This year's Fantasia Fest is shaping up to be another fantastic display of genre cinema from around the world.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 5: “Chapter 5”
Directed by Nelson Cragg
Written by Akela Cooper
* For a review of Chapter 4, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 6, click here.
Where does the nightmare go from here?
Edward Philippe Mott – undoubtedly related to Dandy Mott from Season 4 – is the one who built the Big Shaker House, the house where Shelby and Matt Miller (Lily Rabe & André Holland) experienced their personal nightmare. We get flashes of this Mott, as a historian tells us about the old property.
And who is it that plays Edward Mott? In a dramatic re-enactment (remember this well; this re-enactment business has a purpose), Evan Peters plays the man himself.
The historian tells us Mott had severe social anxiety. So he went out into the woods to build himself a home, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Even during the building process, things got strange. Like they would. Most interesting is that Mott had the house mostly to be with his homosexual lover, away from his family. He’s got lots of other things going on, though. Mott is gay; no big deal. It’s his madness I care about. Before the house starts fucking with him he’s already a bit insane.
Then the haunting begins. Poor Edward, he finds his paintings destroyed. The very things he’d only recently rambled about while in the tub with his lover. He interrogates his staff, not getting any of the answers he wanted. He locks them away like animals. That house is bringing out the worst qualities in him. “Do not judge me,” he tells his lover – a black man – who he also points out is only a servant. Harsh, dude. Fucking low.
Finally, in the night Edward hears sqeuals, noticing a fire outside. It’s Thomasin White (Kathy Bates) and her rowdy band of settlers. They do him in, stabbing a pike through his chest before setting him ablaze. Of course the poor servant gets the blame. They even find the other servants down in the cellar, only starved skeletons left. A truly, unbearably nasty history. Real estate nightmare.
With Thomasin right outside the house where we last left the Millers, Shelby and Matt (Sarah Paulson & Cuba Gooding Jr.) wait at their window, calling 9-11. Ambrose White (Wes Bentley) calls out to them about a “merciless reckoning.” The couple try to enact a plan to escape, although splitting up is never good; at least not for the victims of horror. And when Flora (Saniyya Sidney) gets snatched up by a terrifying, ghostly figure that scampers away on all fours, nothing is looking good for anybody. Then the fucking Pig Man shows up, the dead hunters. All the ghosts and ghouls come out to play, commanded by Thomasin and her power. From nowhere comes Mott, leading the Millers into a tunnel downstairs; is he on their side, or that of The Butcher? “I will keep her from killing you, no more, no less,” explains Edward. He wants solitude. Too many souls kicking around in the house. Y’know, practical ghost shit.
Side note: check out the effects on Peters’ eyes as he moves the torch around, very cool.
Out in the woods after Mott leaves them, the Millers and Flora try to find a way elsewhere, but surprise, surprise – they’re stopped, bags over their head and knocked out.Waking up, they’re at the farm where the feral boys were found. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare) is on a table, bleeding, in terrible fucking shape. He tells Matt: “Mama took my leg.” He warns to leave, before she comes back. Mama Polk sounds like a real butcher in her own right. And Mama, she turns up again: it’s Frances god damn Conroy, baby! She’s as bad ass as ever, trying to serve up a bit of questionable jerky. Oh, you know what it is. A little bit of Elias. To boot, he’s bad meat. BAD MEAT! BAD MEAT!
The head smash here is one of the greatest. Ever. Some legitimately enviable practical effects work. Kudos to the technical team here because this is awesome, in the grisliest horror way possible. JUST. WOW.
Anyway, Mama’s kin made a pact with The Butcher around “200 years ago.” She needs new blood each year. Their family helps, now and then. The crops are the whole deal, so that keeps them going. But cannibals is cannibals; they like doing their thing. Problem is the hillbilly Polks are upset about their feral children being taken away. Mama keeps calling Shelby “sweet meat” and that’s pretty creepy.
Lee (Angela Bassett) got stuck talking to the police, due to Shelby cluing them into her possibly having something to do with Mason’s death, Flora gone. Of course we know the truth, but none of them know what’s been going on back at the Miller place and the Polk farm.Lots of blood tonight! As the Polks take Shelby, Matt, and Flora who knows where, Matt takes advantage, sending a shotgun blast into the cab, as his wife puts one of the men over the truck’s pan into the road. But where can they go?
In the forest they hide. Meanwhile, Lee knows something isn’t right. Mama and her remaining kin take the Millers out to subdue them until they can get to The Butcher. Then Mama goes ahead and nearly chops Shelby’s foot clean off. So. Brutal. This episode has really brought its A-Game in terms of gore.
They’re brought back to the house, again. The Butcher and her colony waiting for blood. Flora is being readied for sacrifice. When Lee arrives, the policeman takes off on her; what a bitch! She’s left to try saving her family on her own. From nowhere, Ambrose smashes his mother with a block of wood, grabbing hold to her and puling her into the fire with him, as they burn alive. Mott frees the Millers, as Lee flies in to save her girl from the Pig Man; to save them all.So that takes us to the end of the story at the house. The Roanoke Nightmare is over, right? Oh, I doubt that.
Shelby has recurring nightmares, long after their experience. Nothing can quite that it away. “We escaped with our lives that night, but I never completely got over it. I‘m not sure I ever will,” the real Shelby explains. And that makes a lot of sense to me.
How do you think the re-enactments will play into the overall season arc? I feel the actors playing the parts are going to be affected by their roles in the re-enactments, in how you always hear about plagued movie productions. I see the actors themselves being haunted further later on. Who knows. I hope it’s a nice surprise either way.
Excited for Chapter 6!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 4: “Chapter 4”
Directed by Marita Grabiak
Written by John J. Gray
* For a review of Chapter 3, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 5, click here.
In the talking head interviews, Matt (André Holland) relates how Shelby (Lily Rabe) was pissed after supposedly seeing him having sex with a woman in the woods. During the reenactments, Shelby (Sarah Paulson) confronts Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.) until he breaks down: “It‘s like a part of my brain was cut out.” She comforts him, though the real Shelby affirms that she knew there was something not right, at all. What she saw was real.
That night Shelby sees the Pig Man. And he is also very real. Matt wrestles with him briefly before the couple get away. They’re saved by Dr. Elias Cunningham (Denis O’Hare), from out of nowhere. He uses the “Croatoan” spell, shouting it and dispelling the creature. But warns: “He‘ll be back.”
So Dr. Cunningham tells us about Croatoan. How it was left when Roanoke Colony disappeared. Really, it’s blood magic. Spooky. The doctor quickly relays that he’s the so-called guardian of the house, trying to make sure people know about its history. Matt’s eager to kick him out, although Shelby has seen the Pig Man before. Through the craziness, she believes Elias. In the basement, he shows them some of his work: all the “paranormal activity” that’s occurred in and around the house. Essentially, a history of horror and torture concerning various families that were unfortunate enough to have bought the house over the years. Like the Chens, who were taken by surprise once the Pig Man showed up. And once Thomasin “The Butcher” White (Kathy Bates) came by? Shit. Things got much, much worse. Cunningham tells Shelby and Matt about how even those nasty nurses were afraid of the place. The Butcher did them in good, too. Real medieval style. On and on and on the tales go. He mentions the “Dying Grass Moon” as being when the disappearances and murders take place.
