This American Horror Story: Cult review contains spoilers.
American Horror Story: Cult Episode 8
American Horror Story: Cult season 7, episode 8, “Winter of Our Discontent,” brings the political melting pot to a boil, burning off the rough edges of possible betrayal and commitment. The title is based on the last novel by John Steinbeck, who was deriding what he saw as the decline of the western civilization that started in the 1950s. Steinbeck based his title on the first two lines of William Shakespeare’s Richard III: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York.” The title character in Shakespeare’s play was the Machiavellian hunchback King Richard III of England, who makes Kai look positively benign as a despot. Richard had children killed, betrayed everyone around him and, ultimately, to paraphrase Charles Montgomery Burns of The Simpsons, gave it all up for just a little bit more. Oh and a horse.
Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) is rising in stature on the national scale, even his older brother is proud of him. Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) delivered his highest priority patient, Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson), to the new city councilman, along with some edible arrangements, as congratulations on his new appointment. Rudy isn’t quite sure which side he falls, as his brother rises, and throws enough ambiguity around to confuse everyone’s loyalties. At least he gets to call his brother “councilman.” Rudy gets outmaneuvered by his formerly phobia-ridden patient, who counts herself cured of all fears by the political shooting star. Allie comes out of the asylum with a new sense of style and purpose. She’s given up on her wife Ivy (Alison Pill), but rather than beat her in the match to win custody of her son, she joins and wins both.
Beverly Hope Adina Porter) is not going down without a fight. Unlike Kai, who was some cop’s bitch in a former life, Beverly isn’t going down at all. Beverly wants to cut off the head of the snake so the grunts will crumble in on each other. She promises Winter she will kill her brother if she has to spend one more week on KP duty. Depending on which story you buy, Beverly may have already been on her way to fucking up the clown prince of Smalltown, USA and the horse he rode in on. Even when she is down on her knees, with her hands tied, surrounded by malicious malevolent malchicks, the first thing that spouts out of her mouth when they remove the gag is accusation. She’s filled with all the fire that made Kai love her in the first place. He promised her an equal space at the table and then took away the chair. But even on her knees, Beverly demands equality. He gives it to her. She is exactly equal to everyone else in the isolation chamber.
Isolation chamber? Even a political genius like Kai couldn’t have come up with an idea that original. He stole it from the sin-saving house of horrors at Pastor Charles’ church of pain and damnation. Jesus Saves, the neon light says, but Jesus is one scary dude. What with the men laying with men lying in a pit of unsavory sauce. This house of horrors is right up there with the Cortez Hotel in American Horror Story: Hotel as far as ghastly interiors. But wide is the gate and broad the way that leadeth to destruction.
“Help me. I killed my baby and now I’m bleeding to death,” says a prone woman in the gynecological stirrups of a horse doctor’s delivery stable in one room of the haunted house. Another room house a man who has been corrupted with the drugs of his choice. Ecstasy, opioids and cocaine have made his body a bag of mush. Winter realizes the house is no Halloween treat just before she almost gets tricked into joining the cast. But Kai saves his sister from the sinister minister’s ministrations only to dupe her into incest-by-proxy. Winter makes it with the blonde cop Samuel, who’s taking it from Kai in a more than brotherly way, in a venal attempt at sacred copulation to create the new messiah, a first of many. Winter has come a long way since that women’s march a month ago. The arcs of all the characters have been spoiled by the new covenant.
With “Winter of Our Discontent,” American Horror Story: Cult goes really dark. The series ventures into a contemporary dystopia, just like the one we’re living, only with more sad clowns. Ultimately everyone is a betrayer, and everyone gets stabbed in the back, unless they are knifed in the throat. The show doesn’t end on a completely down note, though. In the series’ traditional last-minute twist, we learn Allie is going to get her son back after all.
“Winter of Our Discontent” was written by Joshua Green, and directed by Barbara Brown.