The Executioner commences Dt. Gordon's trial. Ed and Oswald co-exist in a dungeon, Lee searches for answers about Mario's death.
Barnes struggles with the virus infecting him. Jim Gordon returns to the GCPD.
Assassins are enlisted to kill Jim Gordon. Edward Nygma nurses Penguin back to health.
Firefly rages across Gotham. Edward miscalculates his relationship with Kristen.
Theo begins enacting his plan to take over Gotham. Penguin is blackmailed. A new commissioner arrives at the GCPD.
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 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.
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
Some 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.
Back 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— “he‘s not tough… he‘s 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.
Intense finish to this one! Cannot wait for the next episode, titled “Edward Mordrake: Part 1”, directed by Michael Uppendahl.