This episode follows on the surprise of the last episode - actually not being an absolute trainwreck of awful. Is it possible that this season may turn it around after the first 3 episodes of seemingly irredeemable awfulness
Again, when the show moves away from the utter farcically awful political storyline it actually hits cults really well. But when it does touch the politics it all falls apart because it’s been so badly thought out. Like this episode where we officially confirm that Ivy is definitely an evil cult member and like others she wants to burn the whole world down because she hates everything including her wife for voting Jill Stein.
Really? I mean, work on the fact that their marriage was a bit rocky (as we saw in a couple of flashbacks because someone on the writer’s team tried to make it fit) but “Burn the world because she voted third party!” is… just silly. And it is extra silly because we put it alongside what we saw last week and it feels hollow. Also, voting for Jill Stein and a miserable marriage means it's totally ok to arrange to have your son see a video of his other mother having sex in a bathtub? Really?
But when we focus on the actual cult which we do for most of the episode, it’s better. Now it is super super gruesome so your mileage may vary there if you hate gore for the sake of gore. Personally it doesn’t bother me and that “horror” in there kind of lays it out but there is a whole lot of really nasty death here.
Kai wants to be city councillor because people don’t listen to experts they listen to titles and this is the only election around… ok… but it’s still city councillor. Yes people tend to listen to titles… but not any title? “I Am Superintedent of Schools Smith. OBEY ME!” But hey, run with it. To do this he wants to make everyone scared out of their mind so they will vote for him the extremist candidate. I would question if a city councillor even has the requisite powers to address major serial killer fears but then I remember UKIP ran a mayoral candidate for the town of Doncaster on an anti-immigrant ticket; it’s not even close to a border or the coast so gods know what he expected to do. So, yeah, thanks real life for continuing to be more awful and more stupid than fiction.
So what’s the plan? Beverley steps up: people need to see the horrible gruesome crimes. Sure they’ve killed people with horrible theatrical clown costumes, but no-one’s seen them especially since her boss, Bob, is suppressing the images. He’s also getting in the way of her reporting, calling her out on blatant fake news and sensationalism (and in a shout out to Real Life is the Worst, “crime is out of control” scaremongering when we’ve never been safer is definitely a thing the actual news does). He’s in the way.
Time for a murder visit to Bob which they can transmit with lots of satanic chanting. And all recorded by RJ, Bev’s camera man and clearly reluctant cult member.
This is where we get to another excellent display of the cult behaviour, everyone’s got on board and now comes stopping backsliding. First by making sure everyone is involved in the brutal murder of Bob (which Beverley definitely owns) and his “gimp” (Bob has a man in bondage in the attic who they also murder because, American Horror Story) - it’s now very real to everyone. Ivy is physically sick at the murder and RJ tries to push for mercy and not killing. They get their video which Beverley duly transmits for a definite boost in the polls.
Kai and Beverley do a post-murder examination: Beverley dismisses Ivy’s nausea. Her first murder time and all, no biggy, she’ll get in line. But this isn’t RJ’s first murder nor his first squeamishness. He’s the weak link - he was equally squeamish and unwilling to kill when they murdered the couple by locking them in coffins.
So it’s time to get the whole gang together - and make everyone, starting with the Squeamish and questioning Ivy - to use a nail gun to put nails in his head. Yes, it’s brutal and awful - but again very good for establishing a cult dynamic. First we saw how Kai lured them in, now in the cult they do terrible things which is already going to make it hard to get out (how do you leave and accuse your fellows when you’re a murderer too?) and then finish up with a very clear threat for what happens if you don’t tow the line. Not everyone has to be a true believer, because once you’re in you’re trapped.
Another doubter is Meadow who now looks pretty dead. Ally spying on her neighbours sees Harrison walking around with shovels and bodybags - and sees Harrison kissing Detective Samuels so she decides to go explore. Which I find a little bemusing for a woman so consumed by phobias and paranoia - but she does and finds Meadow in a grave. Alive. She promptly runs away and tries to call the police - and fails. She does call Ivy who is Not Happy. But Meadow manages to catch up and beg for help, telling her everyone she knows: the police, her husband, Ally’s wife, et al are all in a cult. Right before Meadow is dragged off with a bag over her head. I’m assuming she’s now well and truly dead.
Final twist - Kai does his pinkie swear thing with Beverley. But Beverley has stepped up, she’s almost co-leader of the cult and doesn’t seem to be in Kai’s thrall even if she’s on side to burn them all. She’s not spilling her guts to Kai - she wants to know his secret, his past. She wants his motive.
So he tells her - his abusive father was killed by his desperate mother who then killed herself. All in front of Kai. He called his brother for help who decided, for their reputations, businesses, inheritance that it’s best they just hide the bodies and let them rot under a layer of lime. And not tell their sister Winter for a while. Kai seems initially reluctant but is talked round by his big brother
Who is Dr. Vincent - Ally’s therapist. He also does the pinkie swear thing with Kai suggesting he is the one who started this and maybe he is pulling Kai’s strings after all. Him and maybe Bev - since we see Kai in tears after telling his story...