SPOILER ALERT! This recap is nothing but spoilers for American Horror Story: Cult Episode 2: "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark."
This season of American Horror Story is exhausting. Ally's hysteria is a lot to handle. It's frustrating, too, because as someone who deals with phobias in a similar manner, I do not understand why she doesn't take her pills or go see her doctor more often.
We open where we left off last week, with Ally waking to find herself sleeping beside a clown. She rushes to Ivy, who is downstairs, and rather than calling the police, they go upstairs to protect Oz. They find nothing out of the ordinary, and when Ivy says she doesn't know how much more of this she can take, Ally admits there might be something wrong with her. This soften Ivy's position, and the two start fooling around.
Oz is dealing with his own clown issues. Twisty clicks off his nightlight, which wakes Oz up and sends him to turn the light back on. Twisty is there, waiting, with penis-nose clown right behind. Oz escapes into the bathroom and hides in the tub. The clowns break open the door, which finally elicits a scream from Oz. His moms race to his aid and find it is all just a night terror. Ally tries to hold him, but he pushes her away and chooses comfort from Ivy. I find it intriguing that he associates Ally with, essentially, giving him a fear of clowns. Does he think that it is her fault he is having these nightmares?
Ally watches a news report about Kai's beating at the hands of migrant workers. Kai speaks to reporters and announces that he is done complaining; he is going to run for Wang's now-vacant city council seat. Ally notices a truck across the street. A couple is moving into the Wangs' house. Harrison and Meadow Wilton also happen to be the couple who recorded Kai's savage beating, but I'm not sure if at any point Ally puts that together. She is more concerned about the fact that the movers are unloading a half-dozen big blue barrels off the truck and stacking them in the garage. A man in a hazmat suit comes out as the garage door closes.
Curiosity beats Ally's fears, and she goes outside to check on the new neighbors. Rather than playing it cool and introducing herself, she peers into the window. Harrison comes out of the garage in his hazmat suit, startling Ally back to her house.
Ally goes to work for what may be the first time in the two episodes we have seen. The sous chef (?) Roger announces to the kitchen staff that Ivy is leaving early, and when she does, he will be in charge. He pointedly tells the other kitchen workers that they cannot speak Spanish when he is there, which prompts a fight between Richard and Pedro (a line cook?). Richard arms himself with an enormous ladle; Pedro with a knife. Ally separates them before it can get violent, but Richard does hiss at her to fire the "illegals."
Winter brings Oz home from school, and he goes straight to his room. She confronts him about the "shade" he has been throwing; he doesn't want to talk. She gives him a Twisty doll and he admits he is afraid that clowns killed the Wangs. She promises they won't come back for him, and she teaches him Kai's pinky game. "We're connected, flesh to flesh. If you lie, I'll know." He admits he is nervous about new people moving in, and Winter knows he is afraid. She vows that she will take his fear and hold it. It will make both of them stronger. Comforting words, right? But Winter sounds sinister.
When Ally and Ivy come home, they find the house empty. Ally starts to panic and Winter shows up, explaining that he is with the neighbors. The moms rush over to "meet" Harrison and Meadow, who are in the back, showing Oz their beehives. It wasn't a hazmat suit Harrison was wearing; it was a beekeeper's suit. Ally neurotically makes Oz move away from the bees, but Ivy comes across as a calming force.
The new neighbors share way too much. The Wangs were renting their home. When Harrison and Meadow saw the death, they got in contact with the property owner, who was motivated to get another person in there. Harrison explains that they have a bankruptcy on their record, so finding a home has been difficult. Meadow then reveals that she had skin cancer, and while she is in remission, she is nervous about being in the sun and still finds melanomas. They also reveal that even though they are married, Harrison is gay. Best friends in high school, it was one of those "let's get married if we have no one by this age." He has his getaways in the city, and she doesn't like to be touched, so it all works out. Ally is unnerved and decides it is time to go. On the way out, she sees the remnants of bloodstains on the floor and the bloody smiley face on the wall. The Wiltons promise they don't scare easy. It is not clear if the bloodstains are actually visible or just in Ally's head.
That night, getting ready for bed, Oz comes in and says he can't sleep because he is scared. Just as the family is getting snuggly, an alarm goes off on Ivy's phone. The security has been tripped at the restaurant, and she has to go check it out. Oz is instantly scared of being left alone with crazy mommy, so Ally volunteers to check it out.
At the restaurant, everything seems fine. Ally shuts off the alarm, then hears something. She investigates and finds nothing, other than that the light is out in the meat locker. She goes inside to check on the meat, and finds Richard hanging from a meat hook.
About a week later, Ally is having bars installed on all the doors and windows at home. Ivy comes home with Dr. Vincent, who just "happened" to be in the neighborhood. Ivy leaves them alone to talk, and Dr. Vincent admits he was concerned when Ally missed her last few appointments. She admits she thinks she is coming unglued, and that she feels responsible for Roger's death -- he was still alive when she found him, but the blood pouring over her paralyzed her in fear. The cops were more interested in pinning this on "the usual suspects," being Pedro. Both ladies insisted Pedro wouldn't do this, and Ivy told the cops he is an American. (We later learn that Pedro was born in San Diego, but even still "it is scary being brown.") In this case, it doesn't sound like the cops are profiling here; Pedro had a public, violent altercation with Roger. He would be my first suspect, too.
