American Horror Story: Cult “Charles (Manson) in Charge” REVIEW

American Horror Story: Cult “Charles (Manson) in Charge” REVIEW

0 comments 📅10 November 2017, 22:03


Airing in the UK on FOX, Fridays at 10pm
Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Director: Bradley Buecker

Essential Plot Points:

  • On election night, Winter and her friends are watching Clinton bounce Trump around. Kai is posting on reddit. Winter and her friends are convinced she’s got it in the bag. Kai argues the exact opposite, leading to him punching one of them. Instantly guilt ridden, he apologizes and they all storm out promising to press charges.
  • Two weeks later, Kai is at court-mandated anger management classes. He jokes about how it was a blow struck for women’s liberation.
  • His therapist? is Bebe. One of Valerie Solanas’ gang from the flashback episode.She steers Kai towards politics,. She explains that she’s an old school feminist and her favorite politician is Donald Trump. She argues that Trump is going to be so bad for women that he will cause the long over due detonation of feminine rage she described as ‘the biggest bomb in the universe’.And Kai can be part of it. Kai’s purpose, she says, is to be part of that. And to be destroyed by it. But, she says, Kai will die knowing ‘he’s saved us all’.
  • We cut to a live Periscope of Kai’s latest rally and from there to him launching his next political campaign. A counter demonstration clashes with them and Kai goes full paranoid, claiming that the demonstration has been paid for by the government.A bottle of pee gets thrown, Kai gets maced and things get very nasty.
  • That night, Winter is washing the clown truck down when the music triggers and won’t switch off. She yanks the stereo out, Kai screams at her and orders Winter and Ally to clean it. Winter asks if Ivy suffered at the end. Ally refuses to rise to it.Ally gives her the long overdue verbal beatdown she’s richly deserved the entire season and culminates with a twist of the knife; all but admitting she killed Ivy.
  • Kai is watching the news, fuming over how he’s being presented. It’s unclear whether he’s doing so to rile people up or if he genuinely buys into it. Story time.
  • And a flashback to the Charles Manson murders. Where the Manson cult are played by Ally, Harrison, Meadow and Winter. Kai walks his followers through the brutal multiple murder the Manson family are most infamous for. It’s ugly, untidy brutal.
  • Back in the present, Kai leads his men in a raucous scream of support for the master plan; an atrocity so large it will wake the world up forever.
  • Gary, who is still so SO awful leads a group to an abortion clinic to get a list of addresses of clients. He’s locked in and then surrounded by the clowns. Realizing his number’s up, he asks what he did. Kai explains it’s not what he did, it’s what he’s about to do. Kai tells him he’ll be closer to Kai than any of his other children, kisses his head and leaves the others to kill him.
  • The next morning, one of the nurses comes into work. She drops her travel mug, sees it’s covered in blood and looks up. Gary, disemboweled, is propped against the front door next to a sign saying STOP THE SLAUGHTER.

