Much like the reality-television style of AHS: Roanoke, Cult’s main cast is being eliminated one by one. But this time, none of our three finalists are really a surprise. Ally and Kai have been the yin and yang of this season, destined to face off in a climactic showdown. As for Beverly, her decline from fierce media personality to traumatised victim has been too much fun to let her go to waste.
Starting with a flashback to pre-election Kai and Winter, we once again revisit the political origins of AHS: Cult. Hillary vs Trump, or as this season so satirically portrays, the arrogance of the left vs loathing of the right. We find out that at this time Kai’s fragile ego and inner rage led him to anger management sessions with Bebe Babbitt. During their meetings, she recognised his untapped potential to lead a revolution, aggravate women, and thus provoke the matriarchy to revive Valerie Solanas’ SCUM manifesto.
When Bebe realises Kai has taken off with this idea in his own direction, she intends to put a bullet through his head – only to have one put through hers by Ally. Her plan was never going to work. Kai is a complete wild card, and how Bebe couldn’t see this is beyond me. All in all, it is a little disappointing to see how this subplot fizzled out after a few episodes of being left ignored.
Catching up with our main characters in the present day, Kai’s descent into paranoid madness is at an all-time peak. Maybe it’s the Ritalin, maybe it’s the power going to his head, but there is undoubtedly something that is responsible for his mental breakdown. His most recent cultish obsession is revealed through a late night story-telling session, taking us back to the Manson Family Murders of the 1960’s.
In a grindhouse-style sequence we are introduced to the chilling Manson Family cult members. They bear striking resemblances to members of Kai’s own cult, with Charles himself being played by Evan Peters. AHS is known to have actors playing different characters from season to season, but the use of this device in this particular scene teases the idea that perhaps Kai is simply telling his own version of historical events, whereby the charismatic leader is freakishly similar to himself.
Inspired by the Manson Family’s murder of the pregnant Sharon Tate, Kai announces a “Night of a Thousand Tates” – with some vague connection to a pro-life attack on Planned Parenthood. To be honest, it seems like it was just an excuse to work in a story about Charles Manson.
The plan goes down a completely different direction anyway, with the cult sacrificing Gary and leaving his bloody, beaten corpse outside a Planned Parenthood centre. The aim is to frame left-wingers, but this confusingly contradicts itself when the cult also leaves a “Stop the Slaughter” sign next to his body. If they were framing Planned Parenthood, why would they leave him with a pro-life sign? I don’t really have any answers for this, and frankly it just feels like messy writing.
A shining light in this episode though is Adina Porter’s beautifully broken reporter, Beverly. The abuse she has suffered at Kai’s hands has damaged her beyond repair, to the point that she cannot bring herself to escape the cult even when Winter offers her the perfect opportunity to do so. This shift in Beverly’s character has been gradual and absolutely earned. Even though it has often been relegated to the background, her season-long development has been a constantly intriguing dissection of the hive mind mentality.
Then in a strange twist of fate, Kai finds out about Beverly’s ticket to freedom and believes that Winter bought the ticket for herself. In a fit of tears and fury, she has the life choked out of her with Kai’s bare hands wrapped around her neck. It is sad to see her depart without fully understanding her true intentions, but for Kai this act of desperation goes to demonstrate that he has truly hit rock bottom. Looking back, it is hard to see how Winter’s tragic story could have ended any other way.
At this key point in the story arc it is disheartening to have an episode that attempts to tie up loose ends, but fails to create a storyline as cohesive as last week’s ‘Drink the Kool-Aid’. Considering the mostly consistent season we’ve had so far though, we can still hope that next week’s season finale will satisfy our dark, sinister desires.
What did you think of the episode? Tell us in the comments below!