American Horror Story: Cult – Election Night
By: Kelly Kearney
For some, November 8, 2016 was a true American horror story. The night where a real estate tycoon and reality show host shocked the nation by defeating the projected winner Hillary Clinton. As outcomes go, many Americans found this win a hard reality to swallow, turning fear into the new American pastime, with many wondering what would become of a nation so heavily divided. Ryan Murphy saw this unrest as the perfect platform for the seventh season of his hit show “American Horror Story” and if the first few minutes of the opener are anything to go by, fans of the show are in for one wild and horrific time.
In the era of television and internet, Americans are inundated with glimpses of a nation in turmoil and a division that goes deep into the roots of who we are as a nation. “American Horror Story” opens with real footage of the months preceding the election. Cities in chaos, riots rule the nightly news, the rise of white supremacy and general unrest usher in election night and set the tone for a country fearful with what’s to come. Nobody felt this more than Ally, the suburban lesbian mother who sees Donald Trump as a trigger to all her deep seeded fears. When the results are in, Ally (Sarah Paulson) is in complete denial and panic since all the news outlets had Clinton ahead in the polls. She goes from disbelief to panic attack quickly while her wife Ivy (Alison Pill) tries to keep her and their son Ozzie (Cooper Dodson) calm. Like many frightened LGBT Americans, the question of if their marriage will remain intact upsets the couple and their son, making it seem like everything in their lives changed in a split second with this announcement. Joining Ally and Ivy in their shock and awe are their neighbors the Changs who are also struggling with the results and playing the blame game. Mr. Chang (Tim Kang) turns on his wife (Nanrisa Lee) and blames her for not voting since Michigan is a swing state and Clinton lost by such a small margin. Everyone in the house is fueled by fear and the unknown, but in a basement across town a blue haired Kai (Evan Peters) is celebrating his candidate’s win. “The revolution has begun,” he screams, right before he coats his face like war paint in crushed Cheetos. The reactions of Ally and Kai might be an over exaggerated look at how Americans felt that night, but it certainly creates a mood that things are about to get much worse than any gallop poll could have predicted.
Ally and Ivy aren’t the only ones triggered by this win. Kai’s sister Winter (Billie Lourde), who spent the last year campaigning for Clinton, is on the phone with her friend utterly devastated. She even wonders how the news could post the results without prefacing them with a trigger warning. Interrupting her mini-break down is her Cheeto faced brother who she assumes came into her room to gloat. Winter tries kicking Kai out, but he refuses to leave and the vibe changes when he reaches out and the two link pinky fingers like some kind of promise. “I’m afraid,” the grey-haired Winter says. A smiling Kai replies, “Everyone is.”
TWISTY THE CLOWN…
The familiar and horrifying Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) the clown from “Freakshow” is back and doing what he does best, murdering and terrorizing young lovers in the woods. The surreal and bloody death scene seems to be in the mind of young Ozzie, who’s reading a Twisty comic book and letting his imagination run wild. Ally comes into tuck her son into bed and assumes he’s peaking at some pornographic magazine since he’s hiding it under the covers. She tells him to hand it over and is immediately paralyzed with fear when she spots the evil clown on the cover. It seems that Ally has a host of phobias, clowns being one, and she goes into a full-on deafening panic at the sight of Twisty. Ivy comes into the rescue and reminds their son of his mother’s phobias while promising her frightened wife that they will get through this together.
Across town the local city council is holding a meeting over whether or not to add more security to the local Jewish community center. At the time of the election, Jewish centers across the nation were inundated with bomb threats and fear was rampant. Fear is what Kai is at the meeting to discuss. Dressed in a suit, with his blue hair tied back, Kai approaches the podium where he occupies the counsel’s attention with a bizarre rant about fear being what separates the strong from the weak. He says they didn’t need more cops. They need less. And as for protecting the Jewish center, they need to blow it up. Fear is what all humans love and it will be the deciding factor in who survives this new world, post-election and who gets swallowed up by it. The council is disgusted by his speech and his belief that fear will somehow cull the heard and leave behind a ruling class that welcomes fear rather than runs from it. The head councilman mocks Kai’s stance and the board votes to add more police to the center. Feeling defeated, Kai begins to leave but doesn’t miss the opportunity to threaten the panel when he says that there is nothing more dangerous than a humiliated man.
