Fall TV 2014RecapReviewTV

‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ Review/Recap: “Monsters Among Us”

Hannah Hunt ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Still from the American Horror Story: Freak Show episode "Monsters Among Us." Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.
Still from the American Horror Story: Freak Show episode “Monsters Among Us.” Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.

After nine months off the air, the fourth season of American Horror Story, titled Freak Show, has returned. But, where are all the freaks? The premiere succeeded in introducing the audience to some of its key cast members but it failed to acquaint them much at all to the larger part of the freak show.

“Monsters Among Us” took viewers under the tent and into a world of proper American Horror Story expectations, in this case freaky expectations. Though horrifying, it is also joyful. Freak Show ultimately revealed a tribe of freaks who stand together giving audiences the same campier feeling of an alliance that was seen in Coven, the previous season. Fear not to audiences who watch American Horror Story for the horror, there are already plenty of disturbing occurrences like those seen in the second season, Asylum. Terrorizing both Jupiter and the freak show is Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) who could be the tamest of the horrors this season when you compare it to the way Jimmy “Lobster Boy” Darling (Evan Peters) uses his disfigured hands.

Behind the freak show curtain, it is the 1950s and the characters from Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities in Jupiter, Florida were introduced via Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson), conjoined twins harboring a secret of their own. The sisters arrive there after they are taken under the wing of the lady in charge, Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange), a failed German actress who runs the struggling sideshow. Viewers meet Ethel ‘the bearded lady’ Darling (Kathy Bates) and her son Jimmy “Lobster Boy” Darling (Peters). So far, exploring a few of the freaks’ history in flashbacks has added fuel to the narrative but the episode largely dealt with Bette, Dot and their integration into their new home with Elsa.

Considering the amount of hype and seconds of the initial trailer that were devoted to Bette and Dot, it was no surprise when the first episode followed suit. An interesting part about the twins was learning how different their personalities were. On the left is the sweet and innocent Bette and on the right is her tough and skeptical sister Dot. Their extremely conflicting personalities seem to often cause disagreement between the sisters. When it came to the decision of whether or not to accept Elsa’s offer to join the freak show, Bette was immediately excited and game for anything while Dot remained suspicious. The difference between Bette and Dot’s reactions seems to be a good representation of the audience after every American Horror Story premiere: either you’re willing to accept whatever will be thrown at you like Bette, or you’re still not so sure like Dot. Either way, Elsa is leading the way on this freaky ride.

Jyoti Amge and Naomi Grossman in the American Horror Story: Freak Show episode "Monsters Among Us." Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.
Jyoti Amge and Naomi Grossman in the American Horror Story: Freak Show episode “Monsters Among Us.” Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/FX.

Besides the key roles fulfilled by some of the returning company of American Horror Story actors, one of the most exciting parts of Freak Show is its featured artists. Some of them never having acted before, were actively seeked out by Ryan Murphy to be a part of this season. Bette and Dot’s fellow freaks are: Legless Suzy (Rose Siggins), Meep (Ben Woolf), Paul the Illustrated Seal (Mat Fraser) who is a tattoo-covered man with malformed arms, the giantess Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) and Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), the smallest woman in the world. We get to see the freaks in action when the wealthy town woman Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy) and her son Dandy (Finn Wittrock), the freak show’s only customers, attend a performance.

But who really are these performers and what are their stories? Viewers were barely introduced to any of them other than the freaky basics. Hopefully, in a Orange is the New Black style, episode by episode each character’s story of how they ended up with Elsa will be revealed. This season is also the first time the same character appeared in two separate seasons within the anthology series. Pepper, from Asylum, is found among the cast of Elsa’s freak show. However, there was not even a hint in last nights episode as to what will come regarding this storyline.

Has the show already begun to juggle more than it can handle? In the 90-minute premiere, only a portion of tiny Jupiter, Florida is introduced. Even several key cast members including Angela Bassett, Denis O’Hare, Michael Chiklis and Emma Roberts do not appear. Elsa’s Cabinet is about to get even more crowded. With so many stories to tell, will Freak Show be able to tell them well?

Despite having too many freaks to introduce, “Monsters Among Us” presented two large pieces of the plot that can be predicted to dictate into the future of the season: all Elsa cares about is saving the freak show, by default saving herself, and there is a serial killing and kidnapping clown terrorizing the town. The beauty of the show is that everything changes each season, but by way of horror elements like home invasions, murders and abductions, American Horror Story has roots it returns to.

Episode Grade: B

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