[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 7: Cult, Episode 2: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so. Episode 2: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark can be seen on FX, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]
Last week’s Season Premiere of American Horror Story: Cult was well-crafted. It did precisely what season openers are supposed to; giving the viewer plenty to take-in while remaining intriguing. All leading up to a cliffhanger ending with Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson) seeing a terrifying clown beside her bed. (An occurrence I’m sure all of us would like to experience.)
This week, Episode 2: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark picks up where the premiere left off. Ally sees the clown and goes into a sheer panic, rushing to tell her wife, Ivy (Alison Pill) what she’s seen but, not surprisingly, the couple finds nothing. Naturally this leads Ally to seriously question her mental state. Not to mention, her ever-increasing Coulrophobia seems to be taking a stronger hold over her. Ivy manages to calm Ally down, and they turn their attention to making out. As we know, such a turn is a cherished horror trope; one that will soon be cut short for our heroines.
Meanwhile, that creepy tri-faced clown who has gone from the couple’s room to their young son Oz’s (Cooper Dodson) room. We see Oz sleeping and Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) is already looming over him as “Tri-Face” enters the child’s bedroom. As the kid quivers in fear Twisty whispers to him, “If you scream, I’ll kill you.” Thus, Oz bolts out, into his nearby bathroom’s tub, attempting to take refuge there. Alas, the clowns are on his heels as Twisty breaks through the glass door. At this point, Oz does scream and interrupt his parent’s tryst. They both rush into his room to discover he’s having a night terror, just as we the audience have. Ivy wakes Oz up reassuring him that he’s only having a night terror. He immediately clings to Ivy, crying and virtually ignoring Ally; who is clearly a bit hurt by her son’s reaction.
Sleepless nights make for rough days; such is the case with the following day for the Mayfair-Richards family. Ivy and Ally see “That asshole who spilled his latte” (Kai) on them on TV. Remember last week when he threw a urine-filled condom at a group of Hispanic migrant workers, leading them to (understandably) give him a beat-down? Well, it turns out a couple recorded the latter portion of this encounter on their cell phone, and it made the news. During his news interview, Kai announces that he is running for city council.
In doing so, he backs many of Trump’s offensive and uninformed views on America’s immigrant population; citing this “attack” as proof of the validity of those views. The racism doesn’t stop there, however. Instead, it seems ever-present in the couples butchery as well. The assistant chef, Roger (played by Scut Farkas; I mean, Zack Ward himself.) Roger obnoxiously states to the staff (the majority of whom happen to be Hispanic) that, “They are all going to all speak English so that everyone could communicate.” He then goes out of his way to verbally abuse and threaten to fire one of the cook’s named Pedro (Jorge-Luis Pallo). It seems things will escalate. That is, before Ivy steps in to stop it.
Things aren’t much better on the couple’s home-front either. While they’re away, Oz’s nanny, Winter (Billie Lourd) has been strengthening her insidious bond with him. Teaching him the pinky swear she and her brother, Kai, share and going so far as to give the child a Twisty doll. (Winter will do further damage by almost seducing Ally as well.) Before long though, that bonding is done when the two go to meet the new neighbors, who have moved into the recently slain Chang’s residence, across the street.
Soon, Ally and Ivy meet the neighbors as well when they’re surprised to find Oz over there handling a bee hive. Seeing this, of course, makes Ally uncomfortable. Though everyone moves past it as Ivy and Ally make their new neighbors, the Wiltons, acquaintance; who prove to be very eccentric and a little too frank for comfort. Harrison Wilton (Billy Eichner) is a beekeeper; his wife, Meadow (Leslie Grossman) works from home and suffers from a condition that requires her to limit her exposure to the sun. (There is also a brief mention that she has or had cancer. Frankly, I believe such a mention was purposefully unclear.) Interestingly, the two are in a platonic marriage, and Harrison is openly gay.
Later that same night, the alarm gets tripped at the butchery. Upon Oz’s insistence that Ivy stay, Ally decides to check on the alarm. When she arrives, it initially seems that it’s a false alarm, as the business’s security system is already buggy. That is until she finds Roger hanging nearly dead on a meat hook. She tries in vain to get him down, causing him to become fully and fatally impaled on the hook. When questioned by the police, Ally and Ivy reveal the tension between Roger and Pedro.
All of this has done nothing but make Ally’s mental state worse. In response, Ivy has Ally’s therapist, Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson) make an unannounced house call. During this tense visit, Ivy gives them privacy. Rudy quickly sees that Ally’s having the house fortified. Not only has a new security system been installed, but also bars have been put on the doors and windows. Beyond all this, she has also borrowed a handgun from Harrison; unbeknownst to Ivy. Due to her issues, this, of course, raises concern with Rudy. Alas, due to doctor/patient confidentiality; none of this can be disclosed. A little later, the door bars do Ally good when Kai stops by, in the guise of soliciting his council run. Not surprisingly, things between Kai & our heroine become tense, as he implies threats to her. Resulting in Ally telling him, “I want to build a bridge; not a wall.” Kai retorts, “Is that why you need all these bars? Are you going to melt this metal down and build a bridge with it?”
A bad few days finally becomes the darkest of nights. Ivy’s at the butchery; Ally and Winter are at home with Oz. Everything seems fine until suddenly, there is a city-wide blackout. Winter leaves in a panic, fearing such an event will cause looters. Being left alone with Oz in this situation, causes a frazzled Ally to call Ivy; who asks Pedro to take them some candles, batteries, water, etc. However, things quickly escalate when Ally finds all the house’s fuses have been cut. To make matters worse, she sees more clowns. Without hesitation, Ally grabs Oz and her gun heading for the door with the intention of running over to the neighbors. When she whips open the door, Pedro is standing there unexpectedly. Surprised, Ally accidentally fires the gun, killing him. Leaving us to wonder, what will happen next week?
Reading that summary, you’re probably thinking, “Just more clowns huh?” Well yes, there were more clowns; but there’s a lot more than that going on. I feel that this episode was a nice progression, following the season premiere. Similar things happened and not as many of them at that. But, appropriately so, I think bridges are indeed being built here for the remainder of the season. Not that these “bridges” are subtle; then again, subtle isn’t AHS’ style.
With the introduction of the Wiltons, in addition to the way Ivy’s handling things, I was led to wonder something. That being, “Is Cult going to be taking a Rosemary’s Baby approach?” It seems to me that Ivy, Dr. Rudy, and the new neighbors may all be part of this clown cult. Making Ally and Oz their targets of torture. I love Rosemary’s Baby, finding it to be one of the best slow-boiling, tension-building stories in history. However, I hope this season of AHS doesn’t go down a similar path without at least adding something to it. But, I suppose we shall see in the coming weeks.
I also found that this episode was an improvement over last weeks. The characters seem to be more realistic and not just stereotypes. At the same time, the socio-political commentary is smarter, sharper and a little more understated. A great thing, as that makes its message ring truer than it did last week. That’s important, because again, in my opinion, the horror of this season, isn’t coming from clowns or the cabal of intimates. The horror resides in the commentary that the show and the writers are making about our current socio-political situation.
I felt such worked very well with the “Build bridges; not walls,” scene. A series that keeps me entertained while making me think about the real world is pretty-much all I can ask for. I expect the next few episodes over the coming weeks to be more slow-burning. No matter what speed they move at though, I’m very curious to see what pancaked, grease-painted hell will be unleashed.
Episode 3: Neighbors from Hell will air Next Tuesday, September 19th at 10:00 PM, on FX.