Many of the murders on American Horror Story: Cult have been accompanied by a deceptively happy smiley face scrawled on the wall in red. Those who find the face waiting on their door or wall can consider themselves "marked" by the killer and may find danger waiting for them at home. But who is painting the smiley face symbol on AHS: Cult? The answer seems obvious, but there is always a chance that more is going on than the audience knows.
In "Election Night," Ally and Ivy's neighbors the Changs were murdered by the gang of clowns who had been terrorizing Ally throughout the first episode. Though the police initially ruled the crime a murder-suicide that wasn't committed by anyone outside the home, it quickly became clear that wasn't the case. Ally's son Ozzy was an eye witness to the clowns slaughtering the Changs and then painting the smiley face (complete with smudgy clown nose) on the back of the door. Then more murders started happening, making it clear the clowns were not figments of Ally's imagination.
A patient of Dr. Vincent's was killed alongside her husband, with a smiley face left behind on their wall. Ally and Ivy's house was marked as well, though they ended the first three episodes still alive. Then, at the end of "Neighbors From Hell," Ally noticed a smiley face on the side of the Wiltons' home — and Meadow subsequently disappeared.
Based on the very first episode, it seems likely that the group of clowns are the ones painting the smiley face symbol on the houses of all their victims. While audiences haven't gotten visual confirmation of that in every single case, the pattern appears to be the same every time. Less clear, however, are the motives of the clowns. Their identities are still unknown, which makes it even harder to figure out what they want. It's possible that they're just a serial killer club killing at random, but all of their victims appear to be connected to Ally in some way so there must be more to it than just a love of the kill.
The woman in the murdered couple was a patient of Dr. Vincent's just like Ally, with crippling phobias just like Ally. The Changs were neighbors and close family friends. Meadow had spent all of Episode 3 tormenting Ally before she vanished — shortly after Ally threatened her and Harrison. Ally herself has been targeted but left alive for reasons that aren't quite clear yet. Whatever's going on, she's at the center of it, even if she (and the audience) doesn't know why just yet.
Though the clowns haven't been shown in the same scene with cult leader Kai, it's easy to assume that they're working for him. Clowns were featured heavily in the promotional material for the season as a representation of the cult theme; Kai's character poster even shows him surrounded by clowns. If they are members of his cult done up in disguise, then they could be carrying out his bidding.
In that case, it would make sense that all the victims are connected to Ally since Kai appears to be focused on her. However, they could just be people he wants to get rid of. Mr. Chang had (rightfully) ripped into Kai during a city council meeting, which may have inspired Kai to vengeance. Meadow seemed to be involved in the cult and Kai expressed extreme irritation with her during their one onscreen meeting. Kai could be ordering the clowns to kill or he could be doing it himself under his own mask.
The clowns are the ones committing the murders on AHS: Cult so they're also the ones painting the smiley faces. Anyone could be lurking under one of those masks, but the most likely culprit is Kai.
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