American Horror Story: Freak Show

american horror story freak show poster season 4 review episode guide
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great cast

Really unbalanced season, not much of a story

 
american horror story freak show title card season 4 episode guide

The Side Show Beckons…

It is 1952, and freak show owner Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) has just found her new star attraction in conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson).  The freak show however is facing financial problems and internal problems.  Lobster boy Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) deals with his ailing mother the bearded woman Ethel (Kathy Bates) and the arrival of the strongman Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) and his hermaphrodite wife Desiree (Angela Bassett) could mean bigger issues for Elsa.  When a con man named Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and his partner Maggie (Emma Roberts) infiltrate the freak show for Stanley to make a profit, the danger grows…but the affluent Dandy (Finn Wittrock), his mother Mott (Frances Conroy), and a wandering killer clown named Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) could a direct threat to the performers’ lives.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 1 monster among us twisty juggling pins

Who wants to play with Twisty…the underused monster

American Horror Story:  Freak Show is the fourth season of the anthology series on FX.  The season aired from October 8, 2014 to January 21, 2015.  The season received Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television (Jessica Lange) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television (Kathy Bates) and won Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or a Special, Outstanding Costumes for a Period/Fantasy Series, Limited Series or Movie (“Monster Among Us”), Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or a Movie (Non-Prosthetic), Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or a Movie, and Outstanding Visual Effects in a Supporting Role (“Edward Mordrake:  Part 2”) with nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie (Jessica Lange), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie (Finn Wittrock), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie (Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson), Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special (“Monster Among Us”), Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score) (“Orphans”), Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie or a Special, Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie (“Monster Among Us”), Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or a Movie (“Magical Thinking”), Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Special (“Curtain Call”), Outstanding Main Title Designs, and Outstanding Limited Series.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 12 show stoppers stanley chicken man denis ohare

Yep…we’re going to acknowledge Freaks and copy Freaks…

While lauded at the award ceremonies, I often find American Horror Story a series that is often hit-or-miss.  The first season was a surprise and fun.  The second season had some good scares, but also felt like it could have even been more horrific.  The third season went for comedy horror which I can’t blame it for, and it shook things up.  This season unfortunately doesn’t really seem to have a real theme or feel to it…causing me to struggle through the whole thing.

The plot is all over the place.  Series like this often go for the mid-season cliffhanger or the plot that changes around episode nine of twelve.  It feels like the makers were trying to buck this trend by having multiple switches in the direction of the story, but a result is that it never seems to find its path.  The first part is very Twisty-centric, but that quickly disappears.  It then seems like the series is about Dandy, but Dandy kind of fades into the background as Stanley and Maggie become the stars.  The worst offense at this was Neil Patrick Harris and his dummy which added nothing to the story (other than a means to kill Emma Roberts).  The series tries to come together at the end of the season, but it never really gels.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 12 show stoppers jimmy lobster boy evan peters

I was joking, dude…I wanted normal hands…don’t you know sarcasm?!?

What does continue to soar in AHS is the cast.  Jessica Lange has proven her star-ability over and over again by taking the reins of the series.  She’s a scene stealer (though the music numbers are getting a bit over the top).  Evan Peters returns with a greater role and Finn Wittrock seems to enjoy playing the emotionally stunted Dandy.  Michael Chiklis is always a welcomed edition and I’d still love to see Angela Bassett or Kathy Bates headline a season of the series.  The season also features appearances by Danny Huston, Patti LaBelle, Mare Winningham, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and a number of returning actors.  I also commend the makers for hiring a number of performers with disabilities and challenges who often aren’t given roles with dimension (and at least attempting to give dimension to their characters…sometimes unsuccessfully).

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 1 monster among us jessica lange legs

I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille

Visually the series remains strong (I always love the openings…this season looks like a Tool music video).  The season is very effects heavy with the inclusion of Sarah Paulson’s conjoined twin which doesn’t always work.

American Horror Story:  Freak Show if nothing else is an interesting experiment like most of the series.  I like the idea of anthology series and now the format is being borrowed a lot (including by the creators of this series).  The season also starts to blend seasons with the Pepper episode which connects this season with American Horror Story:  Asylum (Season 2) and later with Danny Huston’s character.  It will be interesting to see if this begins to pop up more as the series progresses.  American Horror Story:  Freak Show was followed by American Horror Story:  Hotel.

