TV reviews

American Horror Story: Cult 7×08 – ‘Winter of Our Discontent’ – Review

Almost every season of American Horror Story goes off the rails at some point. They start with a theme, some intrigue, some interesting characters, and then… a twist. A bizarre reveal, a surreal moment, literal aliens showing up, *something*. This week was probably that something.

Last week, we ended on a promising reveal: Kai was secretly working with Bebe to get the women in the cult (Beverly, Ivy and Winter) to lash out and become violent. Clearly there’s more going on than meets the eye! Kai knows more than he lets on, and he must have a master plan for all this chaos, one more meaningful than ‘I’ll take over the world with fear and clowns’! This week, that seems like it couldn’t be further from the truth.

The women are back working in the kitchen, literally being subservient to Kai’s new Fight Club-esque recruits. Killing Harrison was seemingly their one act of defiance, and now they don’t know how else to proceed. Winter still trusts Kai to do the right thing, and finally explains why she’s so devoted to her brother in the first place: two years ago they spent Halloween in a real-life torture house.

After posing as alt-right trolls online, Kai and Winter were invited to something called ‘Judgement House’ by a man named Pastor Charles. It’s a little bit Saw and a little bit Se7en — a house of endless rooms filled with torture devices. The victims are all ‘sinners’ being tortured in specific ways: a drug addict is stuck with hundreds of needles, a woman who had an abortion is bleeding out on a table, and a gay man is in a chair about to be stabbed by a million swords. Kai thinks it’s a joke at first, and then when he realizes it’s real, rescues the victims and kills the Pastor. This is the turning point in Kai’s life that lead him towards being a cult leader, and Winter thinks it shows that he’s a good person underneath it all. He wants to help people but has unconventional methods.

Obviously, this is crazy and things are about to get crazier. Kai has decided he needs to create a messiah with Winter. Winter’s all “I was okay with murdering multiple people, but I draw the line at incest!” Fortunately Kai has already figured it out: Detective Samuels penetrates Winter while Kai penetrates Detective Samuels, and that somehow will make it so he and Winter have conceived a baby with Samuels as a vessel. It is, as Beverly said early, “some Handmaid shit.” The copulation ritual must begin! Blessed be the fruit!

Honestly, as crazy as all this is, I didn’t mind it. Winter was downright hilarious deadpanning “I can’t believe I was at the women’s march three months ago” before partaking in the world’s strangest threeway, and Kai blaring 90s R&B hit “I Swear” to get in the mood was batshit in the best way. This bizarre stuff felt like the kind crazy action I expected from a Cult season, but it absolutely does not fit with anything we’ve seen before.

Why does Kai want a messiah? Half the time he’s an angry kid who spends too much time on Reddit, and the other half he’s a conniving manipulator, and now we’re adding bizzarro mystic to the mix? And why is Winter still putting up with this? She eventually leaves the strange almost-incest ritual and later kills Detective Samuels, but she pins the murder on Beverly and is still standing by Kai’s side, clown mask and all.

Speaking of standing by Kai — Ally has joined the cult. She confronts Dr. Vincent who reveals he is Kai’s brother, but had no idea about any of the cult stuff. (Damn! There goes my theory). He wants to get Kai committed and promises to set things right for Ally. She doesn’t trust him and instead goes straight to Kai. “You cured me,” she tells him. “I’m not afraid of anything anymore.” Ally has no fear and nothing left to lose, so she throws Dr. Vincent under the bus, joins the cult and has an epic staredown with Ivy in the clown circle. Ally – 1, Ivy – 0.

We’re only a few episodes away from the finale now and I still have no idea where we’re going. No idea who’s the good guy and who’s bad, if any of this will make sense or if anyone has a plan or an end game — and that includes Ryan Murphy. We might have gone off the rails, but I don’t know if this season was ever on the rails to begin with.

American Horror Story: Cult airs on Sky in the UK every Thursday. Let us know what you think of the season.

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