Let us first give thanks to our dear lord-and-showrunner/gay uncle, Ryan Murphy, for granting us a short break from the seemingly eternal crying montage that is Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson). Amen.
Tuesday night’s continuation of FX’s American Horror Story: Cult supplied us with an enjoyable change of pace and narrative, focusing now on the assembly of Kai Anderson’s (Evan Peters) cult rather than Ally’s internal (but mostly external. Loudly external) conflict. Beginning on election night and moving back and forth from there to highlight each of Kai’s recruitments, this episode is the first in which the “cult” theme really begins to shine (did I mention that Ally is only in, like, one scene? And that she’s not even crying in that one scene?). For that reason and many others, this is my favorite episode of the season so far.
The episode opens at a polling station where the whole town has come to cast their vote in the presidential election. Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) is there reporting, (because she’s a news anchor; one that obviously hates her job. It comes up later.) when Emma Roberts enters the frame as the same character she’s been playing since Coven (but this time with brunette hair!). Emma’s character (who would probably be named something like “Michaela” or “Payton” in real life, but is actually named Serena Belinda) is Beverly’s co-anchor, there to fold her ballot. You already know who she voted for.
My favorite part of this scene is when the camera trucks its way down the line to focus on each of the characters waiting to enter the polls. Ally and Ivy are gushing over their sureness that a woman will be elected while Winter Anderson (Billie Lourd) is gathered with younger Hillary supporters, all of which are dead set on letting the world know that their vaginas do indeed have extendable limbs that will be used to combat sexual harassment in America. The best piece of exposition, though, is shown from the end of the line as Meadow Wilton (Leslie Grossman) discusses her unfitness to vote with Harrison (Billy Eichner). She later proves her point by using Oprah (copyright Harpo Productions™) as her write-in.
After a quick cutting montage of each character filling out their ballot (and Ally choosing Jill Stein, but we knew this), Kai enters the polls dragging a bleeding Gary Longstreet (Chaz Bono), the local Trumptastic cashier featured in episode one, behind him. With a missing limb, Gary proceeds to vote for Donald. Kai does the same.
The next day begins Kai’s search for cult members. First at the gym with Harrison, eventually getting him to murder his douchebag boss (who was named Vinny by the writers of the episode specifically so you’d know he was a “not nice” guy) and recruiting Meadow, too, after she walks in on the two of them dismembering Vinny. He also ends up converting Beverly after finding out that she had an on-air breakdown (which was made all the much better with the reference to internet culture. The news bloopers. The remixes. I appreciate you, Ryan). Although initially reluctant to accept his offer, she agrees to join him after he sends the clowns to murder her co-workers (Emma Roberts lasted on episode. One).
I find these scene interesting for more reasons than one. Obviously, I have to give it up to Evan Peters for his portrayal of an excellent villain, but Kai’s interactions with his new cult members has solidified a theory that I’ve had about him since the beginning: this isn’t about Trump for him. Trump’s election was simply a vehicle for his plan. From his communist (yes, it was totally communist) rant with Harrison at the gym to his promise of “equal power” with Beverly; for me, it’s clear that he is someone who is striving to find any way possible to break the current world order down so that he can build it back up his way.
Another important addition to this episode was the revelation that Ivy met Winter before she was hired as Oz’s nanny (puthimtobed-er is a more appropriate title). In fact, Ivy met Winter before the election even took place, at a political rally where she was sexually assaulted by Gary. What’s even better (yes, Ally was also missing from this scene, but that’s not it)? They’re both the reason for Gary’s missing hand. After befriending each other, the two decide to get revenge on Gary by locking him in a rusty basement to keep him from voting in the election. Kai comes to the rescue after his sister tells him of the deed and assists Gary by giving him the tools he needs to cut his hand free! Hence, why he came to the polls bleeding.
This episode was so full of well-done exposition that I’m not even sure of how many questions we have left to be answered (not to be mistaken, I still have plenty of personal questions to ask myself and the universe, such as “I wonder what God is doing when he isn’t helping Oprah pitch new shows for the OWN Network or teaching Ted Cruz how to keep his Earth-skin on?”). One thing I am sure of, though? It’s about to get really cult-y up in here. And clowns. I’m sure of clowns.