Episode 6 Of American Horror Story: Cult Horrifies While Touching On Important Issues

by Ben Martin

[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of American Horror Story Season 7: Cult, Episode 6: Mid-Western Assassin DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so.  Episode 6: Mid-Western Assassin can be viewed on FX, On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]

Last week’s episode of American Horror Story: Cult, unfortunately, proves to be more timely than ever. The episode entitled, “Mid-Western Assassin,” opens at a political rally. As a viewer, we know we’re at some point in the near future. Thus, the series is continuing its recent non-linear narrative structure. Campaigning city councilman-elect and cult leader, Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) is up on stage, in the beginnings of a speech. His supporters are there in droves. Beverly (Adina Porter) is fulfilling her purpose by covering the rally. Ally and Ivy are there as well; though seemingly, all on their respective accords. Ally (Sarah Paulson) is wandering toward the front of the crowd.
Then, unseen gunshots ring out. Several of the rally’s attendees get hit, some fatally. The collateral damage of a mad gunman’s rampage to hit their intended target, Kai Anderson, who was wounded and is now unconscious on-stage. Ivy (Alison Pill) is in the midst of scrambling to safety but stops dead in her tracks. Shocked, she sees that her estranged wife is the shooter. Ally stands there, stunned with the pistol trembling in her hands. Promptly, she is arrested by what looks like a S.W.A.T. team. With that, the cold-opening that hit closer to home than even the producers intended, finishes.

We go back to the scene from last week in which Meadow (Leslie Grossman) is banging on Ally’s window; attempting to frantically tell her that, “There’s a cult and everyone’s involved!” As in the previous episode, Meadow is ripped away. From there, we’re given a different perspective on this portion of the events that occurred. After hesitating a moment, Ally goes over to the neighbors’ house. This time, we see that she finds Meadow, bound and gagged in the garage. Ally sets her free, and the pair manages to escape. The two women take refuge in The Butchery. Both of them are scared, but Meadow still asks, “Can I have a Cappuccino?”, which evokes an eye-roll from Ally. (This gag also proved to be one of the few moments of levity in the episode.)
After Ally manages to refocus Meadow, she demands proof of the claims. Meadow lays out the evidence with ease. She tells Ally more about Ivy’s involvement in the cult and how Ivy wanted to literally drive Ally crazy. Furthermore, Ivy lays-out the cult’s rigged game. She cites various examples: The birds were killed by poisoning feeders; the trucks were harmless but paid to drive by; and that that the keys were given to her and Harrison (Billy Eichner) by Ivy to kill Oz’s the guinea pig. Not to mention, the protesters were paid by Kai to be there & part for Ally. Considering the information that just been relayed and Ally’s penchant for panic, I’d say she took it pretty well. Once she takes it all in, Meadow exposes Kai as the cult’s leader.
With that, the episode flashes back to December 2016 in which Meadow recounts her relationship with the cult leader. Kai is shown to use traditional cult tactics, ala, Charles Manson and Jim Jones. He gains Meadow’s complete trust, loyalty, and love. Kai tells her things like, she’s incredible, needed, etc. Meadow explains to Ally that, at the time, she felt Kai, set her free and that they were unstoppable. That is until Ivy came along and Kai expressed all the same sentiments to her. Feeling broken and betrayed, Meadow lashes out at her leader and fellow members. Cutting her rant short, Kai has her restrained and after degrading her, orders Harrison and Detective Jack Samuels (Colton Haynes) to dump her unconscious, into the previously seen open grave. Cutting back to the present, in The Butchery, Meadow tells Ally that the only way to stop Kai is for them to kill him.

The non-linear narrative now in full-swing, the episode cuts to “April 3, 2017, City Council Town Hall Debate.” There, Kai is keeping up his act as the clean-cut, conservative city councilman-elect. Of course, what this means is that he continues his fear mongering; adding fuel to his supporters’ fire. Then a lone voice comes out of the fearful darkness that fills the political chamber. Local resident Sally Keffler (Mare Winningham) uses her chance to speak. Sally comes out against Kai, calling him, “A snake oil salesmen,” and quoting stats. This lone, sane voice then says he’s trying to scare people; citing that Kai is not a conservative. Instead, he is a reactionary who uses fear. Following that, Sally delivers one of my favorite sentiments thus far, “Kai & Trump aren’t the garbage; they’re the flies the garbage has drawn.” To cap it all off Sally declares her write-in candidacy to run against Kai for city council.

