‘American Horror Story: Cult’ Season 7 Finale- Making “AHS” Great Again

I’m with her!

Finally, after several dubiously plotted and questionably executed season finales in a row, “American Horror Story: Cult” managed to stick the landing, with an ending that was as solid as the best of the series, notably the first season, “Murder House” and the third, “Coven.” I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this season has been nothing if not unpredictable and out there in the best of ways.

By eschewing the supernatural and firmly setting the season in the here and now, the show managed to skewer the current political climate on both sides, to such a satisfying extent that I’ve heard believable claims from both sides that it was actually a sly takedown of either/or. Not unlike something like “South Park,” the show took no prisoners, gleefully bashing the left and the right in a way that really did allow either side to claim victory.

Astonishingly, this continued all the way through the finale, thanks to a deft script written by series regular Tim Minear, who is also an executive producer on the show, well-known to genre fans for his work on auteur Joss Whedon’s much-beloved “Angel,” “Firefly” and “Dollhouse.” By balancing both sides- the (alt)left and the (alt)right- to the bitter end, Minear was able to no doubt satisfy both, thanks to nimble plotting and a bravura final confrontation between the season’s key players, Kai (Evan Peters) and Ally (Sarah Paulson).

He was aided and abetted with slick, non-nonsense direction from none other than David’s talented daughter, Jennifer Lynch. After a somewhat shaky start- she was unfairly maligned in Hollywood for the underrated “Boxing Helena,” which, tellingly, was slammed by feminists at the time for being misogynistic trash- Lynch has quietly and ably become one of TV’s most reliable female genre directors, working on the likes of “The Walking Dead,” “The Strain” and “Wayward Pines.”

We began, understandably enough, in prison, where Kai has finally been interred, one assumes for life, for his many crimes. As to be expected, he has flourished there, quickly amassing a following of burly males eager to do his bidding and mostly willing to lay their lives on the line for their savior and leader- though not all of them, as we will discover.

The show then backtracks- because of course it does in this flashback-happy season- showing us how he got there. We pick back up where we left off in the last episode, as Ally confronts Speedwagon (Cameron Cowperthwaite) in his car, after realizing he might actually be the mole that Kai suspected had infiltrated their ranks. He is, but merely on the State Police level, which won’t do for Ally.

After confirming that no one is currently watching or listening, she swiftly takes out Speedwagon, who has served his purpose in her eyes, and instead goes to the big guns of the FBI for help. As Kai prepares for his final big statement in the current phase of his plans- next stop, the Senate, hopefully followed by the White House- which involves downgrading his “Night of a Thousand Tates” to a mere “Night of a Hundred Tates” (the former plan proved to be too unwieldy, so Kai dialed it back to a more “reasonable” level), Ally sets up things with the FBI, who raid Kai’s compound just before the planned attack.

Thankfully, Beverly (Adina Porter) manages to emerge relatively unscathed, aside from taking out a cult member along the way to her arrest. Though shaken by her experiences, she picks herself up and seeks out Ally after it all goes down and she is released from custody- the authorities grant her immunity, assuming that any crimes she may have committed were done under duress, given the overwhelming amount of disgruntled white males she was surrounded by, something which Ally basically confirms.

Ally, emboldened by her experiences, decides to pick up where Kai left off and run for Senate herself, later adopting Beverly as one of her top aides in the cause. After all, who else could better understand what she went through to get to this point? Though Beverly wisely figures out that Ally was more likely the one who took out Ivy, not Kai, she fully realizes that she did some terrible stuff her own damn self, a fair amount of which was directed at Ally, making it relatively easy for her to shift her alliances to Ally’s much-more female friendly cause.

In the meantime, Kai, well-aware of what Ally’s been up to on the outside, begins to plot his eventual escape, befriending a female guard, Gloria (Liz Jenkins) and, with her help, formulating a plan to get out and get his revenge on Ally and basically pick up where he left off. Kai recruits a follower around his same height and build and encourages him to get the same tattoos as he has, then Kai kills the guy, cuts off his face to make him tough to ID, and, donning a guard’s uniform that Gloria secured for him, simply walks right out of prison one day.

Okay, it’s a bit dubious if you think too long and hard about it, but I chose to go with it. Kai infiltrates the debate between Ally and current Senator Jackson (Dennis Cockrum) and goes off on live television on Ally, threatening her with a gun, and basically spewing forth all sorts of misogynistic rhetoric about how women can never truly lead because they’re not as smart as men and so forth. Then, at a key moment, he points the gun at her, pulls the trigger, and… click.

Once again, we turn to flashback, where we see that Ally has recruited Gloria to her cause some time ago, coaching her on how Kai is and what he will do, and encouraging her to help get him to this place, where she’ll have him right where she wants him. Sure enough, the gambit works, and, like the lame duck he is, Kai finds himself outfoxed, outgunned, and yes, even outmanned by- be still my heart- a woman. Strike that- a “Nasty Woman,” as Ally confidently states.

