Wednesday, October 15, 2014

REVIEW: 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' - Bette & Dot Take the Stage & Two Performers Join the Show in 'Massacres and Matinees'

FX's American Horror Story: Freak Show - Episode 4.02 "Massacres and Matinees"

A citywide curfew threatens to shut down the Freak Show. A strongman from Ethel's troubled past arrives at camp. Gloria arranges a terrifying play date for Dandy. The Tattler Twins reveal a talent that could knock Elsa from the spotlight.

The use of anachronistic music on American Horror Story: Freak Show is a little weird. And yet, I love Jessica Lange singing David Bowie and Sarah Paulson singing Fiona Apple - and Sarah Paulson reacting to Sarah Paulson singing Fiona Apple. More importantly though, it helps further take the freaks out of this world. The narrative drive so far this season has been an "us vs. them" mentality. The use of these songs that would be strange and out of place in the 1950s only helps establish that these people are out of place in time.

I mention this first because Bette and Dot's performance in this episode is a bright spot in an otherwise tragic world. They have been forced into this world because of their outer appearance. The community there provides them with a sense of family and belonging. They are slowly growing and accepting this new lifestyle. Dot embraces the spotlight as soon as it is shined on her. Jimmy makes her comfortable to perform while new additions Dell Toledo and Desiree Dupree (the fantastic Michael Chiklis and Angela Bassett) arrive with new ideas on how to turn this failing business venture around.

But Elsa doesn't like it when the spotlight is taken away from her. She is the person who receives top billing. With all these changes, she is slowly fading away - just like all her hopes of one day being a famous actress and singer. She will protect the people she has in her employ but she wants the show to be all about her. Dell and Desiree come to her out of desperation but they are quickly proving to be way more than she can handle. Plus, Dot is stealing her focus. The twins are the headlining act and they are better at it than Elsa was. Just look at the reaction they get after their big musical moment to what she got just last week.

Elsa's problems come first. She'll work to sabotage the twins and their act but she won't manipulate the situation with the police following Jimmy killing a detective. He goes to her with his badge and the truth and later on the police return with a search warrant and take one of the performers away - and ultimately to his death. She wants Dell gone for her own reasons and framing him for the detective's murder would be killing two birds with one stone. And yet, the anonymous tip did not come from her. It came from Jimmy. He's to blame for his friend's death. That is going to weigh especially hard on him. It already is because he's drinking - for the first time in his life too according to his mother. Elsa, meanwhile, is just trying to manipulate sweet and naive Bette into sabotaging her sister. Dot's never shown any interest in artistic expression and yet she's great at it immediately while Bette is tone-deaf. That's the thought that Elsa sticks in Bette's head and then hands her a blade. This simply can't end well.

The freaks collectively don't want to be seen as monsters. They want to be seen as normal as everyone else in this world. But they are also adding fuel to the hysteria throughout the town. The community around them is already on edge because of the killer clown on the loose. The freaks going to the diner only sets them off more. More importantly though, Jimmy turns away Dandy when he runs away to join the show. Dandy just wants to be see as special. He was born "normal" and into a life of high stature. He doesn't want any of that. His mother can and will give him anything he wants. He's the latest case of Peter Pan syndrome. Jimmy turns him away and that then causes him to become good pals with Twisty the clown. Yes, I'm curious as to why Twisty didn't just kill Gloria and Dandy like he has everyone else. But Dandy later proves to be helpful in keeping his two prisoners trapped within the trailer. Yes, it's horrifying to see Bonnie get away only to then be forced against her will back to the trailer. But it only further illuminates how deadly the balance is within the society of Jupiter.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Massacres and Matinees" was written by Tim Minear and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.
  • Last week the freak show had two people in its audience. This week they do a matinee performance, hang a few new posters and suddenly there's a much larger crowd.
  • I'm still not quite sure on the exact reason why Twisty is on the show. However, he is extremely terrifying. That first scene was brutal. And then, his mask fell off and his real face was just as horrifying.
  • I sure hope the show isn't trying to do the whole "Jimmy is a killer because his father is a killer" story because that his been done to death. I really don't think an original take on that concept is left in this medium.
  • Dell is a much flashier role than Desiree - at least in this episode. I'm interested to see what exactly Desiree can do other than show that she has three breasts.