American Horror Story: Apocalypse is shaping up to be an insanely fun chapter for fans who have stuck with the frightful anthology since … well, before Ryan Murphy even revealed it was going to be an anthology. Jessica Lange is returning for the first time in four seasons, Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) and her sisters will reunite to wreak havoc, and at least three fan-favorite stars (Paulson, Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters) have confirmed they’re resurrecting multiple characters when Murder House crosses over Coven. In fact, Paulson is playing three characters: Ms. Venable, Cordelia Foxx, and Billie Dean Howard.
There’s only one problem: more than half a decade has gone by since Murder House unleashed the Infantata and Coven inspired a new generation of women to wear black-on-black. Since then we’ve watched a murder clown, a rich boy, and Neil Patrick Harris unleash terror on Freak Show. We’ve hid our eyes in fright as gorgeous vampires earned 1-star Yelp ratings at a Los Angeles Hotel, screamed as Roanoke redefined the documentary experience, and even joined a Cult.
That’s a whole lot of AHS to remember, so we’re here to bring you back up to speed on everything you need to know about Murder House and Coven before Apocalypse premieres on September 12.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Harmon family, from Murder House, are all dead.
In a massive shock to viewers who were expecting their return for season two, Dr. Ben (Dylan McDermott), Vivien (Connie Britton), and Violet Harmon (Farmiga) all met violent ends in Murder House. Dr. Ben and Vivien moved their teen daughter to Los Angeles after an affair (on Ben’s end) and a miscarriage (poor Viv) threatened their marriage in Boston, but instead of a brand-new life out west, all the family got was a house full of malevolent ghosts.
Two of these malevolent ghosts, Lily Rabe’s Nora and Kate Mara’s Hayden, entered the afterlife obsessed with having a child. Nora’s own son, the aforementioned Infantata, was chopped into pieces by a man who found out his girlfriend had an abortion performed by Nora’s husband. Hayden was the one who had the affair with Dr. Ben, whom she followed to Los Angeles in hopes they would raise their unborn baby as a couple. She was murdered by Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare) at the Harmon house instead, leaving her forever childless.
A manipulative teen ghost named Tate (Evan Peters — more on him in a second) raped Vivien on the same day she had sex with her husband, leaving Viv pregnant with twins by two different fathers. As Nora and Hayden attempted to drive Viv mad in order to steal her babies for themselves, an increasingly depressed Violet accidentally committed suicide. Then Viv died during childbirth, and Ben was murdered by Hayden's ghost as he attempted to flee the house with his surviving baby.
As depressing as this all sounds, Murder House actually gave a “happy” ending for the Harmons, who were able to spend the afterlife as a unified family (including one forever newborn twin, Jeffrey) hellbent on preventing new owners from entering their cursed house.
Dr. Ben, Viv, and Violet Harmon are all set to return for Apocalypse, leaving us to wonder if the Coven ladies will visit the titular Murder House, or if the series will take place on the one night per year when the ghosts are able to leave the home — Halloween.
Vivien Harmon’s son, Michael, is the actual anti-Christ.
Now of course, Murder House wasn’t all about the Harmons. Their neighbor Constance Langdon, played by a scene-stealing Lange, was yet-another character dying to steal one of Vivien’s babies. She succeeded in the season finale once Hayden murdered Dr. Ben, snatching the Harmon’s surviving son, whom she later named Michael, and fleeing the city.
Michael, of course, was not the baby fathered by Ben. Michael was the spawn of Constance’s son Tate (a ghost) and Vivien (a human), which — as a medium called Billie Dean Howard (Paulson) explained — meant he was the Antichrist himself, destined to usher in the End of Days.
The Murder House finale flashed forward to a three-year-old Michael murdering his nanny while Constance laughed, and with both characters returning for Apocalypse — along with Ms. Howard — you can take bets on whether Michael (now played by The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story breakout Cody Fern) has anything to do with the chapters’ title.
Tate the ghost is cute, but terrible.
As a still-alive high schooler, Tate shot and killed 15 of his classmates. He was killed by a SWAT team in the Murder House, and didn’t get any better as a ghost: he murdered numerous people in the home, raped and impregnated Vivien with the Antichrist, and lied to his girlfriend, Violet, about who he was and the murders he’d committed.
In the season finale, Violet managed to banish Tate from her afterlife, but he told her he would "wait forever" until she changed her mind. Let’s hope she never does.
Cordelia Foxx is the Supreme queen of New Orleans.
