American Horror Story Freak Show: Episode 1 & 2 ReviewsOctober 18, 2014
One thing American Horror Story has not been afraid to do over its first three seasons was to push the envelope and make people think outside the box. Oh hell, let’s be serious, they have pushed, bent, twisted and obliterated the envelope in a wonderful effort to make us watch TV from between the fingers up in front of our face.
The first episode of season four, ‘Monsters Among Us’, continues that tradition with some strange, twisted, insane and bloody moments. Mostly insane, though.
The basic premise has Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) as a German national whose failed attempt at finding fame in Hollywood has lead her to the charming role as leader of a travelling freak show. She seeks out the hospitalized and imprisoned human oddities and recruits them to star in her show.
We meet Elsa as she is trying to convince the two headed Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) to join her struggling show. When Elsa lays out their options, which include prison or an asylum, the choice becomes rather easy.
The viewer is slowly introduced to members of the freak ‘family’ including Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) a young man who uses his abnormally long fingers to earn some extra money in a most unconventional way. His mother, Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates), is the bearded lady who helps Elsa run the show.
Being as this is set in the 1950’s, there is not a lot of love in town where the freaks have pitched their tent for the time being. To make matters worse, a series of unsolved murders in and around the area have the locals in an uproar.
Did I forget to mention the psychotic and scary as hell Twisty the Clown is responsible for these murders? This guy would send Pennywise from Stephen King’s It running back to his home in the sewers. So far silent but deadly and interested in the local freaks, Twisty also has some playthings locked away for his budding anger management amusement.
The best thing about this show is the plot lines of insanity that just keep coming. A twisted and demented orgy scene (which is viewed by Elsa as a way to unwind) and a nice bonding which includes using a body as chopping block make viewing this episode very uncomfortable and creepy. And insane. Very insane.
Nothing captured the sense of desperation and insanity better than watching Jessica Lange have her character Elsa sing David Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’ with her German accent, making this viewer just shake his head in amazement and wonder at who the hell thought this stuff up.
The opening montage, which makes a few references to the world of horror and strange movies, instantly reminded me of the 90’s videos by the band Tool. Disturbing yet interesting, however I’m not sure what the significance of the man with the boot for an appendage.
Without a doubt, this is the best opening episode of any season of American Horror Story. With more great actors still to make an appearance in later episodes I cannot wait to see what insanity Ryan Murphy and friends have in store for us.
Did I mention this episode was insane?
In episode two titled ‘Massacres and Matinees’, the bizarre and insanity continue while we are introduced to a few new characters and another great musical number. Oh yeah, and Twisty the clown finds a new playmate that might be as bad as him.
The episode begins with a truck rolling onto the freak show grounds that contain what would become the newest member of this happy little family. Strongman Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) and his oddly endowed wife Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett) enter the scene and immediately change the dynamic of the show.
Not only does Toledo have a history/ties to Ethel and her son Jimmy but he attempts to strong arm (bad pun) Elsa in regards to control of the show. This unrest in the freak community could not come at a worse time as the police begin poking around due to events that happened near the end of the first episode.
Outside the whole freak show drama a new character is emerging that could have some serious influence on what happens later in the season. Spoiled rich kid Dandy (Finn Wittrock) who from the get go revealed he is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, comes home pouting after being rejected by the Jimmy when he asked to run away and join their circus. His mother Gloria Mott (Francis Conroy) attempts to appease her son by finding him a play date who just happens to be Twisty the Clown.
Amazingly, the meeting doesn’t go well and Twisty leaves in a huff, probably all tuckered out from his latest couple of murders his has committed in town. However, Dandy is intrigued and follows Twisty back to his hidey hole where he still has his playthings locked away.
Back at the freak show, the two headed twins hit the stage for the first time and Dot shows off her impressive singing skills, leaving wannabe star Bette left to sing backup in the shadows. Sarah Paulson is amazing in her rendition of Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’ and the look of jealousy on Elsa’s face is absolutely priceless.
The police return and using a search warrant find evidence of a crime and mistakenly haul away the wrong person. The infighting has caused this to happen and when the true reality hits home at the end of the episode to what they have done it opens up a few more doors in which direction to take this show.
As always with American Horror Story, there are times where you have to suspend your disbelief and because of the quality of writing, directing and acting it really isn’t hard to do. With more characters going to be added in upcoming episodes, I can honestly say I don’t know where this show is headed. However, wherever it goes I know I’ll be along for the ride.