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American Horror Story: Freak Show – S4E1 – Monsters Among Us

It’s time for another season of American Horror Story. And, as always, I am equal parts elated and terrified. I’m not particularly scared of “carnies”, but they are certainly fascinating and AHS has an uncanny knack for making even the mundane completely twisted and creepy as shit, so I am really looking forward to this.

The season opener is 90 minutes long. Knowing AHS, it’s to pack some extra “freak” in your Wednesday night, so here we go.

We start off with Bette and Dot Tattler, played by Sarah Paulson – who has historically played my least favorite character in every season thus far. I’m predisposed to dislike this character. And to make matters worse, she is not one, but (sort of) two people in this season. A two-headed twin. Lord help me, we have double the Paulson. She better be good.

AHS Freak Show Bette and Dot

The scene changes to a milkman making his delivery (Jupiter Florida, 1952) He finds last week’s delivery spoiled and still on the porch. Methinks there are dead folk inside. Come on, mister, let’s find out. And just like the kind and caring (read: stupidly brave) 1950’s milkman he is, he walks right in to investigate. Apparently people didn’t lock any doors back then and just waltzed on in to other people’s houses over some spoiled milk.

Anyway, in the kitchen he finds the remnants of a meal and a woman’s slippered feet peeking from under the table. A few more steps and he sees her throat has been slit and blood is pooled around her head. He drops the milk in shock and grabs a rolling pin. Because when you’re trying to fight off a crazy killer with a knife, a rolling pin is the obvious choice. Not, I don’t know, another knife? The lady is already dead. Get in your delivery truck and go find some help. You are not the FBI, you are not Iron Man, you are a milkman. Have some sense!

But he has none. He goes meandering through the house, rolling pin raised, and opens a closet to find…I have no idea, but judging by his face, it wasn’t pretty. Damn it, I wanna see!

Cut to painted toes being rolled swiftly on a gurney, a nurse vomiting into a trash can from what she’s seen. A doctor peers at some x-rays, calling out the organs and body parts, making yet another nurse look like she’s gonna toss her cookies.

A woman wearing Cruella Deville’s fur coat comes striding through the hospital. This better be Jessica Lange, cuz no one else should even try to wear this getup. And oh hell yes, it is! I love this woman. I will repeat that many times this season, so get used to it. She has a German accent and says she’s there to visit her aunt. The candy striper says they’re not “supposed” to smoke. Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) says it’s okay, it’s Lucky Strike and it’s “good for you.” The candy striper accepts the cig and takes a few drags. She offers the candy striper her business card and apparently the striper offers Elsa her uniform.

Elsa rolls down the halls (in the uniform) and makes her way over to the “secure wing” (which is not at all secure – they have one sad, little security guard who just let her walk right on past). She enters Bette’s room where we can finally see the two heads on one body. Elsa says, “What pretty girls you are” and the two heads glance at each other. For some reason, this totally made me squirm. At first I thought, big whoop, two-headed. But seeing them move and talk…yup, creepy as shit.

This season’s opening credits include a re-mix of the theme song. It’s all music box, carnival type with clowns and dolls and… stuff. Silly me thought this season might be a tad tame. Nope. Not one bit.

Elsa hangs a dress on Dot and Bette’s bed while the two heads talk silently to each other. They can read each other’s minds? I kinda like that. Apparently the milkman was at the twins’ house. They must’ve been what he stumbled upon in the closet. I think I’d have been more upset by the gruesome corpse, but hey, to each his own.

Elsa says there’s a bit of Betty Grable in her and reaches to touch Bette’s face but Dot slaps her hand away. Damn girl, you have some balls to slap Jessica Lange. Even if it is in the script. Elsa does not look pleased. But Bette is chatty and friendly and ends up taking a drag of Elsa’s cigarette. But Dot blows out the smoke. That was weird, but cool as hell.

The twins have two hearts, two lungs, but just one reproductive system. Elsa asks if anyone has tasted their “cherry pie.” Considering how the milkman reacted to them, I’m gonna go with no. Bette admits to some masturbating, says that Dot claims not to like it, but Bette thinks she secretly does. Dot calls her a disgusting slut. Considering she is technically getting her sister off while she does it, she kinda is one. But hey, everyone has needs. Dot kicks Elsa out, but Elsa promises to be back.

Cut to a young couple making out on a red checkered blanket. She wants to “do it” and proffers some condoms. He rushes to the car to get her a surprise. Someone…something…what in the hell is THAT? It’s got three tufts of hair, is that a clown costume? Oh fuck no. It’s got some creepy ass grin, looking all crazy Heath Ledger Joker-like. His mask is, like, not a mask, it’s sewn onto his face, or something, I don’t know. I cannot look away from it but he’s freaking terrifying.

