American Horror Story: Cult Episode 1 Review: Twisty Election Reactions

On a particular night when I was still in college and had finished all my school work, I was meandering through the halls of my dorm when I noticed a couple of my friends hanging out in the lounge watching TV. Deciding to see what show they were watching, I walked in just as a mysterious looking character began performing a captivating cover of David Bowie’s Life On Mars. It took me just that one performance to become enchanted with the character of Elsa Mars, and she kept my complete attention as I stood by the door marveling at the screen like an idiot. Asking my friends if I could join them when the performance was finished, I slid into a vacant seat on one of the couches and began watching along. From there on I watched in captivated silence, aside for the occasional loudly asked question (When did Sarah Paulson grow another head? What the fuck kinda name is “Dandy?” Is that guy related to Edward Scissorhands?”), drinking in all of the details of this bizarre and yet fascinating story. This was the first time that I was exposed to American Horror Story, and I was instantly a fan.

Then Twisty showed up and I, as they say, noped the fuck out.

I don’t like clowns. Never have, never will. Ever since I was a child they’ve always scared the ever-loving shit out of me, and this is a fear that the rational side of my brain has still concluded to be reasonable enough nowadays. It just shocks me though that everyone else isn’t similarly terrified of them. Why can’t they see that Ronald McDonald is one decaffeinated latte away from pulling out a shiv!?

Though Twisty had freaked me out in that first episode, I did eventually come around to the idea of being brave and compromising my fear of him in favor of watching more AHS with my friends. Watching through the occasional covered eyes, our viewing parties became a sort of weekly ritual in our dorm, and it’s one of the things I miss most about college. While I watch AHS nowadays with the lights on (you know, just in case), I still miss the colorful commentary we’d all provide when we watched it together. It was fun, and oftentimes extremely hilarious.

When it comes to the recent season of AHS, I’ve been doing my best to avoid spoilers. I’m happy to say that I went into this season having little idea of what was going to happen, aside for some small tidbits about the cast and the fact that the focus would be around politics and a cult. So imagine my surprise then when Twisty showed up on my screen again. Just like that I was suddenly back at that first episode and feeling my heart drop all over again, except this time my friends weren’t around to joke with and make him seem less creepy. Still, I have grown to love AHS, so I bit my tongue and kept watching. He was only in a comic-book tangent story anyways.

EXCEPT THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER CLOWNS THIS SEASON!

I guess that’s one thing I can say I have in common with one of the key characters this season. Ally Mayfair-Richards, as portrayed by Sarah Paulson, is similarly terrified of clowns, except in her case they seem to be actively messing with her in real life. When I was watching the premier I instantly felt a connection with her due to this, but now I’m starting to think it’s more out of pity for her predicament, as only she can see the clowns tormenting her. Either it’s that, or the fact that the other key-character as portrayed by Evan Peters, Kai Anderson, is batshit crazy. Not many places to go with the whole relatable characters idea this season, but I digress.

I actually really enjoyed this premier. Setting the episode up with the characters reacting to last year’s election results, instantly you can pretty much tell the angle this season is going for: Ally is meant to represent liberals, while Kai the conservatives. This is very apparent based on their reactions; Ally starts freaking out, and Kai starts sharing his exuberant joy by humping his television (wtf?) . The interesting thing is that creator, Ryan Murphy seems to be taking aim at both the extreme spectrums of the political parties, as if he is trying to tell them to look at themselves in the mirror and realize that their obsessions are starting to take a toll on their wellbeing and mental health. I think he is trying to say that having passion for your political party is fine, but when it’s taken to such an extreme you starting moving into deranged territory and lose yourself.

I’m really enjoying how this season is exploring the satirical aspects so far; that and the fact that one side isn’t being portrayed as more composed than the other. Going into this season I assumed that liberals would be shown in a more positive light than conservatives, and I am so happy to be wrong. Everyone on this season is crazy! While Ally is still portrayed more sympathetically when compared to Kai, she is still clearly not without a few loose screws. With this season showing the worst of both sides, I’m really curious to see how Ryan decides to further contrast his ideas through these two characters.

Ally and Kai seem to be the driving forces of this season’s story, but each of them have their partners in crime. For Ally, she has her wife Ivy (Alison Pill), and son Oz (Cooper Dodson). Throughout the first episode, cracks start forming in Ally and Ivy’s marriage when the former starts acting erratic in the days following the election. Apparently the results have acted as a trigger for many of Ally’s fears, and now they have started to become overwhelming. On a trip to a grocery store, Ally has a mental breakdown when clowns start appearing and tormenting her with sexual imagery and violence. Though it seems real to her, the idea of the whole thing being in her head is backed up by police and security tapes, which show nothing she explained with the clowns actually happening. As it would for any sane person, this is ridiculously frustrating, which is only exacerbated by the strain her behavior is putting on their marriage and Ivy asking her “isn’t this more important than some stupid election?”

As for Kai, the only character having any relation to him is (his sister?) Winter (Billie Lourd). I really hope they aren’t siblings, because if they are they have quite the fucked up relationship based on their talk they had early in the episode. Ignoring that though, Kai hadn’t been having a pleasant couple of days since he was embarrassed at a city council meeting. Laughed out of the meeting after calling for less security at the Jewish community center (“we need to let them blow it up!” he crazily exclaims), he turns back to the council members and half-threatens them, saying that “there is nothing more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man.” Later in the day Kai also has his first interaction of the season with Ally, where he bumps into her and Ivy and throws a drink at them. Afterwards he finds a group of Latino individuals and provokes them into fighting him. Kai is just a bundle of giggles and happiness.

Speaking of Winter, she’s clearly having a much better couple of days. She recently was hired by Ally and Ivy to work as a nanny for their son. Her work skills though are less than passable however, as she starts showing Oz horrifying videos of murders. When she leaves the room to get a snack for the two of them, Oz notices a truck parked across the street with terrifying clowns emerging from it. He tells Winter and the two foolishly decided to investigate, only to witness the clowns inside their neighbor’s house brutally murdering the people living there. If Oz wasn’t traumatized by the videos Winter was showing him, he should be now. Good job Winter, you win the award for worst nanny ever.

When Ally and Ivy return home they see police all over their street (I guess Winter finally decided to call the police), who are ruling the deaths as a murder-suicide as there is no sign or evidence of the clowns Oz and Winter saw. Oz tries to tell his moms what happened, but Winter interestingly passes off his claims as a product of his imagination, citing his love for Twisty comic-books as proof. Later on when getting into bed, Ally experiences what would probably be the scariest thing imaginable for me, as a clown is hiding under her sheets!

So that was the gist of the first episode. I’m curious when the cult aspect is going to come into play. Are the clowns the cult? I did find it rather suspicious that one of the people the clowns murdered in the neighbor’s house was one of the council members that humiliated Kai. Coincidence? I think not. It seems telling that Kai and Winter are somehow connected to the clown group, and if so, what are they trying to accomplish? Was Kai one of the people hiding behind the clown masks? Winter clearly wanted Oz to see the murders take place, so it’s possible her and Kai staged the whole thing to expose him to their group. Is it possible they are trying to indoctrinate him into their cult? So many questions, so little answers!

Like I said earlier, I really enjoyed this episode. I feel like Ryan Murphy is really setting us up for a great season here. All I really hope though is that the ending isn’t disappointing.

So that’s my review of episode 1, what did you think? Are you enjoying the new season? When were you first introduced to AHS, and what was the moment that sold you on the series and made you a fan? Let me know in the comments below! I’m really curious to hear what you have to say.

-Adam

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