American Horror Story: Cult “Great Again” REVIEW

American Horror Story: Cult “Great Again” REVIEW

0 comments 📅15 November 2017, 16:30

Airing in the UK on FOX, Fridays at 10pm
Tim Minear
Director: Jennifer Lynch

Essential Plot Points:


  • We start with a jump forward in time! Twist! To Maximum Security Prison in Jackson, Missouri. It’s 2018 and…it turns out Kai is still alive.
  • Huraaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy.
  • He’s pinky swearing with a female guard. She’s completely in his thrall when he’s summoned by two other inmates. One of whom used to be on Fear The Walking Dead! Hi Smithy!
  • They, of course, beat the hell out of him. They do so because he’s making things complicated. Prison has a system; people have gangs, people stay in their lane. Kai is making things complex.
  • He fights back. He’s losing. One of the inmates, it turns out is on Kai’s team. He kills his friend and freely accepts that he has to die too so Kai has no loose ends.
  • Cheered on by Charles Manson, he kills the inmate and leaves.
  • Later, a new, young inmate asks to see Kai. Kai is surrounded by a crowd of men of various nationalities. He’s uniting the prison behind him. He pinky swears with Trevor and in doing so makes it clear that he’s changed sides. As far as he’s concerned, women are destroying the world and he and his army are safe in prison.
  • Trevor asks how Kai was arrested and he explains.
  • Eleven months previously…
  • Kai is trying to raise Speedwagon. Ally gets him back on point, briefing the others. While murdering a thousand pregnant women in one night can’t be done? A hundred pregnant women absolutely can. Kai briefs them, even using anatomical models to train his men to ensure that both mothers and babies are killed. Then, when the women rise in horror at their atrocity, Kai and his followers will ride the wave of popular opinion all the way to the White House.
  • Later, Beverly begs Ally to kill her. She can’t do this anymore. Ally refuses, turning the devotion that Beverly used to crush Ally’s life back on her.
  • Kai fails to reach Speedwagon again and absolutely freaks out. Ally tries to calm him down by showing him Speedwagon’s wire. It doesn’t work, especially when she says she waited two days before telling him.
  • We flash back again to the end of the previous episode. Speedwagon explains he was caught with tabs of ecstasy and forced to work for the cops. He’s terrified. She asks if the wire transmits and, when he tells her it’s just a recorder, smiles. She tells him to calm down.
  • And then she stabs him in the chest.

  • Back in the scene with Kai, Ally tells Kai the truth; Winter was innocent. He killed her for nothing. She maims him psychologically so subtly that he doesn’t even realize it as Ally ‘reassures’ him. She tells him to go through with the plan for Winter. And he buys in.
  • The next night, Kai whips his men up into a murderous fury. Ally walks out of the house, across the street to a van full of FBI agents and screams ‘GO! GO NOW!’
  • The Feds storm the house. The few cultists who aren’t cut down straight away either shield Kai or commit suicide. Beverly, seeing Kai handcuffed, finally smiles. She’s finally at peace. Or as much peace as she’ll ever get again. She thanks Ally as she’s taking away in handcuffs. Kai is dragged past, screaming that he’ll kill her.

  • Sometime later, Ally is at the restaurant. Months have clearly passed and she has some measure of fame. She’s stunned to see Beverly arrive at the restaurant.
  • Beverly fills her in. Kai pled guilty. To everything. And also that she’s one of the reasons Beverly was released; Ally didn’t see her commit any crime and it’s not like Beverly fit the profile.
  • Ally reveals that the Feds visited her in the psychiatric ward and she’d been working for them ever since. Beverly, old journalistic instincts surfacing, quietly pushes Ally about whether or not she killed Ivy. Ally denies it. Beverly buys it but also makes it clear that she knows the truth and doesn’t care/
  • Ally introduces her to Erica, her new girlfriend and a chef at the Butchery. Ally invites Beverly to Oz’s birthday party later that week.
  • At the party, Erica takes a call from the newscasters, still chasing her for an interview. She gets another call, this time Ally takes it and…
  • It’s Kai. Calling from prison.
  • He’s murderous. Ally sent him the truth; he’s not Oz’s father. Kai screams murderous threats at her and then tears the phone apart.
  • Later, in prison, Kai is having sex with Gloria, the guard, he was pinky-swearing with. He’s watching Ally announce her intention to run for office. In the seat he wanted.
  • We cut to Ally’s campaign ad. She’s running on a combination of feminism and Kai’s desire to break the system. It’s a GOOD ad. Her campaign manager, Beverly, makes that clear in a briefing. But she’s still trailing.
  • Beverly makes it clear that the upcoming debate with Senator Jackson is the only chance they have to turn it around. Ally nods and says ‘Well, we better give them a show.’
  • In prison, in the laundry, Kai is stripping down. Trevor, the inmate we met at the top of the episode, comes in. He has the same haircut, and tattoos, as Kai. And, somehow, hasn’t figured out why…
  • He begs Kai to take him with him. Kai explains that tonight ‘they’ll both be free’. He kills Trevor, cuts his face off and escapes, dressed as a guard.
  • At the debate, Beverly tells Ally the news and they decide to go ahead.
  • The debate goes very, very well. Until Kai makes an appearance. There’s pandemonium, Kai monologuing as he heads to the stage with a gun handed to him by Gloria the prison guard.
  • He tells Ally that she symbolizes women’s hope. He screams ‘WOMEN! CAN’T! WIN!’ and Ally does NOT back down at all. Kai pulls the trigger and
  • Click.
  • Ally smiles.
  • And we see her, months earlier, talking to Gloria the prison guard. She’s pre-deprogramming the other woman. The gun was always empty.
  • She smiles, tells Kai he was wrong and that a nasty woman is more dangerous than a humiliated man. And Beverly shoots him in the head killing him.

