HOLLYWOOD—It seems each season the stakes for the FX series “American Horror Story” finds a way to up the ante. First we had the haunted house, then an asylum, and last season witches. This year, the series goes into even darker territory with “American Horror Story: Freak Show” as the realms of the circus arena come front and center.
I was a bit concerned how the series would tackle such a sensitive subject, without it appearing as if they were capitalizing on those who suffered unfortunate oddities, but creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk handle the material with such and create a spotlight on each character where its not about the deformity, but their personality and emotional state of mind.
Perhaps, the highlight and most startling element of the serious is the psychotic, murderous clown who is running amok around town. I love how each season “American Horror Story” situates the narrative during a particular time period. Here, we’re looking at things in the 1950s.
At the heart of the story is Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) who is looking for new amenities to join her circus as someone would call it; I’m not a fan of using the term freak show, but in essence that is what it is. Stirring her interest is Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) conjoined twins who have personalities unlike anything; one who is a bit passive and goofy, the other aggressive and cautious about everything. They have been kept under lock and key in the hospital after suffering a terrible injury and the death of their mother.
The audience soon discovers that Bette and Dot are not as innocent as they may appear, and that stirs Elsa’s interest, so much so that she nearly blackmails them to get what she wants. Amongst Elsa’s groups of entertainment includes Jimmy (Evan Peters) and his mother Ethel (Kathy Bates). So what makes Jimmy and Ethel so unique; Jimmy has fingers that are quite large and he uses them to sexually please women, his mother is a breaded lady, and a voice of reason.
Before we can examine the other chaos that is happening at Elsa’s attraction, the story of Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) is a vital narrative asset. He brutally attacks a teenage couple, killing the boyfriend, while holding his girlfriend captive. He later kills two parents and kidnaps their son.
Both victims are later locked away in a school bus. I have never been so petrified of a clown in my life; he’s dark, brooding, large and full of evil. On his quest for his next victims he stumbles across the freak show, and appears a bit amazed by what he witnesses. He sees Jimmy, Bette, Dot and a host of other attractions brutally murder a man who used the ‘f’ word that sent Jimmy in a tailspin.
That fatal mistake unites the freaks in way that could create massive cause for this little town that seems to think its ok to make fun of those that is not like them. A war is brewing and it looks like plenty of bloodshed is about to spill. Elsa was pleased to discover her latest show to be sold out, thanks to Gloria (Frances Conroy) and Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock), a mother and son duo whose relationship is a bit Anthony and Norma Perkins if you ask me. Whatever son wants, mother provides.
Dandy is so pleased by Bette and Dot he offers more than $15,000 to Elsa to take the conjoined twins home. When his offer is refuted, it becomes apparent that Dandy has other plans in place to get what he wants. The surprise of the night comes during the final moments after Elsa blurts out her soul while singing on stage. The audience soon discovers Elsa is just like those who she employs; she is a double amputee without legs. That may have been the surprise that I didn’t see coming a mile away.
With an evil clown, a town of outcasts uniting and all vying to be the center of attention, bloodshed will happen this season. “American Horror Story: Freak Show” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.