  • Beverly reports on the story and gets a statement from Kai. She’s cowed, terrified and acutely aware that Kai did this. Kai commits, claiming Gary was killed by left-wing terrorists.The second the camera cuts, Kai slaps the mic out of her hand and yells at her for how badly she did. She apologizes.
  • At the butchery,Winter brings Beverly some tea and tries to help her escape. Beverly is convinced that she’s being tested and tells her that she is loyal to Kai.
  • Kai is tearing light fixtures apart looking for bugs. Ally tries to talk to him but Kai screams about the ‘buzz’ from the surveillance devices. He locks himself in the corpse room to escape it.And then his brother stands up and asks if he can help. Kai asks for advice and then…Charles Manson stabs Kai’s brother and suggests he hallucinate properly.
  • Manson is also played by Kai by the way.
  • Manson tells him to identify the Judas and there’s a knock at the door.It’s Ally. She’s found a bug, Kai was right.
  • Then, there’s a knock at the door and Bebe appears. Kai takes her downstairs. Where she tears a strip off her idiot charge. He’s broken women, unleashed chaos across the world and gone massively off message.Manson appears and provokes Kai into fighting back. Kai explains he’s going to use ‘women’s rage’ to burn the world so he can be in charge of what’s next. Bebe knocks him down, holds him at gunpoint and then Ally shoots her in the face. Kai is stunned, but alive.
  • Upstairs, Winter shaves Kai’s head. They bond over the brief happy moments of their childhood. Kai asks her why she wants to hurt him. She retorts that she can’t see him anymore, that Kai is being destroyed by the work. She tells him that when everyone else is gone, she’ll still be there as she shaves him. Kai tells her that if she needs to leave for a while so she can return, he loves her and she should do that. She breaks down with relief and he tells her where she should go:
  • Bute, Montana. The exact place she told Beverly to go.
  • She’s dragged away, screaming.Winter is interrogated and asks for a pinky swear to prove the truth. Kai shows her the bug. She retorts it’s the battery to her fitbit. And a recorder she planted in the truck.Winter accuses Ally of taking vengeance for what she did to Ivy. Which she did.
  • Kai believes Ally, completely. Winter begs for her life, as Manson goads Kai into throttling his sister. Alternating between sobs of grief and screams of rage, Kai murders Winter.
  • Unseen, Speed Wagon, one of the cultists, sprints out to his car and tears the wire he’s been wearing off, destroying it. Ally gets in, smiles and says ‘Hello, Speedwagon.’


Well that didn’t last long. Take the wit and dark humour of last episode, add in a more than slightly perfunctory call back to episode 7 and you’ve got this episode.

Oh, also, now Kai is the character who’s always screaming while Ally is a silent, scheming genius.

It’s a little early to call this season of American Horror Story as a disaster but there’s a lot of work for the show to do in the finale to avoid that label. It’s certainly not been consistent and, frequently, actively bad. This episode is no exception, a head long sprint through a bunch of concepts that have worked before when they’ve been given time. Here they’re given anything but so, in order, we get:

-Kai is suddenly losing it.
-Another flashback, which is well shot but accomplishes nothing besides an excuse for the cast to play dress up.
-Another two character deaths.
-Sudden, thoroughly unconvincing, context for Kai’s actions. He’s been going off the rails since the first episode, why the Hell didn’t Bebe step in before now?
-A perfunctory appearance from a dead character.
-Lots and LOTS of shouting.
-A sudden, utterly unearned reveal.

This is bad. It’s staccato, shrill TV that thinks having a character scream all the time is acting. This is so bad not even Evan Peters can save the material and bless him he does try.

There are a very few good points. The flashback is done with real care. Ally’s new found avenging dark angel persona is fun. That…that’s it. The central premise (Elect a massively chauvinist dangerous president to cause a women’s revolution) would have been fascinating nine episodes ago. Here it just feels tacked on and arbitrary.

This season isn’t a disaster. Not quite. But that last episode is going to have to be extraordinary to bring it into land with anything resembling coherence.

The Good:

  • The different film stock and style of the flashback is technically brilliant.

  • Sarah Paulson, getting a chance to play someone other than Ally for a few minutes, is fantastic.
  • No more Gary!
  • ‘Sorry I framed you.’-Yeah thanks for that, Winter.
  • ‘Who is this?’
    ‘My anger management counsellor.’
    ‘Not very good at her job.

The Bad:

  • So a single character we’ve met once before is the actual villain? Who’s instantly killed? Yeah, okay…
  • This is the first bad work Evan Peters has turned in for this series and, in fact, possibly ever. But this episode he is actively bad. Kai has been so duplicitous for so long that seeing him spin out like this feels like a plan even though it isn’t.
  • Good LORD we’re sick and tired of the acolytes and story time.

The Random:

  • Frances Conroy has appeared in six seasons of American Horror Story and previously was best known for her work on Six Feet Under
  • Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk created the show, as well as Scream Queens and Glee.
  • Bradley Buecker is a frequent Murphy and Falchuk collaborator and has directed for Glee, American Horror Story and Scream Queens as well as shows like Survivor’s Remorse and The New Normal.


Review by Alasdair Stuart

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