This American Horror Story: Cult review contains spoilers.
American Horror Story Season 7 Episode 4
Fear is a viable election campaign promise, but rage stuffs the ballot boxes on American Horror Story: Cult, season 7, episode 4, “11/9.” Candidates usually gather votes with a smile and a firm, but not creepy, handshake. In the old days, they’d kiss babies, and they still bring donuts for their supporters and home-made brownies for potential supporters. Everyone washes it down with at least a little Kool-Aid.
The cult at the center of the season is spiked with wild-eyed leader with crazy hair. But this is no Charles Manson, an uneducated, institutionally-raised petty hustler who could only gather sheep to follow him. Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) has no need for sheep. The sheep he runs into, he coerces to fleece themselves.
Before ascending the political ladder, Kyle spent his time coding in the basement. The seeming underachiever, who was clocked as a genius at 10 and invited to Mensa at 14, is looking to achieve. Kai is after world domination. He’s very upfront about it. He tells everyone he meets. Kids call him Mojo Jojo behind his back, and he paints smiley faces with distorted clown noses. Peters has what The Sopranos might call the “Manson Lamps” to pull it off Kai. He sees the clenched teeth behind the false smiles. He sees the blessed and righteous rage of personal humiliation. He is not blinded by divisive labels, like gay, bi, black, poor, liberal or conservative. “A man with no label has an allegiance to only what’s right,” he says.
The entire episode is a flashback to the lessons the small community, a petri dish, learns in the new Trump society. It all begins with humiliation. It is a universal handicap. No one is immune, even strong gay physical trainers demeaned into “cleanup in aisle 4” duty, which is cleaning the cum out of the steam rooms in a regulation gym. Not that there’s anything wrong with putting it there. Kai himself squeezes off excess protein in the shower, but spares anyone the humiliation of washing it off. He will clean it up himself.
The neighbors from hell were the neighbors in hell before the election. One blow after another has rocked them from their core and left them homeless. They kid themselves that all they need is each other and a decent cable provider, and that doing it twice in a beard marriage is satisfying. But they have thrown themselves off the grid. Kyle knows the codes to the grid and has already calculated that nowhere is a great place to be. What some call destitution, he calls freedom. His piercing eyes have nothing behind them, allowing him to be a mirror to the nobodies.
To live is to suffer and to suffer is to suffer and it means nothing but more suffering unless the pained find someone to believe in. Beverly Hope finds her significant other while reporting on a headless torso found in a landfill. Kai recruit her after he sees the false smile of humiliation peeking through her on air bonhomie. He rewinds and finds she was driven off the air by the very same force he wants to bring to a national stage. Trump supports felt entitled to yell “grab her in the pussy” one too many times before Beverly takes one down with a microphone to the cranium.
Beverly feeds her rage, which is something Kai can appreciate. If she feels good about slashing tires, he says, imagine slashing faces. He’s a tough talking white boy promising to deliver fear into community like a pathogen that gets stronger until it becomes a beast and Kai’s ears start to wiggle. But the veteran on-the-spot reporter has heard too many empty promises.
Adina Porter, who plays Beverly, lets her anger simmer before allowing it to enrage. But she is more frightening in her quiet moments. When she dismisses Kai, she does it with a regret much larger than one 30-year-old with streaked hair can justify. It’s the whole world of swallowed pride. Emma Roberts spits out another entitled, self-absorbed dazzler as Serena Belinda, who gets ahead by giving it. Her self-importance finally push Beverly, who is not around to enjoy it, over the edge.
During a live report, the clowns take out Serena, announcing their presence and instilling the necessary fear on the public’s subconscious for a community movement. Kai doesn’t only promise violent retribution, he delivers, and Beverly is converted in a heartbeat. The very next day on the air, reporting about a disembodied head that might fit on the bottom-heavy torso, she cements the fear. She asks how much more carnage she will have to report before people are afraid to even leave their houses. Setting up the future campaign.
As good as Kai is as a society exit counselor, Billie Lourd as Winter Anderson is a master mind manipulator. Winter sets her sights on Ivy Mayfair-Richards (Alison Pill), betrayed, groped, assaulted, avenged and assuaged in one fell swoop.
We see the initial betrayal early in the episode, the divisive wedge that keeps Ivy and Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson) from being part of history: The hated protest-vote for Jill Stein. By the end of the episode we realize Ivy’s been part of the cult all along and that all those crazy things Ally thinks she is imagining are true, and her wife Ivy is complicit. The cult can be anywhere. The episode uses it’s allotted “fuck” for the evening and raises the language by one “motherfucker.” And the mother who ultimately gets the honor is Ally.
The passions of Election night 2016 were so strong some people would give their right arms for the right to vote. Kai saves the very man his sister imprisons to keep out of the voting booth. After he casts his vote he hollers “Welcome to Trump’s America, motherfucker” in gratitude. This guy really stumps for Trump.
The episode may not be enough to convert new fans to American Horror Story: Cult, but to those preaching to the choir, the Kool-Aid is refreshing.
“11/9” was written by John J. Gray, and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton.