Ryan Murphy is holding true to his promise that the American Horror Story mythology would "explode" in season eight.
The newest cycle of the FX series from Murphy and Brad Falchuk features the highly anticipated crossover of earlier seasons Murder House and Coven. The eighth season's subtitle also holds significant weight among the AHS universe. Ever since Murphy confirmed that all of the cycles in the horror anthology are indeed connected heading into season six's Roanoke, AHS has featured enough Easter-egg bread crumbs to line a trail to the forthcoming all-star of an eighth season. (The series has already been renewed through season 10.)
Atypical to the perennially tight-lipped Murphy, the showrunner confirmed a slew of castmembers — including many high-profile franchise faces — and revealed a handful of details about the new season ahead of its Sept. 14 debut.
Read on for everything to know about AHS season eight, Apocalypse, as the season unfolds every Wednesday on FX.
• Jessica Lange is returning for one episode. The actress, who won two Emmys for the characters she played on AHS, left the series after season four. The former leading lady will be reprising her original AHS role of Constance Langdon from season one's Murder House — a part that nabbed her one of those Emmy trophies. Constance was last seen taking custody of the satanic offspring of her son, Tate Langdon (Evan Peters), and Vivien Harmon (Connie Britton). The baby, Michael Langdon, murdered the nanny in the first season finale, much to Constance's delight. Her appearance will coincide with longtime friend and co-star Sarah Paulson's directorial debut on the season's sixth episode and Murphy shared a behind-the-scenes look as Lange back in character as "Queen Constance," alongside Paulson.
• Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott, the husband-and-wife duo from season one's Murder House, will also be returning to reprise their key roles. Completing the Murder House family, Taissa Farmiga, who played the pair's daughter, is also returning. Even Frances Conroy (who is also reprising her Coven witch) was spotted on set in character as housekeeper Moira O'Hara. After the birth of baby Michael, the entire Harmon family — Vivien (Britton), Ben (McDermott) and Violet (Farmiga) died, their spirits trapped for eternity in the Murder House. McDermott later co-starred in season two's Asylum, playing a different character; Britton hasn't appeared in the series since season one. Farmiga also appeared in Coven, meaning the actress will reprise two of her AHS characters in season eight. (She also appeared in season six's Roanoke.) Both Murphy and Britton shared photos from set and Britton noted that her and McDermott's return will also appear in the sixth episode directed by Paulson.
• Paulson will be appearing as three characters, a new challenge for the Emmy-winning star who has played dual roles on multiple AHS seasons. She even filmed two of them in one day — another first. Despite leading the majority of Coven as supreme witch Fiona Goode, Lange is only confirmed to be reprising one of her characters from the crossover seasons. Paulson, on the other hand, will be returning as both of her Murder House and Coven characters, as well as playing a new character named Wilhemina Venable, who runs an outpost for survivors after a missile attack. In Murder House, Paulson was featured in a smaller role as medium Billie Dean Howard — a character she reprises in season five's Hotel — but a key role nonetheless. It was Billie Dean who warned that the "end of days" would come with the arrival of Antichrist baby Michael Langdon. See the first look at Paulson's new character, Venable, offering a chance to be "one of the few remaining... to survive" below.
• Michael is indeed a character in season eight. Now all grown up, the Antichrist spawn of Tate, aka The Rubber Man, and Vivien from Murder House is played by Cody Fern. Fern, who entered Murphy's orbit when he co-starred in American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, will be scene-partner sparring with Paulson. He arrived at the end of the first episode, as a member of The Cooperative. "She's the most specific, refined, deep actress I've ever worked with," Fern told THR of Paulson. "I feel so blessed just to be in a scene with her and going there with her. The Ryan Murphy family is really special. Everybody is pushing themselves to the limits of what is possible. Where are the boundaries? How do we break them? That flows into your life as well." Murphy has shared a behind-the-scenes look at Peters back in character as Tate, saying the character was "happy to be home." He later shared a photo of Peter and Farmiga in character (below) and posed the question: "Tate and Violet. Together forever?"
• The season's title ties all of that mythology together: Apocalypse. The key imagery and marketing for the season are callbacks to Antichrist baby Michael. Billie Dean had warned that the baby would bring about the end of the world in season one. When discussing the union of Michael's parents, Vivien and Tate, she said, "A child born of human and spirit will usher in the end of times." In the trailer (below), he appears to wield a "Satan"-like power.