Lee (Angela Bassett) is on the hook for her missing daughter, though Matt and Shelby wanted to get to the bottom of the whole Priscilla mystery. Something with which Elias can help. Lots of creepiness when Matt spies the strange woman (Lady Gaga) from afar. Shelby chases her until eventually getting lost and running into some hunters – the ones Dr. Cunningham told her about, who once stayed in the house and turned their guns on each other. Well, they’re still wearing those wounds. Quite graphically; dig it. Shelby didn’t, and tried using the Croatoan spell. Doesn’t work because of the lunar cycle, so says Elias. Then in the middle of the forest they see Flora with a bunch of ghosts (people who’ve died or disappeared in the house), the Pig Man, and of course Ms. Priscilla. A horn begins to blow soon. An arrow, or three, are plugged into the poor doctor. While the couple run off there’s no doubt we’ll see Elias again. I’d bet on it.At the house, Cricket Marlowe (Leslie Jordan) is ready to rock. They’re obviously ready to do whatever they can to get Lee’s daughter back. He tells them about talking to The Butcher. She’s pretty ready to rock, as well. Y’know, with the bloody moon rising and all. “I‘d kill for a Coke Zero right now,” Cricket says as he tries to get psyched up about what to do next. He takes off only to return hours later: “I met the bitch with the real power.” It’s that strange woods woman. She temporarily blinds him, puts a knife to his throat. Tricky lil’ Marlowe’s able to get himself out of it, after discovering a few things first. She shows him a vision. They’re in a cornfield. Hundreds of years ago. At the Lost Colony in Roanoke. This is where they came, to where the house now stands. They did terrible things, such as sacrificing little children; Cricket witnesses The Butcher smash a girl to death with a rock. Yikes. Her own son Ambrose (Wes Bentley) wasn’t pleased with the new path, under tutelage of that strange woman, the woods witch. The Butcher then pretended to repent for her wrongdoings, only to kill everyone. Even her boy. She puts a cleaver right in his chest to boot before slashing anybody not fully dead yet right into the grave. She binds them to their new land with blood. Lots of it. Her own, too. She lets the woods witch cut her throat, “bonding” the whole colony to the land “for all eternity.” Cricket says he’s got the spell to clue everything up.
Yeah, right. In his Uber on the way home Cricket spies Flora running across the road. So he gets out of the car and now you know he’s not getting back to the Millers any time soon.
Matt and Shelby wait for him. But he never comes. Night comes, Matt’s feeling a little creeped out. Foolishly, he heads outside – though with a gun – after hearing things, seeing fleeting images. The sounds they draw him to the cellar out in the woods. He finds the witch there, waiting. “Debts must be paid,” she tells him. Oh, you know what she means! Don’t pretend. A little later Shelby wakes and can’t find her husband. He’s stuck down in the cellar, mesmerised by her story. She was a “descendant of the Druids and their Roman conquerors.” Instead of being a victim, she slaughtered the soldiers keeping her captive. Anyway, Matt was lured into the honey trap. Meanwhile Shelby’s laid siege to by The Butcher and her ghostly hordes, Flora in their grasp. When Matt finally tears himself out of the spell, they get some help from Priscilla; she manages to get Flora away from them.
But poor Flora, she’s frightened. Then outside they all see Cricket. The Butcher rips his guts open while the Millers watch from inside. The colony gets truly medieval on Mr. Marlowe. Absolute savagery.
Things aren’t looking good for Matt and Shelby. We know they survive it. Yet even in the real footage of their interviews – are so sure they’ll be safe in the near future?Love this season so much! Lots of creepiness, a bit of gore. Some strange oddities of various types. Can’t wait for more in the next chapter.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 3: “Chapter 3”
Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch (Chained, Surveillance)
Written by James Wong
* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
* For a review of Chapter 4, click here.
With Lee’s (Adina Porter) little girl disappeared, nothing in that house is going well. In the talking head interviews, the real Lee tells us about the horrifying feeling involved with a lost child, as if it’s not hard to tell just from the tears running out of her. The dramatic reenactment shows us Lee (Angela Bassett), Matt (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and Shelby (Sarah Paulson) dealing with the aftermath. Not easy. The local police aren’t too keen about helping, though they do. But that house is getting a bad reputation, as well as those living in it. Either way, Lee does her best to help with the search, along with Matt and Shelby.
Then they come across the doll Lee’s daughter Flora had, torn to bits on the ground, with a circle of blood and pig’s head to go with it. Oh, the macabre finds in those terrible woods! Naturally they’re all terrified. A ways off they find a “skeleton of a farm” where there’s more strangeness. Such as the other portions of the doll, and a pig. When the trio go inside there’s only squalor with every turn of the head. Nobody home, either.
Out in the barn, though, they find something odd and sickly. Two mentally feeble young kids left sucking on a pig’s nipples, feeding. One of the most disturbing images yet.
So now the police believe there’s a bit of horror really going on. Finally. The two boys from the barn are useless for help. They only scream: “Croatoan!” The real Matt (André Holland) explains they now, in the present day, understand what they didn’t at the time – this was a warning. Other than that the search goes on, even if Lee and her ex-husband Mason (Charles Malik Whitfield) are losing hope, plus at odds. He is not buying what’s going on, believing it a power play on Lee’s part, a kidnapping to regain custody somehow. For her part, Shelby tries defending her sister-in-law. Matt mostly keeps quiet, not wanting to get too involved until Mason near punches his ex-wife to the ground. The real Shelby (Lily Rabe) points out the obvious: “We were all on edge.”
In the night, Matt gets a call about a body. Is it Flora’s, or no?
Certainly not. It’s her father, Mason – strapped to a symbolic wheel and burned to a crispy bit of charcoal. Holy fuck. That’s rough. Well, what’s troubling is that last night the cameras picked up Lee heading out for several hours at quite a suspicious time. Now Shelby wonders about her sister-in-law. Matt believes something is urging them to leave, and they ought to listen. Just then a stranger turns up: Cricket Marlowe (Leslie Jordan). He claims to have been called there to help find Lee’s girl. A psychic who’s often helped the FBI in tough cases. When Shelby checks him out, he appears legitimate. Then he can hear something, guessing correctly about Flora hiding in the upstairs crawlspace. He also finds a bonnet and knows about Priscilla: “She died in the late 1500s.” You know what this leads to, a good ole fashioned seance.
Cricket gets a typical seance happening, dripping some blood into a candle, all that stuff, y’know. He calls out to Priscilla, but instead gets the response of a “horrible woman.” She speaks to him and reveals herself as The Butcher (Kathy Bates). Cricket tries to ward her off. She then splits a candle in two in front of everybody making believers out of them. “I shall stack the bodies high as cord wood,” The Butcher claims. She tells them they are but trespassers. Screaming out “CROATOAN“, Cricket sends the spirit fleeing – the same word those deformed boys screamed, the same spell Violet tried using unsuccessfully in Murder House.Except now Cricket is asking for $25K to track down Flora. So Matt doesn’t want to deal with his bullshit con artist tricks. Cricket’s telling the truth, but sadly this is not the time for greed. Game changes once Lee has enough, pulling a gun to get her answers. Matt talks her down before tossing the psychic out. Before leaving he whispers something to Lee quietly: “Emily says hello. She wonders why you quit looking for her all those years ago.” Hmm, the first daughter of Lee. Secrets. The real Lee explains about having a daughter at seventeen. When Emily was four, Lee went into a store only to come back and find her daughter gone; never to be seen again. Turns out that Lee later sprung for the $25K to pay Cricket.
We learn more about The Butcher from Cricket. Her “Christian name” was Thomason White – wife to governor of Roanoke, The Lost Colony. She was in charge until her husband came home from a journey. Things were getting scarce, people around her worried. Of course Lee doesn’t care about any of that, but Cricket advises not all the public’s been told about Roanoke is true. Seems that back in Thomason’s day she was overtaken. Even her own son Ambrose (Wes Bentley) is forced to turn his back on her. They left her in the forest by herself as they travelled inward somewhere better. There, a strange woman (Lady Gaga) saves her, killing a wild pig that tries to kill her, before feeding Thomason a beating heart and asking for her soul.
