As user JackInterrupted remarked in the subreddit thread, “Evan Peters in Cult was an acting masterclass. I really thought he deserved a nomination that year.” In the somewhat polarizing and hyper-political season, Evans plays spiraling Angry White Man Kai Anderson — the dynamic, nuanced, terrifying, and diabolically charismatic cult leader around which the season’s narrative revolves. Over the course of the season, fans witness Peters fly back and forth between a bereft but potentially redeemable and arguably well-intentioned victim of society to a bigoted, sadistic, egomaniacal sociopath willing to kill his own formerly-beloved little sister (Billie Lourd) in order to accomplish his goals. In addition to Peters’ disturbing and all-too-believable portrayal of Kai’s transformation from the disillusioned and ironical chat room troll he once was to the destructive, paranoid — and yet emotionless — anarchist he becomes, Peters is also tasked with embodying a number of other well-known historical monsters.
In episode 9, titled “Drink the Kool-Aid,” Peters slips seamlessly into the roles of other famous mental terrorists such David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson, the last of which he plays in several episodes. With regard to the difficulty, range, and versatility of Peters’ “Cult” performance, user steelerfaye wrote, “He was amazing, truly captivating to watch him in that role.”
Co-creator Ryan Murphy and co-star Sarah Paulson appear to agree. In a 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Murphy mused that he “really loved Evan’s performance so much, and so did Sarah. We still talk about it. Like once a week about how good he is? Evan is CRIMINALLY underrated in this role. He really suffered while making it, it took him I don’t know … two years to recover?”