American Horror Story is taking its Cult to hyperreal levels with its most recent episode, ‘Holes,’ and the result walks the line between being genuinely disturbing and gratuitously so. The political overtones and general heavy-handed message have run the course of this season so far, and ‘Holes’ doesn’t let up on the violence.
With last week’s episode ’11/9′ shedding some light on the backstory of this season’s characters, we jump back to the present this week, continuing to learn about cult members and their leader, Kai. Their plan to rise to power through intimidation is progressing slowly, and Kai finds himself disappointed that Beverly’s news channel did not air the footage of Serena’s murder. What better way to get revenge than killing anchor Bob Thompson, recording it, and airing it themselves?
We learn that Ally’s wife, Ivy, is a part of Kai’s cult, and the relationship she has with Winter has been blossoming since before the election. There’s some still unrevealed reason for Ivy to have turned on Ally, but their marriage has been falling apart for a while now and it would appear that the cult is working on a solution.
Meanwhile, Ally continues to border between being lucid and in a terrified state of reality. Her therapist is of virtually no help (because, we later learn, he is Kai’s brother and heavily influencing the cult himself.) Looking back on past episodes, little pieces are coming together that make the shows opening episodes all the more eerie. (Remember when Ally was attacked by clowns in the grocery store? The Trump supporter from last episode worked at the store, is in the cult, and likely is the one who told police there were no clowns on the store’s security footage.)
The death of Bob Thompson is used to unite the cult and weed out the weak. Ivy is certainly looking vulnerable; she flees before Thompson is killed and quivers later at a cult member’s death. The strongest members of the cult are undoubtedly Kai (obviously,) and Beverly. As the two talk later in the episode, Beverly even gets Kai to break down. One thing’s for certain: Beverly is a master manipulator. Could this be the ultimate inside reporting? It certainly wouldn’t be surprising.
Shockingly enough, we learn that Harrison’s wife, Meadow, is involved in the cult and still alive, despite her perceived death in past episodes. Ally watches as she escapes a pit in the Wilton’s backyard, and Meadow races over to get help from Ally before someone comes up and puts a white bag over her head. Meadow reveals to Ally about the cult and the fact that Ivy is in it. This will certainly play out in episodes to come, and it definitely makes Ally a high target in the cult’s crosshairs.
Beverly and Kai deem her cameraman, RJ (James Morosini) to be a weak link in the cult, and both agree that he must be dealt with. Kai chooses to test everyone’s loyalty on the spot, starting with skittish Ivy. In the end, everyone takes turns shooting RJ in the head with a nail gun, with Kai finishing him off. This is honestly one of the most disturbing things to watch, partly because of the scene’s graphic nature and also because of the character’s faces. Without saying a word, you can learn the true nature of each character.
Ivy is nearly in tears when she has to put a nail in RJ’s head. Beverly looks triumphant. Kai mocks RJ before putting him out of his misery.
After that intense moment, the show does its best to humanize the awful Kai and set Beverly up as being his puppet master as she coaxes him into sharing his darkest secrets with her. We learn about the death of Kai’s parents, with his father being an abusive, disabled jerk that drove his mother to commit murder-suicide.
It’s revealed that Dr. Rudy Vincent is actually Kai and Winter’s brother, and he convinces Kai to hide the bodies in the house to scam the government and continue receiving their father’s disability checks. Sadly, this isn’t as disturbing as the fact that Kai still visits his parents’ decaying bodies, chiding his father and holding his mother’s gross, skeletal hand. That’s almost as nasty as his greasy hair. (Seriously, how much product do they have to put in Evan Peters’ hair to make it look like he hasn’t bathed in months? Amazing job, stylists.)
American Horror Story is continuing to line its cult members up and knock them down, revealing backstories and setting up the cards for Ally to return to the forefront of the narrative. The series is doing a good job giving its characters depth (even if it does so with unnecessary violence.)
Isn’t that kind of the point of American Horror Story? The show has never shied away from unsettling imagery, although past seasons like Coven and Freakshow get a pass for being somewhat supernatural. Cult is at its most terrifying simply because it could actually happen. One look at recent headlines shows just how closely Cult is holding a mirror to society. That’s the true horror here.