"What Kai is doing is preying on their insecurities," Peters said. "He sees your negative qualities, your insecurities, your fears, your pains, the things you are lacking. He becomes that and fills that void and turns it around so that you love him and are indebted to him."
Kai empowers Harrison. He provides stability for Meadow. He convinces Beverly he believes in her. He gives Gary an opportunity. He's positioned himself as a hero for the weak. But the only way these people can keep this new illusion of comfort is if they keep Kai. This is Kai's plan on a micro level: He convinces you he'll do anything for you, so you must return the favor. Like many cult leaders, he's a charismatic, sociopathic genius when it comes to pulling others into his orbit.
Though he promises freedom and power, Kai delivers something much different. Peters likens Kai's leadership methods to someone ripping a Band-Aid off a wound that hasn't had time to fully heal. Then "he cuts open the wound even more, so that you need him even more."
That's why Harrison's stuck decapitating his old boss, why Beverly's hugging Kai after his cronies commit that grisly on-camera murder, why Gary's cutting off his own hand. Kai's conned them into worshipping him. That's exactly what he's starting to do with Ally (Sarah Paulson), too: In Episode 2, when Kai triggers her agoraphobia, he riles her up so much she shoots Pedro. In Episode 3, when Kai tells Ally she's brave for her actions and saves her from a mob of protesters, Ally begins questioning her worldview (a constant theme), wondering if she was wrong to believe in the inherent goodness of like-minded people. Will she buckle? Manipulating fear is Kai's path not just to individual domination, but to world domination.
"Fear will release [people] from their desires, and their ambitions, and their bullshit needs," he told the City Council in the premiere. "And then they will come running to us like children in a feverish nightmare, and the chosen few who are not afraid of the seas and the heights and the beasts of the world will return at the head of the evolutionary table!"