And thus began the revenge of Thomas White, The Butcher. She tracked down the men who left her to die, chopping them down one by one. Ambrose is the last left, whom she asks to “beg for a reprieve.” It’s only the fact he is her son that saves him; this time. Where does this get us? Cricket tells that the colony then moved inland, right to where the big house stands today. Dun-dun-DUNNNN!Out amongst the darkness Cricket calls out to Priscilla, only finding The Butcher and her people. She entertains Cricket’s questions about Flora. A moment later, Lee even says they’ll burn the house down as long as they get her daughter back.
But out of nowhere, Matt disappears. In present day he says he can’t remember ever leaving. When Shelby finds him he’s in the trees having sex with that strange woman who visited The Butcher, animal skull on her head, and two hillbillies watching, masturbating. Good LORD! Present day Shelby looks appropriately torn up.
When Matt shows up he has no clue about what Shelby saw. She’s obviously going crazy, and he’s clueless. No time to worry about that, though. Lee’s being hauled off by the police, and Matt believes it was Shelby, which it was likely. Oh, this is about to get very, very paranoid from here on in.
Another stunningly creepy episode for this season. Loving My Roanoke Nightmare, plenty of eerie, juicy, wild, weird stuff going down!
Excited for “Chapter 4” and whatever it brings.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 6, Episode 1: “Chapter 1”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy
* For a review of Chapter 2, click here.
This year’s theme? My Roanoke Nightmare. Delicious.
We open on a series of talking heads. Almost seems like an Amityville Horror sort of thing, too. My Amityville Horror is a documentary by the man who was a child during the supposed Lutz story, and this seems to mirror its style a bit.
Well, Shelby (Rabe) and Matt (André Holland) are a married couple. They tell us about their relationship, what they do for a living, so on. They talk about the “worst night” of the their lives when Matt is randomly knocked out by some gang of kids. He nearly died because of their foolish brutality. We see Sarah Paulson playing Shelby and Cuba Gooding Jr. as Matt, like reenactments of that night. Sadly, Shelby lost her baby on that evening. After the event they took a trip out into the wilderness: “We weren‘t city folks,” Matt says.
Out in the woods is an old farm house. A massive backwoods mansion. The house is cheap, just like the one the Lutz family fell into buying in Amityville. They snatch it up, now owning a surely haunted house. Shelby knew it from the beginning, in the back of her mind.
Strange banging in the night already starts Shelby and Matt off on a rough note. Interracial couple, rednecks kicking around. They’ve had troubles before, but were more than willing to fend any trouble off. Nothing’s too great. When Shelby’s home alone it starts raining teeth. TEETH! That’s pretty fucking unsettling. Of course no teeth are left when Matt gets back. To be expected when you live in a haunted Southern mansion. I mean, even the house, the big windows upstairs, the shape, it’s so reminiscent of The Amityville Horror. Not in a bad sense. Dig the homage.
One evening while cooking, home alone, Shelby sees two young women pass in the hallway, staring at her. Nice bit of tension, as she goes to check out where the women went. Finding nothing, only a suspenseful moment or two. Later when she relaxes in the hot tub outside until somebody holds her under. She calls Matt, who gets home quick, and the police, of course. Although the police don’t care much. Lots of paranoia swirling already. The couple aren’t sure anymore what to believe. So I LOVE the cinematography so far this season – the house especially looks ominous even in how the shadows cast over everything, big windows everywhere like eyes, darkness crowding around them.
Living in the house only gets worse, as you’d imagine. Weird noises get Matt out of bed and he finds a mutilated pig on the porch outside. He doesn’t tell his wife, he assumes it was the redneck boys who wanted to buy the house. So like a smart person, he hooks up lots of cameras and a nice security system hooked to his phone. Better yet, he gets his sister Lee (Angela Bassett) to go out there and look after Shelby. Lee was a bad ass cop, whose injury from getting shot on the job led her to taking medication a bit liberally. One day, really lit up on pills, she chased a serial rapist and her addiction was discovered. This got her fired, before wreaking absolute havoc on her personal life; she lost her husband, even her daughter. A sad, human tragedy.
Nothing changes in the house. Just because a security system’s in place and a former cop is looking after Shelby doesn’t mean whatever inhabits that house is going away. Paranoia runs mad now with another person kicking around. Only makes it easier for Shelby to confuse ghostly apparitions with Lee moving things, walking around, et cetera. An added interest is that Lee is still an addict. She asks Shelby not to drink, though I’m not sure how well that will hold up. On the other side is the fact Lee is also sceptical of her sister-in-law.
Then the house starts working on Lee. A lone wine bottle rolls across the floor at her, so she assumes it’s Lee being a bitch. “Why would you do something like that?” she questions Shelby. Now the accusations fly between the both of them. Meanwhile, Matt gets a text from his automated security: people in hoods carrying torches have headed through the gate up to the house. Oh, my. He tries to call the ladies, but they’re too busy arguing.
Suddenly, Shelby and Lee are interrupted by a videotape playing on the television, the strange noises from the night coming out – then on the tape appears a pig-headed man in the wilderness, squealing and bloody. Like anybody would be, the women are terrified. The hooded people with their torches get inside the house while the pair hide, and Matt rushes from a couple hours away to try getting home. When the ladies finally come out of hiding there are tons of creepy stick figures a la Blair Witch Project hanging about the house. Cops once more do nothing.
When Matt is back he watches the video, only getting angrier at the local hillbillies. He still doesn’t want to leave; Shelby takes off in the car thinking only “fight or flight.” On her way she hits somebody in the road (it’s Kathy Bates and she just walks it off). Shelby chases her into the nearby woods and gets lost. She winds up finding more of the stick figures that were hung in the house, which sends her running into a place where the earth below seems to breathe. Deeper in she comes across a man missing some of his scalp and skull, brain exposed. And in the darkness lurks a man holding a torch, among many others holding torches – Wes Bentley’s character. We’ll just have to wait and find out who he is, as well as what happens to Shelby out there.
I don’t care what any of these other horror sites are saying – they probably won’t continue watching after the first episode of the series, anyways. So fuck ’em. This was a great start to the new series. Fun references, eerie shots and sequences, a bit of character intrigue and gritty development. “Chapter Two” will likely be good fun.
There are new people in Banshee, and they're looking for Hood.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 12: “Be Our Guest”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by John J. Gray
* For a review of the penultimate Season 5 finisher, “Battle Royale” – click here
This finale for the wild Season 5 begins with Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) talking about taking over the Hotel Cortez. Only she has her throat slit with a gloved hand, not unlike the one we’ve seen Countess (Lady Gaga) wear earlier in the season.
Cut to a couple checking in. Iris (Kathy Bates) and Liz woo them, with champagne on arrival, hoping to make the guests feel at home and ready for a wonderful time. They’re apparently from some website, one which reviews hotels. “It was going to take 4–stars on the internet,” Liz tells us. All the rooms are newly redone, looking beautiful; even Egyptian Cotton on all the beds. Looks a far cry from where it was once.
Except Sally (Sarah Paulson) shows up from out of nowhere to greet the new guests, lazing around smoking in her usual leopard print. She’s even getting ready to shoot up, which soon does in one of the guests. The other one goes running in the halls, coming across Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). “I‘m new at this murder game and jesus christ is it a thrill,” he says before stabbing her to death. Seems like things aren’t exactly perfect at the Hotel Cortez, despite the beautiful surface.
