The big takeaway from this week’s episode of American Horror Story was “who’s calling the shots?”
Kai is, of course, the charismatic cult leader and we see him in action again this week. He needs to move himself up in the polls for city council by getting the group to don their clown masks and kill Bob, the head of the local news station. We get the cult lineup confirmed: Harrison, Detective Samuels, Beverly, her cameraman RJ, Gary, Winter, and Ivy are all part of Kai’s cult, and all willing participants in the murder (to varying degrees).
Beverly is the most gung-ho and insists on being the final blow to Bob, hitting him in the head with an ax with her clown mask off so he knows it’s her. Ivy is at the opposite end of the spectrum, becoming physically ill and leaving the room when they discover Bob’s gimp in the attack, suspended on hooks and wearing a mask. Kai kills him and the whole thing (minus Beverly’s face) is on video, which she uses in her next news report. People are afraid now that they’ve seen the clowns, complete with Latin chants, in action, and this will drum up support for Kai’s election. It also helps Beverly immensely — her boss is out of the way and now she’s the number one newscaster. Interesting.
Beverly’s insistence last week to be ‘equal partners’ with Kai seems to have actually worked and the two of them meet separately from the group more than once. Kai says Beverly is the only one to impress him, and she pushes him to take out the group’s weak link, RJ. Kai listens to her and makes the cult members take turns shooting RJ in the head with a nail gun, lobotomizing him before Kai finally delivers the kill shot.
It’s gruesome and paired with the gimp death scene earlier, it makes this one of the goriest and violent episodes of the season, and possibly of the show. They’re leaning into the violence in a big way now, but in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or tacky like a ‘torture porn’ film that’s so bloody, it all just feels cold. These scenes are excruciating and leave you squirming in discomfort like you’re Ally looking at the holes in a piece of coral.
Speaking of Ally, she’s been relegated to background status again this week, but probably for the better. She meets with her therapist and says that Ivy has cut her off completely, both financially and with contact to her son, and feels like the whole event was pre-meditated. At home, she spies on Harrison and sees him a) kissing the detective and b) dumping a body in the backyard. Ally sneaks over and sees that it’s Meadow, who begs Ally for help and tells her that the whole town, including the police and Ivy, are a part of the cult.
It seems like things will start to get more interesting for Ally next week now that she knows her paranoia is real, everyone is out to get her, and her own wife has been gaslighting her this whole time. But was this all part of the plan? We’ve seen that Kai has no problem killing defectors or weak links in the cult, why would they keep Meadow alive? She could be part of a long con to win Ally over to their side, knowing that her obsessions would lead her to spy on Harrison.
But back to the cult, Kai, and the real leaders. Kai sits Beverly down for a pinky-swear “tell me your fears” scene, as he’s done for every other character, but she immediately flips it around and gets Kai confessing to her. She asks what happened to his parents and we get more of Kai’s backstory filled in: he was a burnout son of an abusive father and unhappy mother who spent his time on Reddit misogyny headquarters The Red Pill, until his mother had enough and shot the dad, and then herself. Kai panicked and called his big brother, Dr. Rudy.
Rudy tells Kai they are going to hide their parent’s bodies and keep collecting their dad’s disability cheques, and not tell baby sister Winter until she’s home from University for Christmas. While we have the family connection confirmed, it still poses several questions: how much does Dr. Rudy know about the cult? Is he directly involved, or is he pulling the strings? We see him take charge of the situation instantly and Kai follows his instructions without hesitation, clearly establishing their sibling dynamic. Is Rudy still the one giving Kai orders? Considering his patients are being targeted, he must know to some extent something’s going on.
And what of Beverly? In one episode, she’s used Kai to get her boss killed, exacting personal revenge on him, got Kai to take out someone she perceived as a threat (she feared RJ would leave the cult and turn on them), and then finally forced Kai to reveal a closely guarded secret and break down. She wanted equal power with Kai, but it looks like she’s slowly leveraging herself ahead. I wouldn’t be surprised if their power imbalance ended up tipping in Beverly’s favour, and we find out Kai isn’t exactly the powerhouse leader he’s built himself up to be.
American Horror Story: Cult airs on Thursdays on Sky. What do you think of the season? Let us know.