Thursday, October 5, 2017

American Horror Story, Season 7 (Cult), Episode Three: Neighbors from Hell

The episode begins with Dr.Vincent meeting with a patient and her husband to discuss her fear of coffins due to being locked in dark cupboards as a child by her father. After some extensive therapy the woman now feels that she has been cured and can move on with her life.  In a case of best laid plans of mice and men, the clowns break into the couple home and trap the woman and her husband in matching coffins.  This means that if you had any doubts before, now you know without a doubt that Dr. Vincent is at the very least complicit in the whole home invasion murder spree that the clowns are on. There's no way they could have known to pick the exact fear of Vincent's patient.  What we don't know is why he is involved. Alternatively it's just utterly random for the sake of randomness.

Last week ended with the death of poor maligned Pedro and this week we learn that there will be no consequences for Ally for shooting him to death on her doorstep. Detective Samuels carefully talks Ally through a stand your ground defense making sure she sticks to the script whenever she is tempted to stray: hes' there to make sure there are no consequences for killing this latino man. For Samuels Ally's actions make sense particularly because the police were already interested in Pedro thanks to the murder in the restaurant the week before. Ally of course is relieved that she isn't going to be charged but is worried about how seeing her murder someone will affect her son. 

The police may not be interested in holding Ally accountable for her actions but that doesn't mean that society agrees that she is blameless. When Ally and Ivy show up at the restaurant the next day, they discover that people are protesting out front.  A frustrated Ally cries and screams about being one of them (read: a good liberal). The supposed persecution of Ally continues when the in a news report she is called the "lesbian George Zimmerman". Leave it to American Horror Story to appropriate the death of an innocent Black teenager for entertainment value. If that were not enough, the Wiltons show up at Ally's door wearing sombreros to let Ally know that they think she is a horrible racist woman who shot Pedro because of his brown skin. Harrison goes as far as to site his DNA results from 23andMe claiming that because he apparently has some Latino blood in him that Ally would probably like to shoot him as well.  The Wiltons want to know in particular how Ally feels about exercising her White privilege.  At this point, I very seriously considered changing the channel because really, should anyone be subjected to this?

This whole nonsense is literally painful to watch

In between the shrieking and declarations of just how good she is, it's clear that Ally is starting to get defensive and absolutely believes that she is being persecuted. Kai of course encourages this belief by assuring Ally that she has nothing to be ashamed of and that she killed Pedro in self defense. 

Kai is also working with her neighbours the Wiltons, encouraging each of them to pinkie-swear reveal their worst fears and secrets (to the shock of no-one this includes regret that they married since she’s afraid of never having sex again or having kids and he just wants out and would rather she be dead). He seems to have a creepy, violent control over them which is definitely cultish and probably what this season was about before some bright spark decided to shoe-horn in a lot of racism and political nonsense.

He is also working on Ally, seeming to have the magical power to clear crowds of protesters with a word (again, showing a cult like following rather than the political nonsense

For further cult leanings we have Detective Samuels also apparently spending his evenings round at the Wiltons. Ivy also convinces Ally to let Winter come back as a babysitter for Oz since it’s hardly her fault Ally murdered someone.

More randomness - there’s a truck coming most night dropping green gas everywhere and one night they even take a side trip to spray Ally’s lawn. This seems to cause a whole lot of dead birds - which is worrying for anyone but really not good for Ally

Ally is changing from screaming panicking break down lady, to paranoid, raging, aggressive lady. This is not an improvement. She is particularly set off when a harasser puts a vile misogynist and homophobic advert on craigslist inviting men to turn up at her house naked for sex. She decides, in a moderately random fashion, to blame the Wiltons and escalate their little war (even as her probably-cult-member-therapist tells her what a bad idea this is). He is more concerned that her phobias and paranoia have contributed to her killing someone and maybe she needs to address this.

The Wiltons fireback in this war by… getting Oz a pet guinea pig. This is apparently a terribly offensive thing (I’d go for more… inappropriate) and escalates the conflict still further (with added homophobic and sexist attacks against Ally and Ivy as lesbian parents) all the time Ivy is trying to Ally to calm down a little. And then they come home one day (after having a nice time reconciling so many of their issues and agreeing to keep the guinea pig) and find clown-serial-killer-smiley-face graffiti - and the guinea pig in the microwave

That’s going to take so much cleaning

Ally assumes this is the neighbours again and rampages over, accusing and hitting Harrison despite their protestations of innocence. Ivy manages to get her back home finally telling Ally how tired she is of what Ally is becoming. The police detective (who may be a cultist) is also beginning to dismiss Ally and her mental illness

What she seems to becoming is a Kai cultist - with Meadow he pushes a sense of self-worth by basically blaming everything that goes wrong on other people. Don’t suppress pain, feel it, get angry and then find a scapegoat to lash out at. This may be the one and only actually interesting though American Horror Story has raised.

Then Oz breaks the parental safeguard on the computer and comes up with a hidden video of Winter and Ally getting up to shenanigans in the bath. Ivy is Not Amused. Ally tries to put it all down to the many conspiracies but Ivy isn’t having it - no matter how recorded it, no-one made Ally cheat but Ally

Their fight is interrupted by the police arriving - Harrison is being arrested, he’s covered in blood and Meadow is missing. Just after Kai got him to admit he wished Meadow were dead.

This season of American Horror Story feels like someone has looked at some of the most sensitive, painful, politically fraught issues of recent (and, well, long term history) and is just poking them over and over yelling “does it hurt?” and “eddddgy”. There’s no attempt at analysing or working through or even displaying these things - if anything it’s parodying them. But parodying suggests a sense of witty insight - there’s not a crumb of that here. This is just clumsily vomiting them out with utter cluelessness, playing with the bigotry that has peaked after the American election and rolling around in things like the Stand Your Ground defence, racist police, anti-immigrant hate, white privilege, the Zimmerman case - none of these are handled in a way that is interesting, insightful, skillful, intelligent, witty, amusing, funny - or well, ANYTHING. They’re just splashed across the script like some kind of explosive diarrhea. Worse, I think they perpetuate the idea that the murders of POC like the Zimmerman case are justified: after all, we have seen Ally’s perspective, we know she didn’t act out of racial animus but paranoia, terror, gaslighting and mental illness (for further stigmatisation). Her actions are either a tragic accident or caused by her own victimisation. By drawing a comparison to Zimmerman and the spate of police killings (with the “no police no justice” chant) there’s the implication that these real life murders are similarly understandable, tragic accidents

And I wonder if it was a last minute change after the election? Because if we go back and have evil clowns gaslightling Ally-the-eternally-screaming with side plots of them killing people according to their worst fears? Everyone, the Winters, all part of a cult - everyone apparently in on it? THAT is scary. That could have been a show. Though Ally’s eternal screaming would still get on my nerves