Review: ‘American Horror Story’ shows dark(er) side to Kai’s cult

“The world isn’t tell me; it’s show me,” says Beverly (Adina Porter) at the opening of the sixth episode.

And show the world is exactly what this episode of “American Horror Story” did.

Opening up to a meeting between Beverly and her boss, Bob (Dermot Mulroney), Bob informs Beverly that he’s on to the loss of her impartiality as a journalist. He demands that she stop editorializing her news pieces, as she frightens her audience unnecessarily.

Beverly all but rolls her eyes at him and requests that he release the footage of Serena’s (Emma Roberts) murder, but Bob declines. That’s when Beverly throws a punch straight to his gut: She threatens to call a press conference to discuss his sexual harassment of Serena.

That was the final straw for Bob. Last episode, Beverly flaunted her immunity to him: She was the only African-American reporter he had. She couldn’t be touched. This episode, she toes the line even more, throwing the deadly term “sexual harassment” around. Her plan backfires, and Bob fires Beverly, leaving her with a few choice words.

This episode finally gave viewers an intimate view of the cult members: The regulars are present, along with some newcomers that haven’t been granted airtime before, including RJ (James Morosini). The silver-haired detective is among the affiliates, and just as viewers were getting over the shock of seeing a member of the police force among the ranks of the criminal cult, in walks none other than Ivy (Alison Pill).

Fans have been guessing it for weeks, and Tuesday night’s episode confirmed the suspicion. Ivy crossed over to the dark side.

The motivation is clear: she wants to make the world a better place, and she doesn’t care if she has to watch the country burn to do it. Ivy blames Ally for Trump’s presidency and “letting it happen,” because of her protest vote for Jill Stein.

The theory of gaslighting is only strengthened by this episode.

“It’s like she prepared to leave,” Ally tells her therapist, Dr. Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson). After leaving with Oz, Ivy shut off all credit cards and convinces a judge of Ally’s instability, thereby only allowing her supervised visits with her son. During one of these visits, the tension is painful, as Oz emotionally retreats from Ally even more.

If any viewer had sympathy for Ivy, it was lost in this episode. Donning a clown suit, Ivy breaks into Bob’s house with the group to murder him on camera while chanting Satanic phrases. The plan is to release the video and cause a “Satanic Panic,” similar to that of the ’80s. And it works. So much so in fact, that Kai (Evan Peters) learns that he jumped by 10 points in his running for City Council: the largest and fastest jump in election history.

While gearing up to murder Bob, the savvy newsman lets the cult in on a secret: He has a sex slave in his attic. After discovering the “gimp,” Kai stabs him in the chest, much to RJ’s disapproval.

RJ voicing his dislike of murder would come back to haunt him later in the episode when the tables turn on him.

Following Beverly’s advice of killing off the weakest link, Kai sets his sight on RJ, encouraging the cult to murder him to protect themselves, convincing them that he would turn on them in a heartbeat.

Tied to a chair, RJ is subjected to what’s likely the least pleasant way to die: being shot in the head with a nail gun.

“The world record for nails to the head is 13,” Kai says before handing the nail gun to Ivy. This functions as an initiation ritual of sorts for Ivy; she has to partake in killing RJ to prove herself worthy to the group.

The scene of RJ’s death is long and drawn out. One by one, the cult members turn on their fellow affiliate as he begs for his life. Some, such as Ivy and Winter, showcase their disdain in the murder, doing it slowly with tears streaming down their faces. Others, such as Harrison, do it without a second thought — as simple as squashing a fly.

Following RJ’s gruesome death, Beverly turns on Kai. As they have their pinkies locked, Kai begins the truth-telling game viewers are familiar with, but Beverly — like all good journalists — is used to asking the questions. She turns the game on Kai, digging deep into his past.

“Secrets are what make you weak,” Beverly tells Kai before he delves into his former life.

Kai changes his story from the last episode. In this version, there’s no talk of being former military or an Ivy League educated individual. No, instead Kai is what many fans assumed: A loser living in his parents’ basement with what his father considers a “useless” religious studies degree.

Kai’s father was an abusive, disabled man who doesn’t hold back his rage — a look at from where Kai gets his temper. In a devastating murder-suicide, Kai’s mother kills his father before turning the gun on herself.

Wrecked by watching his parents die in front of him, Kai reaches out to his older brother for help. Dr. Vincent then shows up to the scene and convinces Kai to leave the bodies be, board up the door and continue collecting the checks that are distributed monthly for their father’s motorcycle accident that left him crippled.

Does this mean that Doc is in on the gore of cult-life? I theorize that he’s the man behind the scenes and that Kai is nothing more than a figurehead, a puppet. But Dr. Vincent is pulling the strings on him.

Kai’s religious studies degree makes sense. So much of the religious studies program is learning the function of religions, and cults fall into that category. Religion serves a purpose to society and provides a sense of something “more.” However, Kai is exploiting religion’s purpose, putting religious theories and practices to the test.

Historically speaking, those joining cults or fringe religions do so because they feel failed by the world and are seeking an alternative — both of which are displayed consistently throughout this season. Kai’s charisma and charm fit the trope of a savior-leader and his followers cling to his words, unaware that they are nothing more than pawns in Kai’s game of chess.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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