‘American Horror Story: Freak Show:’ Going halfsies

American Horror Story: Freak Show
“Show Stoppers”
January 14, 2015

Elsa’s sold the carnival to a PTSD-crazed, hammer-wielding maniac with a dummy fetish, let’s celebrate! Elsa, NPH, the performers, “Richard” and “Esmerelda” eat, drink and party until Elsa asks NPH to excuse himself, bitte, she needs ein last moment vit zee monsters und “Richard,” danke.

After NPH leaves Elsa offers a toast to “Richard” for transforming zee course of all of zere lives, vit zee big Hollywood TV show, ja? Und to celebrate, zey vill vatch ein movie. “Not Sign of the Cross again,” whines one performer. Nein! assures Elsa, zey vill watch zee classic film, Freaks, a movie we have already discussed here many times. But Eve offers a refresher on the plot for those of the audience who do not read this blog: a traveling carnival, a beautiful but duplicitous trapeze artist, a rich sideshow freak, a murder plot, and finally an act of terrifying revenge. “Sounds great!” says “Richard.” “But I’m afraid I can’t stick around for reasons.”

But before “Richard” can take his leave, Elsa presents him with ein big pretty present: Museum Lady’s head in a jar. Gern geschehen! “Richard,” understandably, is disturbed by the souvenir Desiree brought back from her trip to Philadelphia, and tries to claim that he’s innocent. No one believes him though and he’s promptly strapped to the wheel where Elsa throws a few knives precariously close to his head und groin, before releasink him und hurlink ein knife into his thigh. “Richard” screams at the performers that Elsa killed Ethel, but Elsa is all, “Vho are you goink to believe, him or me?” Und with that, knives in hand, Elsa’s monsters chase “Richard” through the carnival, cornering him beneath a caravan, recreating Freaks shot for shot.

Gee. I wonder what’s going to happen to “Richard.”

Spoiler alert.

Elsa swings by the shed to check on Jimmy, and tell him to not romanticize his dead Vater. He had it comink. Also, too, Jimmy should forgive “Esmerelda” Maggie, here; vitout her, there vould be ein lot more corpses. Anyvay, Elsa is Jimmy’s Mutter now, and zee first thing she is goink to do to take care of him is have Maggie change his bandages. Tschüs!

And so Maggie tries to clean Jimmy’s wounds and apologize for the whole, coming-to-his-camp-killing-all-his-friends thing, but Jimmy’s like, NOPE. NOT HAVING IT, LADY.

Inside the big tent, Elsa is lighting the stage when who should walk in but Axe Man, whom we are calling “Italian Prosthetics Guy” this time around. “Italian Prosthetics Guy” and Elsa have ein big hug.

Over in his caravan, NPH is enjoying a little two-headed action when Dot is like, “Hey, you know what would be much sexier? If we weren’t being stared at by a creepy dummy, that’d be much sexier.” NPH, who is very much so in the moment, is like, OKYESPLEASE and knocks Marjorie off her perch. But he gets an earful about it from Marjorie later, who insists that the Twins are just using him and he’s a murderer and he has to get rid of the Twins or she’s going to leave him. “I KNOW, I KNOW,” sighs NPH.

It would appear that the seed of doubt that “Richard” planted in the performers’ minds about Elsa and her relationship to Ethel’s death took hold. After a drinking and reminiscing session in Ethel’s caravan, the group decides that it’s most likely that Elsa did, in fact, kill Ethel, and this cannot stand. SHARPEN YOUR PITCHFORKS, AND SOAK YOUR TORCHES IN LIGHTER FLUID, WE’VE GOT SOME FANCY TENTS TO STORM.

After their sexytimes with NPH, Dandy pays a visit to the Twins in their tent and is like, “Your new boyfriend is a murdering weirdo and here are the files I’ve collected on him to prove it, LOL BYE.”

Elsa brings her boyfriend Italian Prosthetics Guy out to the shed to meet Jimmy, inform him he’s going to be making-a the wooden-a hands for him, no? and also, too, to tell Jimmy his tutto story. After he saved Elsa and gave-a her new wooden legs, Italian Prosthetics Guy hunted a-down tutto of i mostri who took-a them from her in the primi place. He found-a them all, except-a for i mostri-in-chief, Hans Gruper.

Gruper, he turn-a the tables on Italian Prosthetics Guy, e he tortured him for molto months. But then Gruper’s capo, he wanted some-a bookcases, e that’s how Italian Prosthetics Guy managed to survive-a the war. After, Italian Prosthetics Guy came-a to the States to look for Elsa, but when-a he wrote to her, she did not write back. And then something about how he has no humanity left in him and is incapable to love because: torture.

