Since November 2016, a lot has changed in this country for better and for worse, and Ryan Murphy is wasting no time capitalizing and commenting on what’s happening and what our world has turned into. From the hysterics to the radicals to the opportunists to the fearful, the political commentary is diverse and accompanied by a gang of killer clowns in American Horror Story: Cult.
Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters are back in full force, carrying, once again, the weight of the show on their backs: Paulson as Ally, a phobia-ridden, far left-leaning small business owner who begrudgingly voted for Jill Stein due to lack of viable candidates. After Trump is announced as President-elect, she finds her fears stirring up inside her, making life unbearable for her wife, Ivy (Alison Pill), and young son, Ozzie; Peters’ Kai Anderson serves as the polarizing factor against Ally as a radicalized Trump supporter, who believes fear is the currency on which the country should operate. The two perfectly embody the over-the-top, hyperbolic personas each side sees the other as — think “Racist” vs “Snowflake.”
This season, I would argue, is slightly more evolved than others. Perhaps this is because we’re dealing with a hot-button topic that doesn’t involve a lick of supernatural, or, perhaps, it’s because there are multiple layers to the “cult” theme. Let’s examine two of the Merriam-Webster definitions of the word “cult”:
Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement or work; usually small group of people characterized by such devotion
With that in mind, Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters are part of different cults, who are clashing over their beliefs. And from that, several other cults branch off, including Kai’s probable rise to being the leader of the killer clowns (another element from the real world Murphy chose to include).
Joining Peters, Paulson and Pill this season are returning American Horror Story alums Emma Roberts, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, John Carroll Lynch (Twisty is back!), Adina Porter and Mare Winningham as well as newcomers Billie Lourd, Billy Eichner, Colton Haynes, Leslie Grossman and Lena Dunham — how could you have a politically charged show about the 2016 election without Dunham?
Despite the exciting new names, this season is the rise of Evan Peters. He’s always been a secondary force on the show but, finally (finally!!), after six seasons, he’s getting the entire stage to himself. Paulson, of course, is just what you’ve come to expect of her AHS characters: a crying, screaming, blubbering mess performed perfectly with flawless hair — I think the last time we saw her not constantly crying was season four in Freak Show. But, Peters is said to take on eight different roles this season, including a number of infamous cult leaders like Charles Manson, David Koresh and Andy Warhol, and Murphy has teased this is the best performance Peters has given of his career and I’m very inclined to believe him. Peters is terrifying. If anything keeps the crowd coming back for more, it won’t be the murderous clowns or painful reminders of the division our country is in, it’ll be Peters striking fear into our hearts over and over and over again.
It’s simple, really, to sum up the seventh installment of American Horror Story: the lack of supernatural or make-believe makes this season the first actually horrifying story Murphy has told to date.
American Horror Story: Cult premieres Tuesday, September 5 at 10pm ET on FX.