From Freak Show

[The Twisted Parallels of Cinema] Edition #4: American Horror Story (Vol. I)

This edition looks at stills from American Horror Story v. movies from various genres.

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American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 12: “Show Stoppers”

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
screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-3-20-43-pmThe 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 its 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 didyou brought death into this place, and for that you must pay.”

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-3-21-33-pmJimmy 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.screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-3-23-08-pmBut 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: “Thatll packem 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-3-29-28-pmExcited for the next and final episode of Season 4, “Curtain Call”.

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American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 11: “Magical Thinking”

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
screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-3-12-47-pmBack 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. “Dont worry, Jimmy,” says Stanley. “Youre 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-3-13-05-pmBette 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 “Im 50 years old and Im 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: “Ill 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-3-17-52-pmOver 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 shouldve let us join in,” she says to Chester. “We shouldve 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 “theres something I have to show you.” Meanwhile, Desiree (Angela Bassett) confronts Dell in their trailer with a gun. “Whove 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: “Thats all I needed to hear,” she exclaims coldly.
screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-3-19-26-pmAnother 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”.

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 10: “Orphans”

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
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-30-16-pmWith 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 girls 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-31-32-pmOver 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 dont 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.screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-34-10-pmStill, 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 “Godfearing 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 didnt 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 dont 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”.

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 8: “Blood Bath”

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
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-12-00-pmAfter 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-14-00-pmEveryone 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 youd 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 someones 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. Youre no better than the Roosevelts.”
How dare you say that name in this house!”

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-22-15-pmAs the insanity escalates, Father Gore’s looking forward to the next episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre.”

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 7: “Test of Strength”

Stanley and Dell come together tenuously. The unthinkable happens to Penny at the hands of her father.

Read more

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 5: “Pink Cupcakes”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 5:
 “Pink Cupcakes”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Jessica Sharzer

* For a review of the previous episode, “Edward Mordrake Part 2” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Bullseye” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-1-36-19-amAt the top of “Pink Cupcakes”, we’re privy to a scene back at the Morbidity Museum with owner Lillian Hemmings (Celia Weston). In the audience, Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) fume over not being top in the game, or at least Stanley does for his part. A new exhibit is shown – Paul (Mat Fraser) the Seal. Or is it?
Just a fantasy in Stanley’s head, ruminating on what can be done at the Jupiter freak show. The pair scheme back at Stanley’s motel room. He drops a few gay magazines and Maggie tells him the only thing people in Florida hate worse than freaks are “poofs.” She also negotiates a bit of a pay raise, having to be the one in amongst the crowd at the show. There’s plenty sinister brewing with the both of them working together. But will Maggie/Esmerelda the Mystic follow her heart and get more involved with Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), will she not want to do what Stanley wishes later on? We’ll see.
Jimmy definitely has feelings for her, as well as vice versa. She offers to read his future, all in an attempt to warn him away from the danger Stanley (and her) are bringing. She foreshadows the liar coming – Stanley – that he will make false promises, she says “go north, to New York.” But when he moves in to kiss her, Esmerelda shies away and wounds his pride. Dammit, Maggie! Almost worked.screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-1-38-07-amAt the Mott residence, Gloria (Frances Conroy) discovers a dead Dora (Patti LaBelle) on the floor in their dining room. Dandy (Finn Wittrock) pretends to have known nothing about it all, yet Ms. Mott knows better. She chastises Dandy, who leaves with a smirk on his face behind her back. Such a nasty, nasty, spoiled little boy. Later, it seems as if Gloria is fine with helping Dandy, her little boy – his father was similarly afflicted with the need to murder. She reminds him that it’s 1952 and he can’t just go around killing anybody.
Meanwhile Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) gets together in her tent with Stanley, still posing as a big California agent in town scouting for talent. He’s shining a whole lot of rainbows up poor Elsa’s ass. Although, I can’t say she might not deserve a bit of bullshit for all the trouble she begins to bring on Bette & Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson), jealous of their budding supposed fame.
Either way, Elsa hates television. She makes it clear that it is “the death of art and civilisation,” but simultaneously there’s a part of her which only wants to be famous, she wants to glamour and the limelight. There’s a weird paradox in Elsa: she wants stardom, would do so much for it almost anything and at that same time scoffs at opportunity all because of her trumped up pride.
Looking for strongman Dell (Michael Chiklis), Jimmy finds only Desiree (Angela Bassett) at the trailer. Turns out, Dell is missing, she doesn’t know where he is or when he’s coming back. So they start to bond a little, albeit slightly passive aggressively at times. This leads to a very tense, awkward and sort of sexy moment between Jimmy and Desiree, as they’re both feeling reject – him from Esmerelda, her from Dell. Furthermore, it leads to a discovery by Desiree.
When he puts his lobster claw between her legs, she begins to bleed profusely. Ethel (Kathy Bates) takes Desiree to the nice doctor who gave her the diagnosis on her liver. Doctor Bonham (Jerry Leggio) explains Desiree’s own body to her, that she was officially born a woman and that her penis is actually an enlarged clitoris due to massive estrogen uptake in her body. She also discovers a pregnancy, now miscarried, but the doc lets her know she can try to have another baby again soon. Good news, right? If only Dell weren’t Dell.


