Cult "Suffer the Children" Review: Once Upon a Time in the '80s

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Apr 06, 2013

Cult S01E07: "Suffer the Children"

"Suffer the Children" marked a positive milestone for Cult—it was the first episode since the pilot that left me wanting to spend more time with Dumb Jeff and Sad Skye as we finally made some real progress with this crazy fans/True Believers/fake show/real show insanity. Aisha Hind's Detective Sakelik was fleshed out to be more than just some TV-obsessed detective working for Steven Rae, and Rae's influence was revealed to possibly go as far back as twenty-five years to a house full of abandoned kids—one of whom would grow up to be Detective Sakelik. 

Up until now, Sakelik and the True Believers have essentially been "winning" the entire time. The closest Jeff and Skye have ever come to finding Nate was that time they just missed bumping into him at the underground septic think tank. For every bit of information Jeff or Skye has managed to glean from some unsuspecting (and sometimes suspecting) source, Sakelik has been there to run interference and make vague threats about the reach of the True Believers; the safety of Jeff, Skye, and their families; and whether or not Nate will continue to have a pulse if Jeff doesn't stop being a total pain in her ass. Sakelik's dedication to the cause came to a head last week, with the murder of Jeff's boss in retaliation for Jeff stealing the brown acid out of her fridge. All of her glares and talk suddenly became much more serious. Jeff has taken a sort of delight in screwing with Sakelik and throwing a wrench into her works because he assumed that as a police officer, as crazy as the woman clearly is, even she has to have limits. 

Oh, Jeff. So dumb. So naive. Yet so refreshingly badass when it came to blackmailing Sakelik's old partner to get his hands on her personnel file. We've seen glimpses of Jeff's backbone throughout the season—especially during his interactions with the deprogrammer in the septic shenanigans episode where he willingly let a True Believer operative be dosed with truth serum for the greater good. Or, you know, in his attempts to find Nate (who I'm still not entirely convinced that it's in anyone's best interest to Nate down). But this week he really proved that he can put that spine to use.

So. Sakelik's file. Turns out that the super cop has a juvie record. Once upon a time in 1988 there was a teenage girl named Rosalind whose parents abandoned her at Moon Hill, the best cult ever. Rosalind made pals with the other children, and among them were Annabelle and Louis, who would one day be present when Future Detective Sakelik murdered famous actress Olivia Leland in a botched home robbery—or at least Annabelle would be. We didn't get confirmation that Louis was on the scene, but he definitely knew about the murder. As far as the audience is concerned, Leland's death was an unfortunate accident; she wasn't supposed to be home at the time of the break-in. In a confessional chat with Louis, Sakelik seemed to be genuinely remorseful about killing Bert, even if, in her mind, it was totally justified for the sake of protecting "everything [they] had worked for." I don't know if it was intentional or not, but having that purple neon light form a sort of halo around Sakelik's head during her confession was a nice touch. 

Knowledge is power and the discovery of evidence from the scene of Leland's murder and a basic outline of the story from Annabelle gave Skye and Jeff the sort of leverage against Sakelik that they've desperately needed all season... until Sakelik killed Annabelle right in front of them to keep her quiet. Still, surely Jeff and Skye could at least report that? Maybe? Granted, Sakelik would probably have the crime scene wiped by the time non-psychotic police arrived, and Jeff learned last week that poking the bear gets your friends shot in the chest, but you never know. Her attempt to make Bert's murder look like a home invasion gone wrong looked "too perfect," and even her own partner is suspicious of her at this point. (Which has me pegging him for a goner in the next few weeks, btw. Frankly I'm surprised he got through this episode unscathed.)

I'm not going to call "Suffer the Children" a turning point for Cult until I see whether the show can sustain the development of Sakelik as a real threat to the present with a legitimately interesting past. But it was a good start, and easily one of the best episodes of this short and flawed season to date. Whether a marked improvement would even make a difference at this point—the show has never drawn more than a million viewers, even when it wasn't airing in a death slot—I'd still like to see the season end on a high note. 

What did you think of this episode?


– Do you think Olivia Leland's murder was really an accident, or does the True Believer craziness go back longer than we thought?

– Steven Rae was apparently involved with the Moon Hill kids back in the day. Was that involvement as a cult leader, or as one of the kids? Was Moon Hill a True Believer trial run, or the inspiration for their creation? The Moon Hill kids were sporting different tattoos than the True Believers... make of that what you will.

– This is pure speculation on my part, and it's not even grounded in any sort of evidence, but do you think Louis could be Steven Rae? Or that someone else might be? Is Steven Rae even an actual person, or just an alias used to motivate the True Believer grunts?

– What's Stuart's angle?

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  • davidvillarre1 Apr 07, 2013

    My take is the true believers are the children of Moon Hill who are trying to reconnect with the adults who abandoned them. After 25 years Steven Rae comes out with a tv show which is at least somewhat based on the Moon Hill cult, embedded with clues. The true believers need Nate to decode all the clues and reunite them with the adults from Moon Hill. Sakelik is in contact with Stuart and the true believers, so if Stuart was Steven Rae they wouldn't have any need for Nate, he doesn't need help decoding his own clues and hidden messages. On that same note I don't think Peter Grey is a true believer, because he has contact with Steven Rae. So to date I feel either Steven Rae is older than the Moon Hill kids, and is making a show to help them find their way back to the adults/leaders. Or Steven Rae was one of the Moon Hill kids, found the adults/leaders, and is trying to help the other true believers he grew up with find their way back. Either way I don't see Stuart and Steven being the same person.

  • KateSullivan Apr 06, 2013

    I assume Stuart is Steven Rae and Steven is totally made up name. I hope this has been what Cult has been working toward because I finally felt a sense of danger in which our heroes (including Roger and Marty). It made me forget some stupid dialogue between Skye and Jeff early on. I even appreciated the garage exchange as I like Badass Jeff even if he is just Sober Ric. I hope they realize Jeff's apartment is not safe. I am really now curious how the younger True Believers are connected including apparently the weird dude Skye doesn't realize is stalking her (at work atleast).

  • vmee Apr 07, 2013

    SPOILER ALERT: so not sure about that, if only because the imdb page for cult lists another actor for Steven Rae, beginning from 1x08

  • KateSullivan Apr 08, 2013

    Interesting, if I have a moment today I will check it out (I think the theory about Louis is wrong, but I might buy that).

  • davidvillarre1 Apr 07, 2013

    This comment has been removed.

  • BereniceAndrea Apr 06, 2013

    I thought it was the first episode that made a little sense. Total improvement. I like the fact that they're giving Sakelik a shady past and not just make her a crazy cop.
    I think Moon Hill was the inspiration of Cult for Steven Rae, who I think either doesn't exist or is this Stuart guy.
    What is he's involvement in all of whatever the true believers are doing anyway?