The latest episode of “American Horror Story: Cult” might have been a bore for some viewers. However, after a second watch, it becomes apparent that this episode lays some major groundwork for next week’s episode.
Spoilers ahead, so reader, beware.
Some fan theories have been circulating the Internet that Ivy (Alison Pill) is gas-lighting her wife Ally (Sarah Paulson). Gas-lighting is the act of manipulating someone psychologically to question their own sanity.
And manipulation was the key takeaway of this second episode.
Viewers watch the opening scene deal with a night-terror from Oz (Cooper Dodson) to which he calls for his moms for comfort. However, upon arrival, he chooses Ivy’s comfort over Ally’s. Ivy doesn’t seem to mind, which leads me to believe that she has been encouraging Oz to retract from Ally.
Later in the episode, the alarm trips at The Butchery on Main, the restaurant Ivy and Ally own together. Despite her fear of literally everything, Ally insists on going to check on the restaurant, and Ivy obliges. There, Ally makes a gruesome discovery that inevitably scars her, leading her to put metal bars on her home’s windows and doors as added protection. For those buying into the Ivy-in-the-cult theory, this seems like the perfect set-up by Ivy and the clown gang: make Ally believe nowhere is safe.
For those not on board with the whole theory, let me say, I think it’s quite plausible. Something that many viewers may not have noticed in the season debut is that we watched several months unfold onscreen in a single episode. It started Election Night in November 2016. Then, when Ivy and Ally are having their taste-test in the restaurant and Ally is scrolling through Twitter, President Donald Trump’s tweets are dated March 2017. One would have to assume that after months of listening to Ally rattle on about clowns and phobias, Ivy would start to reach her wit’s end. If that’s the case, a divorce would be sticky, but proving Ally to be insane would be the easy way out — and it’s likely she would gain full custody of Oz.
Viewers see Winter (Billie Lourd) continue her manipulation of Oz. She and Oz lock pinkies, just as she and Kai did. “Pinky to pinky, flesh to flesh. If you lie, I’ll know,” Winter says as she begins to question Oz. She explains that she is asking him of his fears so she can keep it for him, as it will keep them both strong. Oz shares them in childlike innocence, unaware of the evil that lurks within Winter.
Her fascination with Oz and prepping him with snuff films, real-life murders and the like implies that she and the cult are planning on using Oz in their work. Perhaps a child abduction is imminent?
Kai (Evan Peters) announces his run for local office, filling the place of Councilman Chang who was murdered last episode by the clowns. Kai builds his platform on fear tactics, appearing on the local news, clad in bandages and with a sling after being jumped by a group of Latino workers. However, he doesn’t share that he tossed a urine-filled condom at them while shouting racial slurs prior to the attack.
The theme of racial tension is prominent throughout, first with Kai’s news channel stunt, and later with a situation between two cooks. Pedro is speaking Spanish with some Latino chefs when Roger, his boss, declares that only English will be spoken in his kitchen, taking pleasure in his offense to Pedro and the others. It’s the “speak English or get out” mentality that has reared its ugly head as of late.
Pedro says later in the episode, “It’s scary being brown these days.” Many in this political climate would agree.
Two new characters are introduced: Meadow (Leslie Grossman) and Harrison (Billy Eichner). The married couple move in across the street from Ally and Ivy, taking residence in their murdered friends’ house. We first catch a glimpse of the pair during Kai’s interview with the news; they voice their discern for the violence that has occurred in their community.
The two are very interesting, both of whom are over-sharers, to put it mildly. Meadow doesn’t go outside for more than 10 minutes at a time, claiming to deal with skin cancer, and Harrison is openly gay, letting viewers in on the couple’s secret: they made a pact that if neither of them were married at 35, they would wed one another. For such a “progressive” relationship, the two are very offensive, making inappropriate comments regarding Ivy and Ally’s marriage and relationship.
Harrison is a hobby beekeeper, explaining to Ally that he admires their unity as a hive, a perfect nod at the hive mind that’s rampant in many cults.
This episode was rich in satire, something I’m sure we’ll see throughout this season. There’s a bit with Kai saying he only gets his news and information off Facebook, something that is all too common in this age of technology. Harrison takes on the role of Meadow’s GBF (gay best friend), a trend that has taken off in recent years, making those in the LGBT community seem more like an accessory than a live, breathing person.
Judging by the way the episode ended, the next one will only be described as explosive. The ending was a major cliff-hanger, leaving viewers to speculate possibilities for the next week.
Follow Brinley Hineman on Twitter at @_briiindle.
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