Beware the spoilers below for American Horror Story: Cult, and don't read on if you haven't watched yet.
While American Horror Story kept fans waiting until the premiere to discover the Roanoke theme and format, we've known since San Diego Comic-Con that Cult would serve as this year's theme, with lots of clowns, holes and political implications involved. And yet, somehow FX, Ryan Murphy and others managed to make it all the way to the season premiere without actually divulging any hard and fast details for what viewers could expect from stars Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Billie Lourd and others. But now we know exactly how most of it all fits together, so let's dive into "Election Night."
As it was previously teased, American Horror Story: Cult kicked off with coverage of Donald Trump winning the U.S. Presidency, which was experienced in completely different ways by Sarah Paulson's phobia-stricken wife and mother Ally Mayfair-Richards and Evan Peters' disenfranchised Kai Anderson. Ally is completely disgusted and troubled by a Trump-led nation, while Kai celebrates it by dry humping his flat-screen TV and painting his face with blended-up cheese puffs. Not the most obvious way to show one's fandom of a political victor, but Kai seems like he's less interested in Trump himself than in a different voice making it to such an important public stage.
As a lesbian mothering a son with another woman -- Alison Pill's far more centered Ivy Mayfair-Richards -- Ally has reasons to fear a President that could threaten same-sex marriages and other more recently established social norms. (Her Guatemalan housekeeper left, guys!) But while her anxiety is raised over bipartisan angst, it's far from the only thing that's putting her on the path to a nervous breakdown, and we're not talking about her Jill Stein vote. More on all that below.
Kai, with his blue man-bun, initially gets presented as an aggression-oozing quasi-victim, who sees his thoughts and concerns rejected by others, even though he's a tad too over-zealous with his courtroom antics, as well as too unapologetic for his drink getting dumped on Ally and Ivy. Plus, he sang a racist tune and provoked a group of Latino men to beat him down, which he non-coincidentally recorded on his cell phone. And outside of that, he's apparently recruiting his anal sex-remembering sister Winter (Billie Lourd) to get into some guided mayhem that further connects Kai and Ally's lives. So he's not exactly the hero of this story.
The hyperbolic political aspect is already uncomfortable to watch, and it's hard to imagine people across both party lines watching with others without complaining about how things are being portrayed. (Especially Kai's cringe-inducing rendition of "La Cucaracha.") But, knowing how this show works, American Horror Story: Cult will likely undercut its bipartisan narrative with some subversive twists that make us rethink not just what we've seen, but what we've experienced in our own lives. Maybe I'm going with more hope than logic there. Sa-a-ay, did someone hear a honking nose nearby?
The clowns that have been ALL OVER the promotional campaign for American Horror Story: Cult finally got to cause some legitimate mayhem in the premiere, although not all of it was "real." Things first get really interesting whenever a picnic-enjoying couple started referencing Freak Show's standout monster Twisty the Clown, which ushered in the first bloodthirsty cameo from actor John Carroll Lynch. For anyone who'd previously read how this season won't be guided by supernatural events, there were likely some quick questions flying around when Twisty got shot without consequences, but it was revealed to all be part of a comic book that Ally and Ivy's son Ozzie is reading.
Beyond bringing old Twisty back, this comic introduced audiences to Ally's larger-than-life fear of clowns, which comes up quite often throughout the episode. She's seeing a psychiatrist, Cheyenne Jackson's coral-keeping Dr. Vincent, but she doesn't want to weigh her mind down with medication, even though it's quite necessary for her. In what's perhaps the episode's most memorable sequence, she had a super-lucid hallucination where her supermarket experience was taken over by people in clown masks having sex in the produce section, as well as riding down the aisles on scooters and generally causing grocery-destroying havoc. But none of it was real.
Later, when Ally and Ivy's friends and neighbors are killed by a pack of clowns traveling in an ice cream truck -- witnessed by Ozzie and his new caretaker Winter(!) -- it's not even clear at first if that stab-happy incident was real, or if it was actually just another delusion that's somehow shared through hereditary connections. But considering one of those murdered neighbors was the overt liberal who completely shut down Kai in the courtroom, it's definitely not a coincidence. But one has to wonder how and why that multi-faced clown mask shows up both in real life and in Ally's delusions. Unless those masks have some kind of personal connection for her...
Now that the premiere has come and gone, we're definitely left with some questions about how it all fits together. What is Kai's overall goal with recording his own self-imposed beating, beyond leaking it to the public? How far will Ally's episodes go before she decides to legitimately help herself, and how much will it destroy her family? What's up with the pinky-swears? Why does Winter still have a job watching Ozzie? What's up with Colton Haynes' hair during his brief moment? So many questions, and so many specific clown masks and costumes that I'm hoping are readily available for Halloween.
For now, we'll just sit back and theorize until next week. American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesday nights on FX at 10:00 p.m. ET, and there are far more disturbing freak-outs and bloody murders yet to come. In the meantime, check out everything else we know about the new season, and head to our fall premiere schedule to see everything that's on the way in the near future.