‘American Horror Story: Cult’ Guide, Week 2: Every Question We Have Before ‘Neighbors From Hell’

Like a tweet sent at 4 a.m. by the president, American Horror Story usually leaves us with far more questions than answers. Each week, we’re going to take a deeper look into every question the anthology gore-a-palooza needs to A.

Two episodes in, and American Horror Story: Cult continues to barrel forward with all the subtlety of a circus clown jerking off in the Whole Foods veggie aisle, borrowing most of its dialogue word-for-word from the Facebook conversation between your uncle who lives in Florida and the cousin who posted a photo of her baby in an “I’m With Her” onesie. But much like that Facebook conversation, AHS always succeeds in A) making Christmas super awkward and B) remaining almost impossible to follow. We have some questions:

Ally Is Going to Jail for Shooting Pedro, Right?

Probably not! According to Section 780.972 of the Michigan state code, “An individual who has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime…may use deadly force against another individual anywhere he or she has the legal right to be,” provided that “the individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual.”

Now, since I’m not a lawyer anywhere other than my Tinder bio, I can’t say for sure where a woman on the verge of being diagnosed with agoraphobia by her psychiatrist wielding a gun registered to the beekeeper who lives across the street falls under this admittedly murky law. All I can say is that Pedro Morales didn’t deserve to take any shit from Scut Farkus from A Christmas Story, and definitely deserved a better death than this.

Whose Corpse Is That?

The preview for “Neighbors From Hell” tries to pull a plot switcheroo, leaning heavy into the idea that the Mayfair-Richards find a horrific scene inside their own home—the smiley face on the door, Harrison saying they have been “marked by the killer”—but I’ve seen every episode of Lost at least thrice and am therefore immune to such trickery.

“What they found has left law enforcement frightened,” states a newscaster played by True Blood treasure Adina Porter. Behind her, Detective Samuels—portrayed gamely by Colton Haynes right after he stuck a fork in an electrical outlet—pulls a body from house number 1537. But house number 1537 does not belong to the Mayfair-Richards family, but to Harrison (Billy Eichner) and Meadow (Leslie Grossman) Wilton.

It would be a genuine shame if AHS dispatched this Nicole Kidman-obsessed, My Best Friend’s Wedding-style couple so early into season seven; Harrison and Meadow managed, in their first appearance, to be both the most intriguing part of this show and the only thing keeping it from becoming a joyless slog. Eichner shouting “lesbians, we’re under attack” has probably already been GIF’d so many times across Twitter and Tumblr it technically counts as a spin-off. But as the continued presence of John Carroll Lynch’s Twisty the Clown from Freak Show reminds us, American Horror Story has a history of dispatching its most interesting characters early, leaving the remainder of the season feeling lifeless (a storytelling move I’ve come to call “Killing the Mahershala,” thanks to Marvel’s Luke Cage).

What Are the Wiltons Stockpiling?

Dead or alive, the biggest question coming from across the street is what exactly Harrison Wilton is keeping in all those barrels. The fun slash deeply depressing on a personal level part of AHS: Cult is that it’s taken the mass paranoia that creeped out of the internet and into our brains during the last several years and turned it into suspense-building. You see a cashier wearing a MAGA hat, or a group of people who don’t look exactly like you, or your new neighbor rolling barrels into their garage, and sometimes without even meaning to—and oftentimes with the best of intentions—your brain jumps immediately to the worst possible thing. You assume, even for just a moment, those barrels are filled with bullets saved for a revolution, or blood because vampires are real now because of immigration or something, or acid strong enough to dissolve a body because your neighbor is secretly the meth kingpin of New Mexico. Nothing is off-limits when your free country suddenly gets horrifying.

The flip-side of that—hinted at over and over and over again this season–is that those fears that seem so real in your head are actually nothing. Maybe the Wiltons just really, really like Gatorade. Maybe they’re building a sandbox in their backyard. Hell, look at their day-job; more than a few second of reasonable thinking would suggest the barrels are probably filled with honey, and that is not just me talking as a bee-jerk liberal. (I’m so sorry.)

What’s Up with That Pinky Finger Ritual?

So far, the most cult-leader-like part of American Horror Story: Cult–besides the host of Celebrity Apprentice convincing thousands of people to elect him president—is Kai Anderson’s pinky-touching interrogation tactic. “We’re connected, flesh to flesh,” Winter tells Oz. “If you lie, I’ll know.”

For most people, the common “pinky swear” is just that thing you used in middle school when your crush on Bobby from Social Studies needed to be kept a secret. But here’s a fun fact: The origin of the act is super fucked up. As far as anyone can tell, the idea first popped up in Japan, under the term “yubikiri,” which literally translates to “finger cut off,” as in “if you break this promise I will cut off your goddamn finger, this is not a joke.”

Not one to be outdone when it comes to acting unnervingly intense about keeping pledges, America defined “Pinky” in the 1860 Dictionary of Americanisms as a “very common term in New York, especially among young children,” often accompanied by this straight-up piece of nightmare fuel:

Pinky, pinky bow-bell / Whoever tells a lie / Will sink down to the bad place / And never rise up again. 

That is as bone-chilling as it is incomprehensible, and in no situation should it be quoted by young children. So, in a nutshell … American Horror Story.

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