American Horror Story Returns

If you’re already counting down the days until Halloween, you may already be tuned in to the creepiest show on television. But if you aren’t-- American Horror Story is back on FX, and it’s as scary as ever.

The anthology series by Ryan Murphy has begun its seventh season, and it’s playing on traditional fears (clowns, anyone?) as well as culturally relevant anxieties (The current political climate of America). Just a few episodes in, and things are already weird as hell. (Slight spoilers ahead!)

This season revolves around the phobia-ridden Ally Mayfair-Richards (Sarah Paulson), who struggles with a relapse of her debilitating fears following the 2016 presidential election. She attempts to manage her condition for the sake of her wife, Ivy (Alison Pill), as well as their son, Oz. Although she is plagued by horrible visions of her worst fears surrounding her, they seem to be no more than anxiety-induced hallucinations-- that is, until her neighbors turn up dead. Ally must distinguish reality from her mind’s own fabrications as she clings to her family unit with an iron grip. All the while, she is visited by mysterious strangers, subjected to tests of her own morality, and forced to contend with a near-endless barrage of triggers for her paranoia. Oh, and clowns. Lots and lots of clowns.

The title of this season, Cult, stems from the scheming mind of an unhinged young man named Kai Anderson (Evan Peters) who believes that a culture of fear is the solution to the ills of society. As he indoctrinates those he perceives to be most vulnerable, he evolves from a reclusive basement-dweller to a sinister force to be reckoned with. His sister, Winter (Billie Lourd), becomes a nanny in the Mayfair-Richards home, and it becomes increasingly apparent that the presence of the Andersons is a catalyst for trouble.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed by the performances of the returning cast. Paulson’s star power is as radiant as ever, even while operating within a character written to be little more than “afraid.” Peters poses an equally captivating contrast; if Paulson’s character is written to be “terrified,” Kai Anderson is written as “terrifying.” Fans who bemoaned Peters’ mere two-episode stint on Season 6 will relish in his dynamic, erratic characterization of a rising cult leader.

Among the cast’s new additions, perhaps the most intriguing is Lourd, whose portrayal of Winter Anderson is both natural and incredibly complex. She is equal parts demure and bold, concerned and detached, innocent and conniving. Think an adult, hipster Wednesday Addams, and that’s what Lourd brings to the table.

Any fan of mystery, horror, comedy, and moments that make you go “WTF” should tune in to the seventh season of this crazy show. It’s wild. Seriously.

American Horror Story: Cult airs on Tuesday nights at 10 pm on FX.