Ally tells Dr. Vincent that she feels she has been vindicated, because now there is proof that the world is as fucked up as she has always said it was. She also reveals that she will do whatever she can to keep her family safe, and produces a gun, one she got from Harrison (who started stockpiling firearms during the Obama administration, before he could "revoke" the Second Amendment). Dr. Vincent is concerned and leaves soon after the gun appears. Ally refuses to tell Ivy about it, and on the way out Dr. Vincent stops to talk to Ivy and doesn't mention it. He does tell her he thinks Ally's fortification of the house is a proactive, normal response, but she might be leaning toward agoraphobia. He wants to tell her more, but can't, not yet. Frankly, this just seems like poor judgment on the psychiatrist's part. He can break privilege if he believes his patient is in danger of harming herself or someone else. Having a gun plus her visions of clowns is basically the textbook definition of being at risk.
Ivy goes back to work and Ally locks up the house. A knock at the door scares her. She answers with a knife behind her back. It is Kai. He is going door to door trying to gain support for his city council run, and sways back and forth between calm, collected human being and a psychopathic animal. She recognizes him, and despite his claims, doesn't believe him throwing coffee on her was an accident. He wants to come in; she wisely refuses. He starts spouting off false numbers about crime rates among illegal immigrants that he got off Facebook; she tells him to get a more reliable source. She says she wants to build bridges; he asks if she can do that from behind bars. He begins to shake the gate violently, and Ally (finally) shuts the door.
Winter puts Oz to bed, and she recommends if he has a nightmare but doesn't know if he is awake or asleep, to just ask. She then surprises Ally, staring at her medicine bottle. She doesn't want to take them because they make her "foggy." Winter notices she seems more uptight than usual and suggests she take a hot bath with a glass of wine.
Winter goes to run Ally a bath, and it is immediately obvious that she is coming on to Ally. Ally sends her to check on Oz, then gets in the bath and relaxes. Winter returns and convinces Ally to lean forward, wanting to get her relaxed. Worst pick-up line ever. But Ally leans forward and Winter starts rubbing her back with a loofah. Then she moves around to her front. Ally seems to be in a trance, then snaps awake. Winter promises, "This is between us," and Ally gives in. They are about to kiss when the power goes off.
Oz wakes when a clown enters his room. "Am I awake or asleep?" he asks. The clown says "Asleep," and Oz accepts this. He rolls over and goes back to sleep.
The power is out on the whole block. Harrison knocks on the window and announces this is a terrorist attack. Power is out in eight states. He gives them some of his own beeswax candles and tells them to stay inside, because people will probably begin rioting soon. She begs him not to go, but he does. Winter leaves next, against Ally's wishes, adamant that she goes home to protect her stuff. So Ally locks up and calls Ivy at work. She is panicked and reiterates the terrorism rumor. She desperately wants Ivy to come home, but Ivy has to get some generators set up to protect the fresh batch of meat that replaced the dead-body-contaminated meat. Ally's phone dies, and she feels bad, so she sends Pedro over to her house with some supplies.
Armed with the massive beeswax candle, Ally moves through the house, checking for anything strange. She sees the ice cream truck park across the street, and she starts barricading the doors with furniture. She goes to set the alarm, but finds that the battery backup isn't working. Checking on that, Ally finds the wires cut. She turns around and finds a clown there. It blows out her candle and she screams.
Ally rushes upstairs, pushing another clown over the banister as she desperately goes for her gun. She points it but finds no clown on the floor. She wakes Oz up and rushes him downstairs. He is scared because she has a gun (and, you know, is acting all kinds of crazy). She tells him that when she opens the door they are going to "run like the wind," and tells him not to let go of her hand. She opens the door and sees someone there. Without thinking, she fires her gun. It is Pedro, who drops to the ground, likely dead.
We are only in Episode 2, but I already feel like the story is being painted into a corner. There are two options here: Either the clowns are real, or they aren't. If they are real, then Ally gets to rub it into everyone's faces, point out that she is not crazy, etc. If they aren't, this is all some sort of delusion, with the "sane" people pointing out that Ally should have listened to them. It becomes similar to the "it was all a dream" trope, which is usually pretty hackneyed. Either ending just doesn't feel satisfying, but I feel like there is more that can be done with the "clowns are real" ending.
Maybe this is what series creator Ryan Murphy meant when he mentioned that people from both the left and the right would be happy with this season. Ally and Ivy are the bleeding-heart liberals; Kai is the insane right-wing Trump fanatic; and Harrison is the gay Republican that I have been told exist. After all, he is married to a woman and believed that Obama would take away his guns. That makes him the least threatening kind of gay man, right?