From there, we jump to “November 9, 2016, Day After the Election.” Ivy shows up in a panic, pacing on Winter’s (Billie Lourd) doorstep. She frantically tells Winter that Gary (Chaz Bono) showed up last night to vote with his hand cut off! Fearful that they’ll be caught, Ivy seeks Winter’s advice on how to proceed. In response, Winter introduces Ivy to Kai. Using Ivy’s  fear and hatred, Kai makes an immediate connection with her. He then demands to know what darkness lies in her heart. Caught in Kai’s hook, Ivy confesses that she has a hatred for her wife because Ally was able to give birth to Oz, whereas Ivy was not due to health condition. Thus, she feels and inadequate and is jealous of her co-parent as a mother.  Using this information, Kai convinces Ivy to join up. All with the purpose of driving Ally crazy, to the point where the court would never grant her custody of Oz.
Cutting back to the present, Ally takes Meadow to Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), telling him to talk to Meadow and that she has information about the cult. Then, as quickly as she arrived, Ally leaves, saying she’s going to take care of something. Seeking a non-violent solution, she goes to speak to Sally Kepler. After telling Sally about the cult; Sally believes Ally. The two of them agreeing that Kai needs to be stopped. Alas, the pair’s coup is put to a stop in a terrifying turn of events. As if on queue, the cult breaks into Sally’s house.
Ally hides while Sally tries to defend herself with her gun, but is overpowered. The clowns proceed to pin Sally down while Kai post “a suicide note” on the victim’s Facebook. Then, without so much as logging out of the social media account, Kai shoots Sally in the head at point-blank range. The cult exits, leaving Ally be. Having survived by the skin of her teeth or unbeknownst to her, Ally returns to Dr. Rudy’s. Upon doing so, she finds that Meadow has left. More disturbingly, Dr. Rudy doubts Ally’s mental stability; inferring that he’ll have her committed.
Ending where the episode began, we go back to the rally where  Kai is giving a speech. At this moment, Meadow is revealed to be the actual shooter. Only after the “Mid-Western Assassin” has done her damage does Ally manage the wrestle the gun away from Meadow. However, before Ally gains control of the firearm, Meadow kills herself with the weapon. Thus, our heroine, Ally, is left with the gun, looking like the culprit. As Ally drops the gun, we’re treated to the inception of this assassination plot. The episode flashes back to when Meadow was restrained.
As a hostage of sorts, Kai gets Meadow back under his spell. As Kai has sex with Meadow while she’s restrained, Meadow is given a brain-washing. Kai convinces Meadow to attempt to assassinate him, with the intention of only wounding. The cult leader cites, “We’re a Christian country, everybody loves a resurrection.” He then lays out the plan for Meadow to bear witness of the cult to Ally. In the end, he makes Meadow believe that this is her ultimate purpose. One which will end her life in a suicide. The episode’s closing moments take place at the rally with Kai being loaded into an ambulance; wounded, but alive and ready to watch the world burn.

Before I get into what I thought of this week’s AHS, I feel that it is important to discuss some issues surrounding this episode. As you read, a large part of revolved around a shooting. That aspect of the episode may be hard for many to swallow (it was for me), due to the  tragedy in Las Vegas at the beginning of this month. As a result, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and the producers of the show did edit the shooting scenes down a bit, out of respect for the victims of the tragedy. However, you can see the original cut of the episode via FX OnDemand or other streaming services.
In my opinion, there’s no need to explore the latter option as the two versions aren’t that different. I found the broadcast cut to be equally as disturbing, though hard to stomach. To be fair though, this event is integral to this episode, and I would assume, the rest of Cult’s season. However, I might’ve chosen to delay this episode a week or two if I were a network head. Much like Netflix and Marvel are doing with their upcoming Punisher series. Co-creator and producer Ryan Murphy said that part of the purpose of the scenes was to make a statement about gun control. Personally, I can see his point, but I don’t feel the show was on ultimately successful in making such a statement. Despite that, I agree with the producers that we need stricter gun control in this country. If this episode helps progress toward such, then great.
I can’t say that I enjoyed this episode, but I did think it was great. The reason I say that is because I feel AHS: Cult has managed the become genuinely horrific. As a result, I’m as disturbed by the show it as I am intrigued by it. Granted, that’s understandable considering the state of our current socio-political climate. But, for this writer, it all just hits a little too close to home. Thus, I can’t say that I’m “enjoying” the show, perse. That being said, I look forward to the next episode. Cult is doing a great job of ratcheting up the horrific stakes for the past few weeks, and I feel it will continue to. I also appreciate the extremely non-linear structure that is being used. Though, I think they could ease up on that just a bit. In closing, I look forward to seeing the horror as put through AHS’ prism for the rest of this season. If anything, it’s an interesting semi-distraction on all the chaos we’re experiencing in real life.

Episode 8: “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins, Scumbag” will air Tuesday, October 17 at 10:00 PM.

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