American Horror Story: Cult: “Mid-Western Assassin” Season 7 Episode 6 Review

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Kai’s biggest plan for the cult yet spells doom for just about everyone…and perhaps for us an audience as well.

The scariest part of this week’s American Horror Story is actually the fact that the episode’s “scariest” scene never made it to air. Ryan Murphy and co. announced that they would be editing out a mass shooting sequence because it bared too much resemblance to the horrific events that happened in Las Vegas on October 1st (the scene is still available in full online and on-demand). Cult has set out to hold a funhouse mirror up to our worst fears about Trump’s election, so the fact that the show felt the need to course-correct because real life was even more sinister is enough to make your skin crawl.

Real-world similarities aside, “Mid-Western Assassin” is another episode in the season that advances the plot without really making much of an impact. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I feel such a disconnect when watching Cult, and this week finally provided me with the answer. There’s no one to root for.

I’m not saying that American Horror Story needs an out-and-out hero to face off against Kai. The show’s most interesting characters are often flawed and multi-dimensional. Yet, as Kai uses fear to gain control over an increasingly vulnerable town, I began to wonder if Ally was supposed to be the one to stop him. And then I began to grimace.

On a season where everyone seems to be going to extremes, is Ally the “levelheaded liberal” we’re supposed to trust? She appears to be the only one who gets what’s really going on, but she’s also incredibly obnoxious. Her constant phobias and strong emotional reactions to the election seem to almost be a parody of the “snowflake liberal” who’s easily triggered and longs for safe spaces. The dichotomy of that portrayal against her being the only one who can expose Kai doesn’t work well in her favor. How can I count on Ally to save the day when a majority of the time I actually side with Ivy…and she literally joined a cult!

The mass shooting occurs during one of Kai’s speeches, and it’s soon revealed that it was all orchestrated according to his plan. Meadow never actually dissents from the group—she’s way too blinded by her love for Kai to ever leave him. Instead, she fakes needing to be rescued, and fuels Ally’s paranoia by fully spilling the beans. Of course, no one is going to believe her when the truth comes out.

Or will they? The great Mare Winningham guest stars this week as Sally Kepler, a woman who decides to stand up to Kai’s fear-mongering and run against him for city council. Ally sees her on TV and decides to confide in her, and she believes every word. Of course, this means that the insane clown posse needs to get rid of her, and so they do, with a chilling suicide note published on Facebook.

Winningham is excellent, and her staged death allows the writers to make some astute remarks about how easily people buy in to things they see on social media. Still, I’m not really sure why her character was brought in, only to be taken out so quickly. If Kai wants to use the chaos of a Trump presidency to his advantage, than surely Sally is supposed to represent a more logical Hillary Clinton-esque figure who opposes him. So why give her the boot so soon? We’re once again left with Ally as the only voice of reason, and she’s too busy hiding in the bathroom.

“Mid-Western Assassin” ends with Meadow shooting Kai—not fatally, though—in he middle of his campaign speech, and then turning the gun on innocent bystanders before turning it on herself. If you’ve seen the online version, you know how gut-wrenching it is to watch. And yet, when we’re left with the image of Ally still holding the gun as a SWAT team surrounds her, it was hard not to roll my eyes a little. It’s easy to see that Ally will now try to convince other people of Kai’s evildoings to no avail. Get ready for a lot more shouting. Grade: C+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Ally pretty quickly buys into her wife being part of the cult and not being able to trust the police, but then she returns to her therapist without any hesitation? This selective paranoia is pretty frustrating.
  • Ivy has a poignant plotline this week in which she admits to hating Ally for being the one to physically give birth to their child. I’d like to see more of the dynamic explored, but I have a feeling that other things will get in the way.
  • Goodbye Leslie Grossman. I very much enjoyed your acerbic line delivery.
  • I’m just going to say what everyone is thinking, and it’s that the Colton Haynes/Billy Eichner sex scene was too damn short.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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