Review: AHS: Cult “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”

Did clowns have sex on some watermelons?: No, but the kid who got his tongue stuck to a pole in A Christmas Story was impaled on a meat hook. So that’s something, I guess.

Man, this episode was a wee bit frustrating. We begin with Ivy (Alison Pill) responding to Ally’s (Sarah Paulson) clown-induced terror by grabbing a knife and searching their bedroom. She later gets frustrated when nothing’s there. But why was she sure it was true? She knows her wife hasn’t been taking her medication, and their neighbors just died violently. Ally’s not in the optimal headspace, and she had doubts before. But it’s okay, frustration gives way to foreplay.

Ivy continued to baffle me when she later let Ally investigate the tripped alarm at The Butchery. Yeah, let’s send the extremely fragile woman into a tense and possibly dangerous situation at the restaurant that is filled with some of her phobias. At least Ivy told her not to go in if there appeared to be an actual break-in. That’s some good thinking.

At least later Ivy contacted Ally’s therapist (Cheyanne Jackson). I’ve enjoyed what little we’ve seen of Jackson this season (emphasis on little—we’ve gotten more of Colton Haynes’ weirdly bleach-blond cop). I guess it’s been a while since AHS has had an incompetent therapist/psychiatrist (Dylan McDermott in season 1, Dr. Thredson in season 2, and that’s all I can think of. I’ve got to be missing someone.), and Jackson seems to be filling that void. I mean, he had more than enough cause to tell Ivy about the gun Ally procures, right? She poses a clear threat to herself and those around her. She hallucinates! They have a child, and said child is a bit of an idiot!

I know that no one can respond to Ally’s mental illness appropriately because that would resolve the conflict too quickly. But it’s a little bit frustrating to watch everyone fail so spectacularly. I also wonder why Ally even showed her therapist the gun? There’s no way he was going to condone that decision. The sole purpose seemed to be so Ally could make that comment about knee-jerk liberal reactions.

This brings us to perhaps the biggest issue with the episode: Ally’s political/moral breakdown is happening much too quickly. It’s two episodes in and she’s already got herself a gun and shot a potential intruder who turned out to be a harmless (and minority) visitor. Where are we going from here? If the point of this season is about fear can change us and bring out the ugliest parts of humanity, the point has been made.

In my review for the first episode, I commented that Ally’s fear of porosity may be a clever nod to some inherent prejudices she has. I thought this episode might continue to subtly build that when she refers to the busboy Pedro (Jorge-Luis Pallo) as an immigrant after his confrontation with Roger (Zack Ward—the A Christmas Story kid). Later, Ivy tells the police that Pedro is American, and Pedro even mentions being born in California. Ally’s choice to refer to him as an immigrant is telling; either she knows Pedro’s nationality and that was a slip or she doesn’t know and she’s making an assumption. Either way, we’re being told that Ally has preconceived notions about Hispanic people. It’s a nice way to plant seeds about what Ally really thinks (and fears). It’s fairly subtle as well; viewers may have forgotten the immigrant comment by the time Pedro says he was born in San Diego.

My hope for subtlety was diminished when Ally got the gun and challenged her therapist. Her conversation with Kai (Evan Peters) was even less subtle, with him pointing out her hypocrisy point blank. I still liked that scene; it may have been my favorite part of the episode. Paulson and Peters were great, and as a bonus, we got this moment:

Ally and Kai 1

Ally and Kai 2
Oh boy, that’s some pertinent commentary, but more importantly, his face is doing some great things. (Image Source)

Still, it undercut what I thought could have been some subtle and slow character development as Ally’s values breakdown under the weight of her fear. Rather than letting the audience figure it out, AHS seems to want to beat us over the head with it.

(Side note: I find Kai’s candidacy for city council really interesting, especially with this week’s episode of Rick and Morty. In both episodes, evil characters use contemporary political strategies [albeit opposing ones] to manipulate a fractured and restless society. Too bad the animated one that includes the world’s saddest/strangest strip club is doing a better job at making effective commentary. Wubba lubba dub dub, bitches.)

This episode also introduced Ally and Ivy’s new neighbors, Meadow and Harrison Wilton (Leslie Grossman and Billy Eichner). They were fun. I mean they’re gun-hording, Nicole Kidman-loving, Bravo-watching bee keepers. What’s not to like? It’ll be interesting to see if the goofiness gives way to something more sinister. It’s heavily implied it will, but sometimes AHS can get lost in the goofy.

Cake Rating: What cake goes best with a glass of red wine, a nice bubble bath and potential infidelity with the babysitter? I’ll take like three slices of that, and maybe some circus peanuts. Is it weird that I wanted more clowns?

P.S. I adore that clown who told that idiot child he was dreaming. That was an excellent moment.

P.P.S. The H.O.N.C. commercials continue to be just amazing.

Pennywise 2
Was I kidding at the end of my It review? Maybe, but this is relevant, so enjoy! (Image Source)

 

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