American Horror Story: Cult “Mid-Western Assassin” REVIEW

American Horror Story: Cult “Mid-Western Assassin” REVIEW

0 comments 📅20 October 2017, 23:01

Airing in the UK on FOX, Fridays at 10pm
Todd Kubrak
Director: Bradley Buecker

Essential Plot Points:

  • A shooting takes place at Kai’s first political rally. Ivy is pinned down, hysterical with terror when the SWAT team arrive. The shooter is apparently Ally.
  • And Kai is apparently dead.
  • Roll credits.
  • We’re back in the last episode with Meadow explaining about the cult to Ally.
  • Doctor Vincent calls and tries to persuade Ally to forget everything. Clearly not believing him, she fobs him off and breaks into Meadow and Harrison’s house.
  • Where she finds Harrison and Detective Samuels having sex. She sneaks past them, steals Harrison’s keys and rescues Meadow from where she’s been bound and gagged in the garage.
  • Meadow takes her handbag, which makes noise and attracts their attention. Meadow maces Harrison and the two women flee to Ally’s car.
  • They flee to the restaurant. Where Meadow quietly steals things and Ally, being reasonable for the first time this entire season, politely and firmly asks her for some ANSWERS.
  • Meadow breaks it down:
  • Ivy let them in on the night the hamster was killed.
  • There was nothing in the trucks.
  • The birds were killed all over the city.
  • Ally is just one of several ‘projects’.
  • Ally buys NOTHING. Ivy isn’t a joiner, she doesn’t believe in ANYTHING. And Meadow tells her that’s the point.
  • She puts the news on. Kai has a 16 point lead. He’s going to get the spot on the board.
  • We flashback to December 2016. Harrison and Samuels are cuddling in Kai’s basement. Meadow is sketching. She explains that she didn’t know true love until she met Kai. We see him compliment her on her art as she explains how deeply and purely she loves him. And how that love was tied to her rage at the way that the world’s ridiculous standards for feminine success have left her behind.
  • And then she finds Kai saying the exact same things to Ivy…
  • Meadow leaves. Or tries to. When she’s confronted by Kai, Harrison and Samuels tie her up, then untie her and prepare to bury her.
  • Which is the point where anyone else would become a teensy little bit suspicious.
  • But all Ally can hear is that Meadow thinks Kai has to die…
  • Jump forward to April 3rd 2017 where Kai is holding a rally. He’s confronted by a woman named Sally Kefler who doesn’t believe a single thing he’s pedaling. She sees right through him. Even when he tries to rally the crowd around him.
  • She takes him DOWN. And then announces her candidacy.
  • Kai’s in trouble.
  • Or perhaps, they both are.
  • Flashback to the day after the election. Ivy is freaking out that Gary (Still the worst by the way) voted and will recognize them.  Winter assures Ivy that Kai can fix anything…
  • Kai has her pinky swear, having laid out everything he knows she did.
  • They drill down to the truth; that Ivy hates Ally. And hates her because Ally was the only one who could carry Ozzy to term.
  • Ivy is done. She’s tired of Ally’s entitlement. She’s tired of her phobias. She’s TIRED of everything. Especially Ally.
  • Kai has the solution. Winter.
  • Ally tells him she wants Oz as well. Kai asks if she ever thought about murder. When she balks he tells her they’ll just have to make sure no court ever grants Ally custody…
  • Ally takes Meadow to Doctor Vincent and tells him to watch Meadow. She’ll be back in two hours…
  • Sally Kefler is at home when there’s a pounding on the door. She grabs a gun. It’s Ally, who’s begging to speak to her.
  • Ally lays it all out. Sally’s completely unsurprised. She knows Kai’s no good. They start top plan and then…the clowns break in.
  • Ally runs.
  • Sally faces them down, gun in hand and is instantly overpowered.
  • Kai writes a suicide note on her Facebook page. And then shoots and kills Sally.
  • Ally screams. And Kai sends Ivy to go find her.
  • They face each other and Ally recognizes her wife under the mask. Then, Kai calls her and she leaves Ally unharmed.
  • She gets back to Doctor Vincent’s and is horrified to see Meadow has left. She walks RIGHT up to putting it together but Vincent steers her away from it. He suggests she check herself into a facility and Ally, the scales fallen from her eyes, realizes he doesn’t believe. She’s alone.
  • She tells him where to go and leaves.
  • Then we’re back at the rally. We see Kai simultaneously offer condolences for Sally’s ‘suicide’ and bury her for being too much of a coward to live.
  • Ally spots Meadow, who heads for the stage.
  • Meadow’s the shooter.
  • Ally tries to wrestle the fun from her. Then Meadow says ‘This is the face of true love’, puts the gun in her mouth and pulls the trigger.
  • We flash back to the night Meadow ‘left’ the cult. Kai talks to her, cuts her bonds and explains that he needs to be elevated to the national stage and that’s something only she can do for him.
  • He explains he needs to be assassinated. He explains that she’ll shoot him, hospitalize him and give him what he needs. They make love as he tells her to tell Ally the truth because no one will believe what a crazy woman says. He tells her she’ll die and it’ll be their eternal secret. She agrees.
  • And in the present, Ally is led away while Kai is rushed to the hospital and Ivy looks on in traumatized, blood spattered disgust.