• The Coven witches are also returning. After revealing that he had extended an invite to the entire Coven group to come back, Murphy shared the news that Farmiga, Conroy Gabourey Sidibe, Lily Rabe and even Stevie Nicks would be returning, joining the already announced Emma Roberts and Paulson. Paulson has made it clear that she would primarily be playing her role from Coven: New Orleans witch Cordelia Foxx, who took over as Supreme witch in the season three finale (the ruler of the coven). Roberts has confirmed she will be back as witch Madison Montgomery, despite her death. Murphy shared a first look at her character visiting the bones that had been buried in the backyard of Murder House (below), signaling the first sign that the witches will be entering the haunted season one house. Roberts shared the same photo with a question: "Does the bitch survive the #apocalypse?"
In Coven, Nicks guest-starred as herself, a white witch, and was a major influence over Rabe's character, Misty Day, who also didn't survive in the end. Farmiga and Sidibe played the two surviving witches Zoe and Queenie, respectively. Conroy played head of the Witches' Council Myrtle Snow, who was burned at the stake (twice). Murphy shared a first look at Cordelia, Stevie and Misty back in action, along with a photo of the full Coven reunion on set (below).
A later Coven-themed photo shared by Murphy featured a few more characters in the witches' statement black look.
• Other returning castmembers include Peters, who has appeared in every season (Tate in Murder House and revived frat boy Kyle Spencer in Coven). In Apocalypse, he will be reprising Tate Langdon only, and playing a second character, a hairdresser named Mr. Gallant. One very high-profile newcomer will be playing his grandmother: Joan Collins (see her character, Evie Gallant, below). Also returning are Kathy Bates, Adina Porter, Cheyenne Jackson, Billy Eichner, Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd. Though Bates appeared in Coven, she will be playing a new role, Ms. Miriam Mead. Other new characters include Dinah Stevens (Porter), Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt (Grossman) and Mallory (Lourd). One Coven star who won't be returning is Angela Bassett. Bassett, who stars on Murphy's Fox procedural 9-1-1, told Us Weekly she won't be back unless they come up with "some brilliant idea" to include her voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Also missing in action is the clairvoyant witch Nan, who was played by Jamie Brewer.
• New faces include Pose's Billy Porter, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (UnReal), Lesley Fera and Amazon Eve. Kyle Allen (The Path) is playing a character named Timothy Campbell and Ash Santos (Relationship Status) is playing Emily.
• It's not yet known if Lady Gaga will join the returning stars. Murphy had suggested in the past that the singer would play a part in the Murder House-Coven crossover after revealing in Roanoke that her character was the original Supreme witch from Coven. Gaga, who co-stars in Hotel and Roanoke, played Scathach aka The Witch of the Woods in Roanoke.
• Despite the highly anticipated crossover, the end of the world is indeed the theme of the season, which will open with a cataclysmic event of some sort. "The story begins with the end of the world," executive producer Alexis Martin Woodall revealed. "It starts in the real world. It's very tangible, and it's a familiar panic." Murphy had referred to the season as a "heightened" one when he said of the tone: "It’s not necessarily as real and grounded as the past season [Cult]. We’re sort of getting back to Asylum and Coven." Set in the near future, Murphy has placed the date of Apocalypse around October 2019.
• Kicking off another unique marketing campaign, FX revealed a series of teasers while viewers awaited the season trailer. The first teaser points to the Antichrist baby bringing about the end of the world, the second sees a Rubber Man-like figure linking hands with a newborn and a third features a sickly child instigating a shockwave of disaster. Another shows one woman growing stronger after sucking the life out of another through a mask and the latest teaser "hushes" a blood-red soaked baby. Meanwhile, the official AHS Instagram account is busy dropping a series of Apocalypse-inducing images.
• The longest teaser — released one day ahead of the full trailer with the note, "A glimpse of what tomorrow brings..." — includes actual footage from the season and declares: "It's the end of the world." The first look opens with Collins, Peters and Grossman's characters announcing the end of the world as their plane goes down before cutting to a haunting image of Michael Langdon. Dystopian images abound, including Rubber Man arriving to taunt unassuming youngsters. Then the first footage of the Coven witches arrives, as well as old footage of returning Murder House characters Constance Langdon and Ben and Violet Harmon. The 20-second look ends with Madison Montgomery saying, "I bet you thought you'd seen the last of me."
• The full trailer (above) indeed ushers in the end of the world. Offering longer looks at the returning witches and new characters (including the comical duo of Grossman and Eichner), the most telling reveal from the trailer is a new world for those who survive the apocalypse that is run by Paulson's Venable. In charge of her underground "Outpost 3," the leader tells guests they must remain inside the house due to the radiation contamination outside. There also rules, like "no unauthorized copulation," and sadistic levels of punishment for those who don't obey. Michael gets a longer look in the full trailer and seems to be revered (or feared?) by several characters, including a chilling Ms. Mead (Bates) who tells him, "Hail, Satan."
See cast photos for the main Apocalypse characters below.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse premieres Sept. 12 at 10 p.m. on FX. Share your theories in the comments, below, and bookmark THR.com/AHS for more show coverage.