‘American Horror Story Cult’: The future is female

American Horror Story: Cult
“Great Again”
November 14, 2017

For laughs, let’s do this in chronological order:

2017

Last we left her, Ally was climbing into a car with dudebro Speedwagon who had just ripped off a wire and she was like, “WELL WELL WELL.” Speedwagon confessed that he’s just some guy who was picked up by the cops at a rave and threatened with 5 years in prison if he didn’t infiltrate Kai’s gang. Seems they knew Det. Abercrombie was dirty and needed an in, but once they found out about the cult stuff, they were like, “HOLY SHIT” and forced him to stay in longer to gather more information.

Ally is all, “OK WOW, so … let me get this straight, you’re only working with the state cops and this is your only transmitter?” When he confirms this, she unceremoniously stabs him in the chest and takes his transmitter.

Later, Kai hosts a cult meeting with the dudebros where he announces, sadly, that The Night of 1,000 Tates is canceled: turns out it’s just too hard to find and murder 1,000 pregnant ladies, especially when your murder cult only has about two dozen members. But good news! Night of 100 Tates is definitely on! Under each dudebro chair is a list of targets and a watermelon to practice on: if they are ever going to take the White House, it’s not enough to murder the mothers, they have to stab the babies, too. Presidential politics requires commitment.

While the dudebros excitedly practice murder their melons, Beverly confesses to Ally that she CAN NOT DO THIS ANYMORE, and pleads with Ally to kill her. Instead, Ally assures Beverly that tomorrow night will be glorious and Beverly just has to hang on. JUST BE COOL, YO.

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Beverly isn’t the only one who needs comforting: Kai FREAKS OUT that Speedwagon has gone missing is convinced that Winter turned Speedwagon over to the Feds. But Ally has some good news/bad news for Kai: Good news! We found our mole — it was Speedwagon all along and here’s the transmitter to prove it. REALLY BAD NEWS. Kai killed Winter for no good reason.

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The big pregnant lady murder night finally arrives, and Kai passes out murder kits to his dudebros, ready to “make history.” Meanwhile, Ally slips out of the house for snacks, and by “snacks,” she means the FBI who promptly raids the cult house and arrests everyone inside, or at least those who don’t kill themselves first, including Beverly who on her way out the door happily tells Ally she was right — she just had to hang on.

2018

And that’s how Kai ended up in a maximum security prison where he promptly reconstituted the cult with a bunch of scary prison dudes and one Rubenesque female prison guard based on his profound message: “Women be bitches.”

Kai welcomes one new recruit into the “movement,” a rich young white kid who joins out of abject terror of being shanked, and who promises his everlasting loyalty. Let’s call him Brice.

Out in the free world, Beverly, who was released by the FBI, swings by The Butchery to ask Ally when the other shoe is going to drop. So settle in for some exposition:

Ally was recruited and promised immunity by the FBI when she was in the nuthouse, and it was immediately following her release that she joined the cult as their informant. As for why she didn’t turn Beverly in, Ally actually didn’t see Beverly commit any crimes: by the time Ally was in the cult, Beverly was a subservient mess. Kai’s confession to all of the murders (with the exception of Ivy’s) coupled with the fact that Beverly didn’t exactly fit the profile of a dudebro, left the FBI disinterested in pursuing Beverly any further. So, everything is neatly tied up with a pretty bow, and justice prevails.

But Beverly does let Ally know that she knows that Ally killed Ivy without ever saying it out loud.

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Later, Ally is hounded for interviews about her ordeal — but if she didn’t grant an interview to Lana Winters, why would she give one to Rachel Maddow? Ally also receives a phone call from prison, where Kai rages at Ally about the news he just received: that Oz is not his biological son. The upside, Kai promises, is he now has no reason to not kill her. “Suck it and die!” Ally chirps at him before hanging up.

Later, with Beverly and her new girlfriend Some Hot Waitress at her side, Ally announces her intention to run for Senate as an independent. She’s been in a cult — she knows what a cult looks like — and it’s time for the good people of Michigan to come together and destroy both cults of the Democratic and Republican parties.

While women totally dig Ally’s message, focus groups are worried about two things: her perceived lack of strength and her lack of experience. To change their opinion, Ally needs to score a big win in her debate with Incumbent Senator Whosit.

Meanwhile, back in prison, gullible cult member Brice has covered himself in tattoos identical to Kai’s and begs Kai to let him escape with him. But Kai is like, “oh, sweetie, you don’t get what is happening here at all, do you?” before killing Brice and removing his face. Kai then slips out of the prison in a guard uniform with our Rubenesque prison guard/cult leader, who hands him a gun.