  • Ally wins. By a colossal margin. She tucks Oz in that night, explaining she wants a world where her son can be a better man than the ones that came before him. She gives Oz his Twisty the clown doll and explains that she needs to take a meeting. A meeting with a group of powerful women who want to change the system. A meeting which she’s attending wearing a hooded robe…


All things considered, that could have gone a hell of a lot worse.

The final episode of Cult benefits from everything it doesn’t have to do. The vast majority of the Cult have been murdered, Oz is nicely side-lined and the entire thing actually feels like it has energy and purpose. Two elements a lot of the first half badly lacked.

More important, this episode actually remembers to have a little fun with you. Kai is just as loathsome as ever, more so even now he’s in the hyper-masculine world of prison. His endless monologues, the brief appearance by Charlie Manson and the just MASSIVELY annoying cult members all cause eyerolls galore.

But that’s the point. Kai is static, incapable of movement beyond what he always tries to do. He’s never in control, and there is nothing more satisfying than that final moment when his gun goes ‘click.’ The chest beating macho nihilist scumbag is completely outmanoeuvred by the very people he refuses to take seriously.

That entire final act also gives Sarah Paulson a chance to cut loose in a way she’s been denied all season. Yes it’s a cheap moment having Ally re-enact the Presidential debate where Drumpf followed Clinton around the stage. Yes it’s cheap catharsis that Ally wins. No it doesn’t matter. Not just because it’s the first one of these call-backs to the present US political climate that’s actually worked but because it has power and agency behind it. Ally is done being anyone’s victim. This version of America is done turning in on itself.

It’s not a win. But it’s a start. And one found in the closing moments of the season.

That difficult, ambiguous combination of victory and survival makes this the best episode of the season. Paulson and Adina Porter are fantastic and Tim Minear’s script is the sort of intricate puzzle box he excels at. Jennifer Lynch’s direction is great too and this all combines to wrap up the season with far more neatness than we ever dared hope.

Cult has been a mess, as every third or so season of American Horror Story often is. It’s been lumpen paced, relentlessly on the nose and often run the gamut between actively needlessly offensive and outright boring. But it ends very well and with a lovely implication that these seasons are drawing together. After all, those do look an awful lot like the robes from Coven don’t they?…

The Good:


  • ‘Okay, a little bad news to start. Turns out finding a thousand pregnant women to murder? Super hard.’
  • ‘Your sick, ugly necrotic DNA will rot in prison until you DIE.’
  • ‘Lack of experience. Code for, they’re scared.’
  • ‘You can call me a snowflake if you want to. But I am one of millions and together we make a GODDAMN BLIZZARD.’
  • ‘You were wrong. There is something more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man. A NASTY WOMAN.’
  • Ally’s final transformation is MONSTROUS. Her precise, measured, relentless brutality is one of the most memorable performances in Sarah Paulson’s long run of memorable turns on this show.
  • Kai has been immensely tiresome pretty much all season. But the slow-motion realization of just how much trouble he’s in is great.
  • We are so glad we never have to hear Evan Peters scream ‘MAKE ME A SANDWICH!’ ever again.

The Bad:

  • Kai yelling ‘Kill!Kill!Kill!’ as his men stab watermelons is about as unsubtle as this show can get. And it’s got REALLY unsubtle.
  • Ah, fat shaming. What would lazy writers do without you? We wish we knew. Although to be fair the pay off for it is GLORIOUS and makes the cheap shot almost worthwhile.

The Random:

  • The reference to Ally turning down an interview with Lana Winters is a lovely throwback to her Asylum and Roanoke character. Although how great would a ‘Sarah Paulson interviews herself’ scene have been?!

  • Another possible explanation for Ally’s robe is it’s a hand-me-down from Bebe, Kai’s mentor. The interesting thing about that is that Bebe’s work could so easily lead to a crossover with Coven, given that the societal change Ally is working towards would certainly put her on the radar of the Coven cast.
  • Jennifer Lynch is the director of Surveillance, Chained as the upcoming A Fall From Grace as well as numerous TV episodes for shows like The Last Ship, Wayward Pines and Psych.
  • Tim Minear has written for The X-Files, Firefly, Angel, Lois and Clark and many others. His early career is marked by brilliant hours of TV and shows that were cut off far too early. Thankfully, he’s found a home as a frequent writer on American Horror Story and Feud, one of Ryan Murphy’s other ongoing projects.


Review by Alasdair Stuart

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