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