American Horror Story: Cult, Finale Recap: "Great Again"

Photo: Frank Ockenfels/FX.
Well kids, this is it: The finale of the seventh installment of American Horror Story. By this point, we all know to expect the demise of most, if not every single character on an American Horror Story finale and Cult is no different. There are only two characters left standing at the close, and that’s not the only loose end that could have been predicted. So here’s what happened on the uninspiring season finale of American Horror Story: Cult.
If you were wondering what a brighter future could look like for the citizens of Michigan after a cult took over, it’s the leader behind bars. Episode 11, “Great Again,” is set in 2018, and Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) is in prison. But he hasn't given up on manipulating people to do his bidding. While behind bars, he's amassed a following of nearly two dozen, including a guard named Gloria Whitmore (Liz Jenkins). Kai and Gloria play Pinky Power together, and he even has her expose her breasts to him. But Kai isn’t the kind of guy to have a peaceful existence, even inside the walls of a prison.
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Two white inmates lure him to a restroom and attack him for not adhering to the strict race/gang affiliations established in the prison. Kai takes a few punches and talks trash to the much bigger man, something that he's shown a willingness to do all season. And just like all of the other times he intentionally put himself in harm's way, Kai is operating under a larger plan. It turns out one of the inmates that has lured Kai to his death is actually one of his followers, and he kills the other. Oh, and Kai is still seeing images of Charles Manson (also played by Peters), this time cleanly shaven like him and dressed in all black with swastika lapel pins. Kai needs the murder to mean something. In other words, nothing has changed.
On a later date, a new inmate, Trevor (Ian Bamberg) arrives. He’s serving 25 years for the death of a child that he struck and killed while driving drunk. Presumably because the causality of his crime was so young, and because Trevor simply isn’t a hardened criminal, he's been experiencing violence from his fellow inmates. He wants to join Kai’s gang for protection and after playing pinky power, he's sold. But like all of us, Trevor wants to know how Kai ended up behind bars, what with him being so brilliant and conniving. And it’s because someone even more clever and conniving sold him out.
11 months earlier, Kai was at his headquarters, still plotting to massacre a number of pregnant women. Inspired by the Tate murders committed by the the Manson family, Kai thought that killing 1,000 pregnant women would spark fear and outrage. And as we know, he loves fear. But finding 1,000 pregnant women in a suburban area like Brookfield Heights proves to be unrealistic, so Kai settled for 100 pregnant women and rallied his boys in blue around the Night of 100 Tates. He even gave demonstrations on how his followers should enact the stabbings using a medical replica of a pregnant woman’s torso. Ally (Sarah Paulson) watched on, continuing to play her role as a devout servant. Beverly (Adina Porter) was in the kitchen making a salad, reciting the words she knew she needed to say to stay alive. But she was on her last leg. She confided in Ally that her dreams of being the last person on the planet had been replaced by a desire to simply die. Beverly begged Ally to stab her, but Ally talked her out of it, promising something better on the horizon.
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Beverly didn’t necessarily believe her, but their conversation was interrupted by an agitated Kai, worried about the whereabouts of one of his own, Speed Wagon (Cameron Cowperthwaite). Kai’s increasing paranoia leads him to a bunch of different conclusions about why Speed Wagon is missing, but Ally had information she wanted to come clean about. Winter (Billie Lourd) had not betrayed Kai like he thought. Speed Wagon had done so, and she had the recorder he wore under his clothes to prove it. In last week’s episode, Ally was in the car with Speed Wagon when he tried to escape after revealing his police wire to her. We now know he never made it out. His wire wasn’t a transmitter, but a simple recorder, so he couldn’t call for help. Also, it was the state police – not the FBI as Ally had hoped – that had sent Speed Wagon in as a mole to try to bust Kai on drug charges. None of this was helpful to Ally, so she stabbed Speed Wagon then and there.
