I love the concept of American Horror Story. I have watched Seasons 1, 2, and 4.
Out of the three seasons I have watched, I still feel AHS Season 1 is the strongest. Now, this may change once I watch AHS Coven.
For anyone who hasn’t seen this season (Freak Show) of American Horror Story, I plan on discussing plot points and events so there are spoilers sweeties – don’t venture if you want to watch and be surprised.
My general opinion, which I tweeted, about this season is that it had immense potential, but I felt the plot was ho-hum but fastidiously sequential without an overall compelling storyline.
What has Freak Show been about?
We have an aging, narcissist Elsa Mars who owns a freak show and desperately wants to be adored and loved by one all. She craves fame. Hailing originally from Germany, Elsa fled to the States to escape the horrors of her former life and Nazi Germany.
Elsa’s Freak show is made up of a colorful cast characters from the Siamese Twins Dot and Bette Tattler (Sarah Paulson), Lobster Boy Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), Bearded Woman Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates), Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), Strongman Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis), Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett), and more.
Characters that interact with Elsa and her freak show include mama’s boy Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock), Con artists Stanley and Maggie Esmerelda (Denis O’Hare and Emma Roberts), Revenant Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley), etc, etc.
Overall, AHS Freakshow has a very diverse range of characters and cast members. They had some wonderful guest stars such as Gabourey Sidibe (Regina Ross), Patty La Belle (Dora), Neil Patrick Harris (Chester), Matt Bomer (Andy), and Danny Huston (Mossimo Dolcefino) to name a few.
My overall opinion of the cast is that they did a terrific job. I think there were some moments where Gabourey Sidibe and Emma Roberts were slightly wooden at times. However, I still think they were convincing in their roles.
Jessica Lange never ceases to impress me. Her carriage, her range of emotion, and her accent (even maintaining while singing) were exquisite. Elsa is both a character that is neither wholesome or completely evil. Jessica made her sympathetic.
However, the two breakout performances of this season – I have to dole out a lot of praise for Naomi Grossman’s portrayal of Pepper the Pinhead and the performance of John Carroll Lynch as Twisty the Clown. I believe they had two of the most heartbreaking stories.
While Ma Petite’s death was immensely sad to watch, the most painful to witness was Andy’s (Matt Bomer) death by Dandy’s hands. Dandy was particularly cruel and wicked.
The character with a lot of screws loose goes to Finn Wittrock’s Dandy Mott. Completely out of his gourd, full of grandeur, deluded, and psychotic – Dandy takes to killing like petals perk to drops of rain.
Kathy Bates’s accent was somewhat awkward but I got over it after awhile.
Elsa Mars is a woman desperate in her fading beauty and age to find success and admiration. She isn’t content on being a motherly, bossy figure to her band of “monsters.” Freak shows are fading, and she and her crew find themselves unable to drum up business to support themselves. Finding out about a recent murder and the discovering of a pair of Siamese twins, Elsa feels she has found the cure to their ailing finances. However, one of the twins has quite a set of pipes and Elsa feels threatened.
Meanwhile, the local area is being plagued by a deranged set of murders and kidnappings. They happen to be at the hands of a killer clown. Additionally, we are introduced to a rather pampered, abnormal rich mama’s boy and his equally deranged spinster mother. Dandy has been given everything he could ever want, but he’s never been satisfied. His mother’s indulgent behavior has cultivated terribly tendencies in Dandy’s character. However, his biggest flaw could be genetic due to the incessant inbreeding in the family. As the story progresses, it’s obvious that Dandy is a psychopath though his mother wishes to ignore the fact until it’s too late.
