‘American Horror Story: Cult’ episode 1: Will Clinton-campaigner Winter turn out to be the real villain of the season?

Could every clue leading up to the premiere have been diverting our attention from the real evil?

In every clue, interview or teaser leading up to the premiere of American Horror Story: Cult – which deals with the rise of a cult of personality from Trump to Charles Manson and many in between – we’ve been led to believe the grungy, blue-haired, Trump-supporting Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) is the villain of the piece. Creator Ryan Murphy has discussed how Peters will play a host of cult leaders in the new series, including the fictional Kai, which seemed to reinforce the idea that he is the one to watch out for.

Episode one might just have turned that idea on its head. Yes, Kai is far from a good person and a clip of him speaking about the “potency of fear” is more than enough to suggest he’d be pretty talented at manipulating people into doing his bidding. But could the real evil of Cult actually be his sister Winter (Billie Lourd)?

Winter is introduced as a Hillary supporter who’s downcast at the former Secretary of State’s election loss. Later, it’s revealed she dropped out of Vassar to work on Hillary’s campaign full-time (which also gives rise to one of the best satirical quotes of the episode: “My proudest moment was when Lena Dunham retweeted me. I got almost 6,000 followers from that. Not enough to elect a female President, but…”). But there are subtle differences in her character throughout the episode, depending on who she’s talking to. On the phone to a friend at the start, she decries CNN for not giving a trigger warning ahead of the election results, but in her nanny interview with Ally and Ivy, she plays up to the liberal, leftist idea that one person can cause change.

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Meanwhile, with Kai, she’s different again. When he comes into her room after Trump’s victory is announced, she seems defeated, but as if she’s suffering from a more personal, competitive loss. A simple locking of their pinky fingers together has sparked the idea that the siblings had a bet on around the election, with the winner getting to create their version of a cult.

The real hint at Winter’s possible dark side comes when she’s babysitting Ally and Ivy’s son, Oz. In her interview, she claims to have always loved children and done her fair share of childcare to make extra money during high school. Yet, on her first night looking after the kid, she shows him snuff videos and the dark web. When neighbours across the street are killed, she actively does her best to expose Oz to the gruesomeness, lifting him above a hedge so he can see into the window at the bloody scene. The child later reports seeing a group of clowns murdering his parents’ friends – it’s currently unclear if that’s really the case or the result of watching some pretty violent and twisted things with Winter. Either way, the new nanny’s actions are hardly those of your typical social justice warrior. Could both the Anderson siblings be bad to the bone?