A very wonderful start to this final episode for the season. Plenty more macabre, nasty fun to come, I hope.
The meeting is called, as Liz and Iris try to create order among the ghosts of the Cortez. They all meet at the bar, everyone wanting something different. Marcy wants a new room. Will and Sally would rather kill. The rest are too self-involved, but not those two. They’re more excited for killing: “I‘m dead,” Will tells them, “but I‘ve never felt more alive.”
Up turns James March (Evan Peters), wanting them all to stop the killing. Funny, right? He’s mostly concerned about what happens if the Cortez gets shut down, torn down, bulldozed. Where will they go? In the meantime, everyone’s aruging. Until March flips a lid and sets them all straight. They need to make it a historic landmark, March claims, only they’ve got to keep the building there another 10 years, until 2026. Sally needs a “soulmate,” though, and she doesn’t look poised to change. Even with the threat of March sicking the Addiction Demon on her, as once he did before.
Most interesting is how Iris shows Sally about the world outside, social media, which will help her not be so alone in the world. She can’t go out, but that doesn’t mean Sally can’t interact with the world. Great way to bring the issues of today into the show, instead of only relying on dates onscreen from time to time. Plus, it goes well with Sally’s 1990’s rock/grunge character, to think she might be someone who would fall into social media and all its trappings.
Mainly, everyone is now trying to figure out the way to head into the future. Liz has all but convinced Drake to stay holed up in the hotel, all “Howard Hughes” and such. In fact, Liz is now Will’s acting hand at his company. Amazing new age company being led by Ms. Liz Taylor. The fashion goes on, the clothing still coming out – even Sally models bits of his work, plus Ramona (Angela Bassett) and other ghosts in the Cortez.
But sadly, Liz misses Tristan. Then we’re introduced to an old, familiar face – Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) back from Season 1’s Murder House. What a beautiful return to the original season, another character linking things together. Great season for this sort of thing, with Queenie in the last episode, Marcy showing up from time to time, and more. This sequence sees Billie helping Liz to try reconnecting with his now lost, murdered love, Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock). But it seems Tristan isn’t willing to fully reconnect, he’s angered and doesn’t want to talk with Liz. Not right now, anyways.
But wait – it’s Donovan now reaching from the other side, talking of “pancakes with blueberries” and that it’s “always Saturday morning” wherever he is.
Gathering the ghosts together, Liz tells everybody she’s got prostate cancer; inoperable, “nothing to do.” All those ghosts are worried, but Liz absolutely has a plan. Of sorts. Weapons are out on the bed, ready for everyone. She wants to be hacked, bludgeoned, et cetera, to death. “It‘s not murder,” Sallys says to them: “She wants to be reborn.”
“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” by Marianne Faithfull starts to play while everybody weapons up. Liz lays back on the bed, ready for the murder to take place. At the door, though, Countess arrives. “You were always my fondest creation,” Countess tells Liz. She’s there to join in on the fun: “I wanted to be here to help you transition.” Great word play all around with this sequence. Great, viciously bloody fun. This takes us back to that first scene, watching Liz have her throat cut open, the blood flying and beginning to run down onto the floor. Savagery – the best sort which Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk continually give us. And in death? Liz finds Tristan once more.
Down at the desk a woman shows up on Devil’s Night in 2022. She booked a room way in advance. In other news, Iris and Ramona are lamenting too much publicity after Billie Dean Howard’s specials aired on television, bringing out the weirdos, the perverts. Funniest is seeing John Lowe in league with them all, just another part of them. We get cuts back to Howard doing her various specials in Room 44, Room 64, and so on.
Now Lowe has got himself a plan. They call Billie Dean down for another taping, as she continues to try calling on the Ten Commandment Killer to reveal himself.
Then there’s Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) and John’s family. They made things work in the outside world. Or at least, as best as it would work. They tried. Out on the streets, Lowe killed, stockpiling blood in coffee canisters, stalking the streets for more victims with which to feed the family. One night, he finds himself caught by the police. Bleeding, full of bullets, John tries his best to make it back inside the Cortez, to die in there. Instead of making it all the way, he’s left on the sidewalk. Returning on Devil’s Night, though, it is easy to see James March has a hand in it all. Another dinner party, perhaps?
Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe), they’re all back! Gacy’s trying to teach Jeffrey to talk to guys, in such a creepy scene. The music in the background plays heavy, lazy. Everything is terrifying and dark. John introduces her around the place, acclimating her to the strange surroundings. The Zodiac is there, too. Quiet and chilling in the corner with his baghead costume on, totally silent. A surreal sequence here, as Billie Dean navigates through “all these dark spirits.” March appears soon enough to toast them all. Lots of fun! A top five favourite sequence out of this Hotel season.
This is all a way to get Howard to stop doing specials at the hotel. The ghosts all want, need, to be left alone. So they need to her to give up. None of the ghosts can leave, but Ramona shows up to tell her: “I can.” Seems ole Billie Dean has more to fear than a few ghosts. Best she start moving on, right?In Room 64, John keeps his family. His daughter has grown a few years, obviously, and the others sleep soundly. Must be strange for her to age while the family stays the same, forever. Yet she seems fine with that mostly. It’s nice for John and Alex, who have their son back and eternally get to sleep next to one another, just like a new family. A creepy finish, as John has to go away for a whole year until the next Devil’s Night, when the family will come back together in the Cortez, to enjoy each other’s company, to love one another for that single day. A semi-happy ending in one sense, but a deeply tragic one for Lowe.
The very end of the episode sees The Countess at a table in the lounge, drinking, smoking. Out of the dark hallways comes a man she likes the look of, so off she goes to sit next to him at the bar. He sort of looks like Donovan – hair slicked back, handsome, a bit of stubble. Is that the intention? I think so. “You have a jawline for days,” says the Countess, right before everything cuts to black. Beautiful.
Loved the end to this season. An impressive full circle, but in a way that doesn’t only recall the beginning of the season, the beginning of character relationships, it also adds things on, making the layers deeper, more enticing. People complained a ton about this season. Me? I dig it. Totally. Stay tuned, we’ll see where Falchuk and Murphy go from here next season.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 11: “Battle Royale”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Ned Martel
* For a review of the previous episode, “She Gets Revenge” – click here
* For a review of the Season 5 finale, “Be Our Guest” – click here
The penultimate Season 5 episode “Battle Royale” begins with Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Iris (Kathy Bates) coming together, bed full of guns, just before the events of the previous episode’s finale, when The Countess (Lady Gaga) and Donovan (Matt Bomer) were reuniting briefly before getting gunned down, seemingly.
Here, revisiting those moments, we hear “Seconds” by The Human League. As the guns finally blaze, Liz and Iris get a few into The Countess, while Donovan also takes shots. Iris wants to help her soon who wants nothing else but to not die inside the Hotel Cortez. Naturally, right? The pair try and help Donovan, in an excellently filmed scene which almost puts you directly in his shoes, the waving camerawork, the point-of-view, all of it. Luckily they get him out onto the street where Donovan bleeds out – his final word? “Mom.” This season is winding up for a nice, and surely at times brutal finale.
For The Countess, there’s bullet removal by Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson). Then later she wakes to flashes of nastiness before finally coming to all the way. Sally needs her to stick around because there’s all but literally no one else left for her; to use, to manipulate, whatever. Sally reminisces about a drug dealer, whose past included a first handjob from – you guessed it – the woman herself. This leads into a bit of backstory for her, a slight and tenuous bonding between her and The Countess.