American Horror Story:  Freak Show Complete Episode Guide:

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 1 monster among us dot bette elsa sarah paulson jessica lange

“Monster Among Us”

4.1       Monsters Among Us Airdate:  10/08/14

In 1952, the murder of their mother puts conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) in custody at the hospital and in the target of freak show owner Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) as a means to save her show.  Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) tries to use his “lobster boy” status in Jupiter, Florida among the women and argues with his mother the bearded lady Ethel (Kathy Bates) about the future of the people in the show.  A show for a wealthy woman named Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy) and her son Dandy (Finn Wittrock) puts Elsa at odds with Gloria.  As the police question Bette and Dot’s involvement in their mother’s murder, Jimmy makes a deadly decision to protect them.  Meanwhile, a killer clown named Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) is having his own fun in Jupiter.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 2 massacres and matinees dell desiree michael chiklis angela bassett

“Massacres and Matinees”

4.2       Massacres and Matinees Airdate:  10/15/14

With Twisty continuing his killing spree and the police looking for their missing officer, the freak show is at risk.  Jimmy tries to cover the murder of the officer and bring the performers and the townspeople together.  Dandy finds himself with a new playmate when his mother hires Twisty to entertain him.  Bette and Dot try to find their place among the show as the town faces a curfew.  The hiring of strongman Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) and his hermaphrodite wife Desiree (Angela Bassett) puts Elsa in a tough position and could risk the life of Meep (Ben Woolf).

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 3 edward mordrake part 1 wes bentley

“Edward Mordrake—Part 1”

4.3       Edward Mordrake—Part 1 Airdate:  10/22/14

A visit to the doctor gives Ethel a bad prognosis.  The freak show finds a new seer in Maggie (Emma Roberts) who secretly has come to the circus with Stanley (Denis O’Hare) who has his eyes on Bette and Dot.  Dot vows to separate herself from Bette no matter what the cost as the members of the circus mourn the loss of Meep.  The legend of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) hangs over the circus as Halloween approaches, and Elsa decides to tempt fate to prepare for a prediction by Maggie.  Dandy finds Halloween has been ruined by the curfew and decides to make his own Halloween fun.  Ethel discovers a visit from Edward Mordrake could bring up the past and her relationship with Dell that she tried to forget.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 4 edward mordrake part 2 twisty face john carroll lynch

“Edward Mordrake—Part 2”

4.4       Edward Mordrake—Part 2 Airdate:  10/29/14

Edward Mordrake searches for his victim amongst the freak show but finds finding the person he is supposed to take might be more difficult than he expected.  Maggie works her way into the show by spending time with Jimmy, but Jimmy and Maggie find danger when they encounter Twisty and his new servant Dandy.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 5 pink cupcakes stanley denis ohare

“Pink Cupcakes”

4.5       Pink Cupcakes Airdate:  11/05/14

Twisty’s death has made Jimmy a celebrity and brought new crowds to the circus.  Elsa believes the arrival of Stanley could make her the celebrity she deserves to be but Stanley’s attention toward Bette and Dot could throw a wrench in her plans.  Gloria works to cover-up Dandy’s murder of Dora (Patti LaBelle), but Dandy finds his new calling.  Desiree learns the truth about her condition and Dell’s connection to Ethel, and Dell isn’t happy about it.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 6 bullseye paul mat fraser

“Bullseye”

4.6       Bullseye Airdate:  11/12/14

Dot and Bette are now “guests” of Dandy and his mother with Dot desiring Dandy to fund her separation from Bette and Bette enjoying Dandy’s attention.  Marge finds she’s being pressured by Paul to bring in a freak and Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) could pay the price.  Elsa finds the circus belongs to her again but discovers the other carnies don’t believe that Dot and Bette ran away…leading to a risky decision by Paul (Mat Fraser).