But Ally told Kai none of this as she tried to calm him down. She was still spinning information her way, creating confusion and angst for Kai — he was devastated that he killed his sister Winter for nothing — along the way. She told him that the only way to honor his sister was to go forth with the Night of 100 Tates. But it would be a plan never executed. As he prepped his goons with kill kits that included guns and spare clothes, Ally escaped the house to an FBI van waiting across the street.
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The slow motion scene that ensued was chaotic. The FBI dropped smoke bombs while Kai and his goons opened fire. Many of them died, some by suicide, at least one at the hands of Beverly, who finally smiled again after pulling the trigger, and some by police gunfire. Ultimately, both Kai and Beverly were taken out in handcuffs and he struggled against them once he realized that Ally was the reason for his demise.
This could have been the end of the episode, but it wouldn’t be American Horror Story without a twist. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it shocking but it’s a nice enough cherry on a very weird season.
With Kai locked up and her cult days behind her, Ally resumes responsibility at the Butcher on Main, the restaurant she owned with her late wife Ivy (Alison Pill). She's become a bit of a local celebrity for escaping the cult, but Ally is trying to put it past her. She even has a new girlfriend helping her plan Oz’s (Cooper Dodson) birthday party. She doesn’t expect for Beverly to show up unannounced, but she sits down to talk to her old cultmate anyway. Beverly wants to know why things ended so smoothly with Kai pleading guilty to all charges and Ally un-hatching such a thorough plan. She’s suspicious that there’s more to the story, especially since she was set free: Even though she’s waiting tables now, Beverly is still a reporter at heart.
Ally shares that the FBI had been suspicious of Kai all along. They had questioned her at the mental health facility and she joined the cult at their request. We know this isn’t true because of how things transpired between Ally and Speed Wagon, and that’s not the only lie that Ally tells Beverly. She denies killing Ivy, and fakes grief over her death. Beverly finds it suspicious that Kai doesn’t take credit for killing Ivy, but makes it clear that she wouldn’t fault Ally even if she did. All is well between the two women and Beverly even shows up to Oz’s party.
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However, Kai still manages to put a damper on Oz’s special night when he calls during the birthday party. Ally has sent information to the prison revealing that Oz isn’t his biological son. Ally gloats that his bloodline will end in prison and Kai is furious. Later he's seen having sex with Gloria and another man as he watches Ally announce on television that she's running for Michigan state Senate, the same seat Kai was running for before his arrest.
What’s interesting about Ally’s campaign is that she’s using the language of her own experience under Kai’s regime to sway voters. In one of her ads, she insists that both the Republican and Democratic parties are cults in their own rights. It’s a genius plan, but Beverly – who is now taking on an Olivia Pope role in things – believes that Ally is still behind in the polls because viewers can’t separate her from Kai, the criminal mastermind. Her upcoming debate against Senator Jackson (Dennis Cockrum) is going to be her golden opportunity to prove that she's up for the job.
And a little too conveniently, Kai is also planning an escape from prison on the same day as the debate. With the help of Gloria, he kills Trevor and mutilates his face so that the innocent man’s body would come off as Kai’s own. They even had matching tattoos. Kai casually strolls out of the prison next to Gloria dressed as a guard. News of Kai’s “death” breaks right before the Senate debate but Ally forges ahead anyway. And when Kai appears with some of his goons, drawing guns on the crowd, and Ally, she's surprisingly calm.
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Forever the mansplainer, Kai wants Ally to know that her death is going to symbolize to women everywhere that there's no hope for them in this country. Their rightful place is subservient to men. Then he fires the gun. But nothing happens. It’s empty. Confused, he looks to Gloria, who had been his helper up until this point. She smiles knowingly because she was in cahoots with Ally the entire time. I knew the timing of his escape was too convenient! Going back to something Kai said earlier in the season, Ally tells him “a nasty woman is way more dangerous than a humiliated man,” right before Beverly shoots him in the head.
Ally wins the senate race and tucks Ozzy into bed after her win. She’s off to a meeting to change the world with some “powerful women.” She touches up her makeup and dons the green hood of Valerie Solanas’ crew in the final scene. I think we all saw it coming from a mile away.