This show is not messing around with the deaths this season.
American Horror Story Season 7 Episode 2 is only the second hour of the series' "Cult" iteration. Already, we've seen at least four brutal killings. But the latest just might be the most shocking of all.
The biggest moment of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" found a distressed and paranoid Ally accidentally shooting and killing Pedro, an employee at The Butchery on Main.
It wasn't exactly a surprising moment – I called it the moment Ivy handed Pedro the box of supplies and asked him to deliver it to Ally. But waiting for the inevitable to happen, I felt an increasing sense of dread that was extremely effective.
It's a twist that wasn't much of a twist, but it worked. RIP, Pedro.
There is also the small matter of the fact that this marks Ally beginning to "transition" to what is traditionally considered a conservative mindset.
She is increasingly fearful of "the other." It is making her behave irrationally. She illegally obtained a handgun – something that she, a noted liberal, would be hypocritically scandalized by anyone else doing.
Even worse – she is a mentally ill person operating a handgun, illegally, and without having passed the background checks that most liberals champion in such situations. And, of course, it ends horribly, with her accidental murder of Pedro.
This is a really smart way for Ryan Murphy to demonstrate that the apparent "differences" between us are not as deep and ingrained as we might imagine – and how easy it is to "switch sides," in a sense.
I really believe that the ultimate endpoint of this season will find Ally, a liberal, becoming a conservative. Or something equally on-the-nose.
So far, I'm a fan of the way the season is mixing traditional horror jump scares and a foreboding sense of dread. There's that mix of psychological horror thrown in as well, as Ally struggles with notions of what is real and what isn't.
I think there might be something wrong with me. I don't know what's real anymore.Ally
Of course, from our current perspective, Ally is 100% right. Regardless of her paranoia, there are definitely murderous clowns running around and terrorizing her.
We (the audience) have seen Oz encounter them, so we know it's not all in Ally's head. Now, it's just a question of who is in on this.
Who are these masked clowns? And perhaps more important – who has a hand in making Ally think she's crazy?
At this point, it's pretty clear that driving Ally insane is the goal more than anything. The clown gang easily could have killed her if they wanted to. They had no issues killing the Changs and have been sneaking into and out of Ally and Ivy's house with no problems.
Personally, I think just about everyone is in on this subterfuge – possibly including Ivy, who seems to suspiciously have a hand in what comes before almost every one of Ally's "episodes."
We know for sure that Winter is in on it, given that we saw her with Kai on the American Horror Story Season 7 Premiere.
Winter had pretty much cemented herself as the worst nanny of all time after that outing, but she only got worse on "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark."
At this point, she's hit just about every horror nanny cliche in the books. She's counseling Oz to deceive his moms, desensitizing him to murder, offering to "absorb" his fear – and now trying to seduce Ally?!
You're going to give me your fear, Oz. I'm going to keep it for you. It's going to make us both stronger.Winter
I'm not sure how the seducing-Ally part fits into Winter's (and by extension, Kai's) grand plan, but I'm interested in seeing how all the parts fit together as the season continues.
I suspect that Ally and Winter's sexy bath moment was equally meant to mess with Ally's head, drive a further wedge between the sexually-frustrated wives, and get Ally to lower her defenses/be distracted long enough for the clowns to set up their attack.
And I'll say it again – Billie Lourd is exceptionally creepy in this role. She's doing a killer job as Winter. She's terrifying but still manages to deliver funny one-liners like a pro.
I particularly love Winter's faux-concern over her laptop and "ceramics" when she bailed on a frantic Ally during the blackout. "Not everything's about you," indeed.
Another positive aspect of this installment was the introduction of Ally and Ivy's sketchy next door neighbors – gay beekeeper Harrison and the BFF he married as part of a high school marriage pact, Meadow.
The two are both perfectly quirky without veering into campy (yet, anyway).
I'm not super familiar with Leslie Grossman, but I love how unbearable Meadow is so far.
