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