The episode titled “Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag” starts us off with a flashback to 1963, where Valerie Solanas (played by Lena Dunham) is purchasing a gun to kill Andy Warhol. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Valerie was a friend of Warhol's who eventually shot the artist in an attempt to end his life (though he survived with various scars from the near death experience.) Solanas is shown confronting him over a script she had written having discovered he lost it, and she accused him of not wanting strong women to succeed - so she later waits for him for hours with a handgun, until eventually firing on him before saying “you had too much power over my life, suck my dick Warhol!” and cue the cult-themed credits.
When the episode returns to present day, we see that Meadow was portrayed in the media as a Hillary Clinton supporter who was looking for some political vengeance (though we know the truth.) It is said that Kai now leads the poll and even receives a special shoutout from Eric Trump - ugh. When Beverly leaves the news station, she discovers a hooded woman in the parking lot (played by one of my all time favorites Frances Conroy) who brings up the publicised murders and suggests she knows more about this cult, offering her hotel room number to arrange a sit-down meeting. During the next day, Beverly goes to Kai’s which is now strapped with white male guards that are like minded terrorists and you can tell that she is beginning to lose any remaining reign she had over the operations. I will say that she of all people is one who has the power to taint his reputation and reveal the truth, so it will be interesting to see what comes of her meeting with the mysterious woman she met the night before.
Ivy and Winter have their own little date (of sorts) referencing the “sausage fest” surrounding Kai which is great timing considering Beverly brings her new friend Bebe Abbott to impart some wisdom on the predicament the women are in. Beverley tells them that women are always pushed aside by powerful men, but Bebe shares her story of the relationship she had with Valerie in the 60’s. She explains that Valerie was the first to write the SCUM Manifesto that brought women together for their hatred of abusive men (and even suggested just killing all men in general.) Scum (society of cutting up men) did make some allowances with gay men that had their own negative experiences as long as they knew they needed to identify as a “turd.”
The group relocated to San Francisco and Valerie began a relationship with Bebe, but nothing deterred Valerie from wanting to commit their acts of violence to show men a message in their own language (according to Valerie.) The first victims were a young man and young woman who were kissing in their car, only to be killed by ‘scum’ who donned cloaks. Winter pauses our flashback sequence to ask present day Bebe if the named victims meant that they were actually the Zodiac Killer themselves - which she openly claims to the small group of women. (Another re-telling of mysterious murders by Ryan Murphy.)
Bebe explains that the group wanted to send a message as read in Valerie’s manifesto that began to target women as well for coupling with men - not just their initial pledge to cut up all men. She also says that Valerie’s attempted murder on Warhol was the cue for them to begin their murders and she directed them from an asylum for criminally insane that she was sent to after the trial. Her dismay was apparent however when Valerie found news of the supposed Zodiac Killer who took credit to the media for the murders the girls so meticulously planned out. Valerie was eventually released and wanted to call out the two men associated with them, finding out that they had been the ones to send the Zodiac clue to media. The women once again united with their leader at their side to murder the betrayers and Valerie then tried to go to the police with a confession. Upon telling the officer, she was mocked and nobody believed her which made Valerie spiral into her diagnosed schizophrenia even more. Feeling oppressed and underestimated, her state of mind continued to deteriorate and isolated her from her former cult members until one night losing it entirely. Seeing Warhol appear (in her mind) she threw out a barrage of statements that included how men continue to tarnish hardworking women or prevent them from excelling, completely enraged by the injustices she had experienced or seen. She finally cries out, “when people hear the name Valerie Solanas the first thing they will think of is Andy Warhol” concluding her point that there’s a shadow women must step out of that is constantly cast by men.
Valerie later died alone in her apartment and had deteriorated because of her furiosity with a male driven world, which is what Bebe is there to prevent happening again. She hopes the women involved can take back their power and stop this world from repeating a cycle that is all too difficult to shake. Shortly after the conversation and story, Winter finds Kai standing over their parents bodies and he tells her “the crown is heavy Winter.” adding, “but I can’t do it alone.” Winter is clearly conflicted but before she can leave he confronts her over the SCUM Manifesto and offers his own suggestion for a title like Valerie’s, “MLWB. Men lead and women bleed.” Winter’s face changes to a tangible anger and suggests he might want to avoid it or he could piss off the wrong crowd. “Say hi to the girls for me” Kai slyly tells Winter before she leaves trying to strike fear in her heart - and I now see a brewing sibling conflict that I seriously cannot wait to see play out.
As the episode begins to wrap up, Harrison meets the women at the Butchery who are accompanied by Bebe and they knock him out. By the time he wakes up, he's tied down and they question him about Kai’s idea for a name (he denies involvement) before Ivy makes a claim that the women are now SCUM and she proceeds to murder Harrison. Next we see Kai watching a news clip with Beverley discussing the killing and SCUM claim - as Kai turns to Bebe (seriously upset about this revelation) and says they are best at what they do when they are angry. Well now that the Kai revolt is potentially squashed, we can at least enjoy what could have been great.
Overall Grade: 8/10
This was probably one of the best episodes from this season so far, having touched upon real moments in history (while also embellished) it added layers to the world that AHS Cult creates. I was very pleased by Lena Dunham’s work in the episode and her last scene where she’s overcome with anger and defeat was portrayed skillfully, making it a surprising casting choice that I enjoyed. I really hope that this will cause a change of direction to have Winter and the others shift focus from serving Kai to killing him.
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
- Frances Conroy is always an important part of AHS
- It was a nice shift for Lena Dunham, as well as the story of Valerie Solanas.
- I don’t like anyone in the cult for sure, but I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Winter kill Kai.