Flashback to 1993 in Los Angeles, as Sally’s musician friends use her songs, record them, and go to the top. Meanwhile, she’s more like the nasty delinquent enabling the talented people around her to do all sorts of drugs, et cetera. Not that they weren’t eating it up, but still. “Do you trust me?” Sally asks them, before we see cuts of them sewing one another together, higher than the sky on drugs. Of course, then they both overdose, as Sally’s trapped between them, linked up. A sort of nasty Human Centipede-like homage except better, more fitting; Sally was truly trapped with addiction for five long days. This is where the Addiction Demon comes in, torturing her for days. Finally she ripped herself out of the bonds. WOW! Amazing, amazing story to Sally. Never expected such brutality. This episode is honestly one of the most filmic in the entire history of the series, to me. The way it’s filmed, the look, the heaviness, every bit amounts to an incredible masterpiece. And that’s only the first 12 minutes. Lots more to come.
Over at the Lowe household, John (Wes Bentley ) and Alex (Chloë Sevigny) bring their children home, to be “a family again.” Alex calls drinking blood taking medicine, though, young Scarlett knows better. But John’s committed to shedding his life as The Ten Commandments Killer, everything at the Cortez; he wants a normal family life again.
The Countess is still suffering. Sally brings in the little white haired children, saying she’ll have to use them for blood. Even though Countess doesn’t want that, the children agree: “Let us help, mommy.”At the same time, Iris is grieving the loss of her son. Liz helped by incinerating him, so as to not have to throw him down the chute with all the rest of the trash killed in the hotel. It’s funny how among all the horror, the murder, the blood, you can really feel for a character like Iris. She only ever came to the hotel for her son, now he’s gone, dust. He was her world. “We were so much alike,” she reminisces, “maybe that’s why we couldn‘t be close.” Afterwards, leaving Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) to clean up the mess she made with the ashes, Iris heads up on top of the hotel, looking out to the horizon. A sort of beautiful, weird moment all in one.
Dressed and made up, Liz strolls down the hall some time later with a now clean Iris. They head down the locked up hallway, where bodies are strewn everywhere, from that of Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) to the bunch of vampire children. Not to mention, Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) who emerges strong and healthy from around a corner, blood stained, spiteful.
Up shows a witch from down in New Orleans – yes, it’s Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe). She’s going to do a bit of game show fun and all that Los Angeles type of stuff. Unfortunately, though, I think she checked into the wrong hotel.
“There‘s a lot of bad juju in this room,” says Queenie after entering the place she’s meant to stay all night. She doesn’t like the place, but Iris and Liz con her into staying. Then when Ramona comes out of the shower, slashing away at Queenie, there comes the voodoo doll stuff. Pretty interesting fight starts between the two – a sort-of-vampire versus a voodoo witch. Out of nowhere, James March (Evan Peters) stabs Queenie with a big blade from his cane – he’s a ghost, remember? So the rules are skewed. Ramona drinks Queenie’s blood, getting her fill. Then James says: “I want you to kill The Countess“… he’s got big plans. He doesn’t want to see his love walk away from the hotel.
John Lowe arrives home. In his trunk, he has a man whom he questions about being clean. Do you know what he’s got in store for him? I know I do. Some of that medicine Alex was talking about earlier. Is the new way for the Swiss Family Lowe? We’ll see. Inside, John finds nobody. Only a key for the Cortez hanging from a light fixture.
Cut to Lowe back at the hotel, running through the halls. Straight to Room 64. There on the bed is Sally, waiting. She claims March took his family – “One last kill and I can take you to your family,” says Sally. The final commandment left? Thou shalt not commit murder.Busy fitting Ramona Royale for a dress, Liz is preparing her for the coming slaughter. But Ramona has “witch‘s blood” flowing through her, she doesn’t want any of the assorted guns or weapons Iris and Liz have got kicking around.
With “I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses playing in the background, The Countess is having a reunion with Ramona. They talk of how their blood smells – “almonds” for Ramona, “black licorice” for The Countess. They miss one another, even if Ramona wants to kill the bitch. Likewise, Countess misses her, too. No matter what’s happened, or what may come next.
Just after the two make love, and The Countess is let free, she meets John Lowe when the elevator heads down. He blasts her away, letting her bleed on the elevator’s floor. Countess is the final commandment. Her head is now in a jar on the shelf upstairs, everyone reeling with pride over John’s accomplishments. Only Sally’s got further plans – thwarted after March stops her from stabbing him, keeping him there forever. Relieved? Well, John’s a killer, as well. Shouldn’t be too relieved for the man.
March sits at his table and asks Miss Evers about when she first discovered being a ghost. Then he gets upset over the dinner arrangements. At the door is The Countess, whose arrival at dinner has prompted James to be a little tempestuous, and Miss Evers to be get a bit saucy. Countess is adjusting to her “new state,” as March calls it.
Big reveal comes when we discover it was Miss Evers who called the police all those years ago. She wanted him, her jealousy got the better of her. “I wanted us to die together,” she wails. Only things went… a little differently, than expected. This leads to Miss Evers being banished from March’s presence, heading off into the darkness.
The episode finishes with March happy to have The Countess back. Although, she’s much less thrilled. Her eternity is relegated to a space where she’ll never be happy, ever again.
Excited to review the finale of Season 5, “Be Our Guest”. Looking forward to a weird, wild episode to finish off this bloody, violent, sexy and odd season. Stay tuned.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 12: “Show Stoppers”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Jessica Sharzer
* For a review of the previous episode, “Magical Thinking” – click here
* For a review of the Season 4 finale, “Curtain Call” – click here
The penultimate Season 4 episode starts with a large party at the freak show. Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) watches on and toasts her family and friends. As well as the new owner, Chester Creb (Neil Patrick Harris). Everyone is in attendance, from Marjorie to Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts), Paul (Mat Fraser), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin), Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) and the Tattlers (Sarah Paulson).
Elsa asks for time alone with the original freak family. She thanks Richard Spencer a.k.a Stanley (Denis O’Hare) for helping to change their lives. Only we know the truth. And now, Elsa knows, too. They’re reeling him in with food, drink, as well as entertainment – nice callback to Season 2 and The Sign of the Cross, as Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins) complains they don’t want to see that one again. But Stanley says he has to go, lots to do before their move to Hollywood. Elsa doesn’t want him to go, nobody does. They want to give him a nice present. Out comes a big, heavy box. They beg him to open.
And what’s inside? The head of the museum owner floating in a jar. Cut to a scene where Maggie and Desiree lured her in, before killing her. “Now it‘s your turn,” Desiree tells Stanley. He of course squirms like a snake about to be cut in half. He keeps flaring up the dreams of Hollywood, but Elsa won’t have it. He’s put up on the knife wheel, as Elsa tosses a few blades. Then things progressively get worse with Stanley cornered by the entire crew of freaks.
Let’s see where ole Stanley ends up after they’re finished with him.
“You tried to kill my dreams, but they cannot be murdered. But what you did – you brought death into this place, and for that you must pay.”
Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) is turned onto what really happened with Richard a.k.a Stanley. Maggie gave herself up to everyone, too. But Jimmy is not happy. He is completely disfigured now and doesn’t want to be the leader Elsa says they need. She’s bringing an old friend who can help with his new predicament. Maggie’s left to help change the bandages on Jimmy, though, he would rather not have her around. Still, she tries her best to be there for him in his weakest time of need.
At the same time, Elsa is working on her show not having much luck with anything. Out of the darkness comes the doctor who helped her so long ago – Massimo Dolcefino (Danny Huston). He is the old friend come to help Jimmy with the missing hands. Elsa and Massimo embrace, having not seen each other for so long.
