‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ has proven just a bit more cogent than last season’s ‘Coven’ (while simultaneously connecting itself to the ‘Asylum’), but the FX horror drama’s January return will accomplish something no other ‘Horror Story’ has dared. Check out Neil Patrick Harris’ magical guest appearance in our first preview for the ‘Freak Show’'s antepenultimate hour, “Magical Thinking”!
American Horror Story: Freak Show
For the second week in a row, ‘American Horror Story’ has delivered a pretty solid episode—it could be due in part to the increasingly smaller number of carnival performers combined with the show’s rotating system, which makes at least one cast member (or attraction, in the parlance of a sideshow) sit out each week in order to focus its narrative efforts elsewhere. And maybe “Orphans” works because it tells a story that’s genuinely sad, which accentuates the horror of the hour. And maybe I also think this episode is great because Lily Rabe reprises her role as Sister Mary Eunice, and she is a total queen.
Great news, everyone: The horror and darkness have creeped back into ‘American Horror Story’ at last. And while the continuing narrative of Jimmy the Hero vs. Dandy the Villain doesn’t quite manage to be something greater than the sum of its parts, the ‘Freak Show’ delivers the first solid episode in weeks. The ghosts of the past invade the present with a surreal quality that echoes the way Jimmy’s brain is clouded by alcohol, or the way Dell—through misery and frustrating uncertainty—writes and rewrites his intended suicide letter. But it’s Dandy and Stanley who bring the real discomfort and unease to “Tupperware Party Massacre.”
There is a figurative line, somewhere on television, between tedious melodrama and soap opera theatrics, and yet another line exists over which you can cross into the blissful, Lynchian territory of self-awareness and not-quite-rightness. In that surreal place, soapy theatrics and camp are embraced satirically and knowingly because this is a place that looks like somewhere you know but feels like an unsettling dream. I don’t think ‘American Horror Story’ is on the same level as David Lynch, but I’m starting to convince (delude) myself into thinking that maybe after tonight’s “Blood Bath,” it’s attempting to play with the same tones.
We’ve not yet crossed Thanksgiving into December, but the rapidly-approaching 2015 slate of FX and FXX’s returning series has us ready for the new year. The cable networks have officially scheduled the season 6 premiere of ‘Archer,’ as well as the sixth and final season premiere of ‘Justified’ for January 2015, along with a third year for ‘The Americans,’ 10th for ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,’ and more.
Welcome to another episode of ‘Soap Opera: Freak Show,’ in which we’ve (hopefully) reached peak melodrama. Although Jessica Lange’s Elsa subdues herself somewhat in “Test of Strength,” allowing for more theatrical performances from the father/son bonding of Michael Chiklis’ Dell and Evan Peters’ Jimmy, there’s still way too much heightened drama and not enough of that horror that the show’s title promises. And where’s all the bonkers weirdness that we’ve come to love from Ryan Murphy and Co.? This season has worked itself into a woefully boring rut.
We seem to have officially hit our lull in this season of 'American Horror Story' -- every year there comes a point when the melodrama takes over for an episode or two, when the horror takes a backseat to the scenery chewing. This week Jessica Lange goes full-on Joan Crawford in her role of Elsa Mars, and that's not really a bad thing (hello 'Mommie Dearest'!), but the familial dynamics overtake the macabre wackiness and the end result is a bit tedious.
Every season of television needs a central conflict around which it revolves, around which some other, smaller conflicts float, tethered to its orbit, but always drawn into the grand design. 'American Horror Story' is the obnoxious, rebellious teenage series. It doesn't play by these rules and conventions, sometimes to its detriment. Conflicts and villains are introduced and swept away; those players whom we think major are offed in the first few episodes, and big bads emerge and converge in seemingly senseless fashion. Who are the true villains of 'Freak Show'? It's a question that perhaps the show is still trying to answer.
With the recent announcement that Lily Rabe will be reprising her season 2 'Asylum' role as Sister Mary Eunice in season 4's 'Freak Show,' joining fellow 'Asylum' alum Naomi Grossman's Pepper, fans have begun to wonder just how much of the world of 'American Horror Story' is connected. Is it just the two seasons that are specifically connected, or are all of the seasons woven together somehow? Creator Ryan Murphy has finally spoken up to confirm that yes, all of this is connected, so feel free to grab some balls of yarn and start your own complex 'American Horror Story' cork boards.
The first few episodes of 'Freak Show' have largely placed the lesser-known supporting characters on the periphery, perhaps to the show's detriment, as the Curiosities in Fraulein Elsa's Cabinet appear to offer much of interest. The ghastly Edward Mordrake gets it, as does Elsa, on some level; if only the people of Jupiter, Florida would give them a chance, they would see it -- how compelling and relatable they truly are. Every bit as deserving at a chance in the spotlight as Kathy Bates' Ethel or Sarah Paulson's Dot and Bette. "Edward Mordrake, Part 2" begins by giving at least a couple of them a chance to shine. It's not much, but it's a step in the right direction.