Sunday, May 19, 2024

Betrayal With a Side of Off-Screen Violence

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This week’s episode of American Horror Story: Cult started with an announcement to the viewers that the episode has been edited in light of the events in Las Vegas to remove a bulk of the violence. The violence in question occurs immediately in the opening scene with a mass shooting at a rally. The edited version of this episode stays focused on Ivy and an American flag as the sounds for gunfire rattle off around her. The short scene quickly reveals the shooter to be Ally (Sarah Paulson), while Kai (Evan Peters) lies in fetal position on the stage.

Flashing back to Meadow (Leslie Grossman) begging for Ally’s help before being pulled away. Ally then locks down the house before taking a call from Dr. Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) who had been told by Ivy to call her. While there still hasn’t been any proof of Dr. Vincent’s involvement in the cult, his brotherly relation to both Winter and Kai leaves him a definite suspect.

After hanging up on Dr. Vincent, Ally travels across the street to her neighbors, this time bringing a knife. She sneaks into the house where she steals Harrison’s (Billy Eichner) keys in order to free Meadow. While attempting to flee, however, the two are spotted by Harrison and his lover Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes). Luckily, the two manage to escape to The Butchery where Ally demands answers of her blonde neighbor.

Meadow explains to Ally that the fear the cult has been setting in people has been to soften them before “the take over”. According the Meadow, Kai is best at reeling in people who believe in nothing.

In yet another flashback, Meadow explains her love for Kai and how he always knows exactly what to say to prey on each person. For Meadow, Kai made her feel special for the first time and invincible. It wasn’t until Meadow overheard Kai repeating the words he said to her, to Ivy, that Meadow finally saw through Kai’s game. It was while she was attempting to flee, that Kai ordered the “disappearance” of Meadow. When Meadow finishes telling her story, she asserts that there is no way to get rid of him. Other than to kill him.

In yet another rallying speech, Kai speaks of boogeymen and terrors. The crowd cheers for him until Sally Keffler (Mare Winningham) stands up to Kai. She calls him out as a “snake oil salesmen” who uses fear, and is by no means a conservative. Finally a character who actually sounds mildly intelligent! And guess what, she declares that she is also going to be running for city council. There’s a good chance that declaration was a death sentence.

“People like Trump and Mr. Anderson are not the garbage…they are the flies that the garbage has drawn” – Sally Keffler

What happens next is…yes, you guessed it. Another flashback. This time it’s of Ivy being brought by Winter to meet Kai for the first time. He immediately draws her in to his pinky game. It’s shocking how quickly she submits, despite the Gary (Chaz Bono) blackmail that Kai holds. And what is Ivy’s darkest secret? The fact that she hates her wife, a feeling stemming back to the fact that Ally was able to carry Oz where Ivy couldn’t. This reveals to us that Ally is Oz’s (Cooper Dodson) biological mother, a lingering question from this season that really everyone should’ve seen coming. Kai promises that by the end of everything, Ivy could have both Oz and Winter, with Ally totally out of the picture.

Ally breastfed Oz until he was 3

Back to the present, Ally brings Meadow to see Dr. Vincent in order to prove that she is not crazy. She leaves the two behind and finds Sally Keffler. Surprisingly, Sally isn’t shocked. She explains that men like Kai come forth following the threat of the patriarchy.

Sally and Ally’s conversation is cut short by the arrival of the cult in their clown masks. Sally wields her gun as Ally runs and hides, but she is no match for Kai and his goons. Kai claims that “knowing stuff has no value,” and that the future lies with the beautiful young people, before he posts a fake suicide note on her Facebook (which by the way is only for older people). To end it all, Kai uses Sally’s gun to kill her in an apparent suicide.

At the sound of the gun, Ally yells in fear. One of the clowns seeks the source of the sound, but luckily it is Ivy and she leaves with the rest of the cult without alerting them of her wife’s presence. When Ally returns to Dr. Vincent’s office, he claims that he spoke to Meadow, but that she never mentioned anything about a cult. He encourages Ally to check herself into a facility. He still doesn’t believe her. With a simple “fuck you,” Ally leaves.

The next day during a rally, Kai pledges himself to the people following Sally’s “suicide” while Ally watches from the sidelines before spotting Meadow. Meadow then pulls out a gun and shoots a bystander before shooting Kai in the leg. She then fires off into the audience. Ally attempts wrestle the gun from Meadow’s hands before Meadow kills herself, leaving the gun in Ally’s hands.

Flashing back AGAIN, we see that after Meadow tried to get out of the cult, Kai reeled her back in with his wordsmithing skills. Together, the two plan the failed assassination of Kai Anderson as well as Meadow’s betrayal of Ally. Did I mention that this conversation happens while Kai stars to bone Meadow?

Following the end of the shooting, Ally has been arrested, while Ivy appears to question what has happened. Is she going to swap sides? Is she finally feeling the weight of her actions?

Closing Thoughts

There are two big things going on in this episode. The first being the scene the episode supposedly revolves around: the mass shooting. I, for one, thought that while mass shootings are overplayed and generally unnecessary in television shows, not actually showing the violence was the best way to screen this scene. It is understandable that the opening scene played as stilted and short because of the fact that it was edited last minute (likely without enough coverage), but had it been constructed in this manner to begin with, it would’ve been a welcome, well-executed change from the normally over-the-top violence AHS generally exhibits.

The second big thing to talk about is the Meadow reveal. Not only was her escape from the cult just a ploy, but she also sacrificed her life for Kai’s cause. A cause that hasn’t actually been totally developed yet. It’s been impossible to tell anyone’s true intentions this season on AHS, so the “big reveal” doesn’t actually come as a surprise by the end of the episode, and is actually kind of disappointing. I’m still holding out hope that Dr. Vincent truly is in the dark about everything and just doing his job. I’ll take the Anderson sibling connection, but I’d actually be disappointed in Ryan Murphy if Dr. Vincent ended up a cult member. It would just be too obvious.

At least next week we have Francis Conroy to look forward to!

Images courtesy of FX

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