(My weekly commentary on American Horror Story: Freak Show will contain spoilers. Proceed with caution.)
“Massacres and Matinees” presented a three-titted hermaphrodite; a Diva playing a servant; Kathy Bates’ distracting accent; Sarah Paulson singing; and, Pepper demanding meatloaf. Even with that apt, albeit brief, description, the fourth year of American Horror Story seems to benefit from slower pacing. Perhaps it’s because its predecessor, subtitled Coven, went for too much, too fast, resulting in creative fatigue and confusion toward the end. Here, Ryan Murphy appears to take his players and let them present their talent, like a real life freak show. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a good thing because it will leave the spectator guessing what will happen next and how stories connect.
The scenes with John Carroll Lynch’s Twisty were terrifying thanks to their suspense and visuals. His opener was one of those scenes that at first, thanks to the color presentation, seem harmless. But once the camera follows the trail of blood, the arrival of trouble approaches and Twisty does his thing. His other moment was when he’s presenting his earlier “work” to his captives and they attempt to escape, hitting his face, and revealing part of his face is missing. It was cringe worthy.
Now, Twisty is a killer, that much is clear. Just looking at him should hint at running the opposite way—unless you’re Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy).
Gloria may be the world’s most incompetent mother. Sure, she’ll do anything to make her son Dandy happy. That’s the problem: she’ll do anything. Like say, hire Twisty, a killer clown, after asking him if he does children parties. He does. And I’m sure he kills them after. The fact that Gloria can’t process this makes her the scariest character this season. Despite those borderline mental flaws, Gloria is still my favorite oddball from this circus themed installment of Murphy’s spookfest, if only because I have a penchant for rich naïvetés who possess refinement and hire Patti LaBelle as a maid. (Yes, Ms. LaBelle made her debut on the show as Gloria’s employee.)
Twisty becomes Dandy’s human toy. What’s freaky about Dandy, played by pretty-faced Fitt Wittrock, isn’t just his horn-like hair curls or bitchy attitude, it’s his lust for blood and to inflict pain. That element of fright is further emphasized by his pastel-drowned outer image. Going back to what I mentioned last week, the style, in this case the use of a light palette is used to highlight the juxtaposition to what should be feared. In other words, you wouldn’t run away from a rich boy in khakis and a light blue button down. You do, however, once he’s covered in blood.
While Dandy has found a sanctuary with Twisty, earlier he is rejected by Hooker Claws (Evan Peters—yes, that’s the nickname I’m using for all my reviews) from joining Elsa’s act. Jimmy/Hooker Claws has other things to worry about like trying to eat at a diner with Pepper yelling “meatloaf” and dealing with the Strongest Man, AHS newcomer, Michael Chiklis.
The Strongest Man has history with the Bearded Lady (Kathy Bates), and as viewers we know that means Hooker Claws is the Strongest Man’s son. But Chiklis wasn’t the only one making his debut, his character’s wife, Desiree (Angela Bassett), who is a full-blown hermaphrodite thanks to “three titties, proper girl parts, and a ding-a-ling,” also makes her first appearance.
As the cast of colorful characters grows, the back stories are slowly being churned and the course of the narrative is carefully unraveling at a glacial but entertaining pace. For example, the cops imprisoned poor innocent Meep for the death of one of their investigators—which will most likely start a war. Then, there’s the moment Bette and Dot sang, prompting Jessica Lange’s Elsa’s “oh shit, one of the heads can sing” reaction, resulting in Elsa pitting the heads against each other. I wonder if it’s possible for one head to live without the other. Then again in a Ryan Murphy world, anything can happen, like making the rich folks scarier than a murderous clown.
Next week: Dennis O’Hare, Emma Roberts, and Wes Bentley—in all his bearded glory—join the show to shake things up some more.
Will Meep be avenged? Can Desiree and the Strongest Man save Elsa’s sinking tent? Will Dot turn against Bette? Can Finn learn to control the gang without outbursts or interruptions? Who will Dandy and Twisty murder? Isn’t Gloria fabulous?