[This article contains spoilers from American Horror Story: Cult episode 1, "Election Night."]
One episode down, and American Horror Story: Cult feels like The Purge on clown crack. To be clear, we're elated and this is magnificent news.
The premiere, entitled "Election Night," held nothing back, revealing how newcomers Colton Haynes and Billie Lourd fit into the season while offering details on Cheyenne Jackson and Chaz Bono's previously shrouded characters. Cult putting it all out there early on may be a good sign, making room for plenty of character development as we move forward.
We also learned how the season's highly advertised clown fear and trypophobia themes come into play.
Here's what you need to know:
Twisty the Clown introduces Cult with his old Freak Show tricks
AHS creator Ryan Murphy has teased Twisty would appear at some point during Cult, but the extent of his involvement was only clear when he slashed his way right into the intro. The premiere includes an homage to Season 4, the clown finding an unsuspecting young couple hooking up on a lawn and terrorizing them to, well, pieces.
Later, we discover this scene was merely the plot of a child's comic book. Sarah Paulson's Ally has a son named Ozzie, who she catches reading the book under the covers after bed time.
She assumes it's porn, only to go into hysterics when she snatches it away from him, revealing one of the major themes for this season: coulrophobia, or the intense fear of clowns. It takes several minutes of soothing from Ally's partner, Ivy (Allison Pill), before she comes out of a debilitating panic.
Same, girl, same.
Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) is definitely the leader of a crazy clown cult, and he seems to have it out for Ally
We meet Kai Anderson as he attends a sparse town hall meeting, protesting an initiative to allocate funds for religious protection. He goes on a crazy if not charismatic rant about fear. According to Kai, humans love fear above all else because we feed into it with everything we do. Although he doesn't specifically say this, he's miffed with society's desire to censor in the name of protection. His theory is that if we stop protecting people from everything, they'll be freer than ever. My theory is that he's batshit cray.
One of the city councilmen rejects his statements, congratulates him for taking a break from 4chan, getting out of his parents' basement, and showing up to speak. Kai walks away from the meeting without protest, but utters one cryptic statement: "There is nothing more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man."
More on that below.
Later, Ally and Ivy are chatting about their voting habits on a sidewalk when Kai suddenly appears, throwing his latte on Ally. He's obviously targeting Ally for a reason we haven't learned... unless he's so offended she voted for Jill Stein he decides to sic his insane clown posse on her, in which case, who's the snowflake now?
Cheyenne Jackson plays Ally's psychiatrist, Dr. Rudy Vincent
After seeing the Twisty the Clown comic book, Ally heads straight to her shrink, played by Cheyenne Jackson. He's kind and understanding, but he has a coral on his shelves which is a problem because, you know, holes.
He prescribes her a couple minor medications, and we exit the scene acknowledging their friendship.
Chaz Bono is a one-handed, Trump-loving grocery store clerk named Gary Longstreet
Ally heads to the grocery store to pick up a few items, where she runs into Chaz Bono, AKA Gary Longstreet. He's an outspoken Trump supporter, and once she realizes he's less than like-minded, she goes about her business. He's also missing a hand, which is notable but not immediately important.
It's here, in the deserted aisles of this store, that Ally has her first interaction with the clowns. As she makes her way through, she runs into about six of them doing various activities: scootering around, loitering, banging in the cantaloupes, just general tomfoolery and stuff. It's not clear at this point whether they're all in her head or there actually is a group of masked sickos targeting her.
Either way, she runs out of the store and into her car, where one of them is sitting in the backseat. She drives straight into a street light in her eagerness to escape, and the scene cuts.
Later, we find out the police don't see any clowns when they go over the surveillance tape that night. Me thinks Gary is in on it, but time will tell.
Ally and Ivy are having marital issues because of Ally's phobias
Sadly, crippling, all-encompassing clown fear does not a romance make. Ally's constant freak-outs and fits, which Ivy is sure are all in her head, are putting a real rift between them.
This may pave the way for Ally and Kai to get together like Murphy has teased.
Ally didn't vote for Clinton, she voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate from Illinois
This is important to note, because while Ally and Kai have very different political views, this is not your classic liberal versus conservative dynamic.
Billie Lourd is Winter Anderson, Kai's little sister, who applies for a nanny position for Ally and Ivy's son, Ozzie
Winter is a bit of a conundrum. When she interviews to babysit Ozzie, she says she took a break from school during the election to work on Clinton's campaign, which seems to be true. She's polite and says all the right things. We're not sure how much of it is exaggerated so she can get access to the home as per Kai's orders.
It seems her relationship with brother Kai, a Trump supporter, is strained — or, at least was before Trump was elected. Pre-Trump Winter is satirical, the type of person with a history of self-harm who complains when major news sites don't post trigger warnings. Pre-Trump Winter is the exact opposite of her brother, and it will be interesting to watch how he managed to sway her his way in the coming episodes.
Kai may be crazy, but he's also crazy strategic
In one scene, we watch as Kai fills a condom with urine and harasses a group of Mexican workers in a lonely parking lot. He calls them slurs. He gets beaten up.
Turns out he's baiting them into it, filming it all with an iPhone without their knowledge. We'll see how that plays out, but it also gives us insight on his character, and the lengths he'll go to fulfill his twisted vision.
One of Winter's missions is to corrupt Ozzie
Likely under the direction of Kai, Winter starts corrupting Ozzie the first night she sits for him. She logs into the dark web, making him watch videos of people dying.
She pairs that delightful activity with cookies, and I know she's a good girl gone bad, but I kind of love her.
Ozzie sees the clowns as well, so maaaybe Ally isn't delusional?
After his dead people and cookies sesh, Ozzie notices a creepy vintage ice cream truck pull up across the street from his house. He watches as the same clowns who terrorized his mom in the grocery store pile out, entering his neighbors' home.
When Ally and Ivy return from their catastrophic stab at a date night — once again, Ally sees clowns in places no clown has the right to be — they discover their street cordoned off with caution tape. The Changs have died, according to...
Colton Haynes' spicy Detective Samuels, who describes it as a murder-suicide but eh, not so sure
Ozzie saw the clowns march into his neighbors' home and murder the Chang family, but when he describes this all to the adults, Ivy and Ally assume he's adopted Ally's irrational phobia, disregarding him. They assume the only reason he sees the clowns is because he knows Ally fears them.
Interestingly, the late Mr. Chang is the same man who told Kai Anderson to buzz off at the town meeting.