Folks, we’ve turned the corner.

This episode takes almost everything that’s been roundly terrible about the first six episodes and turns most of them on their head. The entirely arbitrary Harrison/Samuels relationship is still a context free zone but pretty much everything else makes more sense now.

But first, we need to talk about the opening. It’s been cut for broadcast in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings and, even with those cuts, it’s still deeply disturbing. And that’s a good thing. In a season that’s been a shrill political cartoon for six episodes, this is a dose of reality that if not welcome is certainly helpful. One person with a gun wreaks bloody havoc. It’s unflinching, brutal and for once doesn’t feel sensationalized or cheap. In fact when we find out the motive, it only throws the horror into even sharper relief.

It also brings Meadow into land in a way that’s been needed for a while. She’s frequently felt like a character who’s felt like she wandered in from a different show but here we get some welcome context, and even feel some sympathy, for her. Seeing how she’s manipulated also emphasizes just how terrifying Kai is. Combined with the revelations about the cult, that gives this episode the weight the previous ones have desperately needed. Better still, it means we’re finally over the traditional First Act Speed Bump AHS sometimes suffers from. Everything’s in place and, at last, Cult is MOVING.

Most effective though is the way this episode clears the decks. Ally is told everything, it doesn’t help and puts her in way over her head. Ivy sees what she thought she wanted come to be. Kai gets his ‘resurrection’. The main players are all changed by this hour of TV and we’re most interested by Ivy. Alison Pill has been one of the least well served members of this cast and this episode suggests that may finally change. Ivy has seen, first hand, just what Kai is capable of. She’s seen just how wrong she was about what she thought she wanted. Now, the question is this:

What’s she going to do about it?

That, along with Ally’s fate and Kai’s ‘ascendance’ is far more interesting than anything we’ve seen so far. Cult has, finally, shifted gear and overall is stronger this week than it’s ever been before. We have no idea what’s next. And better still, for the first time this season we actually want to know.


The Good:

  • The ‘OH FOR GOD’S SAKE, MEADOW’ moment with the handbag paying off in the episode’s twist is really nicely handled.
  • Ally actually shows up! For the first time! This entire SEASON!
  • Kai is at least together enough to shoot Sally at a plausible angle for the staged suicide.
  • ‘She doesn’t believe in ANYTHING!’
    ‘…That’s kinda how it starts.’
  • ‘Can I ask you a question? When was the last time a seat on the ZONING BOARD led to world domination?!’
  • ‘People like Mr Anderson, and TRUMP, are not the garbage. They are not the garbage. They are the flies the garbage has DRAWN.’
  • ‘A young man’s certainty is also his burden. I’m going to relieve you of BOTH.’
  • ‘They are bleeding into the wind. A day late. And 74 electoral votes short.’
  • ‘I’m sorry are…are you saying you believe me?’
  • ‘You came to the right place. Nothing shocks me. I went to Berkeley.’
  • ‘Facebook! You ARE old…’

The Bad:

  • We’d really like some background to the Harrison and Samuels relationship soon. In fact, we’d really like Samuels to get any kind of plot whatsoever soon.
  • Sally Kefler is a far too interesting character to kill so offhandedly. But we suspect that’s the point.

And The Random:

  • This episode was cut for broadcast following the Vegas mass shooting. Given the content of the opening sequence, that’s entirely understandable.
  • Called it. The mysterious gas was literally gas lighting.
  • Who are Kai’s other ‘projects’? People we’ve already seen?
  • Bradley Buecker has directed for American Horror Story, Glee, Scream Queens and others.
  • Todd Kubrak is executive story editor of American Horror Story and also worked as the script coordinator on Feud.
  • Sally Kefler is played by Mare Winningham who is another of American Horror Story‘s greatest regular players. She was a big part of Coven, Freakshow and Hotel and we loved her Hotel character especially. She’s also, along with E.R.‘s Anthony Edwards, one of the two leads in deeply strange and lovely atomic love story, Miracle Mile.


Review by Alasdair Stuart

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