American Horror Story: Cult: “Winter of our Discontent” Season 7 Episode 8 Review

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Has Kai just been trolling everyone this whole time?

At the beginning of the season, I posited that Kai was The Joker. It seemed that he hardly cared about Trump’s actual policies—or lack thereof—and was more excited by the anger and fear that he caused. He wanted to use this as leverage to mount some large scale chaos. His end goal was to set the world on fire.

With three episodes of Cult to go, I’m starting to sing a different tune…and no, it’s not All-4-One’s “I Swear,” but I will talk about that bit of absurdity in a minute. Kai was able to amass a group of devoted followers because he promised them he’d burn everything to the ground so they could start anew. He fed on their fear and unhappiness and gave them a way out. In “Winter of our Discontent,” however, he just seems to be…fucking with them?

To be honest, I’m scared to jump to any conclusions for fear that the plot will change entirely by next week, but this episode just made it seem like Kai was trying to rile up his followers for his own personal enjoyment. His plans feel made up on the spot, his speeches on creating a new world order lack any sort of impact, and his actions only scare and confuse the people who are supposed to be helping him scare and confuse everyone else. In an early scene we see Ivy—now a glorified servant in her own restaurant—serving some of his new lackeys organic health food on his request. Later, he makes an off-handed comment about hardcore liberals being obsessed with kale. So, which is it Kai? Are you for kale, or against it?

That’s only one of many details that made me realize how incongruous he’s become. We’re also given a second origin story this week in which he and Winter literally troll social justice warriors on the dark web and end up getting invited to an über-Christian haunted house. The “actors” end up being victims that “Pastor Charles” has kidnapped. Here Kai plays the hero by freeing everyone and killing the Pastor.

We’re supposed to believe that after that act of vengeance, everything changed for Kai. But hadn’t everything already changed for him by witnessing his parents’ murder-suicide and going along with his brother’s plan to keep their death a secret? Everyone on this show is a liar, so it’s difficult to know which narrative to follow. Dr. Vincent seems to turn a new leaf this week by visiting Ally after she returns from a mental institution and telling her she was right all along. I’m glad she’s skeptical of his actions, because I was too. Dr. Vincent claims that Kai was sneaking in to his patient files to get the info he needed to scare her, and we’re supposed to believe that a man who literally keeps his parents’ skeletons preserved in their bedroom suddenly has grown a conscience?

Then there’s Winter, who one minute seems to be all girl-power and then is calmly doing whatever Kai tells her to do the next. The scene in which Kai decides to perform a “ritual” in which he, Winter, and Officer Samuels bring about a “messiah” is the most nonsensical thing that’s happened all season. For one, it’s tonally disconnected from the rest of the episode in that it’s weirdly comedic. Winter seems reluctant to take part in the ceremony, but she does so without objection until Samuels has a hard time getting hard. Throughout it all, Evan Peters appeared seconds away from cracking a smile, and I couldn’t tell if it was because the material is genuinely ridiculous, or because Kai is purposefully messing with his followers’ heads.

Samuels’ backstory is equally bizarre, as it turns out Kai convinced him he wasn’t gay, but just needed to have sex with men because women were taking away his power. In the present day, he tries to make Samuels have sex with his sister…so, again, is he just trolling everyone?

“Winter of our Discontent” also has a pretty high body count. Winter kills Samuels after he tries to assault her in his car, and Kai kills his own brother after Ally tells him Dr. Vincent is trying to get him committed. Beverly doesn’t get murdered, per se, but after Winter blames Samuels’ death on her—this also made zero sense—she’s taken away to solitary confinement. I guess it’s good that Cult is trimming its fat as the season gears up for the finale, but I’m still confused as to what the remaining characters are going to do for the next three episodes.

Ally has magically been cured of her phobias, because Kai forced her to face them head-on. On another show, I wouldn’t buy this for a second. But Ally’s character is just now starting to get interesting, so I’ll let it slide. Also, I’ll take Bad Bitch Sarah Paulson over Screaming and Crying Sarah Paulson any day.

The reveal at the end of the episode is that Ally has now joined Kai’s cult. My guess is that her plan is to destroy it from the inside, but who really knows? Maybe she really made a deal with him to get her son back and then she’s leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. Maybe she’s actually been working with Kai this whole time. Anything’s possible at this point!

The look on Ivy’s face when Ally removes her clown mask proved that she had no idea this was coming. Once again, Kai is causing confusion within his own ranks. The Joker—Christopher Nolan’s version of him, at least—has an army of henchmen who believe in his cause and execute his well-thought-out plans with precision. At this point, Kai seems to be improvising his plans as he goes along. He’s not The Joker at all. He’s just a troll who decided it would be more fun to annoy people in real-life than from behind a computer screen. Grade: C+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Pastor Charles was played by Rick Springfield, which I thought was really weird until I discovered he also did an arc on Supernatural.
  • Where is Oz? I’m honestly surprised he hasn’t been taken away by a social worker at this point.
  • I hate to be that guy, but all the hot people I tuned into this season for are now dead.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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