FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 13: “Curtain Call”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by John J. Gray
* For a review of the previous episode, “Show Stoppers” – click here
* For reviews of Season 5 Hotel starting with the premiere, “Checking In” – click here
The finale of American Horror Story‘s Freak Show, “Curtain Call”, is here. And it’s surely about to get nasty before the curtain closes for the last time.
Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) is about to make his debut at the show, crooning show tunes. Paul (Mat Fraser), the newest freak Penny (Grace Gummer), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) and Ima Wiggles (Chrissy Metz) are none too happy. Though, Paul thinks they ought to squeeze all they can out of the rich idiot whilst they still can. Dandy doesn’t know anything about the business yet and treats the freaks like garbage, blaming them for no tickets sold as of yet. “Audiences want a new type of freak; something different,” he claims. The whole confrontation ends with Eve punching Dandy out, and the crew taking him over, Paul leading the attack calling him “rubbish” and worst of all “boring.” Not just that: they quit. Dandy is left to run the place on his own, with a skeleton crew left, having proved he is far more a freak than any of them ever could be.
Ominous beginnings for the finale. I’m sad to see this season end because it’s at the top of my list; I love them all, but honestly I think, for me, Freak Show and Asylum are tied for numero uno. Edit: My Roanoke Nightmare is also tied now after Season 6, loved it personally.
Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) is out trying to take meetings. Except the people at WBN don’t seem too eager to receive her at first. She waits and waits, smoking cigarette after cigarette, sitting in the lobby. It’s clear she isn’t exactly a priority. Watching yet another person stroll by, and the receptionist shut down her desk, Elsa is thrown by the nonsense of Hollywood, the heartlessness of those involved. She ends up slapping the receptionist across the face, then an executive appears, breaking things apart.
Meanwhile, Dandy gets ready for showtime at his newly acquired Cabinet of Curiosities. He struts across the campground in a fresh white suit, red vest underneath and red handkerchief with polka dots around his neck. Turns out showtime isn’t any act. He starts first by blowing Paul’s brains out. Afterwards, Penny gets the same treatment while hiding behind sheets she hung out to dry; blood splatter everywhere. Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins) and others get a bullet for their troubles, too. Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) and Eve each scramble to protect themselves while Dandy continues nonchalantly murdering everyone in sight.
But while Desiree hides cowering in the closet of her trailer and Dandy gets crazier by the second, Eve sneaks in and cracks him a good one with a pot. They fight for a little and Eve eventually gets shot to death. Although, Desiree managed to slip free, escaping the wrath of the spoiled Mott boy.
Scariest of all, Dandy has the Tattler Twins, Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson), tied to a post in one tent. He’s certainly planning something nefarious for these two. What could it be?
In the evening, Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) shows up, new hands and all. He looks desperate, hungry. Wandering into the campsite, he finds nobody, only a few pieces of bread, some broken bottles. He calls for Elsa, to no response, and finds all her things packed, gone; except for the furniture. With the lights on and literally no one home, Jimmy stumbles across his dead friends: Paul, Penny, Legless Suzi, Ima, Eve, and others, all their corpses piled in the big tent. A horrific sight. Especially considering Jimmy will take it on himself, blaming himself for not being there and so on.
From nowhere, Desiree shows up weeping in Jimmy’s arms. They’re both left with all their friends murdered. How will they avenge them?
Cut to a beautiful scene where a harp is playing, the Tattler Twins walking down a makeshift aisle in Dandy’s large room. They’re having a wedding. The witnesses are all stuffed tigers and lions and giraffes. Bette looks happy, somehow. Dot, not so much. The groom kisses his bride Bette, as Dot looks on in forced pleasure: “a third wheel,” Dandy says. Have the twins given up because of all the dead freaks? Or are they planning some type of vengeance upon him? I’d like to think the latter.
The twins say they’ve hired a French housemaid. At dinner, it turns out Desiree is there helping. Dandy’s been given drugged up liquor. Uh oh – just as I suspected! So glad the Tattlers didn’t fall prey to this disgusting savage of a spoiled, rich maggot. Dandy is a great character, but a hateful one. Excited to see what these wonderful freaks will do to show Dandy the wrath of their kind.
Plus, we get a nice little brief cut to an explanation of how the twins communicated with Desiree, as well as Jimmy Darling who appears as a butler for Dandy and the ladies. Love this sequence!
