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

ahs michael langdon

Although the plot starts to swerve into ridiculous directions at this point, episode eight, “Sojourn,” has a few of my favorite Michael scenes. He has a beautifully tragic journey in this episode with direct biblical parallels. He’s lost, unsure of his purpose, what to do next, and ignored by Satan. He even doubts his commitment to a path that was forced on him before he was born. At his lowest point, broken and starved and looking the most disheveled we’ve ever seen him, he appears wholly human. When a stranger offers him kindness without even knowing who he is, Michael is quick to dismiss it before he realizes it’s genuine. And then he’s moved by it; such a simple act of offering a meal.

ahs michael langdon

Once the Satanists catch on to who he is, though, Michael again takes up his title as Antichrist, clinging to the only form of guidance he’s currently receiving. They worship him, obviously, and his need to be accepted and please others is part of what compels him to continue his mission. He’s then used by a pair of coke-snorting scientists who want to nuke the whole planet, there’s Illuminati and detour that borders on Westworld territory, and it’s all a little bizarre.

But somewhere in the middle of that, Michael continues to spiral downward into the darker side of himself, massacring witches and warlocks in his furious need for vengeance. (There’s a particularly gruesome murder tableau of warlocks that would make Hannibal Lecter proud). It’s here that we see aspects of older Michael start peek through—the way he carries himself, the commanding tone that he creates—and it’s deeply fascinating.

I only wish we got to see more of it. It feels like we go into the season finale without enough information, missing one last vital piece to Michael’s full transformation into who we met at the beginning of the season. What did he do for those eighteen months after the bombs were dropped? When did he decide on that red eyeshadow? What and where exactly is this Sanctuary? We still have so many unanswered questions!

ahs michael langdon

By the time Apocalypse wanders back to the confrontation between Michael and the revived witches that was left hanging in episode four, it never really delivers on the epic showdown that the rest of the season hinted at. The first half of the episode is great, though. Michael is in Peak Villain mode (and apparently, peak villainy also equals peak attractiveness), full of grandiose speeches about the new world and a flair for the dramatic, unstoppable even when hit with a hail of bullets and stabbed through the chest. He’s at his most powerful: snapping necks, exploding heads, and ripping out Marie Laveau’s heart (sorry, Angela Bassett) with his bare hands. I know we’re all still thinking about that scene, don’t even lie.

That was part of the epic showdown I wanted to see; all of the blood-soaked, gory mayhem in the first half of the finale with the witches’ power matched against the Antichrist. The narrative dropped clues all season that Mallory was meant to be Michael’s foil, her power able to rival his but derived from the light. And yet, we never see them go up against each other in a post-apocalyptic battle of epic biblical proportions? No reappearance of Michael’s creepy demon face or ability to wipe out souls with hellfire? Instead, the finale veers off into a very questionable use of time travel and a Range Rover.

Hmm.

Mallory, an extremely powerful witch, travels back through time just to run the Antichrist over with a car when he’s at his weakest. For what it’s worth, both Jessica Lange and Cody Fern broke me one last time this season in a scene that admittedly, I haven’t rewatched. It’s gut-wrenching to see Michael bleeding out on the street, pleading to be taken to the house where he might have a chance to live on in spirit form. Michael, at this moment in his timeline, is a frightened, confused child in a teenager’s body who doesn’t yet know what he is or why this is happening to him. And then Constance denies him that small mercy, abandoning him for the last time.

I’m well aware that it’s called American Horror Story for a reason, and happy endings are rare on this show. I’m not saying Michael didn’t deserve to die—as the villain, that’s what I fully expected to happen if some form of redemption was never in the cards. It’s just that, Michael is such an intrinsic part of the lore of American Horror Story. A large portion of Murder House was spent preparing for his arrival, and Apocalypse finally gave him the incredible character development we’ve been waiting years now to see. He grew into this extraordinarily layered, complex, memorable character…just to die from a hit and run? The sense of irony about his ordinary, brutal death that we’re supposed to feel doesn’t really land. It only provokes a strong feeling of wasted potential and disappointment.

ahs michael langdon

The deus ex machina of time travel comes at the detriment of other favorite characters from Murder House, too. Everything we saw in “Return to Murder House” never happened now, even though it was such a pivotal, strong episode. In particular, Moira O’Hara’s (Francis Conroy) long-awaited, beautiful ending was rendered nonexistent. The introduction of a new Antichrist in the closing scene of the season finale is equally annoying and makes that iconic finale of Murder House lose a lot of its impact. Worst of all, it makes the entire season’s worth of character development in Apocalypse basically meaningless.

For a character as important to American Horror Story as he is, Michael Langdon deserved a glorious, bloody death in some sort of dramatic, stylish fashion. He deserved to go out like a badass while at the height of his villainy.

On a human level, Michael Langdon deserved better.

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In any case, Michael’s story is certainly one of tragedy, and he’ll definitely live on in American Horror Story lore as one of the show’s most memorable characters to date. I’m grateful that we finally got to see his story, and that he was portrayed with such care and depth and emotion. It’s okay if you sympathized with his journey because it was intentionally written and portrayed as sympathetic. And it’s okay if you were attracted to and captivated by his villainous presence because this is fiction, after all, and sometimes evil is more interesting.

TL;DR: If Cody Fern doesn’t win all of the awards for portraying Michael Langdon, we’re raising hell.

 

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