American Horror Story: Cult – Charles (Manson) In Charge
By: Kelly Kearney
Twists and big reveals dominate the penultimate episode of “American Horror Story,” showcasing Kai’s (Evan Peters) decent into madness and what, or should I say who, put him on his path to destruction. Backed by his loyal servants, Kai continues to gain political power which ignites his already growing paranoia. Add a few listening devices and a couple of pep talks from an imaginary Charles Manson and Kai’s fear cult is beginning to crumble with nobody to point the finger at but himself.
How it all began
It’s 2016 and we flashback to the Anderson basement where Winter (Billie Lourd), her two friends from Vassar and Kai are watching the presidential debates. According to the women, Clinton is a slam dunk to win and the three women gloat and mock Kai for his support of Trump. Things get heated when the Trump jokes lead to questions about Kai’s sexual prowess that hammer away at his beloved ego. He snaps and slaps one of Winter’s friends (Sarah Yarkin) who then freaks out and says she’s pressing charges on her blue haired attacker and she wasn’t kidding. Weeks later we find Kai in a shrink’s office for his court ordered anger management and his psychologist is none other than feminist SCUM rabble rouser, BeBe Babbitt (Frances Conroy)! Not only is BeBe his counselor, but thinks Kai is the perfect person to unleash feminine rage on the world, fulfilling her beloved Valerie’s plans to end the patriarchy. Is Kai’s cult just a pawn in Solanas’ plot for Womyn World Domination? BeBe seems to think Kai’s misogynistic personality is exactly what will enflame feminists across the planet to adopt SCUM as their manifesto to change the world. Kai goes along with BeBe’s plans and even kneels before her and says, “I’m a turd, a lowly turd.” But is he just telling Babbitt what she wants to hear? Possibly; however, even if his cult started out as a do-over to Valerie’s Zodiac debacle, Kai’s tasted power and he’s not about to give it up for any movement for female empowerment.
Cut to Kai’s basement and his members are dressed in their long white onesies and gathering their sleeping bags for a story about Charles Manson; his rise to fame and eventual downfall. Beginning with the murders on Cielo drive, Kai spins a tale that finds the cast playing double duty as the Manson cult members. Laying out the gruesome events of that night, Kai describes the killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate (Rachel Roberts) and her friends. With Tex Watson (Billy Eichner) and Patricia Krenwinkle (Leslie Grossman) tying up Tate and Linda Kasabian (Billie Lourd) watching from outside, Susan “Sadie” Atkins (Sarah Paulson) delivers the death blow that kills the actress who’s begging for the life her unborn baby. Sadie shows no signs of remorse and neither do Tex and Patricia who go on to murder Jay Sebring (Charlie Farrell), Wojciech Frykowski (Miraj Grbic) and coffee heiress Abigail Folger (Alexandra Marian-Hensley). It’s a heart breaking and violent scene that ends with Sadie decorating the house with Manson’s signature bloody calling card “PiG.” Kai explains that the world was forever changed after that night and it was exactly what Charlie was hoping for. Gone were the days of the free love hippie movement, sullied by Manson’s quest for a race war. Helter Skelter ushered in the death of a dream that left peace and love choking on its own blood in a Beverly Hills living room. Like all of Kai’s cult themed stories, the moral of this one is “trust no one,” something that Charlie never learned. Kai’s bros, who really aren’t history buffs, assumed Charlie was successful at sparking his race war over the murders yet Kai slaps some reality into them, explaining that his quest was cut short by a traitorous woman. One of Manson’s trusted and most loyal servants turned on him and later led to the cult leader’s arrest. It’s a cautionary tale to Kai’s followers that disloyalty will not be tolerated. The problem is, Kai is slipping further and further into his own paranoia and is convinced his cult has a mole. A mole that’s tipping off the feds with every step closer he gets to the Senate seat.
Killing one of your own
As Kai’s mental stability declines, he’s convinced he has a traitor in his midst. That’s why it’s no surprise when he orders his cult to kill Gary (Chaz Bono) the handless Trump fanatic, to spread more fear and cement him in the polls for his Senate run. Kai lets Gary know that his death will not be in vein and even though he’s going to miss out on story time with the boys, dying is more productive to the movement than living. Gary halfheartedly agrees right before the cult members tear him to shreds inside a local Planned Parenthood Clinic. Of course, Beverley Hope (Adina Porter) is first on the scene (and out of her isolation room) to report the news that another murder has gripped the Michigan town and it’s all Senator Herbert Jackson’s (Dennis Cockrum) fault – the man running against Kai. Hope is beaten down and playing flunky to Kai’s agenda, a plot that his opponent calls transparent.
