Warning: This recap of the “Great Again” episode of American Horror Story: Cult contains spoilers.
Nothing is more important than political art, for it is the mirror held up to reflect our society’s most important issues back at us. Or, wait, maybe political art is a mirror that distorts the issues but in a funhouse mirror kind of way that makes the issues easier to understand? Feels like there’s a metaphor to be made about political art and mirrors. Oh, I think I’ve got it now: Political art is actually the Windex that we spray onto the mirror in order to better see the important issues, and society is the discarded T-shirt we use when we can’t find a rag to wipe off the Windex. Yes this feels right. Political art is a beautiful shade of blue but do not drink it; it’s not safe to drink. The main thing is, political art is automatically more valuable than regular art because, like, don’t be dumb. You know? There are important issues and we need to make sure they are reflected at us and you and everybody, especially politicians. Truth to power. That is why political art is important. Somebody do something.
Anyway, the final episode of American Horror Story: Cult aired this week, and, uhhh … points for audacity? Let’s talk about it.
We began in the distant future of 2018 where a no-nonsense prison guard was engaging in some ridiculous nonsense:
Yep, Divine Ruler Kai was already recruiting new members of his pinkie-swear cult, mostly on the strength of his cute new buzzed-hair look. But considering he now had a prison guard among his acolytes, something told me this was not a very good prison.
And because Kai gotta Kai, he recruited one of his members to kill an enemy in the showers but then killed the follower as well? That is not a good way to reward loyalty and maintain membership numbers, but then again, I have not started any successful cults recently, so I shouldn’t judge.
I appreciated the background #butt in this scene, but I’m not sure we needed another Charles Manson pop-in, mostly because how are we supposed to remember it’s Charles Manson without the wig? That swastika just looked like maybe Emma Roberts pranked Evan Peters in his sleep again. Anyway, we were off to a nice and violent start, but the question remained how exactly had Kai been arrested?
We then flashed back to the terrible now, when Kai and his followers were preparing to move forward with their “Night of a Thousand Tates” scheme. They had reasonably downgraded it to only a hundred Tates, but it still involved the mass slaughter of pregnant women, so this was not going to be a good night for Michigan. Mind you, Kai never really offered a good motivation for murdering innocent pregnant women other than “We gotta make headlines,” so I’m not sure why the cult members were so on board. Guess who was very on board, though? Sarah Paulson (as herself)! Well, no, she was only pretending. But the whole situation was making Beverly very upset.
Beverly’s façade of being a loyal follower suddenly shattered while the ladies were chopping watermelons in the kitchen and she begged Sarah Paulson to please murder her right there on the tile. Sarah Paulson declined and assured her that things were going to be awesome soon, don’t worry. Also, watermelon is delicious!
We also got some follow-up on who the mole had been … it was this guy (who might have a name, but now we’ll never know), except he was only wearing a wire because some cops caught him with a fanny pack full of drugs, and now here he was. So Sarah Paulson did some quick thinking and murdered him so that she could inform Kai of the leak herself and gain his trust even more. I guess he was impressed at her initiative of being judge/jury/executioner/corpse-disposal unit when it came to one of his most loyal followers, but he wasn’t thrilled that she waited two days to tell him about it. But she was still his fave, so no worries. Plus they had more important things to worry about, like stabbing pregnant ladies in the tum-tum!
When the fateful night finally arrived, guess what also arrived? The SWAT team.
After a smoky shootout in Kai’s basement, many of his followers were shot (Beverly herself even offed one for good measure), and Kai was thrown screaming into a police wagon. Take that, you sister-murderin’ jerk!
So now Kai was in prison, and he was placing angry phone calls to Sarah Paulson threatening to break out and kill her the second he had a chance!
For someone who had very obviously murdered some folks, Sarah Paulson was not worried about it. She had a hot new girlfriend and her house had been tidied up and even her son Ozzy was seeming less awful than usual. As the title of the episode suggested, things really were “great again” for her.
Then one night while Kai was doing sex to the prison guard (and an unidentified man?), he saw an ad on TV for Sarah Paulson’s campaign for Senate! Yup, she was running for the same seat of power that Kai wanted, and her ads were already very good.
Sarah Paulson had become a local hero for her role in bringing down Kai’s cult, and you’d better believe she was gonna capitalize.
This bit was especially dark, but let me tell you something: Politics is dark! That’s why we need art to shine a light on it and also to look in the mirror and, you know, fight the power. Anyway, Ivy’s tombstone was nice.
Would you vote for this lady? Kai sure wouldn’t! He was extremely ticked off now, and the time had come for him to escape the terrible, no-security prison he was currently chilling out in.
This would involve recruiting a doppelganger, giving him identical tattoos, and then tearing his face off with a can opener. Nobody would ever know that Kai wasn’t that corpse! And I guess nobody would notice that a second inmate was missing, or that the corpse had fresh tattoos, or that a prison guard seemed to have quit also. It was a perfect plan overall.
Then, at a town-hall-style debate, Sarah Paulson was wiping the floor with her opponent, Senator Republican Man. She was using all the buzzwords and power phrases like “nasty woman” and “mansplain” and “talk to the hand” and “all that and a bag of chips,” and we could tell the audience was into it. But then guess who showed up to point guns and shout at everybody on camera?
It was Kai! And he got one last speech in before he murdered Sarah Paulson… But the gun didn’t have bullets in it! As it turned out, somehow after the security guard had become Kai’s No. 1 fan and did sex with him and also helped him murder someone and escape from prison, she sat down for tea with Sarah Paulson, and Sarah Paulson persuaded her to betray Kai. All very motivated and reasonable. Long story short, he did not successfully murder her. And that was Beverly’s chance to run up with a loaded gun.
Next thing we knew, Kai’s face was exploding and that was that. One of the more interesting political debates to occur in Michigan history.
For his part, Ozzy seemed pretty well adjusted after the death of one of his parents, but probably because he’s the kind of boy who sleeps with a Twisty doll (that was a plot element that really paid off, am I right?). Anyway, Sarah Paulson assured him that now that she’d won a seat in the U.S. Senate (in a landslide!), she was just going to be a simple public servant who would serve the public and definitely not abuse her power or do anything rude.
Except then we discovered that she’d joined that Valerie Solanas/Zodiac killer cult and … I don’t even know. If you are a fan of questionably motivated character turns and truly loathsome false equivalency, this was a memorable twist!
So that was Cult, guys. A lot of great actors doing great work and an undeniably audacious premise. One of my favorite things about American Horror Story is that there is always a new season to look forward to. Let’s do that!
American Horror Story returns to FX in 2018.
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