Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

This American Horror Story: Cult Theory Suggests Winter Is the Real Big Bad

Why an old fairy tale may be the key to the season

Sadie Gennis

We already knew Kai (Evan Peters) was terrible, but one thing that the latest episode of American Horror Story: Cult makes clear is that Winter (Billie Lourd) is the wooooooorst.

She abandoned Ally (Sarah Paulson) and Oz (Cooper Dodson) during the blackout. She made Oz watch two people get murdered and then told his parents he made it up. She fingered her married boss. She fingered her married boss. She fingered her married boss. The list goes on and on, and it's only Episode 2!

But according to one theory, Winter isn't just your average terrible nanny; she might actually be the real villain of the season!

Billie Lourd, American Horror Story: Cult
Frank Ockenfels/FX

According to Reddit user uconnball17, Cult is taking a lot of cues from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen." But seeing as the celebrated fairy tale isn't as commonly known as some others (although it was the inspiration for Frozen) let's take a pause on AHS for a minute and revisit the story of "The Snow Queen:"

American Horror Story: Cult: Why Ally's Shocking Move Probably Wasn't an Accident

Once upon a time, there are two young children, Kai and Gerda, who are next door neighbors and grow to be as close as siblings. In between their houses is a window box garden filled with roses, the sight of which always reminds Gerda of how much she loves Kai. Kai's grandmother tells the children about the Snow Queen who rules over "snow bees," which are -- as you'd expect -- snowflakes that swarm together and look like bees.

One summer day, splinters from an evil magic mirror get into Kai's heart and eyes, freezing his heart and causing him to only see the world's worst aspects. The following winter, Kai happens to meet the Snow Queen, who gives him two kisses: one to numb him from the cold and a second to erase all memories of Gerda.

While the townsfolk believe Kai is dead, Gerda goes off looking for him. During her journey, she meets a sorceress who wants to keep Gerda as company. In order to do so, the sorceress makes Gerda forget about Kai and destroys all the roses in her garden to stop them from reminding her of him. Gerda eventually regains her memory after seeing a single rose and resumes her journey towards the Snow Queen's palace.

This American Horror Story: Cult Theory Might Explain Kai's Obsession With Ally

After finally arriving, Gerda discovers Kai alone on a frozen lake known as the Mirror of Reason. Gerda runs up and kisses Kai, and it's shown that her "purity and innocence of heart" are powerful enough to release him from the Snow Queen's spell and the influence of the mirror. The end.

It doesn't take a PhD to immediately notice the similarities between Cult and "The Snow Queen." And obviously, we don't expect creator Ryan Murphy will follow the fairy tale's storyline point-by-point, but we do think there are enough connections to give credence to the theory that Cult is at least in part inspired by the story.

Murphy has long showcased his love of using mirrors in AHS as both props and an allegory -- something which will continue throughout this season -- and the shot of Kai stopping and smelling a lone rose begins to make a lot more sense in this context. (We bet we'll be finding out who lives behind that door soon enough.)


Also, let's not brush over the fact that Peters' character name is literally Kai Anderson, a combination of "The Snow Queen's" lead character's name and the author's name. It really doesn't get less subtle than that.

American Horror Story: Cult: Are the Clowns Real?

Beyond the very obvious connections, the fairy tale's themes are where we can glean the biggest clues at potential twists to come. At its heart, "The Snow Queen" is about the struggle between good and evil as acted out through Gerda and Kai. At first, it might be easy to assume that Winter, Kai's apparent sibling, would play the Gerda role based on her devotion to him. However, it's possible that Winter's name isn't just a play on the term "snowflake" (a popular term during the 2016 election), but is really hinting that the role she's taking on the part of the Snow Queen.

One could see the results of the 2016 presidential election as the symbolic evil mirror breaking, scattering its shards all over the world and causing those affected to see only the worst in society. And so perhaps Winter's dejection after Hillary Clinton's loss didn't just sink her into enough despair to make her follow Kai's plans, but actually drove her to become the real puppet master of his cult and therefore, the season's true villain. With nothing but disdain in her heart for society, Winter would then use the cult to exploit the paranoia in the air and bring peoples' worst fears to life, as we've already seen with the killer clowns who terrorized Ally.

But if Winter is the stand-in for the Snow Queen, that leaves only one obvious option for the harbinger of good: Ally. Like Gerda and Kai of the fairy tale, Ally and Kai represent drastically opposing views. Plus, it's clear that Kai has some connection to Ally that is fueling his obsession with her, but one that remains unknown to Ally. And while we doubt either Kai or Ally suffer from amnesia and we can safely write out magic spells, the obscured connection they share is reminiscent of the way the Snow Queen and sorceress' spells erased Kai and Gerda from each other's memories.

That being said, we'd be shocked if Ally proves to have the same purity of heart that Gerda did in the tale. But do you know who has a childlike innocence? An actual child! Nearly everyone so far in Cult -- from Winter to the new neighbors Harrison (Billy Eichner) and Meadow (Leslie Grossman) -- seem to have an interest in Oz, and "The Snow Queen" theory serves to give more weight to the suspicions that Oz will play a crucial role in the season to come. Maybe it's Oz who will inspire Kai to ultimately turn against Winter, or it's possible he's just the one who gives Ally the strength she needs to face her fears and take down the devious duo.

Or maybe "The Snow Queen" has zero bearing on Cult and we've gone too far down the rabbit hole at this point to notice. We'll have to wait and see, but if you ask us, we'd keep a close eye on Winter going forward. There's definitely more to her than meets the eye.

American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.