As for Harrison – I wasn't so sure about Billy Eichner in a non-comedic role, but boy, am I glad to have been wrong!
Eichner's Harrison is plenty creepy while still utilizing the best of the actor's quippy charm.
That he delivered both of the following lines with equal skill is a real testament to him:
It's the way of the world now. Lay it all out there, you know? Radical, fearless honesty, Facebook, Twitter, blah blah blah. Everyone look at me, right? To answer your question from before, a hive is the perfect natural community, because every single member of the hive is completely committed, 100%, to a singular task. There's no arguments, there's no complaints, there's no "me." I admire them.Harrison
Lesbians! We're under attack.Harrison
The first speech is one of the best moments of the hour. It also pretty much lays out the thesis statement of the season and tells us why the show's been giving us so much bee and hive imagery in its advertising campaigns.
Hivemind = cult, as far as I'm concerned. The singular purpose of a hive is all but interchangeable with that of the cult. Just swap out the "Queen Bee" with the cult leader.
Thematically, it's a great touch.
Of course, the show is not exactly being subtle about Harrison and Meadow's nefarious motives.
They're first introduced as the two people who filmed Kai's "brutal attack" by migrant workers. But as we saw, Kai blatantly instigated the violence, so there is essentially no way that the Wiltons are not in league with Kai.
Pair that with Harrison running over to plant the seed in Ally's head that they were in the midst of a terror attack right before the clowns attacked and yeah – pretty much guaranteed that they are two of the people torturing the poor phobic lady.
Finally, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the #1 highlight of the hour was the confrontation between Kai and Ally.
The one part of Kai's plan that is straightforward and makes sense is his murder of the Changs (which we didn't see him commit directly, but which was very clearly orchestrated by him).
Kai wanted to eliminate Chang. One, for embarrassing him. And two, to open up the spot on the city council that Kai could use to spread his platform of fear.
Vote Kai Anderson. Vote for the man who can take your fear away. They're out there.Kai
The conversation between Kai and Ally is magnificently tense and wonderfully acted. It's a perfect reminder of why Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters are the two mainstays on this show.
They are both phenomenal. The way they play off one another is also fantastic.
Much like Harrison's hive speech, the diametric opposition set up by Kai and Ally in this confrontation serves as another thesis statement for the season.
Ally claims to want to "build bridges," yet Kai is right – she is racked with fear, holding a knife behind her back, and separating herself from the scary outside world with a barred door. It's hypocritical (despite the fact that Kai is, apparently, the engineer of all Ally's fears).
All this is to say – the situation is complicated. Neither Kai or Ally has the completely "correct" perspective. Though, obviously, Ally is significantly less wrong than somebody who willingly compares himself to World War II Germany.
You see, you need to give a humiliated man some way to redeem himself in his own eyes, or else he's at risk to be drawn into darkness. Like Germany, after World War I.Kai
What a stellar line, you guys.
- Colton Haynes' detective hasn't appeared on the show very much yet, but they're already doing a great job of subtly demonstrating his bigotry. His immediate assumption that Pedro was suspicious paired with the way he hesitated before saying "wife" were both big clues.
- It's interesting that gay beekeeper Harrison is a gun enthusiast and feared Obama would take away his guns. This season is clearly all about dismantling the expected character types!
- I laughed so hard at Meadow 1) thinking Crystal Light can honestly be called lemonade and 2) thereby referencing Beyonce's Lemonade.
- I'm also very much here for Meadow and Harrison as Nicole Kidman superfans. She really was transcendent in Big Little Lies!
- It was a small moment, but one that's important to again emphasize: Ally is really, really not the "hero" per se – she's quietly scandalized and shocked when she finds out the Changs were renters and not homeowners. This chick is unbearably bougie! Even when I feel bad for her, I still kind of hate her.
What did you think of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"? Share your thoughts by commenting below, and don't forget to watch American Horror Story online here at TV Fanatic.
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.