Tuesday’s American Horror Story: Cult premiere introduces viewers to two houses, not quite alike in dignity, in fair Michigan, where we lay our scene. But what transpires in the episode’s first few minutes is more tragic than anything Shakespeare could have imagined.
I’m referring, of course, to the election of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States of America, the event which kicks off Cult‘s cavalcade of far-too-relatable horrors. We enter the story through the eyes of Ally Mayfair-Richards (played by Sarah Paulson), who watches helplessly as the networks begin to call the election for Trump. “I won’t believe it until Rachel Maddow says it — she’s the only one I trust,” Ally declares, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about her right off the bat.
Not even Ally’s wife Ivy (Alison Pill) is able to get through to her, as the reality of Trump becoming the leader of the free world triggers a resurgence of fears Ally thought she and her psychiatrist — Cheyenne Jackson’s devilishly dapper Dr. Rudy Vincent — had worked through, including clowns, confined spaces, holes and even blood particles in the air. She felt as if “the universe righted itself” when Barack Obama became President, but now, everything feels like it’s falling apart. Which it pretty much is.
Take, for example, Ally’s trip to the grocery store. As if encountering a cashier (Chaz Bono) in a MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN isn’t traumatic enough for her, she proceeds to endure a terrifying ordeal with a gang of nightmare clowns. One chases her around on a scooter, knife in hand, while two others seem content simply boning amidst the fruit and vegetables. Either way, Ally makes it clear that she will throw an entire bottle of rosé at a bitch, should she feel threatened. And just when she thinks she’s made it safely to her car, another damn clown pops up in the backseat, sending her straight into a pole.
Unfortunately for Ally, the police don’t exactly buy her story, largely because — according to the security tapes — there weren’t any clowns to begin with. In fact, the police make it very clear to her that they didn’t see “any clowns having sex in the produce section.” As you can imagine, Ally’s erratic behavior begins to put a strain on her marriage. “Isn’t this more important than some stupid election?” Ivy asks, before dropping the first major twist of the premiere: Ally voted for Jill Stein, thus solidifying her as Season 7’s first Big Bad.
On the other side of town, we’re introduced to Evan Peters’ deranged Kai Anderson, a blue-haired maniac whose reaction to Trump’s victory is the polar opposite of Ally’s. “The revolution has begun!” he exclaims, then proceeds to cover himself in Cheeto powder and mimic Trump’s iconic mannerisms. At one point, Kai is so overcome with excitement that he literally starts humping his TV — which, naturally, is set to Fox News.
Ally and Kai don’t actually cross paths until midway through the premiere, though their first meeting — during which Kai deliberately douses her with a caffeinated beverage — is worth the wait for Kai’s delivery of “Enjoy your latte, bitch.” And it’s OK, you’re allowed to laugh at Kai every now and then. Just think of him like a clown! (Wait… I think I just got it.)
Anyway, Kai’s cloudy disposition comes after his dismissal from a city council meeting — and rightfully so, given that he goes there to speak out against beefing up security at the Jewish community center. (“We need to let them blow it up!” he insists.) After being laughed out of the meeting, and after being told that it must “feel good to have [his] worst instincts validated [by Trump’s election],” Kai leaves the council members with these chilling words: “There is nothing more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man.”
And Kai wastes no time showing just how dangerous he can be, first by helping his sister(?) Winter (Billie Lourd) score a new gig as the nanny of Ally and Ivy’s son Ozzy. Under Kai’s twisted tutelage, Winter proves to be a veritable Mary Poppins by asking Ozzy fun questions like “Where’s your daddy?” and by showing him footage of murders on the dark web. And when you consider that Winter’s “training” consisted of a series of prying questions — including one about the excrements she released during anal sex — what kind of nanny did you expect her to be?!
Meanwhile, for reasons that will become clear in next week’s episode (assuming you aren’t already too grossed out to tune in), Kai approaches a group of Latino gentleman and coerces them into beating him up. How, you ask? By filling up a condom with pee and hurling it at them — along with a few racist slurs I shan’t repeat — of course! (And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first entry in what I imagine will be a long list of “Was this really necessary?” Season 7 moments.)
The episode ends with Ally and Ivy returning home to a swarm of cop cars across the street. A gang of clowns — presumably the same one that attacked Ally at the grocery store, unless there are multiple clown gangs in this damn town — broke into the neighbors’ house and killed them, though the cops are ruling it a murder suicide. As observant viewers will note, this is suspicious for two reasons: First, one of the victims was a member of the city council that “humiliated” Kai. Not to mention Winter took Ozzy across the street so he could watch them get killed. We. Saw. It. Happen.
Winter assures the moms that Ozzy’s story is a work of fiction, something he probably conjured up while reading his Twisty the Clown comic, and Ally heads off to bed… where a damn clown is waiting for her under the sheets!
Your thoughts on Cult‘s inaugural outing? Grade the premiere below, then drop a comment with your full review.