Dandy (to Desiree): “You put something in my bubbly”
Waking up, Dandy finds himself a little wet. He’s chained. Even further, he’s in a large sealed tank. Outside, Jimmy is hooking up a hose to start filling the tank with water. “We‘re carny folk. It‘s gotta be theatrical,” Jimmy tells Desiree re: Dandy’s death. While Jimmy, Desiree, Bette and Dot watch on before the act begins, Dandy starts to lose it. He knows what’s coming. After the freaks tell him why he deserves to die, Desiree also gives a wonderful speech to Dandy and tells him: “You are the biggest freak of them all.” This is such a fitting end to Dandy. Jimmy talks about why the freaks will always win, and why “the freaks shall inherit the earth.” There is strength in numbers, which is how the freaks will prevail. Jimmy sentences Dandy and his “whole rotten kind” to death, as they leave him to drown mercilessly in the tank, and the freaks all take a front row seat to watch the show. Their smiles are macabre and morbid, yet so amazingly right for the moment.
Jimmy: “Heck of a show”
Desiree: “That boy is a star”
The finale sees Hollywood in 1960 through a few black-and-white clips. Elsa Mars is the Queen of Friday Night on television with her variety hour show, and she also has a nice music career in her native Germany, as well as the world over. We get an awesome look at Elsa’s television set. There’s also Neil Patrick Harris’ husband David Burtka playing Michael Beck, Elsa’s saviour and now also husband: they’ve got a bit of a BDSM relationship going on at home, taking her back to those Berlin days before WWII. There’s a great take on commercials and advertisement with Elsa having to hawk coffee; she isn’t pleased with being “wrangled” by her husband in the commercial, not wanting to be dominated by the patriarchy. Dig it. Someone shows up to talk about Elsa’s Halloween special, though, she isn’t too impressed with this plan: she will not perform on Halloween. And why not? Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley), that’s why. She hasn’t forgotten her roots. Even further, she hasn’t forgotten about Massimo Dolcefino (Danny Huston) who shows up to see her and talks about where he’s been since Jupiter, Florida; funny enough, he did work for the army building whole towns to be vaporized by the government in the desert, for the nuclear tests. Nice inclusion of history, as I always expect with the show.
The terrifying videos of which Elsa was a part in Germany come to light. The studio head Henry Gable (Richard Holden) comes to visit Elsa, to tell her all about it. There’s no denying, obviously, it is her in those videos. How can they blame her for such hideousness? Sure, she was involved in awful business before that video, but surely having her legs sawed off is not her own fault? More of the victim blaming inherent in the world of law and order. Worse, Gable had Elsa tracked and they figured out she once ran a freak show: he tells them, her people back at the show, “they‘re all dead.” All of this goes against the Morals Clause in Elsa’s contract, so off she goes. Though, she agrees to perform on Halloween now. A last goodbye, of sorts. “Why not? Might as well go out with a bang,” she says. Or go back to the other side, she means; with Mordrake. This is certainly her plan.
Amazing part of the “Elsa Mars Hour” begins with her doing another Bowie cover, “Heroes” this time. Love her take on Bowie, especially with that German accent she puts on. Such an interesting part of the show overall this season, the musical choices.
This leads in to Elsa’s big sendoff. First, though, we watch Desiree with Angus T. Jefferson (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) in their newly wedded life, kids and all. Jimmy and the Tattlers now at home, their home, together as husband and wives – and buns in the oven. All of them watching Elsa on television somewhere or another. I love the morbidity and macabre nature of American Horror Story, but the happy endings mixed in for some characters is usually a great way to top off a season. Among the murder and loss, some of the characters here get a happy end, while Elsa’s is sort of a bittersweet release. Mordrake comes back, along with Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) and other dead freaks, to take Elsa away in front of her television audience.
Only he doesn’t take her. Elsa returns to a different afterlife than that of Mordrake’s little cabinet of souls. She is back at the freak show, Ma Petite still running around, Paul and Legless Suzi and Penny alive once more. Everything is as it once was, before all the tragedy and the blood and death. Even Ethel (Kathy Bates) is there running the ship for Elsa, happy to see her again. Ethel tells her: “The sins of the livin‘ don‘t add up to much around here. In life, we play the parts we‘re cast in.” A wonderful, weird, and intriguing end. One of my favourites to any season.
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