Sympathy for the Antichrist: How Michael Langdon Won Over Legions of Fans

ahs michael langdon

When we meet Michael in the post-apocalyptic world, he definitely looks as though he just waltzed right out of the pages of a Gothic novel. He became a fashion icon from the moment he appeared on screen, to everyone’s delight. American Horror Story’s costume department certainly knew what they were doing, and we were blessed all season long with flowing capes, elegant black and red ensembles, gorgeous rings, and cravats. I can’t talk about his impeccable wardrobe without giving an honorable mention to that red eyeshadow and long blond hair, either. And that’s just one facet of his appeal, but it’s an important part of what makes him so magnetic.

Of course, we as fans know exactly who he is, which gives us an advantage that the characters who encounter him don’t have. Are we still mesmerized by him anyway? Absolutely! That’s part of what makes the early episodes so much fun. It’s always more dangerous when a threat is presented as someone who is, from the outset, pretty and charismatic.

ahs michael langdon

When the residents of the outpost first see Michael, he commands the room and demands attention and deference without saying a word. And once he does speak, he presents himself as a savior, but there’s always a sinister edge to his words. The indifferent way he delivers the news about the other outposts being “massacred,” the implication that he could take none of them to the Sanctuary, and the pills he keeps in his pocket, like a small mercy if they aren’t fortunate enough to be chosen. It’s a pitch-perfect introductory scene that balances Michael’s heroic and villainous traits, and it’s enthralling to watch.

As Michael conducts his interviews, we get to witness just how he operates, and it’s the depth in the character details that makes his presence so intense. The Devil is, in fact, beautiful. The smooth, lilting cadence of his voice. The fluidity and grace in every deliberate movement he makes. The way he uses his hands is on another level entirely, and one of my favorite aspects of his character throughout the season. For great examples, Ms. Venable’s and Gallant’s interviews in “The Morning After” are a good place to start. (Watching Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters act opposite of Cody Fern this season was amazing).

His effortless sensuality is one of his most effective tools; he seduces and teases, all while manipulating these people into revealing their own dark sides and pasts. I think it’s also worth noting that while Michael radiates endless sex appeal and is propositioned by multiple people of different genders, he never shows an interest in reciprocating. For a portrayal of a villain, it’s honestly refreshing.

Instead, he’s fascinated by human behavior and humanity’s capacity to do evil, no matter what the motivation is behind it. Michael leans into the darker parts of his own personality in these interviews, with arrogance and cruelty and an all-knowing, piercing blue gaze.

ahs michael langdon

In between all of the power dynamics and subtle machinations, we also get plenty of snarky, quotable lines, which only makes Michael more appealing. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate a villain who plays well with sarcasm. “True darkness requires a certain depth of character, but you’re much too shallow for any kind of meaningful negativity,” he tells Coco (Leslie Grossman) in episode three, “Forbidden Fruit.” I’m still not over that line, to be honest. Leave it to the Antichrist to throw shade in the most eloquent manner possible.

Before we know it, Michael has helped to stir up chaos in the outpost and there’s a blood ritual and some snakes and then suddenly everyone’s dead from a bunch of poisoned apples. You know, your typical “what the fuck” episode of American Horror Story. This turn of events, though, is important in Michael’s character development, not just for his cunning skill of manipulating others into wreaking havoc.

Ultimately, it’s Michael’s genuine human emotion that gives us a glimpse into what’s beneath all of that sharpness and mystery and how he came to be this way; moments where that well-crafted façade slips, just a little. The shock and vulnerability on his face after Mallory knocks him over with an explosion of power he did not anticipate. The lost, frightened boy full of wild, wide-eyed panic who contacts Satan via blood ritual. The tears he sheds for a mother figure he once lost, a woman whom he still cares for and loves.

It’s at this point that Apocalypse shifts the narrative into the past, weaving Michael’s backstory between events that gradually bring beloved characters from Coven into the story. The middle of the season spends a lot of time on Michael pre-apocalypse, and while it could have been plotted more deftly, the information we get about him helps to add context to his behavior in the post-apocalyptic world. Specifically, Michael’s interviews with Gallant (Evan Peters) where he questions the relationship between him and his grandmother gain an additional layer of intricacy once we learn about Michael’s relationship with Constance. Is Michael projecting here? Kinda seems like it.

Episode six, “Return to Murder House,” is the standout episode of Apocalypse for backstory; Jessica Lange and Cody Fern both give incredible performances and share some powerful, emotional scenes. We finally get the answer behind the age discrepancy in Michael’s timeline once it’s revealed that he aged a decade overnight. Constance is left dealing with a toddler who kills small animals and leaves them as gifts and now, a child in a teenager’s body. It was pretty well established in Murder House that Constance is a terrible mother (and that’s putting it mildly), so her enabling his violent tendencies without actually putting a stop to them is…not great parenting.

The thing to remember here is that Michael does still have the mentality of a child even though he doesn’t look like one. And it definitely shows. You can hardly believe it’s the same actor playing Michael throughout the various phases of his life; Fern disappears into the role, and young Michael is so vastly different from older Michael that it’s just impressive to compare the two.

ahs michael langdon

Young Michael’s boyish face, cherubic golden curls, and sweetness is a stark contrast to his dark impulses. Fern makes you believe every single bit of it—Michael’s gentle innocence in the soft tone of his voice and his childlike expressions and behaviors. That little hissy fit after Tate yells at him and he flops dramatically onto the bed, crying? Perfect. At this point, Michael doesn’t know what he is nor does he understand how to control the innate darkness within him. The internal emotional conflict is clear: there’s a pull between good and evil and the timeless debate of nature vs. nurture.

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