Finally, at the debate, Ally basically gives the performance that haunts Hillary Clinton’s dreams every night: She snaps at her male counterpart to stop trying to intimidate her by getting into her space and snarls at him to cut it the fuck out with all the mansplaining. The women in the audience cheer.

But the debate is cut short when Kai and his dudebros storm the hall. Kai stomps on to the stage, pulling a gun on Ally and explaining that she is a symbol of female hope and that once he kills her, it will show all women that they should shut up and know their place. Except! Haha! The gun our Rubenesque prison guard gave him wasn’t loaded, as she had been Team Ally ever since Ally pointed out to her that Kai is a real asshole to her about her weight. (Nevermind how Ally knew that Kai had converted Rubenesque Prison Guard, nevermind how a real cult member would never be so easily swayed by the “does he call you fat a lot?” argument — have they never watched Scientology — The Aftermath?, and while we’re at it, nevermind all the dudebros who are standing guard at the exits of the hall or wonder where they came from, didn’t all the dudebros kill themselves or get arrested or are these guys prisoners and if they are prisoners how did they all break out and if they really are cult members, too, why aren’t they killing people right now?Nevermind any of that.) The point is, Ally gets to lay her big zinger on Kai: “The only thing more dangerous than a humiliated man is a nasty woman,” before Beverly shoots him in the head, killing him.

And then Ally is overwhelmingly elected to the Senate.

But wait! Then, while tucking Oz into bed, Ally explains that she has an important meeting to go to where she and some powerful lady friends are going to discuss ways to make the world a better place. She then goes to her room, makes up her face and puts on her S.C.U.M. cloak, because the dream of Valerie Solanas lives on within all women. NOW CERTAINLY MORE THAN EVER.

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Sooooo … it’s interesting, watching this second half of the season of American Horror Story: Cult at this particular moment in our culture. About halfway through the season, the show took a hard left turn from being about the politics of fear to becoming this battle royale between misogyny and misandry. On the surface, this narrative choice seems prescient and remarkably timely, considering it was (presumably) entirely written and filmed before the Weinstein accusations opened this particular floodgate of sexual harassment complaints, leading us to a place where not a single day goes by that some powerful man isn’t exposed as being a grabby creep.

The problem is, it is only surface level relevant — if you scratch at American Horror Story: Cult‘s ultimate message here, it all sort of just flakes away.

It’s not a coincidence that female anger played a huge role in a season that was inspired by the 2016 election. In a season about the fear and despondency that emerged from the results of the election, it would have been impossible for the writers and creators to ignore the Women’s March and the outpouring of female emotion: rage, sadness, terror, and determination that this was going to be a watershed moment, an agent for change.

However, by invoking Valerie Solanas’ radical feminist movement and turning her into a leader of a serial killer cult, the show made her, Ally and the women who support a takedown of the patriarchy literally no better than Charles Manson himself. They are all violent, bloodthirsty monsters trying to ignite a political firestorm through actual murder. Just because one is doing so in the name of feminism doesn’t make it better or more just.

And ultimately, that’s where this season failed: it drowned in a sea of whataboutism.

I was genuinely excited to learn this season was going to be about cults and politics, two things I am moderately obsessed with. And there is so much to be said about both: “drinking the Kool-Aid” is now a well-worn clich√© about political tribalism for a reason –reasons thoroughly illustrated through the prism of our current political climate right now. BECAUSE THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO VOTE FOR A PEDOPHILE OVER A MAN WHO PROSECUTED KKK MEMBERS FOR BLOWING UP FOUR LITTLE GIRLS BECAUSE IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO THEM THAT THEY SEND A REPUBLICAN TO THE SENATE THAN KEEP A CHILD MOLESTER OUT OF IT SHE SCREAMED AT NO ONE IN PARTICULAR.

My point is, this was a well-spring of material that the writers squandered. In better, defter hands, this could have been a very interesting season about the human need for something to believe in and identify with, the similarities between the promises of false prophets and politicians, our root primal tribalism, and yes, the frothing female anger a lot of us are feeling right now.

Instead, as it turns out, all American Horror Story: Cult ultimately had to say was some cynical bullshit about how all politics are born out of fear and every politician is a cult leader.

After a year that has convincingly demonstrated that elections have very real consequences and that both parties are MOST DEFINITELY not same, I just expected better.

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Timeline:

1967:

Valerie Solanas writes the SCUM Manifesto and creates the SCUM cult

1968:

June:

Valerie Solanas shoots Andy Warhol; she is arrested and sent to a psychiatric hospital

July:

The first Zodiac murders are committed by SCUM

1969:

The Zodiac murders continue, someone takes credit for the killings in letters to the police and newspapers

1973:

Solanas, reunited with her cult, discovers it was a male member who sent the letters, kills him. She eventually becomes increasingly insane and loses her followers

1988:

Valerie Solanas dies

2014:

Kai, Winter and Dr. Vincent’s’ parents die in a murder-suicide; the children stash their parents’ bodies

2015:

October:

Kai and Winter visit the Judgment House, kill Pastor Charles; Kai changes.

