In the ‘American Horror Story: Cult’ recap, a married couple in Michigan is rocked by election results and one of them starts realizing her worst fears…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Ryan Murphy is nothing if not daring.
The creator behind ‘American Horror Story’, ‘American Crime Story’, ‘Scream Queens’ and numerous other series loves to take chances with his creative narrative.
It hasn’t always paid off — ‘Scream Queens’ season 2 is a prime example of coming up short — but Murphy hits far more than he misses.
For the latest installment of ‘American Horror Story’, Murphy has decided to kick off the season with a focus on the 2016 Presidential Election with two vastly different reactions to Donald Trump taking over as Commander in Chief.
Now politics will always be a polarizing topic, especially when you’re talking about a fictionalized show interacting with non-fictional subject matter. In this day and age where the United States seems more split than ever before when it comes to political ideology, it’s dangerous ground to inject such a controversial subject matter into a television series like this one.
Nevertheless, Murphy is taking a shot at using the election as the launching point for a much broader topic involving cult mentality in this country and that’s something everybody can probably understand.
The debut episode leaned a bit too much on the backdrop of the election for my tastes but that doesn’t mean the series won’t be worth watching. Of course, Murphy has struck out on past seasons of ‘American Horror Story’ including the highly touted ‘Freak Show’ installment that was eventually a major let down. Still, ‘Cult’ has some interesting overtones so it will definitely be a wait and see approach if Murphy can somehow tell a scary story without turning off a large portion of the audience with too much politics — which could then lead to many turning off the television.
With that said let’s recap the first episode of ‘American Horror Story: Cult’ titled ‘Election Night’…
A Nation Divided
Following a montage of clips from the campaign trail between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, we cut to a scene in a small town in Michigan where two very different reactions are unfolding to the election results.
A woman named Ally is staring in sheer disbelief as the news anchor gives Pennsylvania over to Trump, thus virtually notching the election in his favor. She cries out that the night isn’t over yet — Ally won’t believe it until she hears it from Rachel Maddow — but the writing is on the wall.
The group of friends watching the election results all tell similar stories that were heard from around the country from November 2016 — no one believed Trump could win while others were so disenchanted by the rhetoric from both candidates that they didn’t vote at all. Ally and her wife Ivy are stunned while their neighbor Tom Chang is irate that his wife was too busy playing on Etsy to go vote, especially in a state where Trump only won by 10,000 votes.
When they all witness the news that Hillary has conceded the election and Trump has been named the next President elect, the nightmare truly beings for Ally.
It seems throughout Ally’s life she has suffered from extreme anxiety brought on by several different phobias — perhaps the worst of which is coulrophobia — the fear of clowns. So a few days later when Ally catches her son Oz reading a comic book based on Twisty the Clown — the murderous jester from the ‘Freak Show’ season of ‘American Horror Story’ — she can barely contain her panic.
The room begins to spin and she’s short of breath because the mere sight of a clown is enough to set off a bomb inside Ally’s mind and it leaves her reeling. Ivy is able to calm her down but the incident is enough to send her to an appointment with her therapist Dr. Vincent where more of her history is revealed.
Ally not only suffers from a fear of clowns but she’s also terrified of confined spaces, blood and holes and her panic attacks have gotten worse around immense tragedies suffered in the United States. According to Ally, after 9-11, she was unable to leave the house for weeks but after meeting her future wife Ivy, she was able to fight back against the gripping fear in an effort to be a better partner to the woman she loved.
Unfortunately all of her worst fears were realized when Donald Trump was elected and all her old triggers started going off again.
Dr. Vincent prescribes a mild sedative to turn down the anxiety volume while suggesting an even more powerful form of treatment — not paying as much attention to every nuance of the politics taking place in America. Perhaps then Ally wouldn’t get so upset at everything that’s happening around her.
Regardless of his diagnosis, Ally is still scared out of her mind and things are only going to get worse from here.
Meanwhile, across town a blue haired boy named Kai Anderson is watching those very same election results and when Trump is elected, he vaults out of his seat and begins dry humping the television in celebration. It seems a Trump victory was all Kai could have ever wanted for the world.
Kai’s sister Winter seems to feel exactly opposite from her sibling while she laments in a bedroom upstairs while talking to a friend after spending weeks working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It seems Winter dropped out of college to help Hillary and now she’s not sure where to turn following the election results.
It doesn’t help matters much that Kai taunts her after the election is over by showing up in her room with his face painted in mashed up Cheetos and his blue hair matted to look just like President Trump. As much as Kai wants to celebrate the win, he also has some sort of bond with his sister over the election results. While we don’t see exactly what unfolds, perhaps Kai and Winter had a wager going into the election that the loser had to do the winner’s bidding for whatever they had planned next.
Judging by Kai’s appearance at a local city council meeting where he preaches the idea of fear and chaos as the true path towards power in this country, it’s clear he intends to scare a whole lot of people into his way of thinking. When the city council roundly rejects his pleas to allow fear to grip the county, Kai reminds them that there’s no one more dangerous than a man who’s been embarrassed.
