When I heard that American Horror Story was using the November 2016 presidential election as part of its storyline I was intrigued. There are real, horrifying elements to what Trump and his government want to do to the rights and freedoms of the American people. Fueling the fear with people’s fear of clowns only helps heighten the paranoia and as the first episode unfolds the combination of politics and phobia become a very efficient and believable tool.To the show’s credit, we get to see both sides of the spectrum in terms of how people deal with
To the show’s credit, we get to see both sides of the spectrum in terms of how people deal with Trump’s victory. On one side we have someone like Kai (Evan Peters), who has gulped down the Kool-Aid in huge amounts, to Ally (Sarah Paulson) who sees her anxieties and phobias come rushing back in overwhelming and crippling fashion as she tries to make sense of the new Trump presidency. Kai, in particular, sees this as a moment where he can strike fear and feed paranoia in the population, starting with his own neighborhood, and someone like Ally is just a perfect target.
Throwing clowns into the storyline was an intriguing and puzzling move. However, even though they have touched on this powerful phobia already it did allow for the return of Twisty, in all his destructive glory. It is actually a great combination, clowns and peoples already building fears, and the first episode did a great job of showing just how many times clowns can traumatize you. The key here is how they intend to continue to keep the clowns fresh and relevant without them becoming predictable and boring.
Maybe the most interesting character, or the character with the most question marks, is Winter, played by Billie Lourd. She seems to have some sort of relationship with Kai, but what exactly that is remains to be seen. The creepiest moment for me involved Winter as Oz’s nanny, the child of Ally and Ivy (Alison Pill). She starts Oz (Cooper Dodson) down a horrific path that is shrouded in mystery in terms of how much is real and how much is a game of shadows. Still, it was creepy, disturbing and something that gave me chills as the episode came to a close.
It will be interesting to see if the show is setting up a duel of wits so to speak between Kai and Ally. Both seem to be at the opposite ends of the spectrum but somehow bound to collide at some point. Paulson and Peters were very convincing in their roles, as they have been for most seasons of American Horror Story, so if this is the path they are headed down I’m ok with that.
One thing American Horror Story does well is premieres and this was no exception. It laid down the groundwork for some intriguing questions to be answered or at least pondered while playing on peoples phobias and fears…and yes, clowns. Where things tend to go astray is during the middle part of the season and with this storyline, that could be a problem once again. However, for a first episode it hit a lot of the right notes and with satire and horror aplenty it was a solid beginning.
Four stars out of five
- Paulson and Peters look great once again
- Clowns and politics? What a frightening combination.
- Interesting and creepy characters
- Clowns are scary, sure, but how long can this storyline be interesting?