American Horror Story: Cult: “Drink the Kool-Aid” Season 7 Episode 9 Review

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With only two episodes to go, Cult ditches suspense in favor of narrative development.

A large part of why I’ve found Cult to be a bit of a letdown is its inability to keep all of its balls in the air. The best seasons of American Horror Story have been able to bring together a lot of different elements—campy fun, strong characters, and, of course, genuine scares. Yet, with this season it feels like we often have to sacrifice one thing in order to get another. There are a lot of different ideas buzzing about, but they seem to get in the way of each other instead of merging together. The result is a lot of interesting starts that have very little payoff.

“Drink the Kool-Aid” is no exception, as the show loses all manner of the suspense its been trying to build up. There are a few pivotal scenes in this episode, but their endings can be seen coming from a mile away. The first happens early on, when Kai does what the episode’s title suggests and tried to get everyone to drink the Kool-Aid. The opener, which sees Evan Peters portraying real-life cult leaders Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, and David Koresh, might have you believe that this is the direction he’s taking his clown posse in. It’s a red herring, though, and not a very good one. We already know Kai is running for office, so there’s no way he would kill off his core voter base. Also, there are still two episodes left so….ya know. Aside from thoroughly freaking out Beverly, this scene only serves as an exercise in frustration.

The second instance of this happens at the episode’s climax when Ivy and Ally, having reluctantly left their son in Kai’s care, go back to the house to plan their next move. Ivy is freaking out, but Ally has calmed down and decided to make pasta. The fact that Ivy isn’t suspicious at all of her normally hysterical wife acting serene and cooking—something she also never does—is asking for a pretty big suspension of disbelief. Then there’s the the fact that Ally serves Ivy her food and doesn’t take any herself. It was painfully obvious what was happening long before she started her monologue about how terrible her time in the psych ward was. Has Ivy never seen any spy movie ever? This was a textbook poison setup. RIP.

Yet, even though this was so plainly telegraphed, this second scene ends up holding a lot of importance. For one, this angry new badass Ally is very fun to watch and even with the lack of suspense, Sarah Paulson nailed her moments. Secondly, it’s this action that drives the narrative forward the most it has been in a while. While the show may have sacrificed its tension this week, it gained some powerful plot development in return, which gives me hope for the final two entries.

Ally has a plan, and I’m surprised to say that I’m excited to see her exact it. Last week, Kai tried to make a “messiah baby,” and though it seemed like this was just a way to mess with his sister’s head, he still seems intent that he was chosen for a higher purpose. Ally uses this to her advantage and turns what is a initially a disturbing idea—Kai is Oz’s biological father—into a weapon. Once she confirms that Kai is not the father, she decides to fully convince him on the opposite, knowing that this will both keep Oz safe and give her a longer leash as well.

If we’ve learned anything since last year’s election, it’s that ego can often be man’s greatest weakness. Kai fully believes he has created the second coming in Oz, and I’m sure Ally is going to milk this for all its worth. Now that there’s a cohesive plot in place for the final two episodes, Cult has a newfound sense of momentum. Hopefully, it can keep this particular ball in the air long enough to bring back some good, old-fashioned scares as well. Grade: B

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Kai’s followers all have bizarre names like “Speedwagon” and I’m not sure if this is supposed to be funny or not, but it just ends up being…odd.
  • Winter is once again very confusing as she seems to be with Ally and Ivy in the beginning, but then goes to pick up Oz from school for Kai. Pick a side, lady!
  • If this season was just clips of Evan Peters impersonating famous people from history, I would totally be ok with that.
  • What on earth happened to Bebe…if that is really who she is?

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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