Saturday, September 23, 2023

‘American Horror Story’ sets pace for slow-burning series


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It’s haunted many Americans since November, and now it’s the theme of the latest installment of the “American Horror Story” franchise: the 2016 election.

Focusing on two juxtaposing views of election night, the series will follow Ally (Sarah Paulson) and her family — her wife, Ivy (Alison Pill), and son, Oz — and the assumed antagonist, Kai (Evan Peters). Showcasing reactions that raged throughout the country as the news of Donald Trump’s election broke worldwide, viewers watch a conversation unfold that likely came to pass in many LGBT homes: the delegitimization of marriage and ultimately the authenticity of family.

Chaos ensues in the opening scene of the premiere, a blame game of sorts. Their friends who gathered to watch what they assumed to be the announcement of America’s first female president quickly turned on each other, one snapping at his wife for being “too busy on Etsy to vote,” a sharp jab at the many Americans who stayed home on Election Day.

Ally, the co-owner and face of the Butchery on Main restaurant in their small Michigan town, quickly spirals out of control following the election, finding that her many phobias were coming back to haunt her: confined spaces, the dark, particles in the air, blood, holes and the fear of clowns. The fear of clowns becomes so overwhelming for Ally that she sees them everywhere she goes, creating an on-camera anxiety that can be felt in all living rooms tuned into the premiere.

And that’s where Twisty the Clown from “AHS: Freak Show” makes his bloody appearance. Resuming his maniacally quiet role, it seems that Twisty has a kingdom of clown-enthusiast followers, including Oz, who is caught with a Twisty-themed comic book, sending Ally into a panic attack. Ally’s horror hints at the strain her coulrophobia will cause her family dynamic.

Following the election, Kai paints his face with Cheetos dust, in honor of Trump’s skin tone, and revels in the chaos consuming America. Kai will undoubtedly be the loose cannon this season, showcasing his crazed obsession with fear and obtaining power. It’s clear that he’s a master manipulator, and probably isn’t a fan of Trump himself, but does admire the fear Trump strikes in the hearts of those in the United States.

Perhaps the most interesting and complex character to appear on the show is Winter (Billie Lourd), assumedly Kai’s sister. At the beginning of the show, viewers learn that Winter has spent the last year working tirelessly on the campaign trail to earn Hillary Clinton votes. Kai enters her room to presumably gloat over Trump’s victory, but instead, the two lock pinkies, implying a pact between the pair. Later, Kai demands to know Winter’s deepest secrets and begins to manipulate her as a tool to create chaos in Ally’s life, leading viewers to suspect that an insidious nature resides in Winter.

It’s unclear how the cult theme will fit into the show, but it’s obvious that Kai will be their fear-obsessed leader. The dynamic between Kai and Winter will be a thriller to watch, as it’s not quite clear what their relationship entails. Viewers have already started to see the seeds of anxiety take root in Ally’s mind, and it can only get worse from here. Co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have begun to weave a complicated, layered season that’s dripping with paranoia in every turn.

Kai says, “Humans love fear.” Based on the number of people tuned into the premiere, his sentiment rings true.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email

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