When viewers first meet Sarah Paulson’s character, Ally, in the new season of “American Horror Story” (titled “AHS: Cult”), which debuted Tuesday, it’s the night of Nov. 8, 2016. And she’s having a meltdown.
As the realities of the situation hit Ally one by one (“Merrick Garland! What’s going to happen with Merrick Garland?!”), her neighbor Tom paces the room angrily, looking at his phone. “You want to know who to get mad at for this? Our own state of Michigan. She’s losing by 10,000 votes,” he vents. “You know who has 40,000 votes and counting? Jill Stein.”
Ally looks up in disbelief. “Is that true?”
This dialogue eventually leads to a sly and unexpected (albeit very small) twist in the episode, which also features clowns, stabbings and other classic terrifying ingredients of the AHS franchise. After Ally confesses to her therapist that the election results have triggered her anxiety to the point where it’s affecting her marriage and son, viewers assume they know who she voted for. Not so much. As she and Ivy are walking down the street, Ally tries to make up for her recent behavior.
“I want you to know I appreciate you, I really do,” Ally says. “And I am so grateful that you didn’t tell anybody.”
Ivy pauses. “Well, you did it, and now it’s done,” she replies flatly.
As viewers try to figure out what she’s talking about, Ally pulls Ivy aside and they stop walking. “Ivy, hey,” she says. “You forgive me?”
Ivy sighs unconvincingly. “You’re my wife.”
“When I got into the booth, I couldn’t do it!” Ally exclaims. “I tried, you know that I did. But as much as I hate him, I didn’t trust her.”
“But Jill Stein?!” Ivy says.
“Come on, you can’t blame me!” Ally retorts. “She didn’t campaign enough in the battleground states. She went to Arizona, for God’s sakes.”
“We needed 10,000 votes and you would have been one of them,” Ivy shoots back.
The twist feels like a classic Ryan Murphy moment: As the creator of AHS (as well as “Nip/Tuck,” “Glee” and many more), he loves turning tropes upside down. Murphy co-wrote the episode with his producing partner, Brad Falchuk, and they clearly have some things to say about certain people and their role in the way the election turned out. The premiere also takes aim at Trump supporters, 4chan users and even makes a playful dig at ardent Clinton supporter Lena Dunham, who will guest star later this season.
After that scene, Ally’s Green Party vote doesn’t come up again in the premiere — but the moment is just a small preview that shows that, as usual on this series, things are never as straightforward as they seem.