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As the saying goes, “The show must go on, and sometimes that show involves conjoined twins performing Fiona Apple covers.” That may not be an exact quote. American Horror Story: Freak Show pushed some of the boundaries of weird-dom in last week’s ratings bonanza of a premiere, and “Massacres and Matinees” did nothing to lessen that. Let’s all welcome Michael Chiklis and Angela Bassett to the show…after this.
Someone just crowdsurfed on American Horror Story
Can’t just have a two-headed woman hanging around without exploiting her talents, so it comes to light that Dot has a fantastic singing voice, while the more charismatic Bette sounds like a maimed animal. This new discovery weighs heavily on Elsa’s nerves, and she is not at all interested in being upstaged by anyone else. As her big performance showed us last week, Elsa is still very much tethered to her former life in the spotlight and she won’t be quick to pass the baton. She doesn’t mind passing a knife, though, knowing how stabby Bette and Dot like to get.
This storyline gave us another exquisite musical number, this time to the tune of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” I don’t even know what to say about how great these scenes are. An array of different instruments are used to play the song, and it’s uncomfortably superb to see Sarah Paulson do a duet with herself. Or even to see Sarah Paulson gain confidence in herself…twice. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk should take American Horror Story to Broadway.
”Amuse me, clown!”
Is it a sign of the times that people treat Twisty, a masked and unbathed psychopath, as if he is the friendly neighborhood clown for hire? Did people just hire clowns off of the street in 1952, as Gloria Mott does in an effort to make her twit of a son happy? Serves her right that Dandy is now joining Twisty on his murderous child-scaring rampage. Hopefully we still get to hear lines like “Your silence is utterly provocative, but you’ll have to earn your keep, clown.” But the baby-hating Dandy is an insufferable human being, so it's perfectly acceptable if he quickly pisses Twisty off and becomes a victim. Something tells me Twisty needs a friend though. Aww.
However thin Twisty’s storyline may eventually become – his clown car got T-boned by an 18-wheeler, but he was the only one of thirty who got hurt? - I do enjoy that his scenes are presented in largely cinematic ways, as in the playroom scene. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is a pro at making every shot feel like it took a certain amount of effort, and the slightly cartoonish toy store sequence in the cold open was absolutely perfect to me. It’s so dumb that this guy’s attention span is so sapped by this blood trail that he misses out on the awful situation he’s in, but it’s a signature Ryan Murphy scene that ends in a decapitated head and an emotionally-sated clown.
”I’m a full-blown hermaphrodite. Put that on your banner.”
Dell Toledo (Chiklis) is one bad dude. And his wife Desiree Dupree (Bassett) is also kind of one bad dude. Dell bullies his way into a position as barker and security man, running the circus behind Elsa. This doesn’t sit well with Ethel, his ex-wife, with whom he has not continued a healthy friendship. She doesn’t want Jimmy to know that Dell is his father, and I think Dell is perfectly fine with antagonizing Jimmy specifically because of that secret relationship.
All Jimmy wants is to be one with the world population, tired of being cooped up in the same environment. The scene in the diner was an interesting way for father and son to do their first battle, but it’s sad that this war has already ended in death – that of the chicken-head-biting geek. Jimmy’s rage is going to be split between Dell, for figuring out his frame-up plan, and the townsfolk that beat the geek to death. Dell loses any friends he might have had by knocking Jimmy’s ass out in public, and Elsa wants him gone for high-billing Desiree over Elsa on the advertisements. It will be interesting to see how this fight can possibly escalate from here.
I don’t know if I’m supposed to be afraid of the cops in American Horror Story: Freak Show, but I’m not. Their presence at this point merely shifts the plot forward rather than developing any characters. Which isn’t to say things will stay this way, but I could do with a strong authoritative presence entering the mix. Everyone on this show is a dangerous threat to someone, but I don’t know if any of these people can be described as “virtuous.” Maybe Superman will join the show next week. I have all 12 of my fingers crossed.
Other Thoughts Floating Beneath the Big Top
“We’re just like them.” It doesn’t work when you’re saying it next to a wheelbarrow full of corpse pieces.
“I don’t know. Maybe St. Petersberg, where they have real caramel corn and not that cardboard they sell at the freak show!” LOBSTER-HAND SNAP SNAP SNAP!
A series with Patti LaBelle throwing snails at Finn Wittrock’s face would give reality TV meaning for me. Also, hey there, Patti Labelle.
I would buy an American Horror Story: Freak Show licensed wind-up robot toy. Just saying.
That was zero chill in the car, Dandy. Seriously. Though it’s good to know you’re a talented puppeteer.
How you gonna break a dude’s neck mid-coitus, Dell? You learn that from Houdini’s brother?
I wonder what Dell’s deal is. He’s a strongman, so he’s violent, sure. But he looks like he’s completely uncomfortable putting on the hardass front. What’s behind that?
Watching Chiklis and Bates together was the one time during this episode where I wished I was watching these actors in a different series. I'd like to see those two do something meaty together. Anti-rawr.
There have been some uncomfortable prison scenes on TV before, but the drunk tank scene is just…(shudders).
It wasn’t that disturbing to see Twisty’s mask fall off. He doesn’t have a jaw. This is a show where physical deformities are the point. I was expecting there to be a black hole’s event horizon there.
First rule of civilized diner trip: don’t eat the old food.
It makes my brain work extra hard to see a 1952 music crowd jumping around like that. I can’t suspend that part of my disbelief system.