“American Horror Story: Cult” Has Chillingly Documented the Rise of a Modern Day Manson

08 November of 2017 by

The general consensus on “American Horror Story” has long been that the seasons fall apart as they go on, often starting off strong but inevitably devolving into nonsense. But “AHS: Cult” has been different. While the season started off messy, uninteresting and way too on the nose (Evan Peters rubbing Cheeto dust on his face, anyone?), it’s been getting better and better as the pieces fall into place, paving way for last night’s standout season highlight.

Titled “Charles (Manson) in Charge, the penultimate episode of the FX series’ seventh season saw acting powerhouse Evan Peters once again occupying the skin of a notorious American cult leader. Acting alongside himself as Kai Anderson, Peters brought Charles Manson to the small screen for an episode that chillingly crystallized the events of “Cult.”

Granted, it was clear from Episode 1 that the blue-haired Anderson was something of a Manson-like figure, but “Charles (Manson) in Charge” really drove home the fact that what we’ve been watching over the course of ten episodes has been the rise of a modern day version of Charles Manson. “American Horror Story” creator Ryan Murphy has long expressed a desire to tell the story of Manson and his “family,” and with “AHS: Cult,” he’s been brilliantly doing that all along.

Kai Anderson, it turns out, is the self-appointed heir to Charles Manson’s throne.

In one of the most chilling sequences in “AHS” history, last night’s episode recreated the horrifying Manson Family murders of Sharon Tate and friends, casting Sarah Paulson as Susan Atkins, Billie Lourd as Linda Kasabian, Leslie Grossman as Patricia Krenwinkel and Billy Eichner as Tex Watson. The story of what happened on 10050 Cielo Drive in August 1969 was relayed by Anderson to his own followers, and shown to us in graphic and unflinching detail.

Of course, Manson himself wasn’t actually at the real-life scene, but he appeared in the episode through visions inside Kai’s own head. Kai, now completely unhinged, imagines Charles Manson as a sort of spirit animal, allowing the psychotic delusions of a young Manson to guide him on his path to starting his own civil war – a war that believes he will rise from the ashes of, taking over as the new leader of the new America.

Manson, well, his goals were much the same. But what makes Kai an even more dangerous version of Manson is that he’s got the internet, in particular social media, on his side, as well as resources that Manson himself simply did not have. And let’s not forget the political backdrop that allowed Kai to rise up to a position of power in the first place, smartly used by Murphy and the creative architects of “AHS” to tell a story not necessarily about Donald Trump, as “Cult” initially seemed to be a surface level attack on, but rather one about the perfect storm conditions that allow evil cult leaders like Charles Manson and Jim Jones to become the powerful faces of anti-establishment movements.

Are we currently living in those conditions, allowing for the rise of a villainous cult leader? Do we already have one in the White House? Disturbing thoughts, to be sure.

Much like Manson did in 1969, Kai has been stoking the fears and anxieties of a post-2016 America, using the country’s widespread hate and anger to start an uprising that only he and his followers will benefit from. But unlike Manson, Kai is not afraid to get his own hands dirty, as we’ve seen before and saw most notably in “Charles (Manson) in Charge.”

Guided by the aforementioned visions of Charles Manson, Kai became convinced that there was a Judas in his midst, and that his own sister was the Linda Kasabian to his Charles Manson; that Billie Lourd played both Kasabian and Kai’s sister in the episode served to artfully drive home that point. Kai choked Winter to death literally with his own hands, also ordering the death of loyal follower Gary. Kai’s grand plan? The murders of hundreds of pregnant women (“the night of 1,000 [Sharon] Tates”), which he believes will start the bloody and brutal civil war he’s been driving towards.

Kai Anderson is merely a fictional character, but “American Horror Story: Cult” has reminded that this sort of thing has happened before, and that the Kai Andersons of the past were most definitely not characters on television shows. It’s this ripped-from-the-headlines approach that has made “Cult” perhaps the most unnerving season of “AHS” to date, ditching the supernatural and instead giving us a glimpse into the real-world horrors that we may very well have opened up the door for last year.

With just one episode left, “AHS: Cult” looks to be finishing strong.


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