So, NPH brings everyone into the big tent to discuss the upcoming changes to the carnival and performances. While he outlines the order of the acts, Dot and Bette telepath that they shouldn’t rush to judgment about the whole “murdering his wife” thing, clearly having snuck a look at Dandy’s file. But when NPH announces that he’s made a change to the sawing a girl in half act, and calls the Twins to come up on the stage to get into the box for a rehearsal, they’re like, “HOW ABOUT NOPE. TWINS OUT,” and they wisely excuse themselves from the tent. “BYE, CHUMPS.”

Peace, y’all.

Then, for no good reason whatsoever except that the writers were done with her, Maggie up and volunteers to get in the box. NPH loads her up, only to become more and more furious and more and more unhinged, until he is handcuffing Maggie’s feet together, so that when he “saws her in half,” he LITERALLY SAWS HER IN HALF. YIKES.

At first, Crazy NPH is all like, “It’s magic! She’s fine!” but when Maggie isn’t put back together again after he says a few “abracadabras” NPH tries to blame Marjorie, before running, screaming out of the tent. The rest of the performers are like, YIKES! But only for half a second before they are all, “Shrug. Bury her out in the back with all the other bodies.”

Well, she kinda did.

Crazy NPH “follows” Marjorie back to his caravan where she announces she’s OUT OF HERE, CRAZY. So he stabs his puppet “to death.”

A bloodied NPH then marches straight into police headquarters with Marjorie’s “body” and confesses he has murdered a young lady. “Send me to the chair!” NPH cries out while all the cops are like:

Jimmy has a little flashback of his mother encouraging him to get past his stage fright and perform for the first time, before Eve comes in and is like, “Hey, guess what, Maggie’s dead and we’re going to kill Elsa next.” She then notices Italian Prosthetics Guy’s sketches for Jimmy’s new hands, and is like, “Guess you’ll be normal now,” like all those normal people with normal wooden hands. Jimmy has a consternated.

Meanwhile, the Twins pop into Elsa’s tent and are like, “Heads up (puns always intended), the performers are coming to kill you, don’t ask us how we know because we weren’t in Ethel’s caravan when they planned it, but the point is, we’d leave town it if we were you. KBAI.”

And sure enough, the performers come storming into Elsa’s tent only to find Elsa long gone. JOKES ON YOU, SUCKERS: Not only has Elsa made her getaway, she did so by selling her carnival to Dandy for $10,000.

So Dandy pulls up to the carnival the next morning and is like, “I own all you people, now fetch me a lemonade.” As Dandy explores his new prize, he hears some moaning in the back of the big tent, and investigating, discovers “Richard” in his new condition.


And finally, Jimmy’s new hands are delivered.

Let’s begin with the American Horror Story: Asylum connections: so obviously, Elsa’s torturer was none other than Sister Jude’s nemesis, Hans Gruper, a.k.a. Arthur Arden. How great was it that they cast James Cromwell’s son to play the younger Gruper? Until I checked imdb.com, I thought they might have used some special effects magic to make the actor look like Cromwell, but nope! just the magic of genetics.

And Gruper was not the only connection to Asylum: we learn that Elsa also likes Sister Jude’s favorite movie, The Sign of the Cross. Some people are wondering if this isn’t a hint that Elsa and Jude are the same person — after all, before she was a nun, Jude was a lounge singer. However, this theory doesn’t hold much water between the loss of Elsa’s accent and the fact that she certainly would have recognized Arden as her torturer.

As for the rest of the episode, we’ve hit the “Quick! Wrap it up!” portion of the season, where Ryan Murphy just begins killing people off to get them out of the way. While both Maggie and Stanley deserved brutal ends, only Stanley’s fate felt actually thought-out and constructed. Maggie’s death was rushed, unexpected and felt unearned. I know that Murphy was determined to saw someone in half — that saw box was a Chekov’s gun of the highest order — but having it be Maggie was odd and her eagerness to be in NPH’s act simply did not feel authentic to her character.

Otherwise, the episode was fine. Better than the previous one, certainly, and gives me a little glimmer of hope that the finale will not be a disaster. But just a glimmer. As for how it will unfold, I think we have to regard who is left standing. I suppose, in the end, Jimmy is the “hero” of the series, after all, symbolized in this episode through his choosing to embrace his difference even though he had an opportunity to take a “normal” life. In most hero’s journeys, the protagonist endures a series of tests before returning home, changed through his experiences and prepared to lead or to save his people. Having certainly endured many tests, and having come to accept his identity, is Jimmy poised to be the carnival’s hero in tonight’s finale? (This being a Ryan Murphy project, who even knows.)

American Horror Story: Freak Show aired on FX.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.

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