Cult "In the Blood" Review: No Use Crying Over Spilled Kool-Aid

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Cult S01E02: “In the Blood”

Okay, fine, so it’s a trainwreck. Cult has managed to put me in an awkward position where I know objectively that it’s a not-great show but I don’t hate watching it and I’m even willing to admit that I LIKE watching it. It makes me laugh. Clearly, it’s not Cult’s intention to be seen as an accidental comedy, but whatever gets people to keep tuning in, right C-Dubs? Right?

Or in Cult’s case, just tune in at all. I mean, ouch. You saw those numbers last week, right?

And yet there’s still a part of me that’s recovering from my Kool-Aid hangover, that wants to believe the show could swing around to crazy-in-a-good-way instead of crazy-in-a-WTF-way. It’s just that for every genuinely interesting thing Cult does, it seems to make a lot of questionable narrative decisions to counter the choices that aren’t completely awful. Specifically, at this point, I’m not entirely clear why we need to spend so much time watching excerpts from the fake TV show. It was novel during the premiere because it was initially confusing—what was real? What wasn’t? Then there were the clear parallels between Jeff’s search for his brother and Kelly’s on-screen search for her sister that tied the everything together.

This week, Kelly investigated a former cult member being buried alive upside-down in a mimicry of Billy Grimm’s initiation ritual (COOL.) aaaand... Jeff crashed a funeral and found weird symbols behind some dude’s wallpaper right before said dude threw out that creepy catchphrase and let the crazies kill him. Both victims were revealed to have “betrayed” the cult in some way, earning their gruesome deaths, but now, with the understanding that one storyline is real and the other isn’t, I find myself annoyed that we’re spending time with the fake one when the real one is moving so incredibly slow. In the case of "In the Blood," the clip of Cult-within-Cult wasn’t even really necessary to understand the harsh penalty for screwing over Steve and his gang. A smarmy Hollywood executive showed up and discussed changing the scripts from Rae’s explicit instructions, then ended up abducted, tortured, and (probably) dead. Merriam’s husband accidentally helped Jeff and Skye and ended up dead. The lead actor complained about the script and ended up conveniently running into that hot bartender who keeps showing up at almost every kidnapping and murder and CUE CLIFFHANGER. Pattern established, Cult, and while this week's show-within-a-show stuff was actually kind of more interesting than the real story, it was ultimately just a way to kill time this week and frankly, it needs to be more than a way to kill time and give Alona Tal some lines.

So where DID the real plot take us this week? Dumb Jeff’s Claudia Donovan rip-off of a friend (c’mon, an extraordinarily young, brilliant hacker geek girl with a thing for dying her hair?) reiterated what we established last week: that the man was a moron for sticking that disk in his computer and expecting it NOT to somehow ruin his life. He asked her to analyze it using her magical hacker skills and she came back and told him that it fried his hard drive and wiped itself clean except for a bunch of creepy symbols that mean something we’ll theoretically find out at a later date. One of those symbols appeared on Dead Merriam’s wallpaper, and by some miracle of obvious coincidence it was one that the Claudia imposter, E.J., enlarged so that we could, you know, see it. OH WOW IT WAS TOTALLY ENLARGED ON MERRIAM’S WALL TOO! That’s totally weird and clever and not at all sloppy and/or lazy!
Unfortunately, that development is at a standstill since Merriam’s widower handed over the actual wallpaper to Detective Evildoer (after smacking Nate around on some security footage from one of the filming sites) and then the True Believers burned the rest of the evidence.

Alrighty then, True Believers are a thing and there may or may not be secret messages hidden in episodes of Cult, which means there are TOTALLY secret messages hidden in episodes of fake Cult. Everyone over at fake CW seems to be in on the nefarious influence of their show except Skye and at least one member of the regular fake cast, Roger Reeves. Jeff has done absolutely nothing to rid himself of the title “Dumb Jeff.”

Is anyone else still on this crazy train? What did you think of this week’s episode?  

Postcards from Crazy Town

– There were no mourners at Merriam’s funeral and it was literally held the day after she blew her brains out. Seems planned-ahead to me. – The detective’s smooch was weird. Mind control? Poison? Over-friendly business exchange? – The Cult room at the fandom bar was locked because yet another Cult fan snuck a knife in. I eagerly await the episode that tackles Cult conventions. – So Skye took her job in order to get close to Rae and finish her father’s work. I can’t help but wonder whether Rae’s influence really does extend as far as it seems to, he would know exactly who she is and what she’s up to. – Skye and Jeff outran an explosion this week. Brb lmao.

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