Switch over to Chester and the Tattlers having sex, while Marjorie (Jamie Brewer) is watching. Or at least Chester sees her as very real and embodied, looking on. He throws her on the floor, out of the way, as requested by Bette and Dot. Then the lovemaking gets more intense after Marjorie is out of the way. Afterwards, she’s not too impressed with Chester, who says he simply got “carried away.” The twins obviously don’t want to be watched by a creepy doll. But Marjorie convinces Chester, more and more, they’re only trying to twist him up. He doesn’t want to see it, though, I’m sure Marjorie will drive him to seeing things her way. Even if Chester still believes Alice/Lucy, his wife and her lover, were killed by Marjorie the doll.
QUICK CUT TO: Chester beating his wife’s lover to death with a hammer, blood everywhere. He remembers it. He just doesn’t want to, that’s all.
Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) pokes his head into the Tattler Twins’ tent. He has “relevant information” pertaining to Chester and his other life before the freak show. He appears like a friend would, trying to look out for them. Of course, we’re well aware of the true dark heart in Dandy. Even if he fakes some tears, saying he’s not “half the man” they deserve. Funny little line, I thought. Sadly, though, the guy has real information about Chester and the girls don’t heed his warnings. They’re not entirely above board, his intentions. But Dandy is sort of looking out for them, in his own backhanded way. And Chester is actually a psychopath, so y’know.But now we’re getting back to Elsa visiting Jimmy in his bed, feeding him a bit of liquor and telling him he “looks like shit.” Well, duh – he has no hands. Then she readies some penicillin as Massimo reveals himself. He is going to craft some new hands for Jimmy, to make his life a little more manageable with wooden hands.
Excellent flashbacks to Elsa’s past, in the black-and-white snuff films. More connection to Season 2 Asylum with a young doctor Arden (played here by John Cromwell; James’ son) leading the crew of people cutting the legs off Elsa. Massimo tracked down Arden, or Hans Gruber as he was known then. He tried to kill the doctor, but only received capture and hideous torture. Luckily, Massimo survived because a higher ranking general wanted a bookshelf, and he was needed to build it. Later he escaped to America and away from it all. Amazing story and a great inclusion of Danny Huston in this season, giving him more screentime than I originally imagined he would have.
At the carnival, the Tattler Twins are at odds over who Chester really is; Bette is worried, Dot thinks she is influenced too much by Dandy. They say they don’t want to be his assistants any more. This shakes Chester. He says they’ll be ‘sawed in half’ during his big finale, instead of a member from the audience. They don’t want any part of being in that box, refusing to do so. But Maggie says she’ll do it, she wants to be a “part of the show” and seems very eager.
Now, Chester is hallucinating it’s his wife, and then her lover getting in, not Maggie. This spells danger already. When the trick is being performed, Chester starts hallucinating more. He handcuffs Maggie at the feet. He sees Marjorie, the wife, the lover, Maggie, all in the box. Maggie is terrified and then he proceeds to saw her completely in half, blood spurting everywhere. Paul and the others are mortified by what has happened, as he hauls the box open and Maggie’s guts spill everywhere. Supremely nasty stuff. In the audience, Marjorie sits laughing: “That‘ll pack ‘em in, Chester.” No one is too broken up, as Maggie helped kill some of the freaks. Desiree tells the rest of the crew: “She had it comin‘.”
In his trailer, Chester finally stabs Marjorie to death. Or to splinters, I don’t know anymore.
Knowing the truth about Ethel’s murder, the rest of the freaks intend on taking revenge upon Elsa. The Tattler Twins discover her in her tent, finding out she is also a freak with her missing legs. But they tell her about the freaks coming for her, feeling indebted to her slightly. Then, Elsa is gone before they can find her.
At a police station, Chester walks in to confess the murder of Marjorie. How perfect.
Before fleeing Jupiter, Elsa meets with none other than Dandy Mott. She receives $10,000 in exchange for her carnival. And so Dandy loves every moment of it, prepared to take hold of the show himself. Afterwards, he finds Stanley who is now transformed into an homage to Tod Browning’s Freaks. Fitting, as it was referenced earlier on at the start of the episode. Very creepy scene with Stanley’s new body.
The finale sees Massimo give Jimmy his new hands: they are wooden lobster hands, like his original ones. Jimmy claims they’re perfect and comes to accept himself, in a new yet familiar form.
Excited for the next and final episode of Season 4, “Curtain Call”.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 11: “Magical Thinking”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Jennifer Salt
* For a review of the previous episode, “Orphans” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Show Stoppers” – click here
Back to the moment where Stanley (Denis O’Hare) proposes an idea to “raise the funds” needed for a top notch lawyer to represent Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters). He tells Jimmy there’s a man who collects memorabilia belonging to freaks, but the kid has nothing. Stanley proposes cutting off just one hand. Jimmy rightfully says no. Except the greasy snake oil salesman in Stanley keeps edging it on. He produces a small glass bottle for Jimmy, telling him to take it and he’ll “take care of the rest.” And even sadder is the fact Jimmy sucks down whatever liquid sat in the bottle. Cut to an extremely sick Jimmy, while Stanley bullshits an office outside screaming for an ambulance to take Jimmy for some care. Outside, in an ambulance, sits Stanley’s boy toy who played the part of Dr. Sugar awhile back. “Don‘t worry, Jimmy,” says Stanley. “You‘re in my hands now.”
Waking up in a hospital bed to a cold nurse at his bedside, claiming her friend “Mirna was at that Tupperware party,” Jimmy discovers not only his left hand is gone, but also the right one, too. Each remaining a bloody stump. What a horrifying scene. Evan Peters’ characters get the shaft every season, even when they’re the good guys. I love his acting, he gets a great character this year and he is doing lots of fine work with Jimmy.
Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) are watching the rest of the freaks at the camp. Dot believes they are all wonderful people, who have fun and give themselves over to pleasure. Bette is back to being happy just having her sister there with her, gone back to the original brown hair Plain Jane look she and Dot share so well. “We are where we belong,” Dot writes in her diary. They’re both looking for sex now, trying to find the perfect guy to take their virginity once and for all.
And then up shows Chester Creb (Neil Patrick Harris). He’s been showing Paul (Mat Fraser), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) and the gang a bunch of chameleons. He has a hothouse back home where they were bred. But Chester has issues, that much is clear. He hallucinates two entirely different heads on the Tattlers, shaking it off quickly; he was on Normandy Beach in the Second World War and has a metal plate in his head. PTSD? We’ll see. Either way, Harris is an amazing addition to this Season 4 Freak Show cast. He is an interesting talent and has a ton of range, despite what anyone else may say. I don’t particularly watch anything else with him in it, I just love his charisma and his willingness to be weird (i.e. the Harold and Kumar flicks). Plus, now Bette and Dot have a bit of sexy love interest.
Down at the hospital, Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) runs to his son. He finds the boy now disfigured. Dell warns him about Stanley, or Richard as he’s known around Jupiter these days. He tells Jimmy Stanley is a “lying prick.” Worst of all this is the fact I’m sure Stanley will leave Jimmy up the creek. Best of all? We’re treated to a tender father-son moment between this once distant pair. Jimmy is fed his hospital food by Dell, who eagerly sits down to help his son. He even reminds Jimmy “prosthetics are good these days.” They make light of things and try to smile a little bit. Turns out, even in a Lobster Claw Clan like the Toledos, Dell was actually the outcast; no claws, no family. He was the “black sheep” and as Jimmy puts it “a freak for being normal.” Dell ran off because of Jimmy’s claws, lamenting “I‘m 50 years old and I‘m feeding my son for the first time.”