It’s safe to say, Kai’s revenge will come smeared in blood and chaos.
They All Float
As Ally tries to adjust to the world where Trump is president, she’s continuously haunted by the sound of his voice, the enthusiasm of his supporters and the fact that everywhere she looks now there seems to be a clown around every corner.
A trip to the supermarket is filled with terror as Ally walks down the aisles and begins seeing clowns stalking her across the store. She runs into a pair of clowns boning in the produce section and then another ominous three-headed clown chasing her around the store with a knife while Ally defends her self by throwing bottles of wine at them.
Finally, Ally runs out of the store, mortified by what she just witnessed before getting into her car and calling Ivy. A few seconds later, Ally spots a clown in the backseat of her car and she ultimately runs straight-forward into a light pole.
Later that night back at home, the police leave and Ivy has to inform Ally that the authorities will look into her claims but the fact is there were no clowns stalking her inside the grocery store. It was all just an act of her terrified mind.
Ally eventually calms down and a month later she’s back at work where she runs a restaurant alongside her wife called “The Butchery on Main”. It seems Ally is the face of the establishment and Ivy is the head chef but lately only one half has been fulfilling her duties in the workplace. The same could be said for the bedroom as Ivy is not being satisfied there either.
In an attempt to get back to some sense of normalcy, Ally and Ivy agree that they need to hire a nanny part time to look after Ozzy so they can focus on work.
As they leave the restaurant that day, Ivy finally reveals one of the sources of the tension in their marriage after Ally voted for Jill Stein in the election, which was seen as just one more vote for Trump when it was all said and done. In the midst of their argument, a cup of coffee comes flying at both of them, dousing Ally and Ivy with the latte.
We find that the “clumsy” person with the coffee is Kai, who then insults the lesbian couple before leaving.
Later that night, Kai continues to unfold his master plan by tossing a urine filled condom as some Hispanic workers, who then return the favor by beating the crap out of him. What nobody sees during the assault is somebody — most likely his sister Winter — recording the beat down that will undoubtedly be used in a social media post that will go viral.
And finally the next stage of Kai’s all out assault on order is revealed when he plots to have his sister Winter take the nanny job working for Ally and Ivy.
Winter says all the right things when doing her interview but it’s obvious she has an agenda. After getting the job on her first night taking care of Ozzy, Winter not only encourages his artwork where he draws pictures of Twisty murdering people but she even offers to show him real life killings on the internet. In fact, Winter all but forces Ozzy to face several grisly murders recorded on video as she watches with intense glee.
While Winter goes for cookies — because who doesn’t want a snack while watching people getting butchered — Ozzy looks out the window and sees and ice cream truck pull up and several frightening clowns getting out of the back. When one of the frightful creatures looks up at his bedroom window, Ozzy gets scared and runs to find Winter.
Make America Scared Again
With Ozzy being looked after by a nanny just this side of the psycho from ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle’, Ally and Ivy go to the restaurant for a special tasting menu just for the two of them. It’s work but it’s also a little romantic for the married couple who haven’t experienced much joy since the election.
While Ivy attempts to set the mood, Ally’s phobias soon kick in again when she opens the tasting plate and finds an English muffin full of holes with blood seeping out and a bunch of cut up fingers as decoration. Soon after, Ally sees a clown in the restaurant window taunting her from the outside while masturbating against the glass.
Needless to say that’s enough to put an end to the romantic tasting menu.
When Ally and Ivy arrive back home, they are met by another horrific scene as police have taped off the area around their home with ambulances and coroners on the scene. Thankfully, Ozzy is OK although slightly traumatized but it’s worse news for their neighbors the Chang’s who have been brutally murdered.
Ozzy tells them his version of the story where he ran to get Winter and they went over to the Chang house and watched through a window as the group of sadistic clowns he saw earlier slaughtered the husband and wife in front of each other. Winter tells a much different version where they never even left the house after Ozzy came running to find her after being scared of the supposed clowns in the ice cream truck.
That’s when Ivy reveals that Ozzy suffers from night terrors where he lives through something so traumatic it feels real but yet it never actually happened to him. The police then confirm that the Chang’s weren’t cut up by some kill crazy clown cult but in fact they believe it was a murder-suicide.
Now that begs the question — did a clown cult actually kill them and make it look like a murder or was something more sinister at work? Did Ozzy and Winter watch it all unfold or was it all taking place inside his frightened little mind?
Much like the terror unfolding inside Ally’s head, it seems this season of ‘American Horror Story’ will be filled with plenty of did it or didn’t it actually happen moments. What we know for certain is Kai’s plan to unleash chaos in the world is only going to get ratcheted up once he adds a few more believers — and as we’ve witnessed in similar situations throughout history, that kind of cult mentality is enough to at least try and burn down the world.
‘American Horror Story: Cult’ returns next Tuesday night at 10pm ET on FX.