FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 8: “Blood Bath”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Ryan Murphy
* For a review of the previous episode, “Test of Strength” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre” – click here
After the blood already shed, an episode titled “Blood Bath” sounds quite promising.
Opening on Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy), we begin with her lamenting about Dandy (Finn Wittrock) to a psychiatrist. He believes institutionalizing the young man may be in order, but she won’t have that word bandied about in the same sentence as his name. We see flashback to a young Dandy playing sadistically with a young version of Gabourey Sidibe’s character. She claims no was “an affront” to him, a “battle cry”. He had a history back then of killing small animals, as well as terrorizing others. Until one day a boy he played with frequently vanished, no doubt as a result of Dandy’s nasty predilections. The boy was “never seen again.” She, of course, does not reveal all the “recent incidents” to her psychiatrist which brought on all her worries. No, let’s not mention all the murder.
Just a little note: the more I watch the opening each episode, the more I think Freak Show‘s credit sequence is the creepiest to me. Very unsettling with all the messed up animation and the clowns and the macabre imagery. I loved Coven, and all of them, but this one is particularly wild.
Everyone is out searching for Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) – Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), even Dell (Michael Chiklis), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) is there too. Out in the woods, Jimmy stumbles across the clothing of the little one. It is brought back to Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) in a box. She weeps for the tiny girl, who they all believe was taken and killed by some animal in the night. A sad scene, especially knowing what we know after last episode. Although, Ethel (Kathy Bates) seems unimpressed. She thinks it’s all bullshit: “Thought you‘d be high as a Limehouse whore by now,” she says dryly entering Elsa’s tent. A slap across the face for Ethel comes later; we know the truth, but I can understand how Ethel believes all that’s precious to Elsa is “the roar of the crowd.” Only problem is this will cause undue friction between these two, and it makes me worry when anyone crosses paths in any way with Elsa. She’s out for herself and herself only.
Things get tense between Ethel and Elsa. Eventually when the situation gets very hot, ready to boil over, a gunshot goes off putting a hole right through Elsa’s leg; the wooden part, anyways. To the surprise of Ethel, who didn’t even realize he own supposedly close friend was a so-called freak herself.
Another of my favourite sequences this season comes with more flashbacks to Elsa and her past in Germany. We get more Danny Huston, who comes back as a doctor who made Elsa new legs after they were taken from her by the sick men who made those vile films. I think there is such amazing chemistry between Huston and Lange, they are two incredible acting talents and I love that Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk brought them together once again after Coven giving them another romance, yet an entirely different kind of one. Such power in this black-and-white flash back sequence.
And then, before Ethel can get revenge on Elsa for betraying her trust, Elsa wings a knife right into her eye. Ethel dies then and there. The titular bath of blood has commenced.
Enter Stanley (Denis O’Hare). His greasiness helps Elsa cover up the murder of Ethel, staging it as a suicide and featuring a performance from Ms. Mars to rival any other performance of hers before. She steps up the dramatics in order to match the ridiculousness of their cover-up plan. Everyone is devastated, not least of which is her son Jimmy (Evan Peters), whose life only gets worse and worse as the time goes on. Headlong into depression Jimmy goes, pushing Maggie (Emma Roberts) away. During the reveal of what happened we go between the present and when Elsa/Stanley set up the scene to have Ethel’s body decapitated in one of the most strange suicides ever.
Elsa is out recruiting once more in the hospital wards. She finds a large woman named Barbara (Chrissy Metz) who gets invited into the troupe. She’s renamed Ima Wiggles and gets fed on the hour every hour. Even more than that, Jimmy begins to fall into her arms in an eerily Oedipal lust for a large woman after his mother died.
Over at the Mott House, Dandy is entertaining Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe). Her housekeeper mother hasn’t phoned in so long. Gloria shows up, nervous as usual and especially so seeing as how she knows exactly where mama Dora is buried. She tries to convince Regina her mother is off buying squash somewhere. Not going to work at all. Then Dandy ends up in psychoanalysis with Gloria’s psychiatrist, but it’s all sort of under wraps. Only he figures it all out, he’s not exactly stupid: just fucking crazy. This drives him further mad. He talks about tribes in Papa New Guinea and how they would eat the defeated tribe, their chief – he wonders if it’s possible to “take someone‘s power by eating their flesh” or if you could just get it done by “bathing in their blood.” Hmm, will we see a true to life blood bath tonight? Certainly seems like now that Regina threatens she’ll go to the police if her mother isn’t back by suppertime tomorrow.
Possibly my favourite bit of this season sees the fed-up freak women join together – Eve, Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett), Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins; RIP, she passed away today), along with the newly minted ‘Lizard Girl’ Penny (Grace Gummer). First they come together over Ethel, who was a “survivor since the day she was born.” Desiree gives an impassioned speech to the women about how they must rise up, take hold of their lives, because the law doesn’t care about them. They decide to go and kidnap Penny’s father Vince (Lee Tergesen). They will have their cathartic revenge against all terrible men by taking revenge upon Vince for what he had done to his own flesh-and-blood. They attack him in his home, drag him back to one of the trailers at the tent city. Then, Vince experiences a good old fashioned tar and feathering. Such a savage and intense moment, yet it’s perfect; Vince deserves everything he gets.
Later on, Dandy goes home. He is enraged with life, his mother, everything. He reveals he’s the product of incest, and a father who did things “to those little girls.” Gloria is astounded by his demeanour. As he goes to put the gun to his head, she cries that she couldn’t go on in life without him. To which he replies with a bullet through her forehead.
Afterwards, we see the titular bathing, as Dandy bathes in a white tub in his lavish room: filled to the brim with his mother’s blood.
“I was born of deadly sin. You knew what father had done to those little girls. You knew the risks of breeding with your cousin. You‘re no better than the Roosevelts.”
“How dare you say that name in this house!”
As the insanity escalates, Father Gore’s looking forward to the next episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre.”