In “Sojourn,” Michael finds the charred remains of Mrs. Meade, as well as those of his warlock brothers. Cordelia tells him that she hid Mrs. Meade’s soul so he can never bring her back. She asks him to come with her, saying that he doesn’t have to follow the foretold path of the Antichrist. He states that he’s going to find a way to bring back his friend, and then he will kill the whole coven. A desperate Michael draws a pentagram on the ground and calls out to Satan for direction. Four days later, Michael begins hallucinating, first of two children who beckon him to eat and drink. He then sees Mrs. Meade, who asks why she was left to burn. After that, he sees the president of the Satanic church, an angel saying “God loves you,” and, finally, a goat that bleeds snakes. He wanders into a Satanic Church, where a woman berates the congregation for not sinning enough. Another woman there offers to cook him a meal, and he accepts, following her home. She tells him that Satanism is about accepting your impulses and ending the evil of humanity. He reveals himself to her and she falls to the ground in worship. She takes him back to the church and he’s allowed to perform two sacrifices, with everyone in awe. As they all have dinner, Michael tells them about Mrs. Meade, and the woman who fed him says they can work around her death. She drives him to what she describes as the penthouse of the Satanic church. In a large white building, two men with bowl cuts are taking drugs and working on perfecting sex robots. Wilhelmina Venable berates a girl delivering drugs to them and tells her to clear her desk, bringing it back personally. She informs the two men that Michael is there to see them, and they tell her to escort him to the probate elevator. They ask Michael how they can help, and he asks them to bring back Mrs. Meade. They do, and she’s identical to the original and remembers him.
I have been loving Apocalypse so far, to the point that it’s becoming one of my favorite seasons of American Horror Story overall. However, I have to say that “Sojourn” came as something of a surprise to me. I enjoyed the first three episodes of the season, but ever since the end of “Forbidden Fruit,” it’s been nonstop intrigue and excitement. “Sojourn” is somewhat slow and boring compared to earlier episodes, and I don’t understand putting this one so near the end of the season. The episode starts out as expected, and the only way it really can – with Michael stumbling upon the burned corpses of his comrades. Even his exchange with Cordelia, while rather brief, is effective. I love that her first instinct is to offer to help him rather than threaten or attack him, but he declines and issues a threat of his own. I also really enjoyed the scene in the forest, with Michael having visions of pretty much everything except what he seeks. Up until this point, I was really enjoying the episode, but, unfortunately, I got kind of bored at this point.
Michael stumbles upon a Satanic Church lead by a screaming woman (pastor?) talking about how her congregation isn’t sinning enough, isn’t evil enough, etc. This scene took me out of the story a bit, due in large part to the performance given by Sandra Bernhard. This is a minor character, and I don’t expect to fall in love with her or anything, but she really overacts, screaming and yelling and dropping F-bombs and various other obscenities faster than you can say “Hail Satan.” I also dislike the portrayal of the Satanists in “Sojourn.” Don’t get me wrong; I know it’s fiction and it doesn’t have to be an exact representation of the real group. However, their representation here is cartoonish and stereotypical in every way, and regardless of the real Satanists finding it offensive, it makes for mind-numbingly boring conflict. Why have the Satanists speak in such blatantly Christian terms, planning on committing more and bigger sins? This whole sequence and the overall clash between good and evil would be more compelling if the Satanists had some kind of moral ground, or thought that their end goal was for the greater good. Sacrificing two people to Satan because the world will be worse without them in it makes no sense. Trying to bring on the apocalypse more or less because “life sucks” is pretty weak character motivation and makes less sense the more you think about it. Cody Fern’s performance as Michael, torn between performing his father’s will and being his own good person, is extremely interesting. This is a well conceived and written character; it’s just a shame his followers are such boring stick figures with no meaningful reason for being.
I liked the woman who helps Michael for the most part; she isn’t quite as cartoonish and not nearly as annoying as the woman leading the congregation. However, she does still come off as childish and unrealistic when she asks Michael to petition Satan to put her in the “worst part of Hell.” It’s like rather than putting any thought into these characters and what would lead them to this conclusion, Murphy and crew just made them the opposite of Christianity in every way. It’s easy to understand how they would think this might work, but it plays as caricaturish and dull. I found Evan Peters and Billy Eichner really funny as the bowl-cut-having robot builders. Their language, carefree attitude, and cocaine snorting is a delight and a welcome interruption of the previous shenanigans. Of course, they prove to be Satanists too, but I’m more okay with their buffoonery because that’s just how their personalities are. The other Satanists seem like normal people who happen to be completely bonkers when it comes to the topic of Satan. The scene where Mrs. Meade-bot wakes up and recognizes Michael is effective enough, if very brief. It’s a decent way to cap “Sojourn.”
Overall, “Sojourn” isn’t a terrible episode, but it’s not nearly as expertly crafted as the previous episodes this season have been. Appearances by Kathy Bates, Billy Eichner and Evan Peters are delightful, but sequences involving the Church of Satan left a bad taste in my mouth and twinged “Sojourn” with childishness and lazy writing. I still look forward to the next and final two episodes this year, but I’m baffled by the decision to put such a slow, at times moronic entry at the tail end of the season.