“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” the second episode of American Horror Story: Cult, picks up right where the premiere cliffhanger left off, with Ally once again being terrorized by creepy clowns who may or may not be (but probably are) real, this time with one in her bed. She screams and runs downstairs to Ivy, but of course they find nothing. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” Ivy says, echoing what we’re all thinking at this point.
Elsewhere in town, Kai is giving a press conference after recovering from his beating at the hands of the Hispanic migrant workers whom he very much provoked in the previous episode, who now face deportation. “I’m disgusted and outraged,” he says. “When President Trump called them criminals and rapists, he was viciously attacked by the PC police. I grew up in this town, I remember when our communities were safe, but they’re not anymore.” Kai then conveniently reveals that he’s running for the seat on the city council which was left absent when Councilman Chang and his wife (Ally and Ivy’s neighbors) were murdered.
Ivy is watching the press conference on TV at the restaurant as a fight breaks out between Roger, their racist kitchen manager and a food prep employee named Pedro. Roger tells Pedro to get that “cholo shit” out of his kitchen, and Pedro, in turn, pulls a knife on Roger. Roger demands that Ally fire Pedro, who tells him that she’s not going to fire “an immigrant in this climate.” It’s already becoming clear that Ryan Murphy and crew are really not going for subtlety when playing up racial tensions that are the sad reality in America right now.
Meanwhile, new neighbors are already moving into the Changs’ old house, Harrison and Meadow Wilton (Billy Eichner and Leslie Grossman), and we already have several reasons to be suspicious of them:
1. They were the ones who filmed Kai’s viral beating on their phones but somehow missed the part where he yelled racial slurs and hucked a condom full of urine at the migrant workers.
2. They had motivation to have wanted the Changs out of the picture (getting a good price on the house where a horrific murder recently took place, which they seem entirely unbothered about).
3. They also happen to be beekeeping hobbyists and the bee/hive imagery leading up to this season has been prominent.
4. They have an unconventional marriage of convenience based on a high school pact. (He’s gay, gets one night per week in Detroit as long as he “doesn’t make a fool of her” and “takes his Truvada.”)
5. They’re co-vice presidents of the Michigan chapter of the Nicole Kidman fan club, and that’s just plain weird.
Later, the security alarm goes off at the restaurant and for some reason, despite her crippling phobias, Ally volunteers to go investigate, where she finds Roger hanging from a meat hook in the walk-in freezer. Pedro is naturally the leading suspect, and again, I don’t know where they’re heading with this but so far this show is really not helping heal America right now.
Ally is only becoming more unglued, which is actually pretty fair given the murdered neighbors thing, the discovering the body of her restaurant manager thing (and as it turns out, he was still alive when she found him, and she was accidentally responsible for his death by trying to get him down), and of course, the clown thing. During a home visit from her therapist Dr. Rudy Vincent, while bars are being installed on the windows, she reveals that she has acquired a gun for home protection from Harrison across the street — who is apparently a rare homosexual, Obama-hating gun nut.
Shortly after the therapist’s visit, Ally receives another knock on the door, this time from Kai, who is campaigning for city council. Ally is naturally apprehensive to speak to Kai as she knows him as the “asshole” who threw a latte on her and Ivy, but as Kai asks if she remembers what it was like to not be “scared all the time,” it’s pretty clear they’re setting the wheels in motion for these two to eventually team up (which Murphy essentially spoiled before the season even started, but whatever).
Things get worse for Ally when a widespread, eight-state wide power outage cripples the town, and Harrison stops by with candles and makes the situation even worse by insisting the whole thing is a terror attack and that the threat of looting is imminent.
Winter bolts, leaving Ally alone in the house with Oz and — unsurprisingly, as it turns out — several creepy lurking clowns. Unable to come home from the restaurant herself, Ivy sends Pedro to check on her and bring some supplies. Of course, it’s just as Pedro arrives in the middle of a clown attack that Chekhov’s gun goes off and… well, bye, Pedro. His run on AHS: Cult wasn’t long or memorable, but it was terrible in every single regard.
* John Carroll Lynch makes his second appearance in as many episodes as Twisty the Clown, this time in the kid’s dream. I’m all for connections and revisiting characters, but this feels gratuitous and cheaply tacked on if this is the extent of the character’s appearances.
* Line of the night that elicited the biggest laugh: Meadow Wilton, pouring herself a tall glass of Crystal Light: “I can’t drink this stuff without thinking of Beyoncé now.” Say what you will about the rest of it, but Ryan Murphy has got “suburban white woman” down to a T.
* Uhh, what was up with that creepy bath scene in which Winter attempts to seduce Ally? Whereas Kai’s motivations seem pretty straightforward, we still don’t know what the deal with Winter is yet, aside from ostensibly being her weirdo brother’s spell.
* The first two episodes are already starting to feel repetitive: Ally gets terrorized by clowns, no one else sees the clowns, and then everyone thinks Ally is crazy. Given the cliffhanger, it seems unlikely that’s going to change next week.