FX's 'AHS' explores election fallout in clumsy 'Cult'

Monday, 04 September 2017 12:00 AM Written by 

AHS cult


For this season’s “American Horror Story: Cult” (10 p.m. Tuesday, FX), executive producer Ryan Murphy uses the November 2016 election as a jumping off point for a twisty tale or paranoia on the part of liberal lesbian small business owner Ally (Sarah Paulson) and fearmongering on the part of blue-haired conservative Trump supporter Kai (Evan Peters).

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But don’t expect any false equivalency, as is often found on cable news, in “AHS.” Kai is definitely the villain. Ally may worry but Kai incites violence and murders those who disagree with him.

“There is nothing more dangerous in the world than a humiliated man,” Kai tells one of his future victims.

“Cult” pokes some fun at perceptions of liberals and political correctness (in episode three Ally chastises his son for picking a “cis-normative pet name”) but it also makes clear the show’s loyalties lie with Ally. She may be paranoid but it also seems likely she’s not wrong to be paranoid.

Why Kai decides to gaslight Ally and her partner, Ivy (Alison Pill), and their son is not immediately clear. Kai seems to have a whole network of supporters (presumably the “Cult” of the title), including an odd couple (Leslie Grossman, Billy Eichner) who move into a nearby home. They prove to be comic relief – and a relief in general – in the early going of “Cult.”

Kai also has a sister, Winter (Billie Lourd, “Scream Queens”), who claims on election night she’s a Clinton supporter worried about her future (“If I get pregnant, now where will I go for an abortion?”), but Winter gets a job as a nanny for Ally and Ivy to better implement Kai’s awful plans or psychological torture.

There’s a good bit of “Cult” that does not make sense in the early going. Kai would have to be all-knowing to have some of the information he has to have to plot against Ally, including her fear of clowns, which offers an opportunity for the return of Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) from “American Horror Story: Freak Show.” Episode three begins to hint at a possible way for Kai to be so in-the-know but there’s no logical explanation for how his timing is so often perfect.

It seems entirely likely that Ally’s paranoia, exacerbated by Kai’s screwing with her, will eventually sway her to Kai’s side of the political spectrum. The obviousness of that likely plot turn does call into question the effectiveness of “Cult.” It’s exhausting to watch Ally put through the wringer and yet also predictable about how she will emerge from the trial.


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