Speaking of obvious, Winter finds it bizarre that Ivy (Alison Pill) would leave her and Ozzy (Cooper Dodson) behind for a Paris culinary school, but when she asks Ally (Sarah Paulson) about it it’s obvious Winter is still on the woman’s revenge list. Ally dodges Winter’s theories that Kai must’ve done something to Ivy because she would never leave without telling anyone. Ally laughs and says she doesn’t know her wife every well and besides, if something did happen who’s to say it was Kai who did it? Ally is playing fast and loose with her own sanity to gain the trust of Kai, but will his sister buy her loyalty act?
As family loyalty goes, even Winter’s is waning and she offers the distraught Beverley a way out with a train ticket to Montana. She claims she feels guilty for how Hope was treated, but Beverly is not buying her friendly act. She refuses the ticket and accuses Winter of testing her loyalty to the cause. She tells Winter to relay a message to Kai – “Tell divine ruler I would never run, ever.” Beverly might be a broken and forever changed, but she’s not stupid and knows that the brother and sister team are trying to weed out the weakest links and she is not falling for it.
The Ghost of Charles Manson
Beverly should’ve taken that train ticket and run because Kai is falling deeper into his own insanity now that the ghost of the not quite dead Charles Manson (also played by Evan Peters) starts calling the shots from inside Kai’s head. When Kai searches the house and cult family ice cream truck looking for bugs he never finds, he takes a time out to discuss his options with his dead brother’s corpse in the room upstairs. That’s when Manson enters to tell Kai to, “identity the Judas” of the cult, which just fuels Kai’s already increasingly destructive paranoia. The obvious choice would be newcomer Ally, but she redeems herself when she shows Kai a bug she found that looks suspiciously like a Fit Bit battery. Not only has Ally proven her loyalty with finding the bug, but she also saves Kai’s life from BeBe Babbitt. Since Kai betrayed the SCUM agenda, Babbitt shows up to kill him; however, Ally steps in and shoots her in the head – proving how far she will go to enact her revenge. Wouldn’t it have been easier to let BeBe kill Kai and then Ally could run with Ozzy? Yes, but as Ally told Ivy before she killed her revenge is the only thing keeping her going and she wasn’t about to let BeBe take that from her. Of course, after watching Ally take down BeBe, Charles Manson tells Kai that she can’t be the Judas so that leaves just one choice…Winter.
Kai calls Winter upstairs to help him shave his face and head (a definite sign that things are unraveling) and it’s more an exercise in trust then it is a grooming session. Winter gets emotional about fixing her relationship with her brother, but she might need to go away for a while to set herself straight. Kai is one step ahead of her and offers her the same ticket she tried manipulating Beverly with. Winter knows this is a bad sign, but before she can process what’s happening Kai’s thugs drag her kicking and screaming down to the basement.
On her knees and surrounded by the entire cult, Kai accuses Winter of being a mole and shows her the bug Ally found, which he assumes his sister planted. She immediately tells Kai he’s being manipulated by Ally and the bug is a batter yet he’s too paranoid to know the difference. Ally jumps to Kai’s defense and simplifies the mole theory by saying it’s obvious since Winter is a Hillary supporter. That’s when Kai wraps his hands around Winter’s throat and chokes the life out of her. He’s managed to kill his brother and sister and Ally seems pleased with how her revenge schemes are panning out.
As for the mole, there actually is one and Ally figures it out when she sees the low level, onesie wearing thug Speed Wagon (Cameron Cowperthwaite) exit the basement in a panic and head to his car. She follows and confronts him with a “hello Speed Wagon,” just as he’s removing the wire from under his clothes and bashing it on the car dashboard.
Will Ally and Speed Wagon team up to take down Kai? Will Kai regret killing Winter when he realizes he’s been manipulated by the mother of his messiah child? Will Beverly join Ally and Speed Wagon in the ultimate take down since the Manson women flipped on their leader Charlie? Find out in the last and final episode of “American Horror Story: Cult.”