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American Horror Story: Cult premiere is bizarre, underwhelming and something new

By Katie Decker-Jacoby

Section: Arts

September 8, 2017

The FX anthology series American Horror Story (AHS) is back, but not better than ever. The last AHS episode to air was “Chapter 10” of Season 6 Roanoke November 16, 2016, so it has been quite a while for AHS fanatics. We’ve been waiting not so patiently for Season 7 of Cult. A lot of hype gathered around this season, especially as it is based in suburban Michigan during the 2016 presidential election. AHS creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk injected today’s extremely relevant political strife into this season, and they did so with full force. They didn’t just leave subtle hints of Trump, Clinton and the election. The premiere, dubbed “Election Night,” starts off with media clips of the actual election. First up on the screen are news headlines, and of course, the faces of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Murphy and Falchuk make their intentions clear from the get-go.

Ally (Sarah Paulson) seems to be the main protagonist. She lives comfortably with her partner, Ivy (Alison Pill), and son, Oz (Cooper Dodson). The two run a restaurant together and reside in a beautiful, spacious suburban abode. However, viewers quickly understand that Ally deals with very serious anxiety, including intense panic attacks. Clowns and other strange things (like tiny holes) haunt and upset her, resulting in a turbulent time in her life and marriage. Her fear of clowns is clearly going to continue to negatively impact her relationships. Ivy is growing more impatient and less forgiving with Ally, and the couple’s young son is seeing a different side of his seemingly perfect little family.

Meanwhile, Kai (Evan Peters) is a peculiar and rambunctious young man who yells and then humps the television when he watches Trump win it all on television. Kai sports long blue hair, which he ties into a bun when he vehemently protests against additional security at a Jewish Community Center. This leads into Kai’s parting words with the council: “There’s nothing more dangerous in this world as a humiliated man.” This stand-out quote definitely sets the tone for Kai’s character and his foreseeable role as a villain throughout the remainder of the season.

The most ambiguous character in this season premiere is Winter (Billie Lourd), who viewers can assume to be Kai’s sister since they both share the same last name of Anderson. Winter is introduced as a huge Hillary supporter and initially shows distaste towards Kai when Trump wins. Then, out of the blue and with no clear explanation, they twist their pinkies together, signifying some probably evil pact. Kai coats his face with Cheeto puff dust and outlines his eyes with rough eyeliner as they form this unsaid pact.

Winter comes back into the frame as Oz’s new babysitter. In the job interview, she presents herself as a firm Hillary proponent and extremely kid-friendly ex-Vassar student. All seems okay, but her ominous pinky promise with Kai looms in the background. By the end of the episode, all is not okay. Winter is the world’s worst babysitter. She seems kind of evil, but her loyalties are ultimately unclear.

It is, however, clear that Murphy and Falchuk aim to criticize both liberals and conservatives throughout this episode. They condemn the privilege of white, affluent liberals like Ally and Ivy. They also make fun of Winter, who left Vassar to join the Hillary movement, who bragged about the time Lena Dunham retweeted her tweet and pondered the reason behind CNN not giving viewers a trigger warning before the election broadcast.

The two AHS creators also bash on conservatives. Kai pees into a condom and and throws it at a group of racially diverse construction workers. He also speaks against extra security at the threatened Jewish center, advocating using fear to control people. He abruptly spills his drink all over Ally and Ivy on the streets, not apologizing and instead calling them a bitch.

Clearly, Murphy and Falchuk want to make a political statement on the current political climate of our country. They create this frightening, chaotic world that has the potential of turning into a reality (besides the killer clowns). Their message is bold and attacks both sides of the political spectrum, which certainly takes guts.

The premiere ends with a—you guessed it—murder. What else would you expect from AHS? The murder ending may have been predictable, but feelings of disappointment were not. I admittedly binge watched seasons one through five of AHS last school year while trying to juggle school work and extracurricular activities. AHS is just so addicting. Since AHS is an anthology series, each season has a unique storyline and new set of characters, so you can jump in whenever you please. However, I watched one episode after the other. Rinse and repeat.

The first season was Murder House (2011); then came Asylum (2012-13); Coven followed (2013-14); next up was Freak Show (2014-15); Hotel (2015-2016) succeeded Freak Show; and finally, Roanoke (2016), which I have not been able to watch yet. Murder House, Asylum and Coven were spectacular, while Freak Show and Hotel were not. What is undeniably true to any AHS devotee are the unbelievable acting performances by Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates throughout the six, now seven, episode series. AHS fans are expecting more outstanding performances by Peters and Paulson in this season, along with newcomers Colton Haynes and Lena Dunham. Not to mention, Freak Show veteran Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) returns for a cameo at the very beginning of the Cult premiere.

Nonetheless, Cult is off to a weird, unpredictable, somewhat confusing start. I am not sure how I feel after watching the first episode of the season plus next week’s episode preview, but I am left a bit disappointed and underwhelmed. The characters are so far pretty outlandish, the plot is just okay and there are no jump scares. Although this season strays away from the realm of the supernatural for the first time ever and instead spotlights today’s political landscape, it is hard to tell if Cult will prevail and please the masses. Murphy and Falchuk have created such a successful and popular enterprise out of AHS, but whether Cult will live up to the series’ high standards or not will be determined soon. Brandeis Students can decide for themselves by indulging in AHS Cult on FX every Tuesday at 10 p.m.

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