And, given the fact this lithograph is called The Witch, No. 1, it could mean that Mallory is a very important witch - maybe even taking the place of Cordelia Goode née Foxx (Sarah Paulson) as Supreme.
In episode 4, this theory was all-but-confirmed: we see Mallory in a flashback at Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies practicing magic under the guidance of Zoe. Zoe comments to Cordelia that there is something special about Mallory. While we know she has magical abilities, some fans speculate that she may be even more powerful than a Supreme - she could be the angel to defeat Langdon's Devil. Some even suggest she could be an alien, tying everything back to Asylum.
Halfway through Season 8's title sequence, we see a woodcut print of a man who appears to be kissing the Devil's anus. The image represents Osculum infame, which translates to the "kiss of shame" or the "obscene kiss." This act allegedly took place during medieval sabbats, or the witches' sabbath. Christians believed witches and pagans kissed the Devil's rear to show their complete devotion.
This image flashes right after Sarah Paulson's credit. Paulson plays Ms. Wilhemina Venable, the woman who rules over Outpost 3 with a sadistic fist. At the end of the first episode, "The End," Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) - the demonic child of Vivian Harmon (Connie Britton) and Tate Langdon (Evan Peters) from Murder House - walks into Outpost 3 and congratulates Venable for keeping everyone alive. Venable seems pleased with this validation, and, given that Langdon is the Antichrist, it makes sense this image appears close to her name.
There are many images of Osculum infame, and there could be an interesting reason as to why this one in particular was chosen. The print is from a 1641 pamphlet created by Henry Walker, an ironmonger who fancied himself a preacher of sorts. Throughout the time leading up to the English Civil War, various ideologies sprung up, and in order to sell their creeds, self-proclaimed leaders of various factions put out pamphlets.
The Pamphlet Wars put modern tabloids to shame, as they included personal taunts and callouts. This print features the text, "Such is the language of a beastly railor, the devil's privy house most fit for Taylor!" Walker is referring to John Taylor, a man who ferried folks across the Thames River and also dabbled in publishing. They were both tub preachers, or dissenting preachers who took a dogmatic approach to their beliefs.
Perhaps Venable, who initially seems onboard with Langdon's tactics, will find herself slandering the Antichrist she promised to serve.
This theory was quicky proven correct. Venable was not on board with anything Langdon was doing, and she paid the price for it with her life. Could this symbolism tie into any of Paulson's other characters, like Cordelia Foxx or Billie Dean Howard from Murder House?
For those unfamiliar with Inferno, here's a brief (albeit reductive) primer: Inferno is the first installment of a 14th-century epic poem titled Divine Comedy, written by Dante Alighieri. During Inferno, the ancient Roman poet Virgil guides Dante through Hell, which has nine circles. As Dante descends into the underworld, he sees how each layer represents a certain sin. The first circle is Limbo. The second is where those guilty of sins of lust reside. The third circle is for those guilty of gluttony; the fourth, greed; the fifth, wrath; the sixth, heresy; the seventh, violence; the eighth, fraud; and the ninth, treachery.
Some fans believe each of the seasons is meant to represent the various circles of Hell, though not necessarily in chronological order. If that is the case, Season 8 could represent treachery, and this illustration by Gustave Doré strengthens this concept. This particular illustration is from Canto XXXIII, when Dante is in the ninth circle of Hell. Here, he sees people who betrayed each other in one form or another.
Dante comes across a man who says he was Count Ugolino on Earth. This man chews on the head of Archbishop Ruggieri. The two have issues that boiled over from their days on Earth: Ruggieri imprisoned Ugolino and his sons for treason and starved them. Ugolino's two sons were felled by starvation, and he was forced to eat their corpses to prevent meeting the same end. In retaliation, he chomps on Ruggieri's head in Hell.
We've already seen similar things happening in Apocalypse. In the second episode, Mr. Gallant (Evan Peters) has a steamy session with an unidentified person sporting the Rubber Man outfit. When Evie (Joan Collins) - his grandmother - sees this act that is punishable by death, she immediately rats him out, hoping his demise will make her odds of going to the new Outpost higher.
There are other instances of betrayal popping up in the Apocalypse universe, too. Venable enforced strict rules on Outpost 3's tenants and made them seem like Scripture, when in reality they were her own doing. Someone is hiding behind the Rubber Man suit. And Venable's right-hand woman, Mead (Kathy Bates) appears to be human, but as the second episode shows, she's likely an imposter.
In the first episode of Apocalypse, two suited agents take Timmy Campbell (Kyle Allen) from his home to a bomb shelter, as his genes are perfect and worth saving. When Timmy asks how they could possibly know anything about his genetic makeup, one of the agents say they discovered this from his AncestryDNA test.
Fans on Reddit jumped to the conclusion that the microscope represents the Big Brother aspect of the Cooperative, but then another perspective emerged: what if the microscope is a callback to the aliens from Asylum? In a post-Cult panel, Ryan Murphy said that Season 8 would be similar to Season 2: "We’re sort of getting back to the Asylum, Coven feeling. That’s the tone of it." It could be more than tone Murphy is going for, though.
Some Redditors suggested that the aliens acted as the counter to Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), the nun who is possessed by Satan. Murphy also backed up this theory on a 2013 episode of The Writers' Room, saying, "For me, [aliens] were always an obvious metaphor for God. It fit very easily into the world of a Catholic sanitarium asylum." With the introduction of Michael Langdon, AKA the Antichrist, in Apocalypse, it makes sense that the aliens could play a role in cleaning up humanity's mess.
After all, Asylum ends with Kit Walker (Evan Peters) leaving Earth with the aliens, so maybe there is a human still looking out for those who were left behind.