TV reviews

American Horror Story: Cult 7×09 – ‘Drink the Kool-Aid’ – Review

It’s the penultimate episode of American Horror Story: Cult, and I think I’ve figured out where it’s going. Not sure if everything we’ve seen leading up to next week’s episode will all make sense when we get there, but it seems we might have some semblance of an answer.

Speaking of which, American Horror Story finally tied up a loose end that’s been bothering me for weeks! Bebe Babbit (Frances Conroy) makes her return, after appearing briefly in the Valerie Solanas episode. Bebe had been Valerie’s second in command in SCUM, a radical feminist group that was apparently the real Zodiac killer. Bebe convinced the women of the cult to turn against Kai, met with Kai and made it seem like they were in on it together, and then was never heard from again. Until now!

Bebe was Kai’s court-appointed anger management therapist, who convinced him to go into politics. She believed that people like Donald Trump and Kai were good for the feminist movement: they were igniting so much female rage that it would eventually explode, and women would burn the world down to create their own. For a minute, this idea really worked for me. We finally have an explanation for the real end game of the cult, a long con and someone pulling the strings behind Kai.

There’s even the potential to connect it to real-world issues that Ryan Murphy never could have predicted: many people have wondered if the swift action against Hollywood producer/sexual predator Harvey Weinstein is related to admitted sexual predator Donald Trump getting away with his actions and becoming U.S. president, like women were so mad they wouldn’t let it happen again. It sounds like Bebe’s theory, that women’s rage will tear down the institutions that oppressed them in the first place.

What didn’t work with this idea is that Kai would willingly go along with Bebe’s plan and be merely a pawn in her game, which is why her return to the show is unfortunately short-lived. Kai has his own plan: he won’t let women destroy the world and rebuild it for themselves, he will let the world descend into chaos and then rule it — he’s even gone so far as to have everyone call him “Divine Ruler.” Bebe tried to kill Kai for his betrayal, but he’s saved by Ally with one hell of a headshot. Ally’s proving herself to be Kai’s most loyal follower, but she may be the key to the endgame after all.

Bebe wanted to bring Valerie’s vision to life, and she seems to have unwittingly done it: Kai’s cult has created the new Ally. She overcame her fears and turned to murder (Ivy), but seems to have set her sights on Kai’s whole operation. This week, her target is Winter: she convinces Kai that Winter is a mole in the group, spying on him. Kai has become increasingly paranoid, hearing buzzing sounds and thinking the place has been bugged. Ally is playing right into those delusions, probably applying the same methods the cult once used on her: when she was paranoid that clowns were after her, the secret cult members (like Ivy) would pretend there was nothing there and she was crazy while the actual clowns crept around. Is that was Ally was doing when Kai heard the buzzing?

Ally also presents Kai with evidence Winter is a mole: a tape recorder in the van Winter had been cleaning, and a “bug” in a couch cushion (Winter says it’s her FitBit battery). Beverly also has compelling evidence: Winter gave her a train ticket to leave the cult out of guilt for framing Beverly for murder, but she ratted Winter out to Kai instead. Ally and Beverly share a look as Kai finally kills Winter. Are they working together to take down the cult? There’s another surprising twist at the end: ‘Speedwagon,’ one of Kai’s most loyal alt-right supporters, was actually wearing a wire, and Ally knew about it.

Ally is, in all likelihood, going to destroy Kai and exact her revenge. But will that be the end of it? Bebe (and Valerie) wanted women to take over the world, and the theme of misogyny and feminism seems to be one Murphy keeps running back to this season. Will Ally take over the cult, leverage the power Kai accumulated and move into politics herself? It would make thematic sense and honestly give some kind of purpose to the season, even if it wouldn’t exactly make every weird twist and subplot we’re weathered so far any better.

Speaking of weird subplots, one of the weaker aspects of this season has been integrating true crime stories into the show. SCUM being the Zodiac killer is one mind-bogglingly bad example, but there has also been Evan Peters as Jim Jones and other cult leaders. This week, he stepped into the shoes of Charlie Manson for a re-enactment of the Sharon Tate murder. It was a cheesy, campy take on the Manson Family that didn’t really feel necessary.

The reason for its inclusion was to compare Kai to Manson: charismatic leader with a master plan, paranoid delusions, member turns on them. We could have got that through Kai visions of Manson talking to him, but the “flashback” to the murder didn’t add much and felt almost distasteful – same with the Zodiac inclusion a few episodes back. I know this season is supposed to be about the real world, but trying in every major serial killer or cult leader in American history is just unnecessary.

Next week, it’s all over. Think we’ll be satisfied?

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

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