American Horror Story: Cult started off intensely shrill. Anyone who made it through the first three episodes got a glimpse behind the madness in last week’s fourth chapter, when the show did its traditional “not everything is what it seems” reveal. As its title suggests, this week’s episode “Holes” dug even deeper, and what its uncovering is a season that may have begun to be worth watching.
There were holes galore sprinkled throughout “Holes,” well beyond just the plot holes that’ve been begging to be filled. We had holes in the TV news stories being reported by Beverly Hope (Adina Porter); Ally (Sarah Paulson) feeling the sad hole of loneliness after being dumped by Ivy (Alison Pill) and their son (and scratching at imagined bug holes on her skin); Ivy worrying that the restaurant was falling into a financial hole; and so on metaphorically. We also had real holes: a yawning grave, the wounds on the back of a sex-play “gimp” suspended from ceiling hooks, the indentations left by a nail gun applied to a human skull, that kind of thing. It was heavy-handed, but playing spot-the-holes was easily the most fun thing about the episode—which did have some enlightening flashbacks, but was mostly about the shifting dynamics of the clown gang in the tense final weeks of Kai’s (Evan Peters) city council campaign. That is, until the very last act.
On a show filled with characters you’re supposed to hate, Kai is the most blatantly evil, and on “Holes” we finally learned about the trauma that sent him down his destructive path. We’ve been needing insight into why he’s so turned on by fear and chaos—and what might’ve led him into darker deeds, like clown-costume serial killing and voting for Trump. Now that we know exactly how deep his insanity goes, the show just got way more intriguing.
With Beverly emerging as Kai’s right-hand woman, the unlikely duo—the ambitious yet beleaguered journalist and the budding cult leader/murderer/political enfant terrible—finally had a chance to do some real bonding. While engaging in Kai’s favorite game, the linked-pinky truth challenge, he reveals the fate of his parents, who are seen in photos around his home, but are curiously absent. Three years prior, his dad became bitter and abusive after a motorcycle accident left him wheelchair-bound, and was eventually shot by Kai’s mother in a murder-suicide. Prior to this tragedy, the 2014 version of Kai seems far more toned down. He’s got brown hair, is way less intense, and is revealed to have earned a degree in religious studies, which suggests he honed his previously-demonstrated computer-hacking skills as part of his makeover into a hate-filled, blue-haired psychopath. Younger Kai is also more easily horrified than jaded 2017 Kai, so after he witnesses the crime he calls his brother. Who is... Dr. Rudy Vincent (Cheyenne Jackson), the psychiatrist who’s been patiently working with Ally on her many, many issues.
Say whaaa? While we’re still processing this unlikely connection, Dr. Vincent brusquely warns Kai that calling the cops would be a financial blunder, depriving the kids of their parents’ valuable disability and pension checks. (It would also, he points out, put him in an awkward position as a shrink... how could he ever explain this messy family business to his patients?) Instead, the brothers take the A Rose for Emily route and preserve the bodies, leaving their moldy corpses lying in bed with the room carefully sealed off. Oh! And we also learn what seemed pretty obvious before, but was never stated outright: Willow (Billie Lourd) is the youngest in this sick trio of siblings, all of whom just happen to have different last names.
After last week’s “11/9” revealed some major shit in flashbacks—like, Ivy’s been a part of Kai’s group since before the election, and she’s been helping the gang torment Ally—“Holes” finally opened a window onto Cult’s most troubling character. He isn’t just an alt-right kid who got disaffected after spending too much time on 4chan, as another character surmised earlier this season; he’s disturbed on a much deeper level. We see him having a Norman Bates-style chat with his dearly departed mom, clutching her skeletal hand as if she’s still alive. Even without the reveal about Dr. Vincent—although given the show’s fondness for trickery, it was only a matter of time before something fishy was shared about that guy—this new layer of Kai adds a lot more intrigue to the show going forward. Cult is still too smug about its (incredibly obvious and heavy-handed) social commentary, but this turn of events injects some much-needed old-school horror into all the nastiness. It doesn’t make you feel sorry for Kai, but it makes you way more interested to see what he’ll do next.