Careful! American Horror Story: Cult spoilers below!
Following last week’s taut season premiere, American Horror Story: Cult begins to get settled into its new world this week and starts fleshing out its characters and their motives. The Mayfair-Richards meet their new neighbors and Kai Anderson decides to run for a seat on the city council.
We learn that after pissing in condoms and throwing them at migrant workers, Kai is given a sympathetic treatment from the media, treated as being a ‘beating victim’ and described as an ‘innocent man.’ The workers whom he was terrorizing are also now facing deportation. The political subtext (even though it’s actually rather blatant, and likely will continue to be throughout this season) walks a fine line between being integral to the story and just padding the show’s sense of self-worth.
Why doesn’t this political heavy-handedness work? Because of its blatancy. Cult is approaching Glee levels of obviousness, and while that may be a welcome sign for some, American Horror Story has yet to tread these waters, and it should do so with more finesse. The fact that the actual plight of the migrant workers is degraded to a mere cutaway scene from a local news broadcast doesn’t give it depth or meaning. It’s nothing more than a moment where you think ‘yup, minorities are being treated poorly.‘ Instead, the show could’ve shown this while humanizing the characters and the obstacles they faced at the hands of the man the media portrayed positively.
The Mayfair-Richards notice a new couple has moved into the house next door after last week’s brutal crime scene, and boy are their new neighbors a handful. Billy Eichner is the gay husband, Harrison Wilton, to his best friend and wife Meadow Wilton (Leslie Grossman.) They’re bee farmers and pretty much a hybrid of conservative and liberal stereotypes. Harrison is gay; the two got married because of a pact that they’d wed if they couldn’t find love by the age of 30. Meadow (her name alone is a liberal stereotype) developed skin cancer and didn’t even want the touch of a man. She refuses to stay out in the sun too long.
On the Mayfair-Richards’ first trip to the new neighbors’ house they learn that the pair bought the house right after they learned of the horrific murder on the premises because of how good of a bargain they knew it would be. Pretty disgusting stuff. There’s also some signs around the neighbors’ house that indicate the killer clowns Oz ‘imagined’ murdering the previous residents were in fact real. On a second trip, Ally learns that after Obama was elected president, Harrison began stockpiling guns in fear of having his second amendment rights taken away. Harrison and Meadow show Ally their vast array of guns, eventually giving her one to protect herself. Nothing like giving a mentally unstable woman a gun, right?
Back at their own house, Oz has been having frequent nightmares of Twisty the Clown. His babysitter, Kai’s sister Winter, tells him to just ask ‘is this real or not?’ when he questions whether he is dreaming or in reality. We learn that a break-in occurred at the Mayfair-Richards business, and Ally goes to investigate. Despite Ivy telling her not to go in if it looks like someone actually tripped the alarm, Ally goes in anyway and finds a man hanging in the meat room. It’s then revealed that she wasn’t hallucinating this, and he was alive when she found him. He died as she tried to save him, and her mental state has continued deteriorating, as one would imagine. She’s missed visits with her doctor, Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson.)
Kai pays a visit to the Mayfair-Richards house when Ally is home alone, and he is every bit as disturbing this week as he was last week. He opens the episode playing the media, demanding sympathy and votes so that he can handle the immigrant problem he imagines. His constant praise for Trump makes him scary enough. During his visit with Ally, he eventually begins to slyly threaten her, mentioning how her safety is at risk. She eventually has to demand he leave the premises in a very tense moment. Kai is not a character you want to be around, nor be on the bad side of.
That night, Ally decides to skip her medication while Ivy is at work, something that babysitter Winter notices. She draws Ally a bath, and the two start to get homo-erotic before the security alarm starts blaring and the power goes out. A scary clown walks past Oz’s room (and tells Oz he’s just asleep, which works to placate him into rolling over and ignoring the invader.)
Harrison runs over to warn Ally and Winter of government conspiracies and invasions, telling them to stay inside and fear for their own safety. Ally pleads with Winter to stay, but Winter quickly bails to go home to ensure the safety of her laptop and other prized possessions. Ally desperately calls Ivy in a panic, but her phone dies before her wife can calm her down. Ivy sends a Hispanic coworker to their house with some things to help Ally and Oz ride out the power outage. She’d go herself, but she nearly bankrupted herself fulfilling an order for the business, because they had to get rid of all the meat after the murder on the premises. With the power outage, getting a generator to keep the meat cold is her top priority.
Back at the house, Ally begins to either withdraw from her meds or (more likely) face the torment of the clowns who have broken into her home during the city-wide power outage. She sees them on the stairs, following her around and blowing out her candles. The final minute of the episode is very tense and full of energy (unlike much of the rest of the episode.) Ally tries to save Oz and herself, planning an escape from the house. As she’s about to leave, Ivy’s coworker arrives and startles her. Thanks to Harrison’s gun, she shoots him point blank.
This episode did a nice job of giving some meat to the story it laid out last week. It didn’t feature quite as many jump-scare moments, but the build up to the last few minutes of the episode was intense. Despite being heavy-handed with its political agenda, Cult is shaping up to be one of American Horror Story‘s best seasons yet.