ATTACK OF THE KILLER CLOWNS…
During some much-needed therapy we learn Ally has more phobias than your average person, including a fear of blood, darkness, tiny holes and a host of others. Her struggles are not new and stem from the trauma she felt in college after the 9/11 attacks – a trauma she pulled herself out of with the help of her wife Ivy and the life they built together. Set with a prescription for anti-anxiety medications, Ally heads to the grocery store where she thinks a gang of clowns is following her – clowns behind her, clowns having sex in the produce aisle and clowns on scooters wielding knives and using her phobias like weapons. She freaks and grabs a bottle of Rose’, chucks it at the scooter clown’s head, runs to her car and winds up crashing it when she sees one of the painted faced monsters in her back seat. Of course, once Ivy brings Ally home, the cops found no evidence of any killer clown sexcapades, all the store’s surveillance footage shows is Ally screaming and waving the wine bottle around. Ivy is starting to doubt Ally’s stability and on top of that their business is suffering because of it. The two own a restaurant called The Butchery and since the election Ally’s fear has trumped her work ethic, not to mention their sex life which is seriously struggling. Ivy is not happy and there is definite trouble in lady love land.
After work, the two are walking through town discussing the fact they need to hire a new nanny for Oz when they run into Kai who throws a latte in their faces and is generally rude and threatening. He is the face of this new post-election America and the encounter becomes a catalyst for another argument between the couple.
Not too surprising, Winter answers the nanny add and meets with Ally and Ivy. She seems like a perfect fit for the liberal lesbian couple, but as Winter answers their questions the scene cuts to her locking fingers with Kai and playing a brutally honest truth game. He asks a slew of inappropriate questions and her answers seem to coincide with the ones she’s giving Ally and Ivy. Is Winter just looking for a stable job after taking a year off of college to find herself or did Kai send her to this meeting for some other nefarious reasons? Of course, Winter gets the job as Oz’s nanny while her brother is running around town throwing urine filled condoms on Latinos and secretly recording his own, totally deserved, ass kicking.
IS THIS A DREAM?
Trying to find some piece of normalcy in their lives, Ivy cooks Ally a romantic dinner at their restaurant. Everything seems to be going well until Ally sees a masturbatory clown relieving himself in her soup as well as a bleeding and holey crumpet on her plate. The frightened woman goes on a screaming rampage and Ivy is at a loss as to how to handle her wife, who’s quickly losing her grip on reality. Not only are there no clowns, but there also no bleeding crumpets, which makes Ally question her own sanity. Ivy convinces her to take one of her anxiety pills. but things go haywire when they get home and see their street blocked off by police.
While his parents were at The Butchery, Winter and Oz were getting to know one another. She notices the young boy drawing Twisty death scenes and takes it upon herself to introduce him to the dark web and an endless loop of real life murder videos that no child should ever see. So, it’s no surprise that when Oz hears an Ice Cream truck outside in the middle of the night he sees a group of murderous clowns climb out. He drags Winter outside ad across the street where they witness the Changs getting slaughtered in some clown/Manson murder copycat death scene.
When his panicked Mothers arrive, Oz tells them what he saw yet Winter denies everything. She claims he was reading the Twisty horror comic and must be confused. When Ally hears clowns, she starts to panic and demands answers from the detective on the scene who assures her the Changs died from a murder suicide and nobody else was involved. With their friends both dead and their son traumatized, the couple goes to bed only for Ally to awaken when she hears a noise. She whispers to her wife that she hears something but when Ivy doesn’t respond. Ally turns over and screams. Ivy’s not next to her. It’s an evil clown in their bed! It ends with Ally screaming, but are her triggers invading her dreams? Who knows. But for an opening episode Election Night really brought the terror making Cult one of the scariest “American Horror Story,” premieres to date.