American Horror Story: Freakshow –
Monsters Among Us (4×01)
Synopsis: The Freak Show has moved into Jupiter, Florida and we are finally given a peek into the lives of the “monsters” who plague the town. When Elsa Mars finds out about the conjoined twins Bette and Dot, she brings them to her show to headline but meets resistance from a less than willing sister. Jimmy Darling fights with his mother Ethel on their role in the world while the rest of the show seems to be concerned with just finding their footing as the freak show fails.
When “American Horror Story” first aired it was innovative, with characters that stuck with you in the worst of ways and a story line so twisted that the shocks never seemed to stop. This has sadly stopped in its fourth season though, and the lackluster premiere definitely skimped out on the horror for the shocks and set us up for yet another convoluted season.
It’s 1952 and in true small town Southern fashion, no one is accepting of the freaks and monsters that they’d rather just stay hidden. Bette and Dot Tattler (played by Sarah Paulson with the help of the special effects team) are the first that we meet, found by a mailman who only learned of their existence when he found their mother dead on the kitchen floor and then found them upstairs with fresh wounds. The two are brought out into the world for the first time and of course they are not welcomed by it. Hospital staff, from doctors to candy stripers, gawk, gaze, and even vomit at the sight of the girls as they both take in their new environment.
Cue Jessica Lange, I mean, uh, Elsa Mars’ entrance as the mysterious blonde German woman sensually smoking a cigarette. Through some quick and cunning words, she tricks a reckless candy striper into switching outfits with her and gains entrance to the room, where Bette and Dot eye her curiously. Carefully honing in on Bette’s fanciful nature, Elsa starts to pull her in with stories of fame and by asking questions about how the two deal with their singular reproductive system, titillating Bette while infuriating Dot who throws her out of the room.
The next scene we cut to is of a young attractive couple playing hanky panky and if you’ve ever watched a horror film you know what to expect . Twisty the clown (John Lynch), a character that Ryan Murphy has been hyping up for awhile now, definitely delivers on the desired scares. I don’t want to give up too much, but let’s just say that Twisty is definitely a viable candidate for most terrifying “AHS” character, and that’s not because he’s simply a clown. Everything, from his tattered clothes to his mask that hides any and all emotion from his face even when he laughs makes him a compelling character. Where did he come from, and why has he adapted this clown persona that leaves his victims confused?
As the other freaks are introduced, including Jimmy “The Lobster Boy” Darling (Evan Peters) who makes money on the side by curing bored housewives of their sexual frustrations for him and his mother, Ethel “The Bearded Lady” Darling (Kathy Bates), Ma Petite played by the smallest woman in the world Jyoti Amge, and even a glimpse of Pepper from “Asylum”, Bette and Dot escape the hospital.
Turns out they had a reason to be nervous about all of the murders that had been happening out of seemingly nowhere, while they aren’t the culprits behind Twisty’s escapades, they aren’t lily white themselves in their mother’s murder. Elsa convinces them to join her in the freak show, and fearing for their lives, the two decide to join. Bette is almost instantly drawn in and Dot seems to falter a little in her hatred for the idea when she spies Jimmy.
Elsa though, cannot be happier that she has a whole new act that should provide customers upon customers but we learn exactly what she’ll do to make it stay that way. The candy striper that she had charmed before ends up playing a major role in the nastiest scene of the premiere because of what Elsa had her acts do to her when she was drugged. Read Therese’s article for more elaboration, but once again I have been disappointed by the writers of this show for using rape as a setup for a faux-enlightening statement on the true evils of this world. I thought that Madison’s rape was poorly handled in “Coven” but this just takes the cake. The writers must have been trying to reach the popularity that Madison’s “Generation X” monologue hit last season because Elsa’s explanation of it was as cliche and horrific as it was.
But onto the real story, since of course that was just used to shock viewers (but who’s shocked at this point?).
As Bette and Dot sleep in their tent, the detective has found them, and he’s not about to let them off easy for their mother’s deaths and the mysterious deaths that started happening after they were discovered. In swoops Jimmy who murders the man and gains the instant trust of the two sisters who later on vow to stay with the show since they’d found their new home.
But if you want a creepy ending scene, Twisty the clown staring at the group of freaks who all start stabbing the dead body of the cop in a sort of ritual to prove they want to live in a world of freedom and acceptance takes the cake. Who knows what he was thinking under that dirty mask.
All in all, I wasn’t impressed with the season premiere. I understand that this was just a bunch of introduction and that we haven’t even started the show, but my expectations for this season are sadly not high at all. With tons more characters to be introduced; Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts), whoever Gabourey Sidibe and Patti LaBelle will be playing, and more explanation of the Mott family (Frances Conroy and Finn Wittrock) who were the show’s sole customers I don’t expect much in terms of even plot and am preparing myself for more fake twists and cheap stunts.
What did you all think of the premiere? Were you shaking in your boots? Or were you drawn into Elsa’s performance, and are looking forward to what else lies under the big top?