Elsa is unnerved and jealous of the attention received by the twins, and she wishes to get rid of them. Meanwhile, Dell Toledo and wife Desiree join the circus, as do Emma Robert’s truthsayer Maggie Esmerelda. Lurking in the shadows is Maggie’s partner in crime, Stanley. Stanley uses Maggie to prey on the freaks, but in the end, it is Dell that strikes the blow against his own kind. He kills Ma Petite. From this point on, death invades the camp. Dandy embraces his killer instincts and slowly ups his kills. Elsa kills Ethel. Jimmy discovers that Dell is his father. Elsa believes Stanley’s lies and helps him unbeknownst of his secret agenda of selling freaks to a museum of medical curiosities. The bodies keep stacking and the sad stories that unravel between them are gut wrenching especially those of Twisty and Pepper.
At the end, only three people survived Dandy’s mayhem, but they make him pay for it. Finally, Elsa achieves her time in spotlight. However, she is cursed and it was never meant to last. A Time Magazine reporter gets their hands on her old snuff films, including the one in which she lost her legs. On top of it, the reporter hires an investigator to investigate her life in America. They discover her freak show background and the massacre that took place in Jupiter. In the end, Elsa gives herself to Mordrake only to find herself back amongst the freaks that she both loved and used. Dot and Bette are happily settled with Jimmy and Desiree found love, marriage, and children with her new husband Angus (Malcolm Jamal-Warner).
American Horror Story is a terrific concept for a show, but this season, it felt as if the show went from one event to the next. I found it difficult to find a grand message. To boil it down, I think they were trying to do too much. I think it would have been more effective to focus on a few characters and let the supporting players do what they need to do to make the story connect and remain engaging. In fact, with no offense to the main stars of the series, I enjoyed the side characters. They were exceptional and fascinating.
- AHS excels at setting, costuming, and props. Very rich and imaginative environments. AHS gives good atmosphere.
- Good casting. They have found incredible new talent such as Finn Wittrock.
- Excels at channeling the weird.
- Jessica Lange is exiting (not saying she is bad – it just means new casting possibilities).
- Too many stories brewing in the theme kitchen.
- Failure to utilize supporting actors and actresses
- Been-there done-that ending. Supporting actors deserved better deaths.
- Jessica Lange is exiting. I will miss her.
Personal Favorites (Visuals/Moments/Stories, etc.)
– I love the devilish, freakish entrance to the tent.
– Jessica Lange made me fall in love with Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters.” I admit I was a bit dismissive of Lana Del Rey because she seemed rather too emo to me. However, I love the languid, angelic dejection Jessica gave the song. It made Lana grow on me. I don’t like everything she sings, but I have found some appreciation for her now.
– Neil Patrick Harris as Chester. I have never seen Neil play creepy. I wasn’t sure that he could pull it off, but he did. He played Chester in such way that while he was creepy, perverted, and psychotic, he was still a character for which I had sympathy and pity. Elsa – not so much.
– Dandy was deranged, and I feel the borage of revenge and retribution at the end of the series kind of stole from the energy that Finn Wittrock imbued the character. Also, the gun he had could not have carried as many bullets as he fired. Yet, Finn achieved a nuanced level crazy that was interesting to watch. I think with better writing, his story could have been stronger.
– Dandy sewing the Avon lady’s body to his mom’s and using them as a marionette – my favorite creepy moment of the show. It was creepy and gorgeous at the same time – artful in its bucolic setting.
– Angela Bassett is so passionate in her roles, and I loved the dimensions she gave Desiree. I think her character deserved more spotlight. She was like a tempest. I think that’s what attracted Dell. She’s fierce, sexy, motherly, and I think that she’s what the freak show needed as a leader not the mere appearance of it that Elsa was providing.
– I just can’t say enough about Naomi Grossman’s performance as Pepper. It was the most heartbreaking performance. What I like about the character is that AHS creators are not heavy handed with this character or truly make her seem freakish. In actuality, it’s all the regular cast of characters, the “non-freaks” that are the true freaks in the series.
Pepper represents innocence. Her circumstances reflect the ignorance, intolerance, and injustices inflicted upon those who are different from what the majority consider “norm.” Additionally, her circumstances represent the vacancy of worldly concern and the agency of stagnant civility with regards to the disabled.