Sunday, June 23, 2024

Valerie Solanas is SCUM

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Now past the season’s mid-point, this week’s episode of American Horror Story: Cult, opens on Valerie’s (Lena Dunham) face as she’s having sex in a car, bored. Same (already). She doesn’t accept the ten bucks her John offers her.

The year is 1968 and Valerie, an obvious crazy person, is out to get Andy Warhol (Evan Peters), because he lost her script. Not that it matters though, since according to him, women cannot be serious creators. As wrong as he is, I actually found myself rooting for him because Valerie has absolutely zero redeeming qualities. She made me wish we were back to the overly violent scenes of previous episodes.

With a yell of “down with the patriarchy,” Valerie fires a shot into Warhol’s chest. According to a quick Wikipedia search, Warhol was actually shot by Valerie Solanas. It wasn’t the bullet that killed him, though, rather the aftermath of a gallbladder surgery twenty years later.

After a seemingly random opening, we return to the aftermath of the shooting. While Ally (Sarah Paulson) is still considered a suspect, the news reports that Meadow (Leslie Grossman) was the shooter at the rally. Harrison claims that Meadow’s diary reports a hatred of Kai and a love for Hillary Clinton. The news also reports that Kai (Evan Peters) has officially won the race for city council.

Some time later, Beverly Hope (Idina Porter) exits the news station to find an unknown person waiting for her. And it’s Frances Conroy. Finally something exciting in this episode! The mysterious woman doesn’t buy the story behind the shooting and calls it out for what it really is: a set up.

Such a great, needlessly dramatic, entrance

Beverly shakes the woman off, however, and finds herself at Kai’s house, surrounded by skinhead types there to protect Kai and help disperse his message. When Beverly asserts that she doesn’t feel the equal power that Kai promised, however, Kai shakes her off. He has a plan.

Not convinced, Beverly finds herself at the hotel room of the unknown woman from the parking lot. Finally introduced as Bebe Babbett, the mysterious woman is brought to The Butchery on Main by Beverly where she tells Ivy (Allison Pill) and Winter (Billie Lourd) the story of Valerie Solanas — the love of her life.

The story, told as a flashback, gives us great cameos from Ryan Murphy alums Dot Marie Jones and Jamie Brewer. Valerie insists that any man not part of her group need to be killed. It’s unclear whether we’re supposed to like Valerie or not, or just believe in her manifesto, but any flashback with Valerie makes me just want to shut off the television. Did I mention that Valerie also thinks any woman who sleeps with a man should also die?

According to Bebe, Valerie shooting Warhol was their groups sign to start killing. So they kill random couples that they find in sexual situations. The punch line of this story? Valerie’s crew, SCUM (Society for Cutting up Men) as they called themselves…they were the Zodiac Killer. Ugh.

Not! The! Zodiac! Killer!

Winter attempts to discredit Bebe, but the woman sticks with her claim of being part of the Zodiac killings as she continues her story. Bebe explains that Valerie organized the crimes from her place at the hospital for the criminally insane. When a man starts taking credit for the murders in the newspapers, Valerie grows more insane and finally gets out of the “nuthouse” and returns to the SCUM group.

Upon her return, Valerie accuses one of the two men in her group of being the Zodiac pretender. Subsequently, the rest of the group murder him. After the murder, Valerie goes to the police to take credit for the Zodiac killings, but is chased away as a crazy person. So she snapped. She plots the deaths of high profile men such as High Hefner and Steve McQueen and grows crazier until every one of the SCUM members leaves her.

Finally we return to present day, after what seems like forever, and the women of Kai’s cult seem to have fully embraces Bebe and her ideology, which seems to be the same as Valerie’s, but even that isn’t totally clear.

In a quiet moment at the Anderson house, Winter finds Kai at the bed of his rotting parents and the two have a heart to heart before Kai reveals that he found a SCUM manifesto in her bedroom. Instead of discrediting it, however, Kai finds the manifesto inspiring. Instead of using SCUM, however, he offers up using MLWB — Men Lead, Women Bleed. When Winter gives him a disgusted look, he claims it was Harrison’s (Billy Eichner) idea.

Back at the Butchery on Main, the women of the cult, plus Bebe bring Harrison to his knees, literally. From there, they threaten Harrison’s life as they demand answers regarding Meadow’s death and the shooting. As Bebe watches on proudly, the cult women kill Harrison by cutting him to pieces.

The next day, Beverly reports on Harrison’s death as Kai watches from his couch. He claims the women are at their best when angry. And who does he say this to? Bebe. Obviously.

Closing Thoughts

Each week so far this season has relied heavily on flashbacks, but none more than this week’s. In fact, there were times I felt I was watching a show about Valerie Solanas, rather than American Horror Story: Cult. I also couldn’t help but wonder if Lena Dunham actually was actually playing herself as Valerie Solanas.

Now that we’re halfway through the season, I would’ve loved to have seen more progress in the plot. Other than the murder of Harrison (which admittedly is kind of important), nothing of importance really happened in the present this week.

American Horror Story has a history of injecting itself into history, but claiming Valerie Solanas and SCUM were responsible for the Zodiac Killings? That doesn’t even come off as a reasonable explanation.

Though the “plot twist” at the end of the episode of Bebe working with Kai wasn’t terribly surprising. Adding Frances Conroy’s character as an important one going forward may be the best thing this episode had to offer. If only because Frances Conroy always tends to portray one of the more interesting characters on AHS.

Images courtesy of FX

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