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 7 test of strength michael chicklis

“Test of Strength”

4.7       Test of Strength Airdate:  11/19/14

Jimmy convinces Dot and Bette to return to the circus, but Dot and Bette have secret plans for Elsa.  Desiree and Ethel learn that Dr. Bonham has suffered an accident.  Dell’s secret gay life is discovered by Stanley, and Stanley uses it to blackmail Dell.  Paul’s lover Penny (Grace Gummer) stands up against her father, but her father determines that she won’t ruin his reputation.  Elsa finds a division between Dot and Bette and decides to exploit it while Ethel learns that Stanley has other plans for the circus.  After a failed attempt on Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin), Dell must make a decision involving Jimmy…but if Jimmy can’t be brought in for Stanley someone else might be forced to make the sacrifice.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 8 blood bath dandy finn wittrock

“Blood Bath”

4.8       Blood Bath Airdate:  12/03/14

Ma Petite is dead at the hands of Dell, but Ethel tosses accusations at Elsa which leads to tragedy.  Amazon Eve, Desiree, and Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins) help Penny plot revenge against Penny’s father.  Dora’s daughter Regina (Gabourey Sidibe) returns home to search for her mother forcing Dandy and his mother to take drastic action.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 9 tupperware party massacre

“Tupperware Party Massacre”

4.9       Tupperware Party Massacre Airdate:  12/10/14

Jimmy’s habit of pleasing the local ladies could backfire when Dandy visits their Tupperware party.  Dell finds dealing with Ma Petite’s death is too much and takes matters into his own hands.  Desiree and Maggie search for the twins but Desiree has a visit from her former lover Angus T. Jefferson (Malcolm-Jamal Warner).  Regina brings Detective Colquitt (P.J. Marshall) when she learns about the truth of Dandy’s actions, but Regina could have a cruel surprise.  Dot and Bette are grabbed by Elsa and Stanley are promised that separation could action happen with the right doctor.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 10 orphans sister eunice pepper asylum naomi grossman lily rabe

“Orphans”

4.10     Orphans Airdate:  12/17/14

Pepper (Naomi Grossman) mourns the death of her husband Salty (Christopher Neiman), and Elsa tells Desiree how she came to find Pepper and bring her to the freak show.  Jimmy is held prisoner for the murder of the women at the Tupperware party, and Stanley comes to Jimmy with a way to pay for his legal fees.  Maggie confesses her partnership with Stanley to Desiree and reveals what is happening to all of the performers who have disappeared.  Elsa takes Pepper to her sister Rita (Mare Winningham) but her sister has her own way of dealing with Pepper when things get difficult.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 11 magical thinking puppet marjorie chester neil patrick harris

“Magical Thinking”

4.11     Magical Thinking Airdate:  01/07/15

Magician, ventriloquist, and iguana dealer Chester (Neil Patrick Harris) has come to the freak show to peddle his wares but might find a permanent place for him.  Jimmy sells his hands to Stanley get a defense team, but Dell and Eve realize that Jimmy will never be free without help.  Elsa prepares to leave for Hollywood but learns the true fate of Ma Petite.  Dot and Bette have their eyes on Chester but his puppet Marjorie (Jamie Brewer) and Dandy aren’t happy about the situation.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 12 show stoppers marjorie jamie brewer puppet

“Show Stoppers”

4.12     Show Stoppers Airdate:  01/14/15

Dell is dead and Elsa has sold the show to Chester.  Jimmy deals with the loss of his hands and his father, but the return of Elsa’s love Massimo Dolcefino (Danny Huston) could provide him with a new hope.  Stanley’s number could be up with the revelations of Maggie and the performers don’t take kindly to people who murder their friends.  With Marjorie disliking Chester’s growing relationship with Dot and Bette, someone has to pay…but it might not be Dot or Bette.  With the performers realizing Elsa’s hand in the death of Ethel, Elsa must take creative measures to protect herself.

american horror story freak show season 4 episode 13 curtain call we can be heroes elsa mars jessica lange

“Curtain Call”

4.13     Curtain Call Airdate:  01/21/15

Dandy has taken over the freak show, and he doesn’t approve of the way he’s being treated…but it is time for everyone’s number to come up.  Elsa finds her big break in Hollywood and discovers she cannot outrun her past.

Related Links:

American Horror Story:  Murder House Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Asylum Review and Complete Episode Guide

American Horror Story:  Coven Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response