American Horror Story: Cult season 7, episode 2 recap – “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”


Death continues to surround Ally, as her visions of clowns persist in “American Horror Story: Cult” episode 2, ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.’

The second episode of American Horror Story: Cult picks up where the season 7 premiere, “Election Night,” left off with Ally (Sarah Paulson) getting an unwelcome guest in her bed in the form of a terrifying clown.

She quickly rushes for a knife and assistance from her increasingly agitated wife, Ivy (Alison Pill), who checks every closet and corner of their bedroom, only to find that the occurrence may be yet another one of Ally’s hallucinations. Ivy admits that her patience is growing thin, especially as Ally’s coulrophobia seems to be transferring to their son Oz (Cooper Dodson), full name Ozymandias, who has a nightmare involving Freak Show‘s Twisty the Clown, now the star of his own comic book.

The boy isn’t helped by continuing to have Winter (Billie Lourd), the nanny from hell, as his caretaker. She gifts him a Twisty toy, and engages him in the same pinky ritual that she did with Kai (Evan Peters) in an effort to free him of his fear. It’s still unclear what Winter’s motivations are, though she seems intent on creating more terror for the family, perhaps at Kai’s urging.

Meanwhile, we learn that the blue-haired fearmonger is using his beating by a group of migrants that he purposely provoked as a way to launch his bid for the city council seat that’s now vacant due to the death of Ally and Ivy’s neighbor, Thom Chang, who chastised Kai’s public comments during a city council meeting. Kai is clearly betting on the growing xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment that was evident throughout the presidential election to propel him forward.

Viewers hoping that the show would include fewer references to our current political climate may be disappointed that they continue in episode 2, not only with Kai’s fear-based campaign, which is likely to unfold throughout the rest of the season, but also involving a dispute at the lesbian couple’s restaurant between the white male manager, Roger, and a Spanish-speaking cook, Pedro. Ally breaks up a fight between the two after Pedro points a knife at Roger, telling the latter that she can’t fire an immigrant in the current climate, even though we later learn that he’s a citizen who was born in San Diego.

“It’s scary to be brown these days,” Pedro laments after he becomes the main suspect in Roger’s murder. AHS has never been one for subtlety, especially when shoehorning in social issues. Though much of this is clumsily done, the episode does introduce us to arguably the season’s most fascinating characters yet that aren’t simply caricatures of the left or the right, unlike Ally and Kai.

Meadow (Leslie Grossman) and her gay husband/best friend Harrison (Billy Eichner) are Ally and Ivy’s Nicole Kidman-obsessed new neighbors, who quickly moved in across the street in spite of the blood-soaked remnants of the Changs’ alleged murder-suicide. They also just so happen to have recorded footage of Kai getting beaten up.

Harrison is a beekeeper whose honeycombs freak Ally out due to her trypophobia (fear of small holes), while the equally forthright Meadow is a cancer survivor who can’t be out in the sun for an extended amount of time. Alluding to the theme of the season, Harrison praises bees’ cult-like behavior.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: CULT — Pictured: Billy Eichner as Harrison Wilton. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Ally is unnerved by their new neighbors, adding to her anxiety, which goes through the roof after she finds Roger hanging from a meat hook in The Butchery’s meat locker while (inexplicably) checking on the restaurant’s security system. She fortifies the house the next day when her therapist Dr. Rudy (Cheyenne Jackson) checks in on her at Ivy’s urging. Adding to her issues is guilt over the fact that Roger was still alive when she found him, but he died as she tried to help him. Unfortunately, the main suspect in his murder, Pedro, also (presumably) meets his demise at Ally’s hands later in the episode.

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The restaurateur admits to Dr. Rudy that she got a gun from Harrison’s stockpile of weapons for her protection (He’s been hoarding guns since Obama became president out of fear that he would repeal the 2nd Amendment). Ally threatens him not to tell Ivy or else he would violate their doctor-patient confidentiality agreement. She also claims to feel vindicated for her fears by the latest developments and the state of the world.  Dr. Rudy tells Ivy that he fears Ally is developing agoraphobia and requests that she be monitored at all times. Since Ivy is normally busy at the restaurant, which is apparently still open despite being an active crime scene, the task falls to Winter.

That night, the pig-tailed nanny seductively runs a bath for Ally to calm her nerves. Earlier in the day, Ally got a visit from Kai campaigning for city council. He noted that her recent security updates demonstrate that she’s just as afraid as everyone else, despite her claims that she wants to “build bridges, not walls.”

Winter’s flirtatious advances are interrupted by the alarm system going on and the lights going off. Just then, a masked clown enters Oz’s bedroom and whispers that he’s asleep before exiting the room. Ally and Winter go downstairs and find Harrison banging on the front window. He informs them that it’s a widespread blackout, and likely a coordinated terrorist attack.

The news freaks out not only Ally but also Winter, who quickly bolts out the front door to protect her home and belongings from looters, despite Ally’s desperate pleas for her to stay. After finding the wires of her security system cut off, and spotting the ice cream truck belonging to the murderous clowns outside, Ally quickly grabs her gun and her son so they can flee to their neighbors’ home through the kitchen. However, seeing a figure standing outside, she shoots through the door, only to find Pedro on the other side collapsing to the floor while delivering supplies at Ivy’s request. Her fear has led Ally to become someone she had previously despised, the type to shoot first and ask questions later.

Next: Evan Peters to play Andy Warhol, Charles Manson in American Horror Story: Cult

Despite the recent spate of clown-related entertainment (namely the success of IT) Cult hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations when it comes to quality jump scares, thus far offering more on-the-nose political satire than genuine horror. The impressive directing and cinematography from past seasons is also missing thanks to the more grounded setting and premise. Additionally, the clowns and cult themes have yet to converge. What is an improvement is the singular focus on the main story line rather than getting sidetracked by other distractions, greatly aided by the smaller cast. But next’s week’s episode would be better served if it starts hitting different notes rather than predictably following Ally around as she’s chased by clowns.

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