Oh dear, I wrote this in April (April 18, to be precise) and forgot all about it. We’re currently watching the next Americn Horror Story series (Hotel) and Murphy’s Scream Queens which is one of my favourite shows of the year. However, let me transport you back a few months to when we were watching Freak Show. Let’s think of it as ‘retro’. Enjoy…
If you watched American Horror Story Freak Show you’ll understand why I’m quoting David Bowie’s Life on Mars above. If you didn’t here’s your warning that this post will probably be littered with spoilers, or maybe not, depends what you call a spoiler and if you don’t watch it much of this won’t mean much anyway, so, whatever about that.
Now to the fun part. There’s a lot of reviewers and commenters getting themselves in a bit of a knot about this show, and I can see why. The problem seems to start when you try and place any sort of logic, narrative or otherwise, on it as it’s unlikely to live up to expectations. AHS in general is a bit of a mess, but a wonderful one at that. Full of plot holes and story arcs that go nowhere. It also seems to ignore the conventions of series TV by doing things like introducing major characters 3 episodes before the end of the series and setting up stories that go nowhere. It’s nonsense generally, but for me that’s part of the fun. As I watched the final episode of AHS Freak Show there was a scene with some of the cast watching a psycho killer drown in a Houdini Water tank whilst cheering and eating popcorn. It’s one of the many scenes I couldn’t have imagined they would do, and it made me realise it’s why I roll up each week in front of the TV and think – what have you got for me this week? You just don’t know. Eating popcorn and cheering might well be the way to watch AHS.
OK, so to the show, and I wanted to do a little list of weirdness, bouquets, brickbats and questions it left me with. As I said, this probably won’t mean much if you don’t watch it, but it might still be colourful reading.
1. Stanley – what happened to him? After his Freaks (the movie) homaged multilation it seems like the writers forgot about him.
2. Stanley again – why the plotline about him having an extremely large penis. Went nowhere, was never mentioned again.
3. Why wasn’t Salty in the Valhalla/Heaven/Whatever it was freaks reunion?
4. Can someone please give Sarah Paulson an award, she is consistently amazing in this show and never more so in her dual/single role as Dot and Bette this season. The special effects to create that illusion were also spectacular, although when Dot/Bette were filmed from behind or walking or both and there was clearly a dummy head there it tended to look a little Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
5. Other amazements – Angela Bassett for me is somehow trashy camp excellence (in other words – perfect), Neil Patrick Harris was only in 2 episodes but stole the show – and casting Jamie Brewer as his ventriloquist doll was genius (she was one of the best things about Coven, which I also loved). Frances Conroy who I almost forgot to mention because she was out of the show far too soon. Oh, and Finn Wittrock as Dandy – stupendous. More awards, give them awards.
6. Slightly less excited – Emma Roberts, felt like the same character again, I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the actor or the casting, Kathy Bates Baltimorian accent was distracting (I recognised it thanks to John Travolta in Hairspray of all people), Evan Peters got to do a lot more this time and was good but I’d like to see him cast in a really different type of role – he could have been Edward Mortlake maybe, the angry young man thing is starting to get a bit tired. And Jessica Lange who is great (even with the slightly silly accent Liebchen), but again I feel there’s a lack of challenge for her in these roles which have been more of less variations on the same character.
7. The songs. This is where AHS meets Glee, but both of the Bowie songs were perfect, I loved that they were completely decade inappropriate, ra-ra, all the better. That’s So AHS. The other songs though were less exciting and it would have been better without them.
8. The title sequence is a nightmare come true. That clown with the 360 head turn and red eyes is going to haunt me at some stage.
9. Plot holes? Inconsistencies? We got ’em. But I don’t care. Again, it’s part of the thrill ride suspension of disbelief this show is all about. I don’t care that Jimmy, a wanted fugitive with fake lobster hands, somehow eludes capture and lives inconspicuosly with his two-headed pregnant wife in the suburbs. Or that Stanley just happened to have the required ipecac syrup on him at the jailhouse and Jimmy thought that was A OK buddy.
9. Oh the mysterious top hat thing, very obviously inserted on coffee cups etc. shouting IT’S A CLUE. AHS isn’t good at being subtle – like the Freaks homage episode where they make sure you get told everything about that movie, and Desiree making a parallel the pickled-in-jars freaks before drowning Dandy in the water chamber. It’s OK, we got it. Also, I’m not convinced that the inter-season relationships were designed from the start, I think that’s something that has been added as the series have been written.
10. Pepper. I left actress Naomi Grossman out of point 5 only because I felt she deserved her very own dot point. In a role where she barely spoke Naomi Grossman was nothing short of spectacular in ‘Orphans’, the episode that revealed Pepper’s back story and the link to AHS Asylum. This episode will destroy you, it’s TV on a whole new scale. Truly, beautifully devastating.