Over with Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange), the newly arrived Chester shows off terrible magic tricks. She does not want to see any of those. Then he produces his puppet Marjorie – voiced by the wonderful and returning Jamie Brewer. It seems there’s a little more to all this than what appears to us up front. The voice indicates there’s something either wrong with Chester, or wrong with the doll— anticipating it’s probably mostly the former. Chester desperately tries to get Ms. Mars to take him in, even showing off a book of numbers to give her a taste of his profits. She would rather have him as a bookkeeper, and a warm-up act for their crowd. He is properly “speechless” (even though he has plenty to say), sharing the joy with Marjorie the puppet, as if she were completely real, as if she were his partner. Creepy stuff already from Harris and his Chester character.
In his new tent, we hear Chester go back and forth with Marjorie. She’s not happy about their new billing; she isn’t on it, only him. Paul walks in while Chester is supposedly “rehearsing,” giving him tips on makeup, at which Marjorie laughs and taunts him. Interesting, and I want more of these two now. They’re definitely building towards something weird, macabre, and specific.
Elsa is still packing up, preparing for Hollywood along with some help from her freaks. Then Dell appears telling Elsa what happened to Jimmy’s hands. She is terrified, as the others are pretty damn upset. Amazon Eve stops Dell, telling him they ought to do the “strongman strongwoman” act after all – she wants to help his son.
Before any of that, we’re back to Chester, only now he’s introducing himself to the lovely Tattler Twins. Both of them seem pretty impressed with him, as he brings a little music box with ballerinas inside for them. Even the usually cold, distant Dot is into it. Out in the old forgotten props tent, Chester also found himself a sawing box; y’know, the trick box magicians used to “saw a lady in half.” This brings on a GREAT EDIT of the Tattler Twins having the surgery to separate, very quick. Until Chester corrects them, saying he only wants to do a trick with it. He wants them as his assistants, to distract the audience – that’s what magic is all about. He’s proper struck with their beauty and wants them as a part of his life, a part of his act, all of it.
Quick flashback to Chester’s former life. Two women are kissing, touching one another, as Chester sits smoking in an armchair watching on in his army uniform. He doesn’t look too happy, though. And he’s got Marjorie on his lap, too. A supremely unsettling scene with just enough to whet our appetite. For a character brought in near the season’s close, we’re getting lots of good stuff already, so I’m intrigued to see where Chester brings the other characters – specifically the Tattler Twins – in the next couple episodes before the finale.
One amazing sequence comes afterwards, as two police take Jimmy out of the hospital in the night to bring him back to jail. Too bad for them, as Amazon Eve and Dell take out their vehicle, then murder both of the officers. Dell particularly smashes in one of their faces in a horrifying bloody mist. Then, the surprised Jimmy is let free by his father.
Now, we cut back to Chester who is yelling at Marjorie. Then interrupted by the Tattler Twins, who think he’s just practicing throwing his voice. They kiss him urgently, wanting him sexually. Full of desire: “We chose you to deflower us,” Dot tells him. But Chester’s metal plate makes his head go haywire, a ringing in his ears. He clearly has strange things going on up there, and way more strange than any metal doctors put in after the war. But we already know Chester has some sort of issues related to two women in bed – not exactly good for the Tattlers, is it? We cut back more to the two women Chester is watching, sitting there “like a dummy” along with Marjorie the dummy on his lap. There are rules set down for a possible threesome, but Chester gets up and wants to go to the garage, to do some magic. Cut back to the present and Chester’s head is on fire with noise. He can’t even tell reality from his past, from his hallucinations. The more Bette and Dot get involved with him, the more I worry for every single one of the freaks at the carnival.
And now more Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock). The police officer he now has hired brings him information on the Tattler Twins and their new flame, Chester. “They were supposed to be mine,” cries Dandy. Uh oh. But uh oh for the twins or Chester? Or all of them?
At the same time, Chester is trying to put Marjorie to rest a little. The dummy has other ideas: “I‘ll tell,” she says. Then we’re cutting back to the past with Chester, looking for Marjorie who is not in her case. The woman sleeping with his wife is taunting him, labeling him a “pervert” and “insane” and so much more. Then Marjorie, in human Jamie Brewer form, appears saying they have to kill her, to keep her quiet. Now I’m seeing more and more of his insanity come out.
Over in Elsa’s tent, we find out more about Chester – he’s buying up her Cabinet of Curiosities. She talks lots of bullshit, misguided egoism and so on. Y’know, the type of stuff she usually does. Then there’s Chester, continually insisting Marjorie is a real person, without outright saying it. A contract is drawn up by Elsa who wants things to remain almost the same as they were under her management, which Chester sees as absolutely fine.
Next, Marjorie goes missing, and Chester is not happy.
The police show up at the freak show tent city looking for Jimmy Darling. Only Elsa reacts appropriately. She knows nothing of where he is. Right after that, Chester comes out raving about his missing Marjorie; the cops and Elsa are equally disturbed, as are Paul and the others. The law plans to tear up the tents looking for any sign of Jimmy. But there’s nothing to find.
Chester is by far the second most psychotic character in this season, next to Dandy. Only fitting they’re coming together now in a horrifically dangerous way. Dandy shows up in a big fur coat, claiming to Chester that Marjorie is mad, that she’s leaving and running away; she isn’t happy about what happened, “with the twins.” Dandy has info on Chester, thanks to the officer on his payroll – he murdered his wife and lover, leaving a note claiming “Marjorie did it“. Excellent cut to a scene where Chester imagines seeing Marjorie in the bedroom hammering his wife and her love to pieces: bloody, bloody pieces. “They should‘ve let us join in,” she says to Chester. “We should‘ve been included.”
But Dandy is setting up more madness. Chester finds Marjorie in the big tent, apparently eating grapes. She wants him to get rid of the people in their way, separating them and driving them apart. She wants more blood and murder.
Maggie comes to Elsa in the night saying “there‘s something I have to show you.” Meanwhile, Desiree (Angela Bassett) confronts Dell in their trailer with a gun. “Who‘ve you killed since we got here, Dell?” she asks. She knows about what he did, to Ma Petite. She’s seen it with her own eyes. Simultaneously, Maggie reveals Ma Petite in a jar to Elsa. Do we have a final revenge coming on Dell? The gun is drawn, he admits what he did to Desiree. Only Elsa sneaks in behind him and blows a hole through his head: “That‘s all I needed to hear,” she exclaims coldly.
Another solid episode, bringing change even at a later stage in the season. It’s great and I dig everything happening. Next episode is “Show Stoppers”.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 10: “Orphans”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong
* For a review of the previous episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Magical Thinking” – click here
With only a few episodes left, the freak show in Jupiter is experiencing all sorts of madness descending upon it, from Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) and her dangerous ties with Stanley (Denis O’Hare), to Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) who now finds himself at the mercy of the police; so, so much is happening. And still, there’s more!
This episode commences with the death of Salty (Christopher Neiman). Poor Pepper (Naomi Grossman) is devastated, clinging to his corpse on his beautiful deathbed. Paul (Mat Fraser) and Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) try to tear her away, though, she misses him obviously. Elsa claims to know the “depth of that girl‘s soul” even if others don’t always. We get a couple very sad moments where Pepper discovers Salty dead during sleep, a stroke they assume. Such a tragic thing, to see two people who loved each other in spite of the world around them, now one of them left alone to remain on earth.
But we get more of Stanley looking for specimens, as he takes the body of Salty, chopping off its head, and sending it over to the Museum of Morbid Curiosities. Where the head is displayed next to Ma Petite, floating in a jar of formaldehyde. More of a sad end in the life of Salty.
