Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag 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?)

Everything changed in episode 7 of American Horror Story: Cult. Presenting its overarching story in three acts: Ally’s crumbling sanity, a closer look at Kai Anderson’s (Evan Peters) inner circle, and now, Anderson’s climb to the top. It seems only fitting that the latest episode, titled “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag,” would shift its focus to a brand new character.

The infamous feminist activist who shot Andy Warhol, Ms. Valerie Solanas (played wonderfully by Lena Dunham) had finally arrived. Her energetic introduction to the series played wonderfully into the increasing distrust within Kai’s group, helping to set up one heck of a bloody battle of the sexes for the remaining three episodes.

Beverly Wants Revenge

It’s been pretty clear for the past few episodes that Beverly Hope (Adina Porter) is not someone you want to mess with. Her rage runs quite deep. It’s that rage that drew Kai to her in the first place. After Meadow’s shooting rampage at Kai’s political rally, Anderson shot up in the polls and won that city council race handily. And after an odd meeting in the news station parking lot – I’ll get to that in a moment – Beverly headed over to Kai’s compound to discover a change of the guard has taken place.

Let me put it this way: Kai Anderson took a page from the Tyler Durden handbook and built his very own Project Mayhem. Filled to the brim with devoted soldiers, all dressed in the same blue denim shirts, with the drive to serve their leader pushing them forward, it became pretty evident that Beverly’s “partner in crime” was never her partner at all. As Kai looks to bring law and order to the community he helped break, Hope is still holding onto the stinging hate that makes her want to set fire to the world. Needless to say, a conflict between the two leaders is most definitely brewing.

S.C.U.M.

Earlier in the episode, Beverly happened across an odd black-haired woman by the name of Bebe Babbit (Frances Conroy). As Kai quickly let Beverly down, she turned back to Babbit for answers. As it turned out, Babbit was Valerie Solanas’ closest confidant during her rise to power in the late 1960s.

The majority of Tuesday’s episode was told in flashbacks, giving an up close and personal look at Valerie’s murderous brand of feminism. Yes, she did indeed shoot Andy Warhol over a disagreement, initially sparked from a script she submitted to him that he subsequently lost, that blossomed into some sexist buffoonery. “Down with the patriarchy! Suck my dick, Andy Warhol,” she exclaimed before firing a bullet straight into the man’s gut.

This was definitely an intriguing way to start an episode, especially for a season that has been mostly focusing on Ally’s (Sarah Paulson) unraveling. And as Beverly became more acquainted with Bebe, Solanas’ strange world opened itself up in the most Ryan Murphy of ways.

According to Babbit’s story, Valerie Solanas Scum Manifesto – SCUM, standing for the Society for Cutting Up Men – was the basis for her own gruesome little cult. Gathering a group of women together, including AHS favorite, Jamie Brewer, Bebe claimed that SCUM were the real culprits behind the Zodiac Killer’s famous murders.

Wrap your heads around this for a minute: The Zodiac Killer, according to this AHS: Cult story twist, was really a group of man-hating, cloak-wearing women out to rid the world of men. It’s a concept that felt as left field when I watched the episode as it does right now. But, it may not be the whole truth when all is said and done. Think back to the American Horror Story: Hotel episode “Devil’s Night,” where the Zodiac Killer makes an appearance at the dinner table and confirms that all those atrocities were committed by one lone assailant.

Which is the truth? Did Ryan Murphy’s horror staple just write itself into a corner? Or is AHS: Cult pulling the wool over our eyes?

Kai Anderson, puppetmaster extraordinaire

Much like famed cult leaders David Koresh, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and yes, Andy Warhol before him, Kai Anderson has grown into a position of manipulative power rather quickly. His plans to have Meadow shoot him at his highly publicized rally did wonders for his movement – not only did he win the election, he was retweeted by Eric Trump!

But, as with everything audiences have witnessed over the previous six episodes, it’s become a regular assumption not to completely trust what we’re being shown. Story is as story does on AHS: Cult and it seems that “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” may have provided fans a little bit of fake news all its own.

After the plethora of flashbacks that found Valerie leading her group of murderous women, from behind bars, no less, the audience is given a glimpse into her very real descent into madness. Just like the real Solanas, Lena Dunham’s Valerie fell victim to schizophrenia, leading her to a rather sad demise. Her manifesto to kill a thousand men, prompting women across the country to divorce their significant others, never came to fruition. However, what Bebe’s story did do was spark a new movement inside Kai’s cult.

As Meadow’s martyrdom really began to sink in, Winter (Billie Lourd), Ivy (Alison Pill) and Beverly forged their own mini-cult. Gone were the circus costumes and clown masks. With Bebe’s empowering story fresh in their minds, new life (err, death?) was breathed into Valerie’s Scum Manifesto, prompting the group to corner Harrison (Billy Eichner) at The Butchery on Main, with Ivy taking a giant serrated tool to all of the man’s limbs.

While Kai’s messaging of law and order seemed very clear, it looks like Beverly has had enough of his wishy-washy behavior and is now leading her own cult into a new age. But is this what Anderson wanted all along? A brief encounter with his sister found Kai confronting her over the Scum Manifesto he found in her bedroom. Workshopping titles for his own literary plan – Men Lead, Women Bleed really struck a nerve – seemed to help Winter’s struggles with what side she should stand on. But let’s remember: Kai Anderson is a master manipulator. And it seems to me that the claim of SCUM’s ties to the Zodiac Killer’s crimes may all have been a ruse.

The final beat in the episode found Kai watching Beverly’s report on Harrison Wilton’s gruesome murder. But as she did her best to once again inject fear into this Michigan community, the camera pulled back to find Bebe Babbit on Anderson’s couch. Is Babbit who she says she is? Maybe. Maybe not.

The real question here is: What is Kai up to? If he’s attempting to bring law and order to the city, it’s possible his first step is to cut ties with the gang that helped him get there. And it looks like he’s off to a great start! With Meadow dead by suicide and her husband murdered by Ivy, Winter and Beverly, it feels like this may be the perfect time to distance himself from the group of women. Is he setting them up to take the fall? With Kai’s eyes firmly on the city council prize, that most-definitely feels like a possibility.

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