Elsa’s latest show, the Bowie song, goes pretty badly this time around. People in the audience are suddenly disaffected, uninterested in her singing, everyone talking between themselves. She’s suddenly aware of how little her ‘fame’ really exists. Then people start to pelt food and other things at her. A tragic, teary moment really. As much as Elsa is sort of horrible in her way, it’s sad to see such a bright woman feel defeated. She crawls back to Stanley, now ready to make a deal, to try out television.
But as it happens, Stanley is more interested in the Tattler Twins Hour, a nice new television show like he’d promised Elsa. Tricky tricky, Stan. He serves them up beautiful pink cupcakes, ones he injected a bit of poison into. We’re seeing bits and pieces of present and future – present, cupcake is eaten by Bette, future we see the museum owner Ms. Hemmings accepting the dead upper torso of the Tattler girls. What’s really happening? All of a sudden, Bette is dying from the cupcake while Dot looks on in shock. Fast forward to Dot alive, Bette dead next to her, Stanley kneeling on her chest and ready to smother: “You should’ve ate a cupcake.”
But it’s only a fake out. We’re back to reality, and neither of them eat a cupcake. Thankfully. Only there’s still Elsa: she’s threatened by their possible bigger draw for a television show. Dot is smart enough not to trust her, Bette is still too naive for her own good despite all they’ve seen so far.

I will be the U.S. Steel of murder

We’re seeing the becoming of Dandy. He’s narrating his new life, he’s destined to speak the “sweet language of murder” and he is out for blood. This is now where he decides to head out, to an underground gay bar no less, in search of a victim.
Funny enough, he runs into Dell almost knocking his beers over. Whaat? Dell obviously liked more of one particular half of Desiree’s genitals more than the other. He’s sitting down at a table with some pretty young artist named Andy (Matt Bomer). Clearly they’ve been very involved, in some way, for a long time now. Andy isn’t only an artist, he’s a working boy. But Dell is in love with him, he wants to go wherever Andy goes. Still, there’s Desiree back waiting for him at home. Andy knows there’s nothing actually going to happen, they’re not going anywhere together.

Pain dont define me. But I still feel it.”


Unfortunately for Andy, when Dell storms off after their argument, Dandy appears at the table willing and ready to spend some time with the young artist. Though, it isn’t any sex in which Dandy is interested.
They return together to the old bus, Twisty’s previous stomping ground. Dandy asks if they can turn backs, get undressed, then turn for the action. Only when Andy faces Dandy, the creepy, spoiled brat is wearing his new clown mask – the unsettling evil one he took from Twisty. He proceeds to stab Andy, over and over. His first ‘proper’ kill, I guess you could say. Afterwards, he starts to saw away, ripping and tearing into Andy as the poor guy screams at Dandy: “Kill me.”
Uh oh. Gloria Mott receives a surprise call from Dora’s daughter Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe), who is away studying at school. But she hasn’t heard from Dora, they have weekly calls and she is obviously worried. At first the conversation proves troubling, then Gloria turns this into an opportunity to ask about how she was as a mother, Regina having been around a lot when Dandy grew up. Regina isn’t much comfort really, only telling Gloria she doesn’t remember her being around a lot. When Dandy shows up covered with blood in his underwear, she has worse things to worry about.
Even bigger uh oh for Dr. Bonham when Dell goes to see him at his office. Wonder why, hey? Ole Dell has a problem with Desiree being changed, he doesn’t want her to leave, he wants to be her only option in the world, or at least he wants to TRY to be that to her. So he smashes the doctor’s poor hands into crumbled, bloody bits. Fixed the problem of Desiree’s surgery awful quick. He further threatens Bonham’s family aside from the physical torture he inflicts on the doctor and his fingers. Nasty, nasty stuff. For a moment in time I actually felt sort of sorry for Dell – a closeted gay strongman in a very very different era – but more and more, he shows me why I ought not care at all about his troubles.


At the end of the episode, Elsa shows up at the Mott residence – she’s brought along the Tattler girls. Cut to black. Shit!
Next episode is titled “Bullseye”, directed by Howard Deutch.

