American Horror Story
The finale of an American Horror Story season is a very complex thing. Not only does it have to be scary and full of twists, it also has to make sure that all of the evil characters get their comeuppance. This is especially tricky on a show where the entire cast can end up dead by the final credits. But this rather strong season was different, and so it necessitated a different kind of ending. It’s less of a fright-fest than it is a fantasy.
It also takes the concept of the “final girl,” the one woman in horror movies who survives past the end of the movie, to a whole new level. In this case, it’s Ally Mayfair-Richards, who started off the season scared of clowns, holes, blood, and just about everything else because she voted for Jill Stein and helps hand the White House to a fatberg pressed into the shape of a human being. Now, Cult ends with Ally using all the rage fomented by that election to take control of both her life and the political atmosphere.
The shape of the episode is strangely convoluted, starting off with Kai resurrecting his cult behind bars and then doubling back for us to explain how he wound up there. Then it has to double even further back to reveal Ally’s part of the action — all of which is integral to the plot, though we never saw it before. The end result is more complicated than it probably needed to be, but it allows us to savor the turns of Ally’s journey right up until the very final moment.
In chronological order, it goes something like this. After Kai’s assassination attempt, when Ally was still in the mental institution, the FBI approached her about infiltrating the cult and busting him. She agreed for immunity, which is what allowed her to kill Ivy for revenge and also murder Speedwagon so that the state police wouldn’t ruin her deal with the FBI. Turns out Detective Samuels busted Speedwagon selling Molly and the crooked cop roped him into his drug ring. The state police figured out Samuels was crooked and were using Speedwagon to try to bust him when he got involved with the cult. As we saw at the end of the last episode, he was spying on Kai for the cops.
It is such a wonderful moment when Ally gets to tell Kai that the person who betrayed him to the cops was Speedwagon, not his sister Winter, and that Kai killed her for no reason. Ally is posing throughout like she’s a true believer, but she must have really enjoyed torturing Kai right to his face.
I also loved her dynamic with Beverly, especially how they were feeling each other out while talking in the kitchen about the “Divine Leader” and how they were so “happy” to be serving him. It reminded me of the way the women talk in The Handmaid’s Tale, feeding each other the party line but hoping someone picks up on the subtext. Ally spares Beverly’s life and essentially tells her to wait it out, knowing that their rescue is eminent.
Finally, these two women are even able to bond after the FBI raid. (Plus, during the raid, Beverly finally gets to put a bullet in the head of one of Kai’s alt-right assholes.) Beverly shows up at Ally’s now-booming restaurant to let us know that Kai confessed to all the murders, even the ones he didn’t commit. All of the murders except Ivy’s, that is, which he blames on Ally. Beverly tries to force a confession, but Ally doesn’t bite.
What is great about this finale is that it shows Ally is just as diabolical and charismatic as Kai, especially once she decides that she’s going to run for the Senate. We see that she arranges Kai’s bloody escape from prison so that he can confront her on the stage at her debate. She even goes so far as to convince his lover and prison guard Gloria to give him an empty gun. Then Beverly gets to do what she really wanted, putting a bullet right in Kai’s head.
This whole season has been about how, much like Kai, Donald Trump used fear, violence, media manipulation, racism, misogyny, and a cocktail of other awful tactics to get elected. But this finale shows that Ally is willing to do similar things as well. It reminds us that, in the game of politics, no one comes out clean, and that plenty of people are willing to trade their moral centers in order to win. In both Kai and Ally’s cases, they think that they’re doing the right thing, even while they have to murder and endanger people to get there.
Kai’s downfall, aside from his addiction to Adderall, is that he went too far. He started off trying to incite a revolution and ended up with trying to stab a bunch of pregnant women in the belly for the Night of a 100 Tates. (The campy scene with all of those men stabbing their watermelons for practice is one of the most darkly comic gems of the whole season.)
When running for Senate, Ally says that she wants to end all of the cults, including both political parties. She wants to dismantle the whole system and replace it with something fair. But what happens when she starts to go a little far afield? I’m sure plenty of viewers jumped off their couches and cheered like I did when Ally told Kai, “There is something worse than a humiliated man — a nasty woman.”
This is the liberal revenge fantasy, that a woman could stand up to a man hovering over her in a debate, that she could take back words like “shrill,” that she could show that she’s tough enough to get elected to national office, and then, once she gets there, vow never to work with people like Kai again, but instead to align herself with smart, talented women.
What happens in that final scene, however, might be Ally’s step too far. After telling her son Oz that she’s going to meet with those women, she puts on a hood that looks like something Stevie Nicks would have worn on an album cover. It’s the hood that Bebe Babbitt wore earlier in the season. Has Ally started a cult of her own? Has she truly become as dangerous as Kai? Was this all part of Bebe’s plan?
This season is about unleashing female rage and utilizing it to create a better world. That’s something many of us wanted to believe was possible after Trump’s election. (It’s something that might even be coming true in the deluge of revelations about sexual harassment and assault sparked by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.) But like any anger and fear-based philosophy, it has its limits and can be easily bent into extremism.
But I’ll be honest: At this point, with the president of the United States calling other world leaders “short and fat” on Twitter, I’m willing to take my chances with Ally’s cult.