‘American Horror Story: Cult’ – The finale explained

The bloodshed and terror in Brookfield, Michigan is finally at an end

After weeks of twists, turns and a ton of bloodshed, American Horror Story: Cult finally saw some resolution in its finale this week. As you might expect, there were plenty more surprises and lives savagely lost before it got there though.

Fans had plenty of big questions going into the episode and one of them was answered immediately – how much longer could Kai’s murderous power grabbing go on for? Not much longer, it turns out, because the episode begins in 2018, with the cult leader behind bars. Settling into prison life and atoning for his sins isn’t a path he’s ready to go down just yet, though. Instead, he’s building up an army from inside jail using his trusty old tactic of pinky power to secure recruits. Just as he turned members of the police and other authority figures to the dark side when he was a free man, he’s not just focusing on his fellow inmates – he’s got at least one prison guard under his thumb now too.

Kai’s downfall

But how was Kai finally stopped from wreaking havoc on Brookfield? “I was sold out by a filthy fucking rat,” he tells his latest draftee, eyes piercing with rage. In a flashback to 2017, Ally, who had previously joined the cult after a stint in a psych ward and had convinced Kai he was the father of her son, helps him prepare for “Night Of 100 Tates” – a Manson family-inspired killing spree focused on pregnant women intended to weaken support of Michigan’s current senator and leave the path clear for Kai to take his place.

In recent episodes, Kai had been struggling with increasing paranoia, convinced that a mole – who he thought was his sister Winter – had been feeding information about his plans to the authorities. When Ally informs him she was innocent, she encourages him to go ahead with his ambitious night of slaughtering to “give her death meaning” and “become the leader she wanted [him] to be”. Before the massacre can begin, Ally heads out to “get snacks”, but in fact runs to the waiting FBI and tells them to make their move. As Kai is being carted off to jail, he promises to get ultimate revenge on the woman he brought about his downfall.

Ally’s recovery

In a reunion with Beverly – the only other member left alive – when Kai is safely locked up, Ally reveals the FBI came to her when she was in the psych ward and offered her immunity if she helped them. While her admission to Ivy that she managed get over her crippling fears so she could get revenge on her wife may have been true, the thought of ridding her community – and herself – of the cult and their torment must have been a motivating factor too. “I joined his cult to save Oz, to save Ivy,” she tells Beverly, brazenly lying about her part in Ivy’s murder. “But I couldn’t save them both.”

Ally might think her life is about to get back to normal, but she’s quite wrong. A surprise phone call from Kai during Oz’s birthday party, in which he tells her “I am coming for you, I will rip you apart” leaves her shaken up, but she tries to carry on and announces she is running for the seat of senator of Michigan. Little does she know, Kai sees the news on TV in prison, spurring him on to break out of incarceration.

The final death

He does so by sacrificing one of his “soldiers” who shares a similar build to him. After making the eager recruit get the exact same tattoos as, he (and his prison guard comrade) kills the man and mutilates his face so when the body is found they’ll think it is Kai that’s been brutally murdered. Dressed in a guard’s uniform, he strolls free, just in time for Ally’s debate with her opponent in the race for the Senate. There, he pretends to ask a question, only to pull a gun on his nemesis. He’s all ready to shoot her live on TV, but when he pulls the trigger the gun jams.

It seems the villain put a little too much faith in his ability to terrorise people into doing whatever he wants. Gloria, the prison guard accompanying him to the debate, had her own meeting with Ally before Kai’s escape, in which his target persuaded her to secretly work against him. It’s poetic that his speech to Ally as he prepares to blow her brains out is one mocking women’s hope of equality in the future, ending with him screaming: “Women can’t win. They will always be outsmarted and outmuscled. They need to shut up, know their place and make me a goddamn sandwich.” Instead, he’s brought down by not just two, but three women – as Kai is looking round bewildered, Beverly takes her chances and puts a bullet in the back of his head.

In the show’s final scenes, Ally, now Senator, dons a green cape exactly like Bebe Babbot’s, suggesting that she will now carry on S.C.U.M.’s work. It could be a comment on the disparity between the left and right – somebody always ends up losing out. With Kai, it was women. With Ally, it’s hinted it will be men.

Cult classic?

So, plenty of hard-to-believe moments in the Cult finale (why would the FBI choose Ally to infiltrate the cult? Would one prison guard alone really be able to help Kai escape?), just like the rest of the season. But if you were able to suspend your disbelief enough, this series was one full of truly terrifying moments made even scarier by their grounding reality rather than the supernatural. It left you guessing what would happen next, and provided plenty of clues (some legit, some red herrings) to mull over in the wait between episodes. Fans are in agreement that it wasn’t the best series of AHS, but it also nowhere near the frustrating dullness of Freak Show, generally considered to be its worst outing yet. Where will the anthology take us next? It’s yet to be announced, but here’s hoping AHS season 8 is just as engrossing as Cult.