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 4: “Edward Mordrake Part 2”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 4:
 “Edward Mordrake Part 2”
Directed by Howard Deutch (The StrainPretty in Pink)
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “Edward Mordrake Part 1” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Pink Cupcakes” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-8-29-13-pmBack to it with Part 2 of the double bill for Halloween, Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) moves on to the other freaks – Paul (Mat Fraser), Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins), and so on – who each tell him and the devilish face their respectively sad, depressing stories. Pepper (Naomi Grossman) and Salty (Christopher Neiman) are deemed to have “no shame” by Edward.
Suzi ended up on the streets, no work for someone with no legs and lower half at all. She confesses the crime of stabbing a man in his legs, simply for spite, which actually killed the man. Though, Suzi went into performing afterwards because she had no other options and Edward deems this inspiration.
Paul meanwhile had to turn himself into a freak because he says he could “never make the world love me.” He only decided not to tattoo his face because it was the only part of him left normal, handsome, and therefore ought to stay natural.
Mordrake does not accept any of them and so moves on through the campgrounds.
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-8-29-42-pmFinally, Mr. Mordrake finds himself in the tent of Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange). She’s more than happy to see him, still not under the correct impression about who he is; still thinking he’s there to make her famous, to pluck her from the obscurity of Jupiter, Florida and its muggy swamps.
Soon enough, though, Edward reveals himself and stakes his claim. He wants to hear all about Elsa Mars, her deepest fear, her darkest shame, everything and anything at all.
Turns out Elsa, during 1932 in the Weimar Republic, was doling out lots of nasty fetishism – apparently before Hitler turned it into war, the Germans were working it all out “with their cocks.” She never had sex, but worked as a dominatrix catering to plenty of rotten men. One of the more brutal moments in the entire series comes when she makes a man sit down on a toilet; its seat full of upturned nails. She did lots of shows for men she called The Watchers, becoming quite popular among the perverts of Brandenburg.
Eventually she found herself lured into a truly terrifying situation, which led to the removal of her legs – The Watchers got her nice and drunk, drugged up, for a little solo show. No co-star this time, only a chainsaw they use to chop off her legs at the knee.
And still, after all the tragedy and horror in Elsa’s past, Edward opts not to take her.
Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) is having a tough time dealing with Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) and her attitude. At the same time, he clearly enjoys her company.
They find themselves crossing paths with Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch), who chases down Bonnie (Skyler Samuels) after she escapes. Ever heroic Jimmy decides to go after the creepy clown, not wanting to let the girl he carries off into the night to suffer any more.
But things go to hell, as Dandy is about with Twisty. What happens is Esmerelda and Jimmy end up tied and trapped back at the rusty bus camp for an impromptu show. The so-called mystic finds herself in a real circus act when Dandy tries to saw her in half with a huge saw. Jimmy gets free, luckily, and knocks Dandy down while Twisty tries to get everyone clapping, madman that he is. Things devolve and Jimmy finds himself choked out by the terrifying clown. Lucky for him, Mordrake and his second face show up, green smoke curling inside the bus.


Now we get to hear all about Twisty! He’ll have to reveal his worst shame, his deepest pains and wounds. Moving backwards to 1943, Twisty reveals he was the clown for children at West Chester’s carnival. He was proud of doing a great job for the little boys and girls. The freaks hated him, jealous of his popularity and talent, so they accused him falsely of molesting children and tricked him into running off; sadly, Twisty doesn’t seem to have ever been very bright. He gave up being a clown and went back to Florida, to Jupiter, trying to make old things into toys for children. This led him into a confrontation with the store owner in town (the one whose head he lopped off earlier in this season), which changed his life forever.
Back the bus, his home, he decided to try blowing his face off. You can tell where this went. Then later on he abducted children and other people, all in order to make them laugh, to give them what they wanted when their parents gave them nothing or refused. Twisted, hey? Twisty is an appropriate name.

I’m so dumb I can’t even kill myself

And so with Mordrake goes the evil clown. I honestly didn’t see that coming first time around when I watched this season as it aired. Still, though, it’s clear with Mordrake and his legions of dead, no matter in the afterlife or not we’ll probably see more of Twisty at some point or another. In a way, now he’s at peace in the beyond with all the other dead; even his face is back to normal again.
Of course, sick Dandy comes by and takes the clown’s mask for his own face. Better off, now he looks more outside like he does on the inside, anyways.
Jimmy Darling comes off as the big hero after he and Esmerelda are found when the cops show up. When a bunch of cars show up at the freak show, Elsa thinks they’re being laid siege upon. Instead, the townsfolk wanted to come and shake Jimmy’s hand – HIS HAND! – all for saving the children and the town as well. A really beautiful scene where the “normal” people come together with the “freaks”, the divide no longer so distant now that one side has proved to be capable of loving the other, being gentle with the other. Great bit out of this episode, kind of heartwarming. If only for a brief reprieve.
Finally, the greasy Stanley (Denis O’Hare) – a.k.a Richard this time – shows up and flaunts the idea of Hollywood, California in front of Elsa.

The episode ends with Dandy, his new and fitting clown face on, slitting a nice rip across Dora’s throat, letting her bleed all over the floor to her death. A disgustingly satisfied and happy smile forms across Dandy’s face and he laughs himself almost to tears.


Next episode should be an incredible one! This was an awesome two-parter for Halloween, expect no less from Ryan Murphy and Co. Can’t wait to review the next episode, “Pink Cupcakes”, which is directed by Michael Uppendahl once again.

