Warning: American Horror Story: Cult spoilers!
Is it a bit too on the nose to have Lena Dunham making her American Horror Story debut as Valeria Solanas, radical 1960s feminist? It actually feels just right. This week’s episode is partly a fictionalized ‘history’ lesson, with some pretty obvious parallels to be seen between Solanas’ extremist cult and our present day, fictionalized cult.
This episode makes the same mistake that quite a few episodes this season have done, in the sense that it relies very heavily on backstory. Little goes on in the present day of this week’s episode, and the majority of the action takes place in episode’s final minutes.
Cult does its part to give lofty and lengthy explanations for Solanas and her cult’s history. It’s expected that this will be the only episode that deals primarily with Solanas, so American Horror Story‘s brief history lesson is redeemable; putting things into perspective and looking at a chilling cult that actually existed is an interesting change of pace.
In the present, we learn that Kai won the election (no surprise there.) The real surprise this week comes with Kai’s cult and the rapidly shifting dynamics of it. With his new position of power, Kai is starting to double back on his promises to the cult about their inclusion. Unsurprisingly, this pisses off the real bitch in charge — Beverly. She goes off and has a secret meeting with Solanas’ ex-girlfriend Bebe Babbitt (Frances Conroy).
Later, Bebe meets with Winter, Ivy and Beverly and tells them that Solanas’ SCUM cult was actually behind the infamous Zodiac killings. The three ladies are invigorated by Solanas’ ultra-feminist beliefs and put a plan in motion with Bebe as their leader.
Winter confronts Kai as he talks to their dead parents’ corpses (still gross) and he mentions finding the SCUM manifesto in Winter’s room when looking for her Adderall. She dismisses it as being nothing more than an old college textbook, but it’s pretty obvious Kai knows what is going on. When doesn’t he?
He mentions wanting to have a manifesto for his cult, taking inspiration from SCUM. Kai mentions that Harrison suggested the acronym MLWB, Men Lead, Women Bleed. You don’t have to even be a feminist to find that pretty disgusting. Thankfully, the newly formed SCUM put Harrison in their crosshairs.
Finally, the insufferable Harrison is dead. Billy Eichner’s limited acting range has made his ‘guest appearance’ on this season seem all too long. With Harrison and Meadow both gone, Cult can finally get back to some serious acting. Granted, the Wilton’s served their purpose as gullible cult members and generally annoying neighbors, but the shtik wore off a few episodes ago. I wonder how Harrison’s boyfriend, Detective Samuels will take the news of his death?
Kai watches the breaking news coverage of Harrison’s dismembered body being found by police as Beverly reports from the crime scene. As she speaks, it’s obvious to see that Beverly is taunting Kai. She remarks how Harrison’s body was found covered in pond scum and gives other vague clues to let him know who committed the crime. She wants her power, and Bebe and SCUM have given it to her.
Kai is unfazed, merely remarking of the women:
They’re at their best when they’re angry. Don’t you think?
And then, Cult drops one of its first real twists and surprises of the season. “Aren’t we all?” Bebe remarks, revealing that the two have been colluding for some time and manipulating the entire cult.
That’s the kind of shock this season has yet to deliver. With a few more episodes left in Cult, tensions are high, and the show is set to give viewers quite a rollercoaster ride. Better buckle up.
Next week’s episode, ‘Winter of our Discontent’ airs Oct. 24 on FX.