Undergone intense rewrites, the seventh season of American Horror Story has, finally, embraced the US presidential election as main plotline.
Cult, the very much explanatory title given to the season, is really an amalgamation of themes and storylines.
Mostly, we follow Kai (Evan Peters), a deranged dude who sees the victory of Trump as an opportunity for underdogs to rise to the power in the United States. The fictional city of Brookfield Heights, Michigan is indeed left divided by the election outcome and Kai is using people fears and uncertainty to achieve his sick goals.
In fact, Peters’ character orchestrates acts of terrorism, fake assaults and, especially, a gang of killer clowns (not from outer space, this time around) to weaken the sense of security of Brookfield Heights. Long story short, Kai Anderson wants to become a dictator and manipulates people’s feelings to achieve that.
The powerful social commentary – that combines politics, human traits, sexism and culture-induced fears – gets, however, lost into a messy execution.
Yes, contrarily to most of the AHS seasons, Cult tries too hard to include too much material in 11 episodes. Despite the interesting premise, Cult goes on referencing most of the best-known affiliations in modern American history. This might have worked if said movements and episode of US history were explored more in-depth; instead, they’re just briefly mentioned and quoted in the last 5-6 episodes, leaving a sense of incompleteness to the viewer.
Despite the coexistence of these various references make the series feel rushed, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s 7th collaboration in the AHS universe manages to get boring and tiresome at points. Indeed, half of the episodes look like fillers, where long and dull dialogues are thrown in the mix purely to elongate the season, without bringing anything interesting to the table.
Yet, the overabundance of themes and references mentioned above deprived most of the characters of any development. I mean, nearly all the actors do a rather good job with the material they’re given, but their characters have just been written to be plot devices. Simply put, they aren’t compelling nor relatable for the audience.
The exception is represented by Evan Peters: after Jessica Lange left the series, her charisma hadn’t been properly replaced by Lady Gaga, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates (who was still amazing in her roles). Peters has finally grown to be a star. He carries Cult on his shoulders with a great performance, which is the saving grace of a TV series that seem stuck to its own clichés.
Speaking of good aspects of Cult, Ryan Murphy demonstrates once again to be a great TV director. The two episodes that are directly under his supervision are fantastic on a technical level: camera-work and photography works perfectly, making even the lazy sequences somewhat intriguing.
Furthermore, episode 4 (written by Gwyneth Horder-Payton and directed by John Jay Gray) is fantastic, a ray of sun in the darkness of the season: I would give it 8/10.
Overall, though, Cult is one of the most disappointing entrance in this usually intriguing TV series – unfortunately, my final grade for American Horror Story: Cult is 4.5/10. Cheers!
For the record, this is my ranking of AHS, including each season:
- Asylum 8/10
- Murder House 8/10
- Coven 7/10
- Freak Show 5.5/10
- Roanoke Nightmare 5/10
- Cult 4.5/10
- Hotel 4/10