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 3: “Edward Mordrake Part 1”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 3:
 “Edward Mordrake Part 1”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “Massacres and Matinees” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Edward Mordrake Part 2” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-8-14-44-pmKicking off a two-parter, “Edward Mordrake Part 1” starts with the introduction of slick Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and his sidekick Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts). At a museum of oddities, the pair are trying to sell off some supposed medical specimens. The authorities at the museum call bullshit on Stanley – a.k.a Sylvester to them – and his so-called baby sasquatch specimen. The owner, Lillian Hemmings (Celia Weston), slyly tells Stanley and Maggie if they brought back a real specimen, a legitimate one, she wouldn’t be keen on asking too much about where it came from, how they got it, et cetera. You can already see the sparkle in their eyes. On a suggestion from Ms. Hemmings, Stanley says they’re off to Florida.
So clearly, the devious duo are off to cause some problems in the lives of Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) and her crew of freaks, or as she so lovingly calls them “my monsters.”screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-8-16-04-pmMoving on we’re back to Halloween on American Horror Story – Devil’s Night, 1952. A little girl named Jessie (Lauren Gobuzzi) is terrified of clowns. Her brother dresses up like one to torment her. Meanwhile, in the background, Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) lurks like Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s Halloween, like a piece of scary shrubbery in the neighbourhood.
Poor Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates) gets bad news from her doctor. She’s got cirrhosis of the liver, headed towards a most certain death at some point. Doctor Bonham (Jerry Leggio) gives her six months to a year to live. But it’s the way he deals with Ethel which is most full of impact. He treats her with a respect, like he would anyone else. He doesn’t see her as the freak others do, putting his hand on her shoulder in comfort. It touches Ethel deeply to be given this respect and they share a moment. Such quality acting from Bates! She consistently proves how important an actor she has been, for a long, long time. Here she’s just giving it her best. Intensely emotional scene.
The freaks are all partying, getting drunk and being foolish. Dot and Bette Tattler (Sarah Paulson) are sort of put off by it all, seeing as how Meep died at the end of last episode. When Dot speaks up, Ethel ends up telling the sisters about Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) – a man in the Victorian era who had another face on the back of his own head, which spoke to him, commanding him to do things, putting him in an asylum until his eventual escape to a carnival’s freak show. He killed himself on Halloween after murdering all the freaks in his troupe.
Ethel is back on the drink. And though her son Jimmy (Evan Peters) doesn’t know she’s dying, as of yet, he still believed her swore off the liquor. He loves his mother, it’s obvious, but she only lashes out at him; naturally. Wouldn’t you? She’s dying. Drink away, Ethel.


Over at the Mott house, Gloria (Frances Conroy) tries to please Dandy (Finn Wittrock). Even maid Dora (Patti LaBelle) dresses up like Woody the Woodpecker to make things fun, although she hates it. A Howdy Doody costume sends spoiled brat Dandy over the edge, throwing a massive fit; Dora’s not impressed, seems like there may be a confrontation brewing between them at some point down the line. He takes the costume upstairs and it looks as if he’s cutting it up to make: a clown costume.
The freaks at the carnival are having their own legitimate troubles, as opposed to Dandy. Jimmy and all the others bury Meep trying to give him an appropriate send off.
At the same time, Esmerelda shows up at the campgrounds – alone without Stanley for now – claiming to be a mystic, Miss Esmerelda, and looking for a job. Hmm. The greasiness begins.
Bette and Dot – the former wailing – find themselves on a surgical table, a doctor and his team readying themselves to separate the two. Dot seems pretty fine with it all, very calm, collected. Out goes Bette with the drugs, doctor beginning to saw inside them, blood flowing.
But then “Wake up,” says Bette. She’s stuck inside one of the dreams Dot is having. Sick, that is, right? They’ve got to seemingly deal with the dreams of the other, which in this case is their respective nightmare.


Yet it isn’t a dream really, it is a waking nightmare for Bette. Dot wants to be separate, claiming she’s totally unhappy and wants to save up for a surgery to take them apart. But one has to die for the other to live; terrible, isn’t it?
Elsa – high on the opium pipe – lays in her tent, receiving Esmerelda on business. The young lady takes out her crystal ball and begins to do her thing, apparently. I love how we’re seeing basically what supposed mystics really do – she eyes the things around Elsa’s room, noticing bits and pieces of her life enough to make the reading seem real and genuine. She ends up reeling Elsa in with dramatics and a subtle, mysterious sensibility. A real con artist at work! Even worse, she feeds Elsa nonsense about becoming a star, appealing to the older woman’s vanity and egotism.
Great writing in this episode when it comes to the character of Esmerelda. Not only that, I love that Emma Roberts gets the chance to play a character who isn’t a total bitch like last season in Coven.
Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) and his Aphrodite-hermaphrodite Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) try their best to live out some kind of carnival dream in the trailer at the camp. Only Dell has sexual problems, it’s apparent he can’t get it up. Which wouldn’t normally be a problem, only it happens a lot from what Desiree says.
Then down by the lake, after they storm out on one another, Ethel says the same thing about their relationship pretty much. She also wants to make sure Dell never tells Jimmy that he’s his father, but wants him to also keep an eye on the young man. While Dell does express a certain amount of regret in a line or two, wondering what Jimmy dressed up for on Halloween as a little boy, there’s still not much resistance on the topic of revealing himself to Jimmy as dear ole dad.


