Its kind of ridiculous to think I can’t even type a review of ‘American Horror Story: Cult‘ so far without worrying about someone reading into it the wrong way. That may just be my own personal paranoia (or phobia if you will) but the truth is I struggle to talk about this years storyline without worrying who sides with who. And for viewers picking a side..I hate to say it, but you’re watching wrong. The whole point of Paulson and Peters’ character is to give you an extreme perspective of the political spectrum. A lot of viewers seem to translate that into Democrat vs. Republican. That’s not what I am saying in the slightest. If you have watched these first three episodes, then you already realize neither of these characters actually represent the principals of either party. Instead, they showcase the intolerable aspects of people using these affiliations to justify their own radical behavior.
BEFORE GOING ANY FURTHER, PLEASE BE AWARE THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST THREE EPISODES OF ‘AMERICAN HORROR STORY: CULT‘. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
The main highlight of the first episode, “Election Night” is the intercut between Winter (Billie Lourd) and Kai (Evan Peters) showcasing the “pinky’s up” sequence paired with Winter going through the application process with Ally (Sarah Paulson) and Ivy (Allison Pill) for the nanny job. This is truly some high tension editing, jumping back and forth between the two scenes,all while using the audio to keep the cuts tied together. This scene also drops just enough tidbits of Winter’s backstory that make you want to know more about the character. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a flashback of her sometime this season. This sequence also shows you how much Kai and “The Cult” already knows about Ally’s family and the best way to infiltrate. Here is where Billie Lourd’s character really shines. As soon as Winter gets the nanny job, her creep factor goes into full-swing. The one-on-one scenes with Winter and Ozzy (Ally and Ivy’s son) are probably the most disturbing moments of the first episode. Winter immediately starts to just destroy this poor kids’ innocence by essentially brainwashing him, introducing him to the “dark web” and showing him videos of actual murders!
It doesn’t take more than a single episode to realize that Billie Lourd (‘Scream Queens’) and Allison Pill (‘The Newsroom’) might be the best thing to happen to AHS since Lady Gaga joined the cast of ‘Hotel’. (Billy Eichner is also an amazing edition but he doesn’t join until episode 2).
In episode 2 “Don’t be Afraid of The Dark” things ramp up a bit action wise and really starts to have fun with the coulrophobia that Ally suffers from, and showcases how the cult has her spiraling into destructive behavior. For people concerned that this season is just going to be Paulson over the top cry-facing the whole time, you’ll be relieved to see her performance start to shift. To be honest, there is a lot of that going on in the first 2 episodes, but it was what the performance calls for and is an essential part to the story so far. We need to see how easily she scares and how she over-reacts to everything, prior to the Cult ruining her life. Up until this point its Paulson that is getting the most screen time, but best believe Allison Pill is having no trouble holding her own. Although she’s sharing the majority of her scenes with Paulson, it’s safe to say I am finding Pill to be the more intriguing character. I am definitely having fun watching Paulson go over the top, but it’s Pill’s reactions and subtle intensity that is so grabbing. The two complement each other really well and have done a great job carrying the show so far.
So–going into the third episode, we still don’t know much about the cult or their motives, or how many people are involved, but we do know:
- Winter has joined Kai and is a member of The Cult, and has successfully infiltrated Ally and Ivy’s home.
- The neighbors Billy and Meadow are clearly in on it.
- The Therapist (played by AHS alum Cheyenne Jackson) is in on it.
Although this is all made abundantly clear by the end of episode 3, there were plenty of ties and clues given out pretty early on. The earliest conformation that all of these characters are “members” was the moment we are introduced to Billy Eichner‘s (Billy on the Street) character, Harrison Wilton, and his wife Meadow. This is where we get our first look at the heavily marketed bees and their hives. We know from Ally’s therapy sessions that “porous” objects like the coral in the doctors office are a trigger for her character. This clearly implicates the doctor. This really isn’t a twist though. Its almost like a misdirect. The show wants you to think that it is going to be a major twist, despite how transparent it is. That way, when they hit you with an actual swerve, you walk away feeling mind blown.
Obviously The ‘Cult’ is trying to just feed into Paulsons deepest fears–but Why? We might not know the long game (although I have a theory or 2) but we can say it’s a pretty clear plot so far, at least in relationship to past AHS seasons. The typical format for American Horror Story is two time lines, that will eventually reach a meeting point and provide a solid pay-off (‘Asylum’ is the best example). So far this season has been pretty linear story-telling, although we do know that ‘Cult‘ will have some larger tie with season four, ‘Freakshow‘. There has been plenty of little nods so far, Twisty the Clown obviously being the main one, but from my understanding this season will have a substantial tie to the fourth, I believe involving the Mott family. Now that would be a new twist on the two timeline story arc that the show is known for.
No matter how you felt about the episode or season so far, it is fair to say this episode has a legit draw dropping ending. Although you can kind of see it coming, its still fun to watch and get that “Ahh I see what you did there” sensation.
Mini Tangent: If you were second guessing my logic that implicates the doctor, then you are feeling pretty silly going into episode 3 “Neighbors from Hell”. The episode confirms our fears from the jump. The doctor is in on it. We follow a fairly awkward therapy session, which focused entirely on the patients worst fears we get a thrilling and fairly brutal scene setting up the episode, all before the title sequence starts (can we take a quick moment to mention how awesome this years title sequence is?!) As a fan of stop motion, season 4’s ‘Freakshow‘ always had the best title sequence in my opinion. I think ‘Cult‘ might take the cake. Not to mention how refreshing it is to see and hear a new AHS theme, especially following last years disappointing title card only.
But jumping back into it, actually confirming the fact that the doctor is in on it allows for the story to open up a bit, and it enables a few other actors to have some fun on screen at the same time. It also helps give a sense of how large the scope of the cult actually is. Following the events of the second episode, Ally and Ivys’ story picks right back up as things continue to go downhill for the family. We are actually starting to see the cult in full effect, physically and psychologically terrifying these people and essentially destroying everything they love. At this point, Ivy can’t just chalk everything weird happening as coincidence or just brush it off assuming its Ally’s hypochondria, but at the same time she is really struggling to stand by Ally and justify her actions. This all comes to a head when Ozzy opens his laptop to find a clip of Ally cheating on Ivy with Winter. The psychological trauma this inflicts on the family is painstaking.
At the end of the day radicals will unite, and fear is a strong motivator. That seems to be the commentary Ryan Murphy is choosing to focus on with this season of American Horror Story. We can all agree the political climate of our nation is tense to say the least. It’s fun to watch a show (outside of late night comedians) that managed to create something using the tension and absurdity surrounding us. And if you haven’t been watching this season because of the political aspect than I think your making a grave mistake. Yes politics play into the season, but that is just one element mainly used to set the stage for this season.
So I’m calling it now–Ally will join Kai as he presents himself as a savior to her and the terror (he manufactured) that is constantly surrounding her.
Thoughts? What do you think about this season of ‘American Horror Story: Cult‘? What’s your favorite season of AHS? Let us know in the comments below! And please check out our video review right here!