American Horror Story: Cult season 7 premiere recap – “Election Night”


The “American Horror Story: Cult” premiere mixes satire and horror surrounding the election to introduce the premise for season 7.

Regardless of your political persuasion, for many Americans, the 2016 presidential election felt like a true American Horror Story, which the Cult premiere relives in a montage using real news footage from the campaign in its opening moments. That’s followed by extreme reactions to Donald Trump’s victory from season 7’s main characters, but on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Sarah Paulson’s Ally sobs and screams while watching the results in front of the TV along with her wife, Ivy (Alison Pill), their young son, Oz, their Guatemalan housekeeper and their neighbors, the Changs.

Meanwhile, across town, Kai Anderson (played brilliantly by Evan Peters) celebrates Trump’s win by humping the TV while chanting “USA!”, before emerging from his parent’s basement to spread Cheetos on his face and arrange his blue hair into Trump’s signature comb over. He scares his teary-eyed sister Winter, who left Vassar to volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“I’m just so scared now,” she confesses. “Everyone is,” replies Kai.

Credit: FX

Paulson and Peters are the only actors to have appeared in every season of American Horror Story, even playing lovers in last year’s Roanoke. But this marks the first time the actors are playing the lead roles at the same time, something they both tackle with aplomb.

Despite creator Ryan Murphy’s left-leaning views, the show takes particular aim at its liberal characters through a satirical lens, though the digs are not exactly subtle. College-aged Winter complains that CNN didn’t provide a trigger warning before announcing Trump’s win, and wonders where she’ll be able to get an abortion if she becomes pregnant.

In an opening scene that’s mostly played for laughs, Ivy attempts to soothe Ally, a Jill Stein voter, through a technique called “cookie breathing” after she directs her ire towards the Huffington Post and Nate Silver, along with questioning the fate of Merrick Garland. Their neighbor, who we later learn serves on the city council, admonishes his wife for choosing to browse Etsy all day instead of voting, expressing his fear that the lesbian couple’s marriage may now be rescinded.

Just like in the real world, some of the reactions of Trump’s most ardent detractors are comically over the top, yet there are still plenty of legitimate issues to worry about regarding his presidency. In the AHS universe, the former reality host’s surprise victory sets off Ally’s assortment of phobias, including a fear of small holes, coffins and especially clowns. It’s the last one that may end up being warranted if, in fact, a group of masked clowns is indeed roaming the streets of their quiet Michigan town since Election Night.

Cult almost immediately sees the return of Freak Show‘s Twisty the Clown thanks to a comic being read by Ally and Ivy’s son. The cover image triggers Ally’s coulrophobia, the irrational fear of clowns.

Meanwhile, a public humiliation and dismissal during a city council meeting inspires Kai to take matters into his own hands using a platform of fear. As the rebellious basement dweller plots his next move, Ally vents to her therapist (Cheyenne Jackson) about all of her fears like trypophobia (the fear of small holes) getting worse since November 8th, her worst stretch since 9/11, which only dissipated thanks to her meeting Ivy and the election of Barack Obama.

Dr. Rudy Vincent prescribes an anti-anxiety medication and advises her to disconnect from social media as a way to deal with her extreme reaction.

But her deep-seated fears follow her to an empty grocery store where she is greeted not only by a Trump-supporting cashier (played by Chaz Bono), but is seemingly chased by a pack of masked clowns. Her growing paranoia causes a rift between her and Ivy, so Ally decides to keep herself occupied by returning to work at the couple’s restaurant, which leads her to search for a nanny after their old one suddenly disappeared.

It’s then that the lives of Ally and Ivy begin to intersect with that of the Andersons. We discover that it’s Winter who will become Oz’s new nanny as the women are impressed by her resume, including her aforementioned stint as a Clinton campaign volunteer.

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Their sole encounter with Kai finds him purposely splashing them with his drink on the street. “Enjoy your latte, bitch,” he sneers. Kai, emboldened by Trump’s election, later passes the time by harassing a group of Mexican immigrants, who promptly beat him after he throws a urine-filled condom at them. But given that video of the incident is being recorded from afar, we can expect the troubled young man to use the occurrence as a rallying cry in support of his cause.

Despite their opposing political views, siblings Kai and Winter maintain a close relationship, even sharing their most personal and intimate sexual experiences with one another. But Winter also confesses that she’s most afraid of her own brother, even as she appears to be just as screwed up as he is despite her progressive views, as demonstrated by her interactions with Oz, who she encourages to view violent videos on the dark web after observing his fascination with Twisty.

The young boy may, in fact, suffer the same delusions as his mother. The episode ends with a murder at the Changs’ home across the street that was either perpetrated by the group of killer clowns that have allegedly been chasing Ally around, which is what Oz maintains, or a murder suicide per a detective (portrayed by Colton Haynes) investigating the crime, setting up the mystery for the rest of the season.

Next: American Horror Story: Cult Premiere Preview — “Election Night”

American Horror Story: Cult continues Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.