Halloween homage, once again, as Dandy picks up a clown mask on the hall table, heading downstairs – all the while shot behind the mask, our perspective looking through the eye holes from inside. He raises a knife to Dora and we’re waiting for that big stab. It doesn’t come, though. Only more whimpering and whining Dandy.
Then from a pay phone booth, Esmerelda calls her naughty partner Stanley back at his motel. She’s uncomfortable around all the freaks, not used to being near anyone different and outside of the norm. Most of all, Stanley’s excited about Bette/Dot, the conjoined twins; the big payday! This is beginning some uncomfortable territory, our fear of what may happen to the twins, as well as what could happen to any of the freaks.
Jimmy and Esmerelda run into a little trouble with a cop briefly, as Stanley enjoys some man-on-man action back at the motel.
The little girl from earlier, Jessie, is being tortured by her big brother. When out of nowhere, Twisty shows up behind him. He’s gone quick out the window before the mother is alerted. Now, the little girl has a huge reason to be terrified of clowns: one took her fucking brother.
As the clown terrorises neighbourhoods, the freaks back at the show are still worried about Edward Mordrake. Bette/Dot are about to practice, warned by Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) and Paul (Mat Fraser) not to tempt Mordrake to come and take their lives and souls. Elsa shows up, though, insisting she needs to practice her own act. A bit of a fight ensues with Ms. Mars losing her mind at the sisters before doing some singing.
This episode, Jessica Lange gets to perform Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters”. Another wonderful, fitting choice in a sense. Spooky quality to the song with Mordrake (Bentley) appearing out of billowy green smoke, like out of nowhere, then making his way into the tent to watch and listen to Elsa sing. Of course, she doesn’t realise who it is, but rather believes it’s the man out of Esmerelda’s prophecy – the one who would help her achieve fame and success. Boy, is she ever wrong.
Really dig the bits with Mordrake (he even has his own specific score/theme playing in variations), as he roams the campgrounds, appearing to all the freaks in search of which soul he’ll take back beyond with him. First, Ethel starts to see dead people around her, then the green smoke brings Edward inside. She doesn’t want to be taken yet, as death is already coming for her and obviously Ethel has things she wishes to do before then. Moreover, we’re given a fun look at Ethel in the past, through her own eyes/words, and even those brief moments are lots of fun.


Super creepy how Edward’s second face knows the “deeper, darker shame” of those he visits. He draws it out of Ethel and we understand more of her tough life. Terrible: Dell charges money, in their hardest times, to let people watch Ethel give birth, live and out in the open. So devastating. While the face on Edward’s head revels in the pain, he does not; his eyes are teary at the end of Ethel telling her sad tale. He does not, however, take Ethel with him back beyond.
screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-8-27-37-pmDandy, in little Michael Myers attire imitating his best clown, shows up back at the rusty old bus. Twisty is not there, but Dandy has a bit of fun terrorising the poor captives, each hungry and slowly going crazy. And when Twisty does show up, he’s got “more fun” for them.
Next episode is the second half, “Edward Mordrake Part 2”.

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 6: “Bullseye”

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
screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-1-59-34-amFittingly, 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.
screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-2-00-29-amOver 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!

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 2: “Massacres and Matinees”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 2:
 “Massacres and Matinees”
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Tim Minear

