AHS Freak Show was kind of a mess. This season has, by all accounts, been the most disjointed (a considerable achievement in the land of American Horror Story). Aside from the fact that series creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk seem more concerned with putting Jessica Lange over no matter what the cost, this was also the least h season thus far.
Murder House was a doom-and-gloom murder mystery loaded with spooks, Asylum a terrifying, disturbing and often very gory nightmare, and Coven was, er, mostly for Tumblr but it still packed a punch thanks to Lange and her championship sparring matches opposite horror legend Kathy Bates.
AHS Freak Show, however, was a depressing, slow slog, loaded with melodrama, and with that in mind it’s been difficult to gather any kind of “must watch” moments from the season, at least from a genre perspective (there were some very moving moments, however, including Pepper pressing her hand to her cheek to remember Elsa, Elsa’s friendship with Ethel, etc.). These are the ten freakiest moments from American Horror Story‘s fourth, and least freaky, season:
The ridiculous accents
AHS has always been a bit, shall we say, over-the-top but this season really pushed it to the limit by giving everyone a different, totally crazy accent. From Ethel’s slow drawl to Desiree’s Southern twang, it was difficult to know whether any of these characters were supposed to be believable humans, let alone where the hell they could possibly be from. As usual, Jessica Lange showed everyone up, eclipsing her take on clipped Massachusetts verbs from Asylum with a purposeful German accent. It not only included casual usage of words like “aus” instead of “out” and the phrase “Sturm und Drang” (which is an acceptable turn of phrase in English) but lapses into full passages of the language during flashback sequences to the old country. It was a joy to behold, especially when she sang in it.
As previously discussed, Twisty is pretty much the mascot for Freak Show, even though he was dispensed with much too quickly. He also had the best arc, as it emerged that he wasn’t a cold-blooded killer by nature but rather a simpleton who’d been cast out of his own freak show by jealous midgets (stay with me here) and, after a failed suicide attempt during which he lost his jaw, set about trying to rebuild his shattered career. There were some incredibly moving scenes with the wonderful John Carroll Lynch, some of which I still haven’t recovered from, but the moment when he pulled back his clown mask to reveal what was left of his jaw was particularly noteworthy. Even Mordrake seemed disgusted by it.
Evan Peters was the breakout star, and bonafide heartthrob, of American Horror Story from the outset. Whether he’s playing an emo teen ghost, a haunted young man wrongfully committed to an insane asylum or a Frankenstein’s monster, he gets everyone going. That is, until Freak Show where, as “lobster hands” Jimmy Darling, he proved that even the most beautiful men cannot make fingering horny housewives with their deformed hands seem appealing. The sequence in question is one of the most misjudged in the history of a show that is already packed with scenes created entirely for shock value. Peters’ gormless look throughout somehow makes it even more stomach-churning.
The return of the once-gorgeous Wes Bentley, complete with chin-skimming sideburns and a fetching top hat, should’ve been a special moment (Soul Survivors anyone?). But, as tortured Edward Mordrake (a man with a second, evil face on the back of his own head), Bentley wasn’t just campy, he was full on pantomime. His entrances are accented by a load of rolling green fog, which looks silly as opposed to creepy. His fake English accent was appalling, but the confused expression on his face the entire time kind of made sense in the context of a show this bizarre. And his second face was even weirder.
The Musical Numbers
Ryan Murphy loves a good song-and-dance number. He gave us Glee, after all. Or, inflicted it upon us, rather. Musical numbers have featured before, both on Asylum and Coven, but they were always in the context of the show. When it came to Freak Show, however, Murphy had the perfect excuse to just stick his stars on a stage and allow them to perform whatever the hell he wanted. Elsa’s Bowie renditions were bad enough, but the true horror came when a clearly-delighted Evan Peters gave us his best Cobain, performing the classic Nirvana hit “Come As You Are”. Elsa wasn’t convinced and nor were we. This is the stuff of nightmares.
A Jar Of Ma Petite
World’s smallest woman Jyoti Amge made a splash this season, in spite of her diminutive size, as Ma Petite, the sweetest Freak in the troupe and Elsa’s personal favourite. Her death, at the hands of corrupt conman Stanley, was teased at first as Maggie fantasised about drowning her in a jar of formaldehyde before chickening out. The little lady’s murder wasn’t on camera, but the jar in which her preserved body was being kept was revealed and then trotted out to upset everyone at a later stage, too, just in case it wasn’t traumatising enough the first time around.
Tattoos By Force
There were some Freaks this season who were trotted out purely for us to stare at and point. Not gifted with story-lines, they soon became background noise, the ones who sprang to action whenever someone was about to be killed, or had just been killed, or whatever it was usually about murder because this is AHS. Grace Gummer’s Penny wasn’t a Freak to begin with, rather she became one after falling in love with Paul, the so-called “seal man”. She suffered for her indiscretion at the hands of her own father who, in a disturbing sequence, shaved her head, split her tongue and tattooed her face by force. He was later tarred and feathered as revenge.
Dandy was, arguably, the most interesting character this season and he had lots of great moments, including a bath in his own mother’s blood. However, it was his decision to sew her head, along with another victim’s (an Avon lady, natch) together to create a “puppet mother” that truly made my skin crawl. Freak Show wasn’t a very horror-centric season, at least by AHS standards, but this moment was full-on gory weirdness. And Dandy’s delight at his new toy made it even better.
Chester And “Marjorie”
Neil Patrick Harris was slightly short-changed as, not only did he show up in the third last episode of the season, but he was saddled with a cliched gimmick: an evil dummy. Through flashbacks, we learned that Chester had watched his dummy, “Marjorie”, murder his wife and her lover, but we later discovered that she also liked to watch him have sex with other women, passing comment as he did so. Chester took the twins’ virginity, and he murdered Maggie by sawing her in half, but the weirdest moments were when the dummy came to life and was played by Jamie Brewer, an AHS alumnus, who also happens to have Down’s Syndrome. Whether this is exploitative or not is entirely up to the audience.
Dandy’s Houdini Death
He may have been the best part of Freak Show, but poor Dandy wasn’t long for this world and, in spite of proving himself virtually unstoppable in the preceding twelve episodes, perished in the finale for his crimes against the Freaks. The opportunistic, eccentric rich kid/murderer was drowned in a Houdini tank (which had been, er, cleverly foreshadowed a couple episodes previous) while Desiree, Jimmy and the twins watched happily, chomping on popcorn as they did so.