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

ahs michael langdon

The Devil is real. And he’s not a little red man with horns and a tail. He can be beautiful. Because he’s a fallen angel, and he used to be God’s favorite.

Another season of American Horror Story has now come and gone. Apocalypse, the horror anthology’s eighth installment, was its most ambitious season yet, with a crossover years in the making. Its epic scope may have been one of its faults—if you think too long about it, the plot has more holes than Swiss cheese—but overall, Apocalypse quickly became one of American Horror Story’s most popular seasons. It might also have the show’s most divisive season finale (more on that later), but wherever you stand on that heated debate, Apocalypse was an entertaining and wild ride.

Apocalypse saw the reappearance of fan-favorite characters from Murder House and Coven, plus a brief cameo by another favorite villain from Hotel. It also marked the return of American Horror Story royalty Jessica Lange, reprising her role as matriarch Constance Langdon; a performance that should definitely garner her a guest star Emmy nomination. Among all of the familiar faces and memorable performances from such a strong cast, there’s a newcomer who deserves recognition for—figuratively and literally?—killing it this season.

Stepping into the role of Michael Langdon, Australian actor Cody Fern (who’s previously appeared in the Ryan Murphy ‘verse on The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story) was tasked with bringing the show’s highly-anticipated villain to life. Not an easy feat, but he nailed it, delivering one of the most compelling performances of the year.

ahs michael langdon baby

Michael Langdon—the prophesized Antichrist born of both human and spirit—is a character we hadn’t seen since the end of Murder House. We’ve all been waiting literal years for this kid to show up again after that unforgettable closing scene where Constance Langdon finds her precious, albeit homicidal, grandson covered in blood. American Horror Story season rankings are subjective, of course, but Murder House has pretty much always been at the top of my list. I have a soft spot for those characters and that particular story, so to see Apocalypse circle back to them was exciting as a longtime fan of the series.

Apocalypse introduced us to Michael Langdon all grown up, complete with a dramatic entrance at the end of episode one that immediately had a callback to Murder House. I’ll admit that I couldn’t exactly contain my fannish joy as soon as I heard the song. And then this beautiful, androgynous bastard sauntered into the post-apocalyptic haven of Outpost 3 and cemented his place in my heart my list of favorite characters of all time. If you’re curious about exactly how far-reaching Michael Langdon’s impact is: a lot of people who don’t even watch American Horror Story found themselves enchanted by him.

Look, if they didn’t actually want me to root for the Antichrist, then they shouldn’t have made him so damn captivating from the start. Honestly though? I’m glad they did. American Horror Story has had a long history of producing villains and antagonists that people equally love and hate; it kind of comes with the territory of crafting a show where there’s not a lot of purely good characters to be found. And with an iconic role like the Antichrist, it’s not only a testament to the show’s ability to create such a darkly fascinating character, but also Cody Fern’s work in adding so much depth to Michael Langdon.

Even in 2018 it’s still for some reason a controversial thing to be a fan of a villainous character and, dare I say it, find them attractive. I don’t really understand the concept of maligning someone who chooses to see the allure of darker elements presented in fiction. As long as you can separate fiction from reality, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with this. It doesn’t mean that we condone the evil they’re doing. We just find them interesting and maybe want to root for them from time to time.

ahs michael langdon

One of the primary functions of storytelling (and the horror genre, really) is to provide a harmless outlet for people to explore the types of dark thoughts and impulses that they normally wouldn’t act upon in real life. As Lin-Manuel Miranda said to GQ on the subject, “There’s a part of your brain that wants to experience everything. […] In art we can be fucking nuts.”

Villains are just…fun. They’re flawed beings and they’re usually the best dressed, so it’s a natural response to find them appealing or even, on a human level, relate to their imperfections in some way. We really need to stop allowing this culture of purity to interfere with enjoying fiction for its intended purpose.

The prevailing argument against those who were more on the side of Team Langdon during Apocalypse’s run was simply “he’s evil/he’s literally the Antichrist.” Well, obviously, yeah. We understand that part. But. The season devoted so much of its time to showing us that while Michael was born with an inherent evil in him, he also has a fair amount of humanity and internal emotional conflict. Cody Fern did not put in all of this work just for people to write off Michael Langdon as “just evil.” And to me, that’s what makes a well-rounded villain, not a one-dimensional caricature.

Michael’s evolution into a sympathetic villain, and a classic Gothic hero-villain, is what makes him so compelling. He became both the protagonist and the antagonist of Apocalypse. I like watching evil characters who revel in the chaos they cause, of course, but if there’s an added layer of emotional complexity lurking beneath, then sign me the hell up.

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