SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on unless you’ve seen Season 7, episode 11 of “American Horror Story,” titled “Great Again.”
It’s hard to imagine that Ryan Murphy could have predicted how relevant the “female rage” would be currently when plotting out the arc for “Cult.” Of course, there were the Women’s March after the election, the fury over the “p—y-grabber-in-chief,” but “Great Again,” the finale of “Cult,” debuts at a time when Hollywood is at a reckoning for all sexual abusers. And though she has her flaws, in this context, it’s satisfying to see a reborn Ally (Sarah Paulson) take victory from the hands of the misogynistic Kai (Evan Peters).
But give Kai this: he’s nothing if not resourceful. We find him in prison in 2018, having a pinky power scene with a guard, Gloria (Liz Jenkins), and imploring her to “show me them biker chick t-tties.” A couple of inmates pull him aside, and one of them beats the crap out of him for upsetting the simple order of the penitentiary with his “silver-tongued bulls—.” Lo and behold, this isn’t where Kai dies. The other guard kills Kai’s adversary, but has nothing to show for it. Goaded on by a hallucinatory Charles Manson, he kills another one of his loyal followers, telling him, like he told Gary (Chaz Bono), that he would be a “martyr for the cause.” Devotion to Kai gets you nowhere, folks.
If only someone could have told Trevor, the young, cowardly inmate in for killing a child while drunk-driving in his daddy’s Tesla. He makes a deal with the devil in joining Kai’s prison cult — an army of men while women “ruin the world outside” — in exchange for protection. Little does he know Kai has no interest in protecting him.
First, though, we need to learn how Kai got himself thrown in the joint. Back in 2017, Kai panics over Speedwagon (the real mole, if you remember last week’s episode)’s absence. He pulls it together to describe “The Night of 100 Tates” — it turns out he bit off more than he could chew when he proposed “The Night of 1,000 Tates,” logistically speaking. There’s an element of humor, but it’s still disturbing to see the men practice killing pregnant women by stabbing watermelons with glee. Meanwhile, Beverly (Adina Porter) is on edge and doesn’t see how she can go on, but Ally encourages her to keep going. The Night of 100 Tates will indeed be glorious, but not for the reasons that Kai thinks.
Kai still has to worry about Speedwagon, though. Ally reveals to him that she found his recorder, and that he killed Winter (Billie Lourd) for no reason. He’s heartbroken, but Ally encourages him to go forward with the big night, and so he does. The next night, the men are all set with their meticulously planned “kill kits” to murder the pregnant women, their babies, and their husbands, when Ally leaves… to let in the FBI. After an intense shootout, Kai is finally apprehended, Ally’s triumphant face the last thing he sees before the FBI truck’s doors slam.
Months later, Ally is seen as a hero. In the Butchery, where business is booming, she politely turns down a photo op, and is surprised to be visited by Beverly, who wonders when the other shoe will drop, paranoid about her own reckoning. Ally reveals that, while she was receiving psychiatric treatment, the FBI offered her immunity if she helped bring down the cult. And why turn Beverly in? She never saw her commit a crime. Ally still denies killing Ivy (Alison Pill) — though it’s the only murder Kai didn’t take credit for — and puts on a good show, tearing up as she talks about honoring her late wife’s memory. It’s clearly practiced. But Ally’s got a new life now: she has a girlfriend, and the two of them invite Beverly to Oz’s birthday party.
At that birthday party, we get another glimpse into Ally’s new life. She’s turned down interview requests from Rachel Maddow and, in a fun “AHS” crossover, even Lana Winters: Paulson’s character from “Asylum” who gained fame as a Barbara Walters-esque journalist. But she also gets a call from Kai, where she boasts that she’s a “legit feminist icon” and rubs it in his face that he’s not Oz’s father as Kai foams at the mouth, threatening her.
As Kai has sex with Gloria in prison, he watches a press conference (what better way to set the mood?) that announces Ally’s run for Senate. She’s running on a platform of disbanding the “cults” of the two-party system — fitting, if you remember that she did vote for a third-party candidate in the 2016 election. Her campaign ad scored high marks, but Beverly, who’s advising her now, tells her that the people think she lacks strength. She’s still tied to Kai, and the only way she can show her strength is by dominating the upcoming debate versus incumbent Senator Jackson, Kai’s former rival.
Meanwhile, Gloria helps Kai escape from prison. He’s procured a guard’s outfit, and murdered Trevor, who is also a white man with a body shape similar to Kai’s. To finish the job, before Gloria escorts him out of the prison, they cut off Trevor’s face to give the impression that the dead body is Kai’s, and it works. News that Kai is dead breaks right before the debate, but Ally remains unshaken, sounding strong as she stops Jackson from mansplaining to her and elicits cheers from the audience.
But just as she’s gaining momentum, Kai bursts in, grabbing a gun from Gloria, terrifying the audience, and waltzing toward Ally as he belittles her, telling her that she’s just a symbol that women will rise from pay inequality, abuse, and general disrespect. And maybe she’s a fitting one, right now: as Kai tries to shoot her, he fires blanks. Ally had beat him to the punch, used his cruelty against him, and got Gloria on her side, who provided him with a faulty weapon. Beverly steps in to shoot Kai, and just like that, Ally’s won… in more ways than one.
She won the Michigan Senate seat, securing 80% of the female vote, no less. Plus, she and Oz seem to be in a good place. As she explains governing to him, he vows that he’ll be a better man than those who came before him. But Ally has to run off into the night, as she’s meeting with some “empowered women who want to change the system.” Alone, she throws a hood over her head — is she the new Valerie Solanas? It seems that Bebe Babbitt (Frances Conroy) may have accomplished her mission after all.
And so caps another season of “American Horror Story.” The most topical yet, “Cult” focused less on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as individuals, instead commenting on how the political divide has made monsters of people on both sides. And all in all, it provided a fierce showcase for the show’s two stars, Paulson and Peters. Consider this a fitting bow on the twisted “love story” Murphy teased months ago.