Wherever you land on the political spectrum, most can agree on one thing – the 2016 presidential election was truly a horror-show. This season of American Horror Story takes that concept, expanding it into a dread-filled satire about the current landscape of America.
American Horror Story Season 7 Episode 1 is only the first hour of the season. It's less of an earth-shattering opener than I'm used to for the series, but it lays out a lot of intriguing material right off the bat.
Suffice it to say – I'm into it so far.
There are two characters who arguably seem to be the "main" folks this season. First, I'll discuss Ally (played with the usual aplomb by the magnificent Sarah Paulson).
As a married lesbian living with her wife and young son in Michigan, a state that (in real life as in the show) Donald Trump narrowly won in the election, you would think that Ally would be the de facto protagonist of the season. You'd think she would be the hero and that'd be that.
If you went in thinking that, I totally understand why. However, you'd be 100% wrong.
Ally's pitfalls as a character aren't as overt as Kai's (Evan Peters), obviously.
She is not walking around baiting Mexican immigrants into attacking her, smearing Cheeto dust all over her face, or preaching the need for chaos to overthrow our current society at community board meetings. Nope, that's all blue-haired, Trump-supporting Kai.
But Ally ain't so grand either.
As our managing editor Carissa Pavlica so aptly pointed out in her pre-season preview of American Horror Story: Cult, liberal and/or progressive viewers will feel just as uncomfortable with "their side" as they do with the show's portrayal of conservatives.
We've only known Ally for one hour, and already she's almost completely insufferable – which I believe is exactly the point.
I do feel pity for her right off the bat, as she plunges into a well of despair following the election. But that despair is almost cartoonish, to the point where her psychiatrist (Cheyenne Jackson) and her wife Ivy (Alison Pill) can hardly even take her seriously.
I mean, come on – could a woman who honestly says something like this be meant as anything other than a caricature:
I won't believe anything until I hear Rachel Maddow say it!Ally
Then, of course, there's the big reveal that Ivy is still pissed off at Ally – because Ally couldn't bring herself to trust Hillary Clinton enough to vote for her and instead made a protest vote for Jill Stein (aka, one of the third-party votes that contributed to Trump's win in Michigan).
That Ally had a hand in the very thing that led to her breakdown is some pure, delicious irony.
I've gotta give it to Ryan Murphy here – the self-aware liberal humor is very on point.
There are numerous other instances of Ally's cringe-worthy behavior.
Referring casually to Former President Obama as "Barack" in her therapy session, speaking self-centeredly as if he was her personal savior, remarking that their housekeeper either left or was deported – all of these things underscore the privilege Ally has as a reasonably well-off, cisgender white woman.
Obviously, as a lesbian, Ally has every right to fear for her livelihood in the context of the show. But her over-the-top preoccupation with the election and its effects on her mental health are portrayed as nothing but ridiculous.
All that said, the scary clown sequences (particularly at the grocery store) are fantastically shot. There's a mounting sense of dread that really mimics the slow rise of anxiety to full-on panic attack status. Even the way it is filmed is perfect.
Then, there's Kai.
Kai is less nuanced than Ally, but Evan Peters still gives this role his all (as usual).
A lot of Kai's motivations still remain unclear. What is most intriguing about Kai is that it's unclear whether he's legitimately a supporter of Trump and his beliefs – or if he just sees Trump's election as the perfect vehicle for chaos.
As Kai explains in his speech to Mr. Chang at the community board meeting – Evan Peters' standout scene of the hour – people love fear. In a strange way, they crave it.
In Kai's mind, allowing fear and chaos to overtake society and break it apart is the perfect way for the strong (him, in his own not-so-humble opinion) to come into power and to lead.
Kai is a loon, and I can't wait to see what he does next.
He clearly has a lot on his agenda. So far, he has recruited Winter (Billie Lourd) to whatever his nefarious plan is with Ivy and Ally. He has also seemingly arranged for the murder of the Changs.
This is just what I'm presuming. (PS, the fact that Kai and Winter are (apparently?) siblings makes that weird pinky-linked confessional scene all the stranger.)
But Kai's thinly-veiled threat after Chang puts him down at the meeting seemed pretty clear to me – Kai sent that cabal of killer clowns to the Changs' home to kill them and make it look like a murder-suicide.
There is nothing in this world more dangerous than a humiliated man.Kai
Jumping back to the topic of Winter, I think I can safely say that she is my favorite character so far.
Billie Lourd is phenomenally creepy. The way she can go completely deadpan and emotionless behind the eyes is extremely effective.
Winter is a sketchy nanny on par wth Damien's nanny in The Omen. That's, like, A-level creepy nanny status.
I don't fully understand the switch from Vassar drop-out who campaigned hard for Hillary Clinton (wanting a "trigger warning" when Trump's win was announced and citing Lena Dunham retweeting her as a "proudest moment") to apparent stooge of her brother Kai. But I'm certainly intrigued enough to stick around and find out more.
I'm also not sure what the game plan is here with forcing Ozzie to become desensitized to death, gore, and murder. But I know that it's phenomenally disturbing – perhaps the most disturbing element in an hour chock-full of killer clowns.
Speaking of which: Twisty's return was much-hyped, which leads me to think he will be back in some other capacity than just as a horror comic book character that Ozzie loves.
That can't be it for him, can it? If so, what a letdown.
- I'm glad that the episodes have actual titles again. I got tired of American Horror Story: Roanoke's "Chapters" pretty quickly.
- Seeing Billie Lourd on my screen made me miss Scream Queens all over again. RIP, Scream Queens.
- Bleach-blonde Colton Haynes! More, please!
- The kid playing Ozzie is, so far, a very good child actor. I am notoriously difficult to impress when it comes to child actors, so this is saying something.
- Chaz Bono, a trans man, playing a MAGA hat-wearing, Trump-supporting grocery cashier is very clever. Also, did he not have a hand? What's up with that?
- Perhaps I'm looking too hard for past season connections, but "The Butchery on Main" (the restaurant Ally and Ivy own) immediately had me thinking of American Horror Story Season 6's Butcher.
What did you think of the American Horror Story season premiere? Share your thoughts by commenting below, and don't forget that you can watch American Horror Story online here at TV Fanatic anytime!
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.