We gave it a B
This week’s episode of American Horror Story: Cult picks up exactly where the premiere left off: with one clown in the White House and another in the bedroom.
“There’s a clown in the bed!” Ally screams, fleeing down the stairs and into Ivy’s arms. Ivy doesn’t waste any time; she grabs a knife and heads straight back upstairs — and to her credit, she very seriously checks for stealth clowns both under the bed and in the closet before turning back to her wife with a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me look. But if the clowns are a delusion, then they’re at least a shared one: As Ivy and Ally start getting busy in their bedroom (because nothing puts a girl in the mood like a clown-centric psychotic break), Ozzy finds his own room invaded by Twisty and Triple Dongerface, who chase him into the bathroom and then break through the door à la Jack Torrance in The Shining. It’s like something out of a nightmare!
…Eh, but that’s because it is, in fact, a nightmare. Ozzy wakes up screaming, and the title credits roll.
From this moment forward, it’s clear that sinister forces are converging on the Mayfair-Richards house. Winter is still working on Ozzy, fueling his fears with creepy clown dolls and lecturing him on the nature of faith: “People are going to believe what they’re going to believe; the trick is figuring out what they want to believe, and then giving it to them.” (Side note: As blatant foreshadowing goes, this line of dialogue has to be right up there with Aaron Eckhart’s “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” line from The Dark Knight.) Also, Kai’s beating from “Election Night” — pee-balloon lobbing strategically omitted, natch — has gone viral thanks to a video taken by local couple Harrison and Meadow Wilton…who coincidentally just moved across the street, into the home of the recently deceased Changs.
The Wiltons are like something out of the world’s most out-there episode of House Hunters: She’s a sun-phobic skin cancer survivor who wears a hat, poncho, and sunglasses like a uniform; he’s a gay, gun-toting beekeeper who has a one-night-a-week hall pass to engage in same-sexual shenanigans in another zip code; and they’re both proud co-vice presidents of the Michigan chapter of the Nicole Kidman Official Fan Club. (Their budget is ten gajillion dollars.) They also have a dozen mysterious barrels stocked inside their garage, which in combination with the still-prominent bloodstains on the floor and Harrison’s honeycombs (ewwwww, HOLES) are enough to turn the unhinged Ally into a suspicious peeping tom.
All of this is having an impact not just on Ally and Ivy’s marriage, but on their little family. Ozzy (side note: His real name is “Ozymandias.” Additional side note: LOL OH MY GOD) has begun demonstrating a clear preference for Ivy as The Reliable Parent. That means that when a security alarm goes off at their restaurant, Ally is the one to go investigate, and hence is also the one who discovers their sous chef strung up in the butchering room like a bloody marionette.
The twist: Unlike the masturbating killer clowns that haunted last week’s episode, this horror show is actually the real deal. And as far as Ally is concerned, it’s proof that all her crazy fears were valid; a week later, she’s turning the house into a fortress, packing a secret gun in the kitchen drawer, and calling her therapist a “knee-jerk liberal” when he reacts with dismay. In short, she’s becoming the living embodiment of the phrase, “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged” — which Kai Anderson is only too happy to needle her about through her newly reinforced door when he shows up on her porch to campaign for a seat on the city council. (Side note: If you haven’t remembered by now that Michigan is where 19-year-old Renisha McBride was shot in 2013, on the doorstep of a house where she’d knocked in search of help after a car accident, this would be a good time to keep it in mind.)
It all comes to a head later that night, when Ivy leaves for work and Ally is left alone: on edge, unmedicated, and ripe for additional manipulation by her hipster nanny from hell. First, things get inappropriate as Winter draws Ally a bath and sponges her back. Then, they get worse: The power goes out, Harrison Wilton bangs on the door insisting that it’s a terrorist attack, and Winter goes home, leaving Ally alone and in a veritable lather of terror. The only thing that could make this worse? C’mon, you know. Send in the clowns!
With the house overrun by masked freaks, Ally grabs the gun and Ozzy and runs for the door — just in time to encounter Pedro Morales, the kindhearted employee from her restaurant, who’s coming up the walk with a phone charger and candles to keep her comfy during the power outage.
And maybe it’s because this season of AHS has already overplayed its hand, or maybe it’s just because we’re all in a cynical place right now, but there’s absolutely no surprise at all in what happens next.
She shoots him, of course.