Tagged Elsa Mars

American Horror Story – Freak Show, Episode 9: “Tupperware Party Massacre”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 4, Episode 9: “Tupperware Party Massacre”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “Blood Bath” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Orphans” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-23-05-pmOnce again, we come back to Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) and her treacherous Cabinet of Curiosities.
This chapter starts with Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) doing a reading for the psychotic Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock), who last we saw murdering his mother, bathing in her blood. We get a nice, creepy cut to an Avon saleswoman at Dandy’s door, who he invites in to keep his mother “company.” What proceeds is Dandy building his own “puppet mother,” standing in as a two-headed corpse simulating Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson). But Maggie foretells: “Your indiscretion will soon be forgotten.” He gives her a hundred dollar bill, “a hundred thank yous“, and tells her not waste the powers she holds inside of her. Which we know, or at least are pretty sure, are total bullshit anyways.
Over with Ima Wiggles (Chrissy Metz) sits being fed by Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), who has a glass of liquor nearby. Paul (Mat Fraser) and Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) are worried about his state. When Dandy shows up at the tent city, Jimmy goes on a drunken, sad rant, ending up on the ground after trying to swing a punch. Everyone’s worried about the twins, but now Dandy has showed up to tell Jimmy clearly: “I am your god, and I have decided you need to suffer.”
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-24-51-pmThe Tattler twins are holed up in a motel room with Elsa and the greasy moustached Stanley (Denis O’Hare). They’ve whisked Bette and Dot off in the dark of night, after tossing through Ethel’s things back at the camp in Jupiter. Elsa claims Dr. Sugar is on his way there, he can perform the surgery. Although, Bette doesn’t look too happy about it.
At camp, Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) and Maggie are interrupted by Angus T. Jefferson (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). He has a thing for Desiree, seemingly hot and heavy. He’s her “beau.” But they run into Jimmy who has Ima bent over and is giving it to her pretty good. He’s drunk and off his head unfortunately.
Cut to Jimmy at a little house party where women are again paying him for pleasure. Only he’s hammered and can’t get the job done. He stumbles out seeing a vision of his mother Ethel (Kathy Bates) chastising her son for being drunk, for “wasting his life grieving” over her. It’s a surreal scene where even the other women seem to be talking to Ethel. Except Jimmy snaps out of it – all the women scared, telling him to leave quietly. And so he does. Poor Jimmy.
Even worse for him is the fact right after they usher him out, Dandy comes knocking and says his car has broken down. He needs to call “the auto club.” Will this be the episode’s name coming to bear: a true Tupperware party massacre after all?
What little humanity is left in Elsa melts away before our eyes. We flash from present to the near past, where Stanley essentially talks Elsa into bringing the girls for the surgery. Then back to the present again, Stanley continues pumping bullshit into everyone around him, trying to convince the twins they’ll be able to live, each of them, on their own. Bette does not like the idea whatsoever. And you can see a little worry in Dot’s eyes, as they’re left in a shed by Stanley and Elsa, alone in the dark.
But first, back to the bloody massacre at the Tupperware party. A husband comes home to find Dandy left the place in quite a mess. His wife, and all the Tupperware friends, are floating in a bloody pool.
Over at the Mott residence, Dandy is filling his bathtub with a little water and a lot more blood. Up shows Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe), who quickly gets the confession: “I killed your mother.” He reassures Regina her mother was buried “weeks ago“, the blood in the room was mostly his mother’s who is now dead, and some blood from “some lovely ladies” he’s putting into the bath. Very eerie scene watching Dandy prance around, raving, stripping down for a bloody bath saying “I AM A GOD. A god who was chosen to walk among men.” I don’t every usually use this word, but that whole scene is god damn epic. He sends Regina running, alive, and doesn’t worry; not only is he god, apparently, he screams “I AM THE LAW!”screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-26-55-pmBette and Dot are at odds, regarding the separation. Bette knows they both can’t survive, she isn’t stupid. Dot knows it, too, we already understood that. Bette tries to convince her they can do anything together: “How much would you give for the health and happiness of the one you love?” And she further tells her sister she couldn’t survive alone, not without her. She says she’d give her life for Dot, if there had to be a choice mad. They love one another unconditionally, despite all that’s happened in their lives.
Stanley still has Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) under his thumb. Because Dell, for all his faults, has started to gain a conscience. Of some sort. Then out of nowhere, Stanley whips out his apparently massive penis. “Youre a freak,” utters Dell. He’s tempted, you can see. In the present moment, he’s writing a note to Desiree, saying he “cant go on” with a noose hung up behind him and Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) coming to him in ghost form. Even Ethel’s ghost haunts the trailer, eternally disappointed in her ex-husband. And when Dell finally tries to hang himself, the light almost closing in and taking him, Desiree comes in and cuts him down: “Sorry,” he tells her.
Meanwhile, Stanley is with another man friend, dressed up as a very unprofessional doctor. He’s practicing to be Dr. Sugar: memorizing the Brody names, the various things he’ll have to say. Very nasty intentions here, but Stanley simply calls it “euthanasia.”
A police officer and Regina show up at Dandy’s door. He invites the man in, offers a drink, but the officer wants some answers. Then we get a little lesson in what 1950s Florida felt like for any people of colour. Dandy spirals his way through a conversation about his power, his white power. “I have seen the face of God and he is looking at me from the mirror,” says Dandy. The rich young man offers the officer a million dollars to “dig a hole” for Regina, and easy as that: the cop blows a hole through her head and asks for a shovel.

 

 

 

 

 


At the carnival, Jimmy is stumbling around drunk. He finds Bette and Dot returned, they don’t want to be separated anymore, neither of them. They want to stay together, as a family. And they want Jimmy to be a part of their lives. He is headlong in despair, he needs something to ground him, but can’t seem to find it anywhere else. Turns out, though, Dot has loved him since first sight. She loves his tenderness. She slips off her clothes, telling Jimmy how “different but special” he is. He politely asks how Bette feels about it, to which she replies they can have privacy, and she is also totally with her sister, she wants her happiness. Strange, yet romantic in a sense, as well. Only Jimmy says he can’t be with them after a short kiss and embrace; he says he’s in love with somebody else. So sad, especially considering Dot does not easily let her emotions free like that. A heart breaking situation. At least she has Bette in the end.
The police show up for Jimmy Darling, claiming he murdered all those women at the Tupperware party. They found his glove at the scene of the crime. But we know it was all Dandy behind the massacre. The cops whisk Jimmy off to jail, as the rest of the freak show is left reeling and worried for him, his life.
screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-4-29-18-pmLooking forward to the next episode, “Orphans”. We’re going to see a familiar face in the American Horror Story series come back to link Asylum with Freak Show.

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.