“Have a nice day!”
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
The gaslighting game being run on Ally — the one meant to ruin her life and transform her (assumedly) into a screaming tyrannical racist — reached an apex this week in “Neighbors from Hell” as protestors stalked her restaurant, the Wiltons across the street threw Taco Bell coupons at her (and probably microwaved her kid’s guinea pig), some mystery trucks sprayed her with green gas, and Ivy found out about her brief bathtub tryst with Winter.
All of this so that Ally will…we’re not sure yet.
And she’s being targeted in such an over-the-top elaborate manner because…we’re still not clear on this issue either. All I can figure, at this point, is that she’s going to somehow wind up the opposite of how she started. Now that Ivy is leaving her, and taking Oz too, Ally will be adrift, angry, and ready to accept Kai’s help and “kindness.”
While that’s an interesting concept, Ally’s become more anxious, more unhinged, and more unbearable and it’s a trudge to watch someone suffer a mental collapse for three episodes straight, especially one that’s supposedly being orchestrated by a clandestine group of clowns and crazies. Putting a motivationally-hazy long con on TV is tricky because – and I’ve mentioned this before – most of it has to hold up to viewer scrutiny. And here, in Cult’s third chapter, Ally’s reactions to things, even the crazy things, are just too unbelievable. The fact that she seemingly goes nuts in exactly the way her tormentors want her to is fiercely dumb.
On top of this, she’s being beset on all sides by satire. On one hand, she’s actually killed an innocent man (overall, she doesn’t seem all that shaken by this, by the way) – a man with a family who she knew and employed. That’s a big horrific deal that has consequences. On the other hand, she’s being harassed by the Wiltons who don’t seem like real people at all. They feel cartoony and satirical. I get that they’re working with Kai and part of their shtick is to, presumedly, come off like shallow outrage addicts, but the fact that Ally believes anything they say when they come over wearing sombreros easily takes one out of the story. Tonally, with everything the show is trying to do right now with both its messaging and its (meager) horror, AHS is all over the map.
Note: It sure would be nice if FX had images for AHS: Cult episodes. Alas…
The first bit of “Neighbors from Hell,” featuring a couple getting killed by the clowns in a nasty way that played off the wife’s fear of being trapped in a casket, felt like a return to actual horror. Most everything about Kai’s cult and the clown’s targets, along with their actual mission, is still up in the air, but this opening scene was a much needed reminder that the series is also supposed to contain a few scares.
A few more things came into the light as the episode went on. Specifically, who was involved with Kai. The Wiltons are both Kai disciples and do that pinky swear “tell your greatest fear” game with him. Colton Haynes’s cop character is also in on it. Cheyenne Jackson’s Dr. Vincent is probably providing the cult with his patients’ specific fears and phobias so they can kill them and/or torment them in imaginative ways. Hell, he may even be the mastermind behind all of it given how he rolled his eyes at Ally’s needs over the phone and played with those smiley face pins.
Oh, and the warped smiley face too! The clown killers have adopted it as their M.O. And Kai now regularly spouts off the smiley t-shirt slogan/Mick Foley-ism/Comedian from Watchmen “Have a nice day” as a way that allows the viewer to directly connect him to the face symbol kills (not that we didn’t already assume). We did, yes, get some answers. Mostly though, it was just a deeper confirmation that this group, whoever’s in it and whatever it’s about, is going to extreme lengths to terrorize their district and whip people into a frenzy.
I guess one of my questions right now is…will it ever get out that the clowns are killing people based on their fears? It’s one thing to kill a woman via casket, but what’s the point if no one knows that it was all made extra worse for her because of her phobia? The local news team (featuring Adina Porter and the new-to-AHS Dermot Mulroney) is making everyone fearful, for sure, and Ally’s become the unwilling symbol of hate and paranoia, but what’s the point of turning someone’s fears on them and then keeping it a secret? Unless you’re a demon that feeds off people’s fears and pain and whatnot. I know, that’s not a thing that’s happening on the show, but that would be the only case in which this makes sense.
Also, why wasn’t Councilman Chang and his wife killed based on their fears? Their deaths were strategic, sure, but were their murders kept basic because they were meant to service Oz and his creepy story with WinThere’s a lot going on right now and it’s all very muddled. What we see happening to Ally, and her neighborhood, is an off-putting blend of arbitrary and purposeful. I want answers, but don’t know how much longer I can wait without a solid look at Kai’s master plan. Watching someone get tricked through an overly-complicated maze filled with convenient reactions and dumb decisions is exhausting.