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Of all the things that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have done over the years with American Horror Story – from bringing Anne Frank out of obscurity to decapitating Kathy Bates – they’ve never really inspired any viral internet videos. At least until this year, with Freak Show’s oddball musical numbers already serving as this season’s most easily digestible sequences. Below you can find an excellent cover of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” taken from last night’s episode “Massacres and Matinees.”
What’s great about these performances is that, at least at this point, they aren’t gratuitously thrown together just to be weird and illogical. Not only do the songs themselves blatantly reveal character secrets and desires, the inclusion of the acts tells us a thing or two about the major players. Last week, Elsa (Jessica Lange) sang David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” in a way that showed audiences she is mentally inseparable from her past glory days on the stage, and wants very much to still be considered worthy of the spotlight.
Bette and Dot’s cover of “Criminal” is important for both conjoined twins (played by Sarah Paulson) and for Elsa as well. The sisters need an act that isn’t just being a two-headed woman, and so a vocal performance it is. Though Bette is the open-minded and friendly one, her singing voice is hot garbage. It’s the far more reserved and uptight Dot who has pipes like an angel, which draws instant ire from her sibling. It also inflames Elsa’s jealousy, and she later gives Bette a sharpened chance to take Dot out of the picture altogether. I can’t see that happening though.
Still, they’re singing “Criminal” because they are criminals, having killed their own mother, and they’re currently living as fugitives from justice. And we’ve only been with them for two episodes, so it’s certainly possible that Bette is the kind of rage-racked person that might try to end her sister’s life. Might be hard to do with that whole telepathy thing though.
But even without the plot involved, this is still a rollicking good few minutes of television. I love the idea of the freaks being accomplished musicians, and while I don’t quite understand the motivations behind bringing the modern day into these scenes, I cannot complain about having a little person crowdsurfing in 1952. As well, there’s something downright unsettling about watching a pair of conjoined twins singing a duet together, especially when they’re both sending the same guy sweet eyes. You can’t find this kind of stuff anywhere else.
I seriously wish that Murphy and Falchuk had been around to run MTV during the late 1980s and early 1990s, to see what kind of madness would have ensued. What anachronistic songs will American Horror Story: Freak Show give us next? Find out next Wednesday on FX, in an episode that will bring Emma Roberts back to AHS fans.