FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 6: “Bullseye”
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by John J. Gray & Crystal Liu
* For a review of the previous episode, “Pink Cupcake” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Test of Strength” – click here
Fittingly, the beginning of this episode see Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) pulling out a big bull’s eye target wheel. She’s obviously bringing out a new, or old, act for the show after last time. I’m sure part of it has to do with her jealousy, she wants to make sure her act is the best, the most entertaining. Not for the show, but for herself.
But Elsa is still stuck on the idea of television. She believes the knife act will make it into her show. We know better, though. Ethel (Kathy Bathes) is slightly worried, yet Elsa assures they’ll all be brought out to Hollywood soon enough.
The Mott residence is zany. Gloria (Frances Conroy) tries to make sure Dandy (Finn Wittrock) is being safe with his new toys: Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson). Dandy says he feels normal while with them and Gloria is only concerned for the Mott image, I’m sure. He plans on marrying them. Is there any fate worse than this for the twins? Almost wish they’d taken the cupcakes.
Over at the campgrounds, Elsa’s birthday is underway. Paul (Mat Fraser), Pepper (Naomi Grossman), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin), Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) and the entire gang line up to give her a present. When the gang asks about the twins, Elsa goes off and threatens to put someone up on the bullseye for a few throws.
Then back in Elsa’s tent, she beds Paul. They have a brief chat afterwards; Paul seems to be put off slightly about the way Elsa acts, though, they’ve still had fun.
Paul is later with Penny (Grace Gummer), whose time at the freak show obviously hasn’t left her fully. Although he’s got to hide under her bed when Penny’s father Vince (Lee Tergesen) barges in. He’s obviously a strict man, worried about her but being a little crazy over it all. The typical 1950s man with too much stress under the collar.
On another love front, Bette appears enamoured with Dandy. In opposition, Dot – the less naive of the duo – does not trust him whatsoever. Funny to see them, both in the same body, each with a highly differing opinion on the man who wants their hand in marriage. Watching them write in their respective diaries is a great sequence, you can see how vastly different they feel about Dandy so easily in these moments. And soon, Dot figures out their purpose for falling into Dandy’s lap: she will try and use his money to separate her and her sister. We get a little dreamy flash-forward to Dot, Dorothy that is, meeting Jimmy somewhere in a diner, after the operation which claimed Bette’s life. Then after the little dream scene, very brief, we’re back to the girls writing more in their diary. I loved this whole section! The music was perfect, the look and feel of the shots in those scenes were all excellent together.
Paul comes across Dandy in a pharmacy. He finds clues of the Tattler twins when Dandy drops a load of items onto the counter, clearly pointing to the fact the girls have been taken off to the Mott house.
Stanley and Maggie Esmerelda (Denis O’Hare/Emma Roberts) plot to get one of the freaks and kill them in order to take back for the museum. Esmerelda doesn’t want to hurt Jimmy, so she steers as much away as possible from suggesting him. Instead, she offers up Ma Petite – the easiest, low hanging fruit out of the entire group. A creepy, sad flash-forward happens showing them drowning her in a little glass jar. So tragic, poor Ma Petite! For now, though, she’s left alive. But for how long?
Things are breaking down, anyways. Paul confronts Elsa about the twins, after she smells another woman on her. He lets her in on the fact everyone believes she’s done something “nefarious” with them, so she calls them all out making a massively dramatic scene. Overacting all in the name of keeping herself out of the guilty spotlight. Still, Paul isn’t fooled at all, he knows the truth after running into Dandy.
When Paul agrees to be put up on the wheel of knives, Elsa throws one directly into his guts. With purpose, or by accident? The look says it all, right on her face.
At the same time, Penny is trying sneak out of the house. Only her father emerges: with a shotgun. He’s not letting her leave. But Penny stands her ground and says she’s off to be with the man she loves. And if dear ole dad wants to stop her, he’ll have to shoot. Then she goes.
Out at the freak show tent city, Maggie goes into Ma Petite’s room and takes her out. She says they’re off to play a game, taking her to another tent and convincing the little lady to get inside a butterfly jar. As the scene cuts, Maggie is about to pour formaldehyde into the big jar with her.
Penny gets back to the freak show looking for Paul. He’s out back, basically dying, as Elsa smokes opium and telling him she wouldn’t care if he dies because he supposedly betrayed her. And Paul knows she didn’t call any doctor. Tragic, and hideous on Elsa’s part.
The next morning, Ethel ices a cake for Elsa’s birthday. Her son Jimmy (Evan Peters) is none too pleased, as he believes Elsa isn’t being upfront with her freaks, none of them; about anything at all. Amazon Eve is also worried, about Ma Petite. Then out of nowhere, she returns, alive, with Maggie chasing fireflies somewhere.
A change of heart comes for Maggie: she tells Jimmy they ought to run away together, but he claims he has things to do first. But to pack her bags. Only when Maggie gets back to Stanley, he is furious, and tells her there is only one way forward: to take Jimmy’s hands for the museum.
Back over to the Mott residence – Dandy is torn to pieces after finding Dot’s diary, in which she relays her disgust with him. When Gloria reads it aloud, he cries. “I was never destined to feel love. The desert knows no mercy. Anything you try to plant out there dies. I must accept this emptiness as a blessing, not a curse. I know why I was put here, Mother. My purpose is to bring death,” says Dandy.
Then, up shows Jimmy Darling at the door, saying he is a friend of Dandy’s and that he is there to look for the girls. He’s invited in, but what awaits him now?
Ethel brings Elsa a piece of cake. Elsa muses about a sister she had who died as a child; born two years before Elsa, she died in infancy and it damaged her parents about beyond repair. She says that Ethel is like her sister, that the freaks are the same as a family to her. Although, Ethel tells Elsa that if she finds out there are any lies, she’ll kill Elsa herself. The episode ends with Elsa blowing out her candles, lamenting all she wants is “to be loved.”
Excited to review the next episode. Freak Show is such an overall wonderful season full of grim, macabre delights. Stay tuned for the next one, fellow horror-ites!