Coven featured significantly fewer ghosts than Murder House, but it did introduce us to a whole lot of badass witches.
When we first met the New Orleans-based Coven, Lange’s Fiona Foxx was its Supreme — a witch born once a generation who embodies the Seven Wonders of Witchcraft — and Cordelia Foxx her long-suffering daughter.
The duo mentored a gaggle of young witches at a school called Miss Robichaux's Academy: Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), a telekinetic former child actress, Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), a descendent of Salem’s Tituba who could harm others by harming herself, Nan (Jamie Brewer), a clairvoyant, and newcomer Zoe Benson (Farmiga), who could magically cause men’s brains to hemorrhage by having sex with them.
By the beginning of the series Fiona had learned she was dying of cancer, meaning a new Supreme would soon rise and she would become irrelevant. She assumed it was Queen Bee Madison and slit her throat, only for a Necromancer named Misty Day (Rabe) to later resurrect her and turn the other women against Fiona.
After a series of trials and tribulations that included Fiona bringing real-life 19th-century slave killer Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) to the Academy as its maid (leading to some serious drama with real-life 19th century voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau, as played by Angela Bassett), Cordelia’s witch-hunting husband blinding her, and some weirdness involving a Minotaur, Cordelia had the young ladies in the Coven undergo the test of the Seven Wonders to find the next Supreme and rid themselves of Fiona once and for all.
However, mid-test it was revealed that Cordelia herself was meant to be Supreme all along. She regained her sight and introduced the Coven to the world, with Zoe and Queenie by her side as members of the Council of Witchcraft. Fiona succumbed to cancer and was banished to hell, but she managed to gain her daughter’s forgiveness before her death.
Zoe, Queenie, and Cordelia are all set to return for Apocalypse. Will Zoe and Cordelia be confused when they meet the ladies of Murder House who bear a resemblance?
Madison Montgomery, Myrtle Snow, and Misty Day are very dead.
As mentioned above, Peters played a character called Kyle in Coven. Kyle was once a sweet and innocent frat boy who just wanted to play Fortnite in peace, but he was murdered by Madison in the season premiere when his frat brothers gang raped her at a party. She helped bring him back to life as a favor to Zoe, who took a liking to Kyle at the same party, but Franken-Kyle came back a simpler and much more violet creature than he was before death.
Franken-Kyle fell head over heels in love with Zoe once he moved in to the Academy, so when Madison refused to bring Zoe back when she died during the Seven Wonders test, he strangled her to death. (Only for Cordelia to step in and resurrect Zoe minutes later.)
Misty also died at the end of Coven, turning to ash during the Seven Wonders test when she was unable to survive the Descensum trial, traveling to her own personal hell and back. Misty’s personal hell was dissecting a frog in a high school science class, which says a whole lot about Misty’s character.
Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), head of the Council and Cordelia’s mother figure, was burned at the stake in the finale by new Cordelia — but at her own request. She loved Cordelia fiercely and had murdered two of her colleagues, which she knew carried the death penalty in the witch community. Her final word was "Balenciaga."
All three witches are set to return in Apocalypse, though the jury is still out on Kyle. Will Cordelia use her Supreme resurrection powers to bring them back? Will we see them in flashback only? We’ll have to wait and see.
Stevie Nicks was somehow involved in all of this.
Also returning for Apocalypse? Megastar Stevie Nicks, long rumored in real life to be an actual witch. (Not true.)
Nicks made a wonderful cameo in Coven playing herself, though herself in the Coven-world is a witch and a friend of Fiona’s. Fiona brought her to the Academy as a gift for Misty, her biggest fan, and Stevie gave Misty her signature shawl as good luck gift for the Seven Wonders.
Clearly, it did not work.
What we don't know.
Now you’re officially caught up enough to enjoy Apocalypse without needing to re-binge Murder House and Coven (though of course, we strongly recommend that you do). Still, there’s a whole lot of stuff we don’t know going into the new season.
We’re unsure of when exactly the story will take place given that the Coven ladies and Constance will have only aged a few years, while Michael is coming back as a full-grown adult. We also don’t know how Bates, some starry newcomers (including Joan Collins and Pose star Billy Porter), and yet more returning Murphy favorites (Billie Lourd, Billy Eichner, Adina Porter and Cheyenne Jackson) will join the fold, though all have been confirmed to join the truly all-star new season.
But we do know one thing for sure: where we’ll be on September 12.
Need to catch up? You can watch every episode of American Horror Story now on FX+