The boyfriend returns from the car and the girlfriend is surprised he didn’t hire the clown. What in the world? Who would hire a clown that looked like that? Mr. Clown is not pleased the boy has returned. Oh boy. Someone is going to die. Yup. He beats them both over the head with a club and then stabs the boyfriend to death – slowly and very juicily. Girlfriend comes to and sees it happening then tries to run away. In the opposite direction of the car. Mr. Clown chases after. That isn’t gonna end well.

Elsa is in a coffee shop cutting out newspaper clippings and yacking about Alfred Hitchcock. The waitress has no time for her nonsense and leaves. Elsa catches sight of a young man across the restaurant. She is not happy to see him. His name is Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) and he has made Elsa mad. He believes they’re not wanted there and they flashback to another time when Elsa’s show was asked to leave. But Elsa won’t leave easily. She takes her underthings off the drying line and hands them to the land owner. Pretty sure they got to stay a while longer after that. One does not get a dose of Jessica Lange and then walk away.

Back to the coffee shop, Elsa taunts Jimmy about his deformities. Oooh, what are they? I wanna yell, “Whip ‘em out!” but I guess that will happen in due time. Jimmy raises his mittened hands before he leaves the shop. If he’s got extra fingers or something, that’s a deformity that can be put to some good use and I can think of several women who would quite enjoy it. It better be something weirder than that. Elsa leaves shortly after without paying her bill because, “stars never pay.”

Next, we’re are at a dull housewife party that is about to get spiced up with a freak the hostess has “picked up” for everyone’s enjoyment. It’s Jimmy Darling. The housewife props herself up on the bed and hoists her skirt up. Jimmy holds up his deformed hand – a permanent live long and prosper, abnormally long fingers melded together. Two in the pink, two in the stink, or so it appears. The little housewife seems to be enjoying it greatly and Jimmy seems to really love his job. It’s not quite the deformity I had imagined, but I’m pleased to see he’s putting it to the perverted good use I thought he would.


At the hospital, Dot is recalling the night her mother died. Elsa is not believing a word. Their story has some holes in it.

At another house, a man gets out of bed in the middle of the night. Mr. Clown is close behind. Good God, will I ever get that image out of my head? Wifey wakes up and Mr. Clown is standing right there. She screams and he begins stabbing. The radio calls it a “blood bath.” I call it “not okay.” Nobody should wake up to see that dude. Including the poor kid he stole from his bed.


Oh God, Mr. Clown has some sort of bus prison with the kidnapped boy and the girl from the picnic caged inside. The girl feeds the little boy something and says not to worry, his parents will never stop looking for him. Nope, they’re dead. He’s on his own. With Mr. Clown. This is my least favorite story line ever. And the reason I will be sleeping with the lights on tonight.

Mr. Clown returns and shows them his lovely clown doll. The girl begs to be released. I’d beg to be killed cuz no amount of therapy is gonna get that mother effer out of my mind. He shakes a rattle at them and then blows up a balloon to make a balloon animal. He ends up popping it and the his captors lose their shit. And so do I. He doesn’t like it so he starts throwing balls at their cage. And since that’s not scary enough, he smashes some glass jars and kicks and rattles their cage. They’re screaming and I’m horrified. Damn clowns.

Elsa is with the twins and gets the real story of their mother’s death. Bette wanted to see a movie but their mother refused to let them out of the house. In a frustrated rage, Bette sliced her throat open. I don’t think she was all that crazy for doing it, either. That lady had it coming. Elsa says she understands their crime and is there to save them. Bette is thrilled, Dot is wary. And then we make our way to the freak show.

AHS Freak Show Episode 1

Jimmy is holding a very tiny Indian girl. Or perhaps it’s a woman. She’s very tiny and has a voice like a cartoon mouse. She’s like a walking doll, and all I can think of is that movie Annabelle, and while she’s a perfectly pretty, probably nice, person, she’s freaking me out right now. Beside Jimmy is a very large looking woman and a strange looking man. His arms are deformed and I can’t quite place how. They’re almost reptile like. But he’s got tattoos and some swag, so I predict he’s gonna be pretty cool.

Bette is writing in her diary. She is in love with being at the freak show. She finds it beautiful and fascinating. Dot is miserable. In true Sarah Paulson fashion, she has managed to become my least favorite character on the show. Stop your bitching, lady. Go find Jimmy and let him work his magic on you and un-clench for goodness sake. Ooooooh, but she DID find Jimmy. Or at least, he found her. A little smile and a wink and uptight Bette actually grins. Me likey where this might be headed.

Woo hoo! Enter Kathy Bates. She is Ethel Darling, the bearded lady. She tells Bette she will “slap her silly into next week” if she doesn’t let Dot eat her bowl of soup. She also calls her an “ungrateful little bitch.” I freaking LOVE Kathy Bates. And I already love this bearded lady. Though, honestly, couldn’t she shave? She’d be totally normal if she invested in a Schick.