2016:

Kai is blackmailed by Detective Samuels, begins a relationship with him
Winter works on the Clinton campaign in Florida
Ally and Ivy have financial and relationship issues

October 19:

Kai slaps winter’s friend during the Presidential debate

November 2:

Kai sees Bebe Babbitt for anger management, she plants the idea of becoming a politician in his head

November 7:

Ivy meets Winter at a pro-Clinton rally
Gary assaults Ivy
Ivy and Winter kidnap Gary

November 8:

Kai frees Gary
Everyone votes for President
Trump wins; Ally melts down

November 9:

Kai meets Harrison at the gym
Winter introduces Ivy to Kai

Sometime in November after the Election:

Beverly is harassed by on-camera assholes, goes to a 30-day inpatient facility

Sometime in December 2016:

Beverly is released from treatment
Harrison and Meadow lose their home in foreclosure
Kai and Harrison kill the trainer dude
Kai meets Meadow
Beverly reports on the discovery of the body of the trainer in a landfill
Kai introduces himself to Beverly
Kai, Harrison, and Meadow kill Serena; this is the first appearance of the clowns
Beverly joins Kai as an equal power

2017:

Ally tells Dr. Vincent about her increasing phobias
Ally is menaced by clowns in the grocery store
Ally and Ivy hire Winter
The Changs are murdered
Kai provokes the beating from the Hispanic workers
Kai announces he is running for City Council
Meadow and Harrison move into the Chang’s house
Robert is murdered at the restaurant
Winter makes a move on Ally
Pedro is murdered by Ally
The cult perform the coffin murders

April 3:

Sally Keffler announces her intention to run against Kai

Sometime After April 3, 2017:

The cult drives fogging trucks down Ally’s street
The smiley faces appear on both Ally and Ivy’s house and Meadow and Harrison’s
Meadow threatens to leave the cult
Oz discovers the tape of Ally and Winter, and Ivy leaves Ally
Meadow goes “missing”
Bob tries to fire Beverly
The cult murders Bob
Kai’s polling numbers improve
Ally finds Meadow in a shallow grave and tells Ivy that Harrison is trying to kill Meadow
Meadow briefly escapes and tells Ally about the cult, including that Ivy is a member
The cult murders R.J.
Kai reveals his story to Beverly
Ally rescues Meadow and learns the truth about the cult
The cult murders Sally Keffler
Meadow shoots Kai and several other people at a political rally before killing herself
Kai is taken to the hospital for his leg wound
Ally is arrested for the mass shooting and put into an institution
In the institution, Ally is approached by the FBI to infiltrate the cult
Kai wins a seat on city council and amasses a following of young men
Beverly meets Bebe Babbitt and has her share her story about Valerie Solanas with the other women
Beverly, Winter, and Ivy kill Harrison

Three Weeks After the Election:

Dr. Vincent tells Ally he is going to get Kai committed
Ally reveals this to Kai
Plan Messiah Baby fails
Winter kills Detective Samuels
Kai kills Dr. Vincent
Kia has Beverly put into isolation
Ally joins the cult
Kai announces his intention to run for the Senate
Ally kills Ivy
Kai grows more paranoid
The cult kills Gary
Ally kills Bebe Babbitt
Kai kills Winter
The FBI raids the cult, arresting Kai

2018

Kai reforms the cult in prison
Ally becomes a minor celebrity
Ally runs for Senate
Kai breaks out of prison and storms the debate where Beverly kills him
Ally wins the Senate seat and is revealed to be a member of S.C.U.M.

American Horror Story: Cult aired on FX. You can watch all episodes on FXNOW.

2 thoughts on “‘American Horror Story Cult’: The future is female

  1. As far as AHS in general, I petered out on Hotel. I skipped Roanoak completely. I tried Cult because the idea intrigued me, but I was hate-watching by the third episode and gave up by the fifth. I’ve been reading your recaps just to find out if anything worthwhile happened; turns out, it didn’t.

    Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that AHS was NEVER good, but Jessica Lange is SO GOOD that she masked the paper thin storylines, predictable exposition, and embarrassing Ryan Murphy soliloquies that abound every season.

    The only way I’m turning on AHS again is if Lange returns for some sort of Murder House/Asylum/Coven/Freak Show amalgamation.

  2. I feel like this season was on the verge of saying something meaningful all year and finally the writers settled on “Meh, all politicians is bad”. Wasted opportunity. AKA another season of AHS.

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