* For a review of the previous episode, “Monsters Among Us” – click here
* For a review of the next episode “Edward Mordrake: Part 1” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-00-04-pmSome of the sweeping shots of the carnival itself, such as the opening shot of “Massacres and Matinees,” really remind me of certain scenes in HBO’s Carnivale. Great look and feel.
This episode begins with a news report of a missing policeman. Of course, he was buried, dead, by the freaks – led by Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) – at the end of the first episode. Everyone is on edge, naturally. Things get even worse once two more detectives show up poking around, they advise Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) a curfew will be put in place, which effectively poises to ruin her business.
Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) find themselves called into the mix. The police are very interested in her, the entire band of freaks, and in plain language make it clear to Elsa they’ll be regulars around their neck of the woods.
Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) is up to more murderous fun again. In a shop full of toys, Halloween decorations, and so on, he hides as a clerk looks for his boss. When the clerk does find him, only a head, Twisty stabs him through the back of the neck, piercing his throat. A pretty unsettling scene and then it turns into a bloody, nasty little mess for a minute.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-01-21-pmBack at the carnival, Jimmy’s having a harder time than anyone else dealing with what happened to the cop. He was the one who killed the man, after all. Back at the hole, he tells Paul (Mat Fraser) and Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) how he feels back, worrying the man may have had a family and children. They tell him he had no choice, it had to happen. Meanwhile, they’ve got to transplant the body somewhere else with all the cops and their heat sniffing around.
Good thing, too. Eve spies the man’s badge in the dirt. That could’ve certainly caused a few problems down the line.
Worse than any of them at the show – by FAR – is rich boy Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock). I mean, the guy has a little baby’s bottle made of crystal he drinks from, it has a gold cover over the nipple. Fuck this guy. Worse than that, if you can imagine it, is the way his mother Gloria (Frances Conroy) cleans up his messes and caters to his every whim. Then their maid Dora (Patti LaBelle) tries not to lose her mind in the middle of it.
Things get thicker in the plot of Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates). Once a new performer named Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) and his wife Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) show up, everything changes a little. Elsa eventually agrees to take them on: not only is Dell a strongman, a good one at that albeit a terribly troubled one, Desiree has got lots going on under the hood with a set of male and female genitals + three breasts. It takes some convincing, but Elsa goes with their talent, despite any suspicions.
We come to discover Dell and Ethel were together at one time. In fact, Dell is a father to Jimmy. But he’s only there to capitalise. He reveals to Ethel, who is not impressed with his showing up to the carnival at all, Elsa has hired him on as security for their show and grounds. Lots of good tension already between these two, plus Bates and Chiklis in scenes together? The chemistry is there already, now let’s watch this one play out!


Dandy even ends up at the freak show asking to be taken in. He believes himself to be a freak, like them, only on the inside. Jimmy tries talking some sense into him; wouldn’t you like normal hands instead of flippers? It’s sort of offensive to someone like Jimmy if a ‘normal’ guy like Dandy walks in claiming to know what it’s like to be an outcast as they’ve been. He’s tossed aside. Spoiled little brat he is, Dandy loses his mind and smashes his face off the steering wheel in his car.
Luckily back home in the mansion, Gloria, mother dearest, has picked up a clown for Dandy, so they can play together. Best part? It’s Twisty; she’d found him wandering along the road. I’m sure those two have a lot in common. That’s not at all a joke, Dandy is clearly a budding psychopath.
Bette and Dot are being touted as the headliners of Elsa’s show, though, she would much prefer to be deemed the star. Only problem being neither of them are particularly brimming with talent. At least not until Jimmy is able to draw out a beautiful voice from Dot.
In this moment, a zoom on Lange’s face, eyes pointed, we see how Elsa is immediately threatened by this emerging talent. It’s the start of a big dynamic between the twins and Ms. Mars. Works well because in each season from Asylum on, Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange have been setup as these very opposite characters, in strained relationships with one another. So I’m glad to see a new one, with a fresh and intriguing aspect. Great actors working together constantly in such a consistently solid manner is impressive.
Oh, Dandy. What a sick, twisted bastard this young man with too money is, and how painful yet fun it is to see his character open up with each episode. Watching him with Twisty is downright scary at times. First, I was beginning to think Twisty might hurt him, or even actually kill him; especially after Dandy goes through the clown’s bag and looks at his things. But no, Twisty just picks up and runs off leaving Dandy with a goose egg on the back of his head.


Jimmy Darling and the crew of freaks – Pepper (Naomi Grossman), Paul, Eve, and others – show up at the diner looking for a meal. Everyone is properly grossed out for the 1950s, weak minds not willing to let people be people, regardless of how they look or talk. After Paul causes a little disturbance, eating off a plate yet to be bussed with food on it, in walks Dell who gets in a confrontation with Jimmy. Outside, he pounds the boy a few good shots and really lets Jimmy have it. Bastard.
Twisty heads back to his little home sweet home, the ragged rusted bus in the woods, and greets his captives – Bonnie Lipton (Skyler Samuels) and Corey Bachman (Major Dodson). He seems pretty laid back, a bit rattled by his time at the Mott residence. Then he takes out a little wind-up toy, displaying its walk for Bonnie and Corey, trying to be an actual clown and make them smile. Hard to do when his own smile is mortifying. We get a raw look at what’s under the plastic mask over his mouth, as Bonnie manages to crank him with a piece of wood and escape.
Lucky for ole Twisty, his new friend Dandy came back to the bus and followed him. He’s able to help capture Bonnie before she makes off. Sick and twisted are not even close to the words useful in describing Dandy’s character.
Another musical number comes out of “Massacres and Matinees” with Bette and Dot performing a Fiona Apple number. Loved this sequence for several reasons.
Reason the 1st – Sarah Paulson gets to perform a bit of music, proving she has a decent voice and getting a chance at doing one of these scenes. Reason the 2nd – we get to see how savagely jealous Ms. Mars is becoming, episode after episode. So at the start, Bette/Dot were a draw for her, she was rooting and scheming to have them in her show. Yet now, after their true talent is revealed and is emerging quicker than expected, Elsa sees them as threatening. Will this lead to anything sinister? Elsa strikes me as someone who values herself above anyone else, as well as she has a delusional view of herself as a big star still poised to rise.