Jimmy is out with some of the freaks hanging up their show sign and I discover that the reptile guy is not tatted. That’s actually his skin. But he still looks kinda badass. Some young a-holes in a convertible drive by and throw beer bottles at them. Jimmy says he hates it, the giant lady says, “That’s showbiz.” She’s actually right. Kim Kardashian had blood thrown at her on a red carpet. Haters gonna hate.

The candy striper comes charging into the tent where Elsa is seated and demands to go home. She swears she will tell everyone how she was drugged and what “really goes on” at the freak show, but Elsa says no, she won’t. She liked it there. And then begins playing a video on the screen of candy striper, um, engaging in lewd acts. Candy striper begins to cry and I realize she looks like Leah from Teen Mom 2. Elsa puts her in her place, tells her that the freaks of the show are the brave and beautiful ones. That she is the monster. That shut candy striper up.

Tiny girl comes in and…honestly, I have no damn clue what she said. But it made Elsa happy to hear. She carries tiny girl like a baby and declares that the twins are going to save them.

Ethel and Jimmy are counting the money he made from his…exploits, and he declares that they could leave because they deserve better. Ethel says absolutely not. But Jimmy wants out. He’s determined to find a place they can have a “normal life” but Ethel says there’s no such thing. She sends him off to find the twins and orders, “no flipper action.” Ha, I love her.

The twins are lying on a bed crying, “get away, get away” as some cop lurks over them, and Jimmy comes to their rescue. The cop cuffs them and tries to take them away as suspects in their mother’s murder. Jimmy gives a little whistle and reptile guy and giant lady come to his side. Cop calls him a freak and Jimmy loses it and slices the cop’s throat open. Everyone gasps, but nobody does anything but wait for the guy to die. Jimmy retrieves the handcuff keys and lets the twins loose and Bette declares he saved them. Jimmy says it’s going to be the twins that save everyone.

Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy) and her son Dandy (Finn Wittrock) are in the tent waiting for the freak show to begin. Dandy is not a dandy – he’s a pain in the rear. Petulant little shit. But his eyes light up when the “freaks” come out.

And then Elsa comes out on a paper rocket ship, wearing a powder blue suit and entirely too much blue eye shadow and she’s…singing. This is not at all like when Nicole Kidman was in Moulin Rouge or when Catherine Zeta Jones was in Chicago. Among all the human oddities, this musical number is the strangest thing for miles. What on God’s green earth was THAT?

Dandy wanders backstage and finds the twins to ask them, “how much”? Elsa says they are not prostitutes. Gloria says she wants to buy them outright. They offer five thousand, Elsa counters with ten. Gloria offers fifteen. The girls declare they are not leaving for anything. Gloria says she needs a bath, though nothing can wash away what she’d seen. Then declares Elsa’s “caterwauling” the most “freakish thing of all” that night. Right?!? That’s what I said! For the record, I recap as it goes, so technically, I said it first. Though she said it better.

Pan out to the carnival and Mr. Clown is on the merry-go-round. No, no, no, no, no, no, NO. He cannot become part of the show. I have had enough of him. More than enough. Just… no.

Jimmy is leading a burial ceremony of sorts for the cop he killed. And he actually makes it seem like he did the good and right thing for killing the cop. I love this kid. So happy he’s playing a tough, badass leader this season. While he was amazing in Coven, he had hardly any lines. So I am loving this. But then all the freaks start slicing up the dead cop’s body and I am thoroughly creeped out all over again.

Ethel goes to visit Elsa and Elsa confesses she brought the twins to the show for her own benefit. She was the one who wanted to be seen, she wanted to become a star. Ethel soothes her and says it’s okay. Says Elsa has a gift. Not sure what it is, but it ain’t her singing. Just when I think Ethel is bat-shit insane, she gives a look that shows she doesn’t mean a word of it. Elsa sends her away to rest and Ethel doesn’t even bother to tell her to take that damn eye shadow off first. Someone PLEASE clean up her face. She is as upsetting to look at as the damn clown!

Elsa turns on some music and bends down to unstrap her legs. She moved around pretty damn spritely and effortlessly for someone walking around on some wooden legs. I was hoping she had some sort of oddity or ailment, but that was a tad lackluster. I hope that develops into something more exciting as the season goes.

All in all, that was a solid season opener. Exactly what I’ve come to expect from AHS. With such a talented cast and a foundation as wide open as “freaks”, the possibilities are endless. I’m looking forward to where the season takes us. And to Jessica Lange taking off the damn eye shadow.

Oh yes, and I also watched the previews for the rest of the season. All I can tell you is that Angela Bassett has three boobs. So, yeah, in a nutshell…I’M IN.

About Maya Maldonado (43 Articles)
Maya Maldanado is the author of the Lust (The Immortal Shadows Trilogy).

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