american horror story charles manson in charge review

(Every week, we’re going to get the discussion going about American Horror Story: Cult by answering one important question: who is the main villain of the episode?)

American Horror Story: Cult is building up to its shocking conclusion. Tuesday’s episode once again tapped into that familiar Donald Trump rage, planting another informative seed into Kai’s backstory.

Ally’s story is once again put on the back burner as the show turns its focus back on Kai’s broken family. Most importantly, though, this is also the episode that brings Evan Peters’ take on Charlie Manson to TV. That alone is worth the price of admission.

This Week’s Big Bad: Bebe Babbitt

As you all probably expected, Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) has stepped into the villain role quite nicely. Actually, it’s all been one big mess.

We’re given another peek into Kai’s backstory. The night of the final presidential debate found Winter and a couple Vassar friends heckling Trump. Caught up in their own liberal privilege, they didn’t take Hillary’s political rival seriously. But Kai was there to talk some sense into the girls. It doesn’t really go according to plan, though, and he gets sent to anger management after he gets handsy with a girl named Riley .

This is where Bebe Babbitt (Frances Conroy) comes into the blue-haired man’s life. She asks Kai if he’s familiar with the work of Valerie Solanas, calling back to Lena Dunham’s epic performance as the Andy Warhol-shooting leader of S.C.U.M. Babbitt drops a shocking revelation: Donald J. Trump is her favorite politician of all time.

“We’re sitting on the biggest bomb the universe has ever seen,” Babbitt tells him. Everything Trump does, from his tweets to his “pussy grabs,” has brought a feminine powder keg one step closer to detonation. And she wants to use Kai as the tool to blow it all up.

“I am a turd,” Kai says as he kneels before her. “A lowly abject turd.” Without Bebe, it’s possible Kai would’ve never moved forward with the manifesto that transformed him into the Divine Leader we see today. Through some intricate manipulation, Bebe Babbitt set Kai Anderson loose on the world.

Manson Family Values

For some time now, Ryan Murphy has wanted to tackle Charles Manson and his role in the Sharon Tate murders. His fascination with Spahn Ranch and Helter Skelter evolved into AHS: Cult. This season, Evan Peters has stepped into the shoes of Andy Warhol, David Koresh, Jim Jones and even, just for a moment, Jesus Christ. Episode 10, aptly titled “Charles (Manson) in Charge,” gives us the Manson story we’ve been waiting for.

“We’re going to have to take a lesson from the master,” Kai tells his army. “He’s already shown us the way.”

Cue a Charlie Manson bedtime story.

Kai walks his mini-Project Mayhem through the events that transpired on Ciello Drive, the night of August 8th, 1969. As he paints the familiar picture of the Sharon Tate murders, Billy Eichner and Leslie Grossman re-appear in the series – acting as Tex and Patricia Kramer, two soldiers in Manson’s murder army. Sarah Paulson and Billie Lourde round out the gang as Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian.

While Kai uses the story of Manson’s legend to inspire them, he digs even deeper. They need to go above and beyond what Charles Manson accomplished. In one of his maniacal moments, Kai Anderson screams to the ceiling for “a night of a thousand Tates.”

Instead of simply writing the word “PIG” in blood on the front door of the local Planned Parenthood, though, Kai and his gang up the ante. They sacrifice Gary Longstreet (Chaz Bono), posting his disemboweled body at the front of the establishment with “STOP THE SLAUGHTER” scribbled on the door with the gore.

An Ode to Winter Anderson

Maintaining loyalty to her brother has been a huge challenge for Winter. Underneath all the murder and clown chaos, there’s been a deep love and respect for her brother that has kept her by his side. Even after the Valerie Solanas-inspired murder of Harrison Wilton – which made us think the girls would team up and bring Kai’s bro club down -–Winter has still stuck by her brother.

“Is anything ever your fault, Winter?” Ally’s confrontation with Winter was a long time coming. “You seduce my wife. You use her to destroy me and my family.” When Winter asks about Ivy – thinking Kai’s the one that murdered her – she’s given a peek into Ally’s cold heart: “What makes you think it was Kai?”

If ever there was a time to see the error of her ways, it’d be right this very minute. And that’s probably what was happening, too. It would explain why she offers Beverly a way out of this life. But Ms. Hope ultimately refuses the train ticket to Butte, Montana, saying, “Tell Divine Ruler I will never run. I’m his loyal follower to the very end.”

Beverly further proves her loyalty by giving that train ticket to Kai. Let’s remember, she was thrown in solitary confinement as a punishment after Winter lied to Kai about murdering Detective Samuels (Colton Haynes). What goes around, comes around.

Holy Mole-y

As any cult leader will tell you, paranoia and delusions come with the job. And we’ve seen these imbalances ramp up exponentially for Kai over the past few episodes. Now it seems Kai is hearing a buzzing noise and has begun to believe his house is being bugged by the FBI. There’s no doubt that Ally has planted the seeds into Kai’s own psychological breakdown. What better way of getting revenge than giving the man a taste of his own medicine?

He unplugs lightbulbs, running around searching for the noise that Ally confirms she cannot hear. But you know she’s lying. Trying his best to avoid having a full psychological break, he runs upstairs and shuts himself away in his parents’ bedroom – where their dead bodies have since been joined by Rudy’s (Cheyenne Jackson) and Ivy’s (Alison Pill).

But here, surrounded by death, is where the real insanity begins. Bloody and broken, dead Dr. Vincent sits up in bed and offers to turn Kai’s frown upside down. A moment of clarity hits him: he shouldn’t have killed his brother. But that moment is short-lived as a stake is driven through his heart, revealing Kai Anderson as Mr. Charles Manson himself.

“What would you do if you were me,” Kai asks Manson. It’s another odd scene, which shows Evan Peters talking to Evan Peters but, somehow, it works.  “Identify the Judas,” Charlie replies. “That’s how I fucked up. I trusted too much.”

But, really, who can Kai trust?

Ally finds an electronic doodad – Winter’s Fitbit battery – which immediately feeds into Kai’s paranoia. After a surprise visit by Bebe Babbitt, who tries to kill the monster she created, Ally Mayfair-Richards comes in with a surprise gunshot to the back of the woman’s head. “Far out man,” Manson pops into frame. “That one definitely ain’t no mole.”

If Manson says it, it must be true, right? Except, we know, it isn’t.

This episode helped change our perspective of AHS: Cult. It’s been an uneven season, in both tone and story. But as Kai’s quickly destroyed those closest to him – while attempting to replace his loved ones with this crazy surrogate family – it feels like Ryan Murphy and Co. are setting us up for one heck of a finale.

From Winter to Bebe to Ally, it’s become clear that Kai Anderson is nothing without a woman behind-the-scenes doing the manipulating. And with the revelation that his henchman, Speedwagon, is the mole, who knows what will happen moving forward? Will Ally team up with the goon to take Kai down? Or is she fully dedicated to murder everyone in his camp, including this innocent doof?  Suddenly, and without warning, we have become completely invested in American Horror Story once again.

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