When the cops show up, more of the relationship between Dell and Jimmy begins to unravel and it brutally affects what will come next. Jimmy tried to place the badge in Dell’s tent, in order to get him hauled away and out of their lives, out of the carnival. Only Dell is too keen, for such a dirty bastard – he planted the badge in another tent. Instead of seeing Dell carted off to a cell someplace, little Meep (Ben Woolf) gets taken. Excruciating to see Meep falsely put in jail, a bunch of scary looking, much bigger men crowding around believing him as a killer; you can feel something terrible is about to go down.
Elsa sneaks in to see Bette while her sister sleeps. Dot wakes up midway through and spoils Elsa’s fun. Clearly she’s playing a dangerous game with the twins; divide and conquer, all within the same body, one entity. It’s hard to tell where this will take any of them because Bette is very starry-eyed, while Dot in complete opposition is so cold and rational, there’s bound to be a good measure of disconnect between them both.
It gets even more brutal when Elsa leaves Bette with a small, sharp penknife, after filling her head with pessimistic thoughts about Dot. Uh oh.
Jimmy takes the weight of Meep being carted off all on his shoulders, he starts to drink for the first time getting absolutely hammered. His mother is worried, but Jimmy only worries about Meep— “hes not tough hes just weird.”
No sooner does he say the words and runs outside, Jimmy and Ethel see a car drive by, dropping a wrapped up lump to the dirt. Inside is the lifeless body of Meep. A bloodcurdling scream comes out of Jimmy and rings into the night as the episode closes.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-07-39-pmIntense finish to this one! Cannot wait for the next episode, titled “Edward Mordrake: Part 1”, directed by Michael Uppendahl.

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 1: “Monsters Among Us”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 1: 
“Monsters Among Us”
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Written by Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy

* For a review of the Season 3 Coven finale, “The Seven Wonders” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Massacres and Matinees” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-10-39-44-pmThis season begins with Sarah Paulson narrating us, her face fades in quickly. Well, one of her faces.
Our introduction to them comes in 1952 – Jupiter, Florida – when the milkman Bill Palmer (Wilson Bradford) finds mouldy looking milk bottles outside the door. Going inside, he comes to discover there’s been something awful going on, as the food is all left out, everything in disarray, and Ms. Tattler lays in a pool of her own blood. Upstairs, he comes to discover what’s been hiding in the house all these years, tucked away in secret by the old woman. Back at the hospital, we get to see the terrified look in the eyes of a nurse as a doctor lists off the internal anomalies of the person they found at the Tattler house.
Before seeing what’s been causing all the commotion, Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) shows up asking questions of a candy striper named Penny (Grace Gummer). Turns out Elsa is poking around for business purposes, she runs a traveling carnival and show of oddities. Penny, being the naughty nurse she is, helps Elsa on her way inside. Now, we finally get to discover why the hospital is in an uproar, hell – the whole town.
Another go around sees Paulson playing the twins Bette and Dot Tattler. Not only are they identical twins, they’re conjoined – rather, they’ve got two heads on a single body. They’re both highly different, though, each with their own distinct and vibrant personality. Even better than that, we as the audience get to sit in on their internal conversations and monologues, which is damn cool and will certainly serve as a unique, important device throughout the season.
Something I love about Bette/Dot is the way the visuals have started to work in “Monsters Among Us”. At various moments in any given scene, we’re treated to a split-screen technique giving us a slightly differing perspective from each of the women. It already visually sets up the tension and different feelings they have about Elsa and her ways.
While Elsa poses as a caring person to them, underneath it all she’s selfishly interested in their life, their condition, simply so they might come and work for her at the freak show.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-10-41-53-pmThe horror begins pretty savagely here in the first episode. Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) wanders out of the trees to a clearing where Bonnie Lipton (Skyler Samuels) and Troy Miller (Andrew Duplessie) are almost ready to make a little love together. Twisty is so unbelievably creepy. Part of his face is all skin and makeup, while the other parts seem glued on… or torn off. There’s bloody edges all over his skin almost mixing in with the makeup.
Pretty much you can bet he’s a bad, bad sort of clown once he hauls out a couple bowling pins and whacks the lovers in their heads.
Little nod to Lynch’s turn in David Fincher’s Zodiac, as Bonnie comes to and sees Troy being stabbed to death by this nasty clown.
More characters filter into our mind’s eye now.
First, introducing the chameleon going by the name of Evan Peters, this season taking up the role of Jimmy Darling. His initial scene gives us a bit about him, and some about Elsa. It seems their travelling carnival is in trouble, with only what’s between Ms. Mars’ legs keeping them in town and staving off the landlord. Meanwhile, she’s pissed with Jimmy – a freak in his own right at her carnival – because he’s out flaunting himself and looking to hook up with women. He wears big, heavy leather mitts on his hands. Only hinting at his character to come.
Next scene, the gloves come off; in more than one way.
At a little party full of 1950s-era housewives, ole Jimmy is the entertainment. At the back of the house, in one of the bedrooms, each of the women head to see Jimmy and his big, long lobster hands. Y’know – the better to make you cum with, my dear.
Throughout the rest of the episode we see a lot of weird, wonderfully grim and exciting stuff.
Twisty goes back to the abandoned rusty bus where he keeps a young boy whose family he killed and Bonnie Lipton. There, he terrorises them in their cage after his attempts to amuse them fail. Absolutely disturbing stuff, even more vile if you’re afraid of clowns!
Elsa further worms her way into the lives of the twins. She scares Bette – the more innocent of the two – while Dot is much more sceptical of Ms. Mars and her scheming ways. Because, as it turns out, Bette went a little mad and started to stab their mother, which led to them both becoming accomplice to the crime. So naturally, Elsa uses this to her advantage. She claims it’s to save them, when really it only benefits her in the end; after all, she holds all the power knowing the truth of what happened to their mother. Off the twins go, back to the freak show, ready to help draw in some paying customers.