Enter Beverly, who, at long last, has her revenge, blowing Kai’s brains out on live TV. Exit Kai, and enter Ally into his place, coasting off her takedown of Kai to an easy win in the Senate, with the White House firmly in her sights. In the last scene, we see her don a black robe, implying that she, too, was a long-standing member of SCUM, the same outfit Bebe (Frances Conroy) proudly represented until, ironically, a fellow woman- Ally herself, no less- took her out.

It also occurred to me that, given that Ryan Murphy suggested that we would see a return to the show of the “Coven” storyline, that perhaps Ally was also aligned with another group of women as well: a powerful coven of witches, perhaps? I can’t recall if I mentioned it in a previous review or not, but one of the first things I thought of when I saw that Ally’s last name was Mayfair-Richards was Anne Rice’s best-selling series of novels revolving around the “Mayfair Witches.”

I wonder if that was an inspiration, and that we will later discover that Ally wasn’t just a member of SCUM, but also of a coven to boot. She does mention that she’s part of a group of powerful women, and while SCUM certainly fits that description, so does a coven, and with Murphy himself implying a return of the “Coven” characters… well, it makes perfect sense that they could well be both. Even if you look to current events, as much of this season has, there’s a precedent in it that has been in the news lately, which you can read about here.

Might that point the way towards the next season, or at least a future season on down the line? Murphy has also indicated that a tie-in with “Freak Show” is also imminent, so either one could happen, or perhaps a combination of the two. Murphy has always maintained that all the seasons are tied-in with each other. Indeed, we got a nod to Lana Winters (also played by Sarah Paulson), of season two and last season in this season’s finale, as well as one last one to Twisty the Clown, of “Freak Show” fame, so that certainly holds true this season.

We shall see. In the meantime, I thought this was easily one of the best seasons the show has ever done, and the most well-plotted and coherent, despite the sometimes needlessly convoluted flashback-heavy storyline. But I have to admit, complicated though it was at times, it all tied together nicely in the end, which bodes well for future viewings, especially of the binge-watch variety.

Yes, as per usual, the show was not without gaping plot holes, or at the very least, lapses in logic that we were just supposed to go along with. Would it really be that easy for someone, even someone as smart and charismatic as Kai, to recruit and turn people into crazed killers practically overnight? Probably not, but it’s not without precedent, either, as we saw from the various examples scattered throughout the season, from Manson to Solanas and beyond.

Could Kai really have gotten away with the kind of stuff he did for as long as he did? Probably not, but, once again, Manson got away with his shenanigans for quite some time, too, so…maybe? At the very least, the antics of this season were heightened to almost cartoonish levels, meaning that it wasn’t all that scary, per se, bringing to mind something like “The Purge” as re-envisioned by “House of 1000 Corpses”-era Rob Zombie, but never less than entertaining.

Thanks to using the most recent election season as a back-drop to the action, and the tweaking of the left and the right in near-equal doses- though I think it’s safe to say we all know where Murphy’s real loyalties lie- more often than not, though, “American Horror Story: Cult” worked like a charm. Because of that wicked sense of equal-opportunity humor, unafraid to tweak the “snowflakes” right alongside the SWM contingent- who, as one character pointed out, really just needed to “get laid” and chill TF out- “AHS” managed the rare feat of being able to have its cake and protest it, too.

It wasn’t perfect, to be sure. There were perhaps one too many tangents taken along the way, and Ally took a hot minute too long to come around and be a likeable character we could all root for, but, in the end, it all came together nicely, thanks to those final episodes, and a clever finale which saw the oft-sidelined women finally rise to the occasion and get the respect they deserve, so all’s well that ends well.

Kudos to the excellent cast, which ran the gamut from one-and-done fun turns from series regular Emma Roberts and wacky guest stars like rocker Rick Springfield, to the always reliable Paulson and Porter, plus a career-best tour de force from a never-better Evan Peters, which was one for the vaults. If you didn’t enjoy his pin-the-tail-on-the-cult-leader kaleidoscope of characters this season, I don’t know what to tell you- time to find another show to watch, I guess.

But, for me, it was riveting, compulsively watchable television that did what a lot of the best TV does- shine a light onto our current state of affairs and refract it back to us in a gloriously warped, wonderfully twisted heightened fashion. And that’s saying something, as nuts as things are in this particular day and age, where even something like we saw on this show doesn’t seem THAT hard to believe could happen. When’s the last time you could say that about a season of this show?

Warts and all, this was hands down one of my all-time favorite seasons of the show, and I only hope that Murphy and company can keep up the good work in the future. We’ll see next season, but for the time being, this one gets an A for effort for me all around. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

What did you think of the overall season? How about the finale? Were you happy to see Ally come out on top, or were you pulling for Kai? Or maybe even Beverly? How would you have ended it differently? Do you think that Ally is part of a coven, too?

What would you like to see happen next season? Are you looking forward to the return of characters from “Freak Show” and “Coven”? Which are you looking forward to more? What characters would you most like to see return? Will Murphy eventually just throw up his hands and have Peters and Paulson play ALL the characters?

Sound off on this and more down below, and thanks for reading. See you next season!