Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Horror Story is heavy on big reveals, light on explanations

Image for article titled American Horror Story is heavy on big reveals, light on explanations

In an episode full of more shocking reveals than the first four episodes of the season have had combined, a lot more questions were raised than answered.

The strangest and decidedly creepiest twist was Kai’s origin story, which was both disturbingly twisted in a truly AHS way, and blunt with its (barely could be considered) subtext. Kai is shown a few years younger (with less blue locks), a stereotypical young white American man whose dark and seemingly inescapable family life (though the show is careful to distinguish, it was a life only recently made bleak, so viewers can’t sympathize with him as the victim of a tragic childhood) turns to the online Red Pill community. The “Red Pill” heading is only visible on Kai’s laptop for a moment before he runs upstairs just in time to see his mother shoot his father before turning the gun on herself, but the idea that Kai was involved with the online group resonates, coloring everything that comes after, including the biggest reveal of the night. Dr. Vincent, Ally’s therapist, is Kai’s brother. On the one hand, it had to be Cheyenne Jackson who emerged from the shadows as Kai cradles his mother’s body—there were no other male characters of note that hadn’t already been revealed as clowns or their victims. Still, it was jarring not only to see the person who had so far been the most removed from this season’s bloodshed but is also someone with such a natural and accepted position of authority over Kai.

Though it’s not clear now if Dr. Vincent is involved in Kai’s cult, a certain coldblooded vibe definitely runs in the family. There’s something truly frightening about the calm, reasonable way he explains why the brothers should allow their parents to rot in their beds (covered in lye to mask the smell, he says with a swiftness and certainty that points to either an obsession with true crime shows or some firsthand experience). They need the money from their parents’ disability and pension checks, he explains. This is a strictly financial decision for him (even his worry that a murder-suicide in the family could hang over them is tied to what it would do to his practice). But Kai is emotional about his loss, clearly shown through his Norman Bates moment as he tells the rotting skeleton of his mother that he’s going to become someone, and shown again when he tears up after Beverly convinces him to open up about who he really is. Kai’s tears and Beverly’s cool reaction seems to imply a welcome if temporary shift of power. Beverly is onboard with Kai’s plan for a new world order, but even in her heady excitement over Kai’s act of violence in her honor last episode, she thought to remind him of his pledge for equal power. Now that she knows what transformed Kai from a mild-mannered religious studies major to the kind of guy who monologues about the medulla oblongata before driving a nail into a former compatriot’s head (is there some kind of tally of how many times this part of the brain has been name-dropped throughout pop culture?), maybe she’ll see a chance to make the balance of power a little less equal, in her favor.

Though the weight of the unmasking of the clowns and filling out of Kai’s family tree seemed to knock Ivy and Ally down to the B-story this week, it was still a powerful surprise to see Ivy is team Kai. Though she attempts to explain why she might be willing to join a band of murderous clowns and plot against her wife (she really hasn’t forgiven her for the whole Jill Stein thing) her presence among Kai’s increasingly ideologically disparate group of followers just makes a central question more distracting. The one-armed market owner would most likely enjoy seeing a world that sees women barred from power, while feminist Winter would want to make sure women have a strong voice. Harrison seems to be driven to the cause of a new world order based almost exclusively on a loyalty to Kai and a dissatisfaction with his own life that he hadn’t created a particular scapegoat for. “The only thing I love right now is my son, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make the world a better place for him, even if it means burning it all down,” Ivy tells Winter as they drive to kill a man she’s never met. What she doesn’t say, and what none of the cult members seem to know or question, is what they’ll build in the place of the world they’re so desperate to destroy.

Stray observations

  • Of course, Dermot Mulroney’s sleazy news anchor has a gimp in the attic. It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if the identity of said gimp becomes important later since he was never unmasked before or after his death, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if he was added simply because the showrunners realized they had gone four episodes without showing any human flesh be torn from hooks.
  • Watching Ally desperately try to connect with Oz during her supervised visit was sad, and Oz accusing her of “acting weird,” was an effective final twist of the emotional screws, but using her “trying too hard” voice while getting nostalgic is possibly one of the least weird things we’ve seen her do in front of her son.
  • RIP RJ. He should have known you only question the crazy cult leader in the privacy of your own password protected video blog.
  • Is Meadow really an RJ-like casualty, killed because she dared question just how cruelly the masked murders were executed or was Ally seeing her in the grave (and hearing her accuse everyone from the cops to her wife of being members of an ominous cult) all part of the plan? After seeing how swiftly Kai likes to deal with those he’s marked for death, it seems unlikely they would have let her chill in an open grave if they always intended to kill her.
  • Ally peeling off her skin when she sees holes appear as a manifestation of her trypophobia is unsettling enough to give everyone watching trypophobia.