The mysteries surrounding American Horror Story: Cult are legion. We’re only two episodes into the cult favourite’s seventh season and fans already have questions about the pack of murderous clowns currently terrorising Michigan, where Ally Mayfair-Richards’ many phobias come from, and, honestly, who decided to name a little boy Ozymandias (Cooper Dodson)? While it’s still impossible to completely understand those Cult puzzles, we’re starting to get a few clues, like the fact Oz truly did see the clowns, so they actually are real. But there’s one Cult mystery that’s only getting more confusing as the series goes on: What is Winter Anderson’s true endgame? While Winter's behaviour may seem erratic, scary and just plain impossible to understand, latest episode "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" starts to hint there just might be a method to her madness.
Cult premiere “Election Night” suggested Winter (Billie Lourd) is in the Mayfair-Richards home simply to sow the seeds of discord and fear, at the behest of Kai Anderson (Evan Peters), who is apparently her brother if you take his last name into account. But it’s not actually that simple.
“What fills your heart with dread?” Kai asks. “Children” she responds in a corresponding scene, pretending to absolutely love kids during an interview with Ally (Sarah Paulson) and her wife Ivy (Alison Pill). That means Winter isn’t only babysitting the Mayfair-Richards’ son simply because she wants to ruin their lives from the inside. The former student is apparently working on her own fears — remember, conquering fear is a major part of Kai’s twisted philosophy — by spending time with Ozzy.
This theory is further proven considering how Winter deals with her babysitting duties. Throughout the last two episodes, Winter repeatedly terrifies Oz, who can’t be more than 8 years old. First, she forces him to watch videos from “the dark web”, which is filled with the darkest of dark images possible, like a man being repeatedly stabbed in the throat. Then Winter helps him observe a real-life murder scene, complete with terrifying killer clowns. She even boosts him up to the window so he can get a good, long, detailed look at the carnage. Then, in “Afraid Of The Dark” she brings Oz a tiny Twisty The Clown (John Carroll Lynch) action figure, just so he can have the thing that now terrifies him the most constantly in his room.
While it looks like Winter is simply terrorising the little boy for fun, since she hates children and all, it’s possible she’s actually trying to help him in her own dark way. “This is like a vaccination, but for your brain,” she tells Oz when he rightly freaks out over the bloody dark web murder videos. “It hurts at first, but it makes you better. Don’t you want to be strong?” In the following episode, Winter plays the same pinkie finger truth-telling game she plays with Kai, except this time she’s leading. “You’re gonna give me your fear, Oz, I’m going to keep it for you. It’s going to make us both stronger.” So, hypothetically if you’re a fear-obsessed, warped Anderson sibling, you're actually making Oz stronger by consistently scaring him. And if he’s giving you all of that created fear, you’re subsequently stronger for it, too. The logic is wild, and proves Winter is the world’s worst babysitter and needs to be fired immediately, yet that’s essentially 2+2=4 in Anderson Burgeoning Cult Speak.
Another one of Winter and Oz’s bizarre conversations helps reveal what, exactly, her connection is with the killer clowns running around. It’s heavily hinted the murderous clowns are involved with the Andersons' scheming, since the masked group's assassination of Tom Chang (Tim Kang) and his wife Marylin Chang (Nanrisa Lee) opened up a spot on the city council; that is the exact seat Kai is now running for. That would explain how the clowns keep ending up in the Mayfair-Richards home: Winter is opening the door for them. She says two things to Oz that hint this is true. When Oz admits he’s terrified the clowns will punish him for witnessing the Chang murders, she assures the little boy, “They won’t come back for you,” with the confidence of someone who knows the precise people the clowns would come back for. Later, when Oz asks how to know if he’s awake or in the middle of a night terror, Winter says, “Just ask.” He does just that when a clown later enters his room, and the unknown man seems prepped for the question, telling him, “You’re asleep.”
The pre-planned plot to allow the clowns into Ally’s house during the surprise blackout also clarifies why Winter came onto her employer while she was in the bath. While at first blush, the flirtation simply seems weird and uncalled for, as usual, there's a disturbing reason underneath all the crazy. Obviously, the malevolent forces of Cult were behind the panic-inducing, multi-state drop in power. By Winter drawing Ally a perfect bath, partially stripping in front of her, and then trying to seduce her by washing her body, the mum is now way too focused on securing her house’s safety for a few seconds. That would have given Winter enough time to unlock the door, letting the clowns open it just before the power was scheduled to go out, then giving them enough time to disperse through the home.
Winter’s plot to let the clowns break in hints that Kai, or the killer cult in general, wants to push Ally into the same mental state Winter currently inhibits. In the premiere, Winter was an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter who believed in Planned Parenthood, trigger warnings, and the finer points of campaign planning. Yet her fear over Clinton’s loss pushed her to take up Kai’s teachings as a way to no longer feel so afraid. Ally was similarly obsessed with the more liberal ideals of American politics, but now she’s ditching the idea of “bridge building” in favour of fortifying her home with steel bars, buying guns, and accidentally shooting the people she claims to care about so much.
Will Ally and Winter be playing the pinkie game next?
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