Over at the camp, Pepper lays in bed while Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) reads her a bedtime story. The part-newly changed Dell (Michael Chiklis) shows up, moved by her reading the book and claiming she’ll be “a great mom someday.” He’s still a bad guy, but to see this shift in him is a bit incredible. For all the terribleness that is Dell, he still cares for Desiree, as well as seems to have started caring for the freaks around him after finally admitting that he, essentially, is just as much a freak. Inside the tent, Pepper cries while Desiree has to leave to prepare for the night’s show.
Elsa and Desiree have a drink together, talking a little about Pepper’s dilemma. Further, they chat about Elsa’s new move off to Hollywood, or at least what Elsa believes is her coming big break. Will Stanley, a.k.a Richard, do anything for her? We’ll see. For now, we get more flashbacks into the life of Elsa Mars and her first days in America playing in a group from Boston. Soon enough, though, Elsa found her niche, proclaiming the circus owners as “morons” and saying they couldn’t “see the future.”
But Elsa could. She understands entertainment, what people want, what they crave, even the darker things. “Most people don‘t see beauty in someone like Pepper. They see shame, they see human garbage,” Elsa tells Desiree. This is where she arrived at an orphanage to find Pepper alone in a corner, playing with blocks by herself. Such a touching scene, highly emotional to see Elsa connecting with Pepper in those first beginnings of their long relationship/casual friendship. She was Elsa’s “first monster,” one who made her feel real and unconditional love for the first time, as well. Moreover, Elsa saw the maternal instincts in Pepper grow, but knew she couldn’t have children.
Then came Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), who satisfied the curiosity of Elsa, and also helped to quell the maternal longing of Pepper. What a beautiful sequence where we see the origins of these freak show relationships! Such fun to see Ma Petite back, too. Even when she’s traded for 3 cases of delicious Dr. Pepper into Elsa’s arms. But, although Petite became a part of a carnival of so-called freaks, she was let off the leash to which she’d been held by the Indian prince, and so I say: good. One of the most emotionally challenging and intense sequences out of this season, as we get this really romantic and nostalgic sort of thing happening throughout these scenes. Especially after Salty is first introduced to Pepper, and they fall in love at first sight! They have a nice carnival wedding, officiated by Elsa and flowers tossed around by the sweet little Ma Petite. Definitely a favourite overall from Season 4 Freak Show, with an extended sequence stretching out a bit. This gives more depth to the other characters. It also makes Elsa a little more human, regardless of her terrible faults.Still, Desiree suggests maybe Pepper’s sister may take her back in now that she’s older, not eighteen and hard to handle anymore. But, as we know, Pepper later ends up in Briarcliff during Season 2 Asylum. Are we to see that transition in this season, better yet in this episode?
Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) receives Desiree and Angus T. Jefferson (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) in her tent, looking for a reading of their future. Shyster Maggie shows off her skills, or at least her skills of excellent perception; pretending to look at the crystal ball, only gleaning facts about him from looking at his shoes, his coat, et cetera. She feeds them both a good line of bullshit, as they lap it up eagerly, loving on one another. But then Maggie’s own feelings work into the reading, talking about how their perfect little little will go “all to shit.” Because that’s life. They have no time for her nonsense, even Angus claiming he’s a “God–fearing Christian” who doesn’t believe reading the future is possible. Yeah, like he didn’t love it before that.
Outside, Maggie and Desiree have a confrontation. Then Maggie reveals: she and Stanley are “on the grift,” and they’ve been working together since 1941. A little flashback to Maggie’s days grifting as a young sneak selling papers, supposedly, as a boy. Stanley yanks her out of trouble, then makes her his partner; for a bad price on her part. Maggie is upset, but Desiree knows there’s something nasty afoot on their part, and threatens the younger woman – if she finds out anything happening at the carnival, the freak deaths, has something to do with her and Stanley, there will be hell to pay.
In her tent, Maggie is awaited by Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson). They want her to do right by Jimmy. They have money to pay for a lawyer, so he won’t “turn out like Meep,” which finally frightens Maggie into helping. Or at least so it seems.
At Jimmy’s cell, up turns Stanley. He says he’s there to help and knows exactly how Jimmy feels. He reels off a story about losing his mother, being an orphan. Is it more sleek sales pitch, or is it real? I doubt that. Jimmy doesn’t remember killing those women in his drunken rage. Though, he can’t be sure. He had a long blackout. “I didn‘t kill them. Did I?” Jimmy asks Stanley. The latter says he has an attorney for Jimmy, one who wants a retainer. Stanley is greasing his way towards something: what is it? He says he has an idea on how to “raise the funds”, after which we get a flip-screen shot zooming in Jimmy’s hands. NO! Is Stanley going to do what I think he’s out to do? Will he convince Jimmy to cut the hands off? Will Jimmy die? Oh, man. I can’t handle that.
In tent city, Desiree is busy cooking for all her fellow freak family. She and Maggie are still flitting around each other. Maggie wants to help Jimmy and tries to gain Desiree’s trust: “Everyone in this entire camp will be dead soon if you don‘t listen to me,” Maggie tells her.
Mare Winningham returns to the Ryan Murphy-Brad Falchuk universe as Pepper’s sister, Rita Gayheart. She seems a very prim, proper type, an upper class housewife in the 1950s with a nice hairdo, high heeled shoes, and a drink during the afternoon with a little cherry in it. Elsa doesn’t want to leave her there evidently, but seems to believe it’s best for Pepper. Rita, for her part, is not too interested. Especially seeing as how her husband has no idea Pepper exists. “Pepper is a gift,” Elsa says and tries to express how Pepper needs someone now, after suffering “great losses.” More emotions flow again now, as Elsa says a teary goodbye to her friend, her companion Pepper, who also shows that she will miss her. But the trouble has only begun for dear Pepper.
In other news, Maggie brings Desiree to the museum where Stanley unloads all his freak bodies and body parts. Sad to watch Desiree walking around, seeing Ma Petite and Salty in their jars, dead and gone. Right as they’re moving around from one exhibit to another, up shows a new exhibit: lobster hands. Maggie faints, but is this real? ARE THOSE JIMMY’S FUCKING HANDS?
Before figuring it all out, we snap back to Rita who is with a familiar face: Sister Mary Eunice McKee (Lily Rabe). What a treat! I love Rabe, and her presence in the American Horror Story universe is incredible, as always. We’re flashing to 1962, at Briarcliff, where Rita talks about how she finally got pregnant after not thinking she could get pregnant. Unsuspectingly, Rita has a child. Only the baby was slightly deformed, and later little baby Lucas became more of a problem.
Rita claims Pepper was helping out with the infant. Though, we get shots of Pepper trying to do so while Rita lies drunk in bed calling for “another martini.” In Season 2 Asylum, we heard Pepper supposedly murdered the baby, cutting its ears off or something similarly nasty. Here, we see the truth. Rita was a mess, her husband Larry Matthew Glave) was possibly molesting Pepper. The baby was left mostly to Pepper, who is accused by Rita as being a murderer. Yet in reality, Larry and Rita want the baby gone; he leads things, but she certainly doesn’t try to stop him. They concoct a little scheme to have the baby gone, to have Pepper gone, too. Larry asks his wife: “What if I had a way to kill two birds with one stone?” I won’t say any more. But this whole sequence is very morbid, frightening, and entirely too sad. Pepper’s tragic history is a weepy one, no doubt. Which left her rotting in the hell-hole that is Briarcliff Asylum.
At the hospital, the snake pit, Sister Mary Eunice makes Pepper her “special project.” And while sorting magazines there, Pepper sees a Life Magazine from 1958 with Elsa Mars on it, calling her the Queen of Friday night television.
What a beautiful and painful episode, all at once.
Looking forward to reviewing the next one, “Magical Thinking”.
Stanley and Dell come together tenuously. The unthinkable happens to Penny at the hands of her father.