So many different things happening in this first episode of Season 4. There are even more interesting characters than ever before, I think. With such a full and wide variety of characters – due to the vast freak show – it’s impressive how well Falchuk and Murphy fit so many pieces into the script.
We get a brief flashback scene to when Elsa meets Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates), a.k.a The Bearded Lady (and Jimmy’s mama). Man – just have to say it, Bates is a powerhouse of a performer. Her accent is awesome, the whole bearded look goes well, and she embodies the character like always; quality actor.
There’s also Paul the Illustrated Seal (Mat Fraser), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin), tiny little Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), the familiar face from Season 2 Asylum Pepper (Naomi Grossman) and another awfully termed pinhead named Salty (Christopher Neiman), and more. Very rich tapestry of characters going on already from the start.
Funny enough, the candy striper from earlier named Penny wakes up after her time with the freaks and seems to have a problem with what happened to her, saying she was “drugged and ravaged.” Although, Elsa hauls out a film of all that went on the previous night, which pretty clearly shows how much fun Penny actually had. In this scene, we get a good look at how fed up Elsa is with how she and the freaks are treated – she calls them “beautiful” and “heroic,” chastising Penny for her and her kind’s way of looking down on them and at them.
At the same time, Jimmy Darling wants to have a normal life outside of their freak show, he wants to take him and his mother away, all of them. He even expresses the desire to help the freaks get away from drowning their sorrows in alcohol, telling Ethel how there are meetings and support groups for those types of issues now. He’s obviously a caring person, more than just a guy to be labelled ‘freak’, just like the rest of them. Loving this season’s themes already beginning to branch out from this first instalment.
But a dark side comes out of Jimmy’s hopes to look after the freaks. When a cop comes poking around for Bette and Dot, wanting to take them in under arrest for murdering their mother, Jimmy cuts his throat after he continually uses the F-word (no not that one: freak).screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-10-55-21-pmFinally we’re introduced to the sickly stuck-up Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) and his doting mother Gloria (Frances Conroy). They’re a hilarious pair, decadently dressed while taking in the local show Elsa and her carnival of freaks offer up. Our initial view of them is not overly long, however, within these moments we’re also treated to Elsa and the freaks putting off their show.
Some found it strange the way Murphy incorporated music into this season. I love his explanation, though, as every artist’s music they use is someone who has identified as a type of ‘freak’ over the years. For instance, we continually get Elsa singing Bowie, so it’s not hard to see his outsider status; later we’ll get other musicians like that, even a bit of Nirvana. Great sequence in this episode with seeing/hearing Jessica Lange performing David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”, as the freaks play instruments in the background. Amazing stuff to kick this season into full gear.
My favourite part is the end of the episode when Elsa takes off her wooden legs for the night, slowly rolling down her socks, undressing. Very powerful scene. Now we understand a little more perhaps why Elsa is hardened and vicious and ruthless at times. As “Auf Weidersehn, Sweetheart” by Vera Lynn plays, the episode finishes on Elsa’s sad, tragic face. We’ll see where she and the rest of these characters take us in the second episode.

They wanna call us monsters, fine— well act like monsters.”

Dig the music in this season even more than any other before it. There’s a great quality to it with an almost 1950s sci-fi sound at certain points. It’s full of strings that sweep from one end of the spectrum to the next, so beautifully and at the same time in an eerie sense. I also can’t shake the weird electronic heartbeat-type sound, it comes out with the strings and it’s like a pulse beneath all the other sounds. At first you almost think it sounds out of place, then after some time the noise grows on you and morphs into the rest of the sonic wall. Score and soundtrack have been a big thing since the first season, but Season 4 in particular really has it down pat. Can’t wait to see how the aesthetic overall works in this season as the episodes go on.


Next episode is titled “Massacres and Matinees”, directed by series regular Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.