RECAP: American Horror Story: Freak Show

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“Show Stoppers” opens with a scene right out of Tod Browning’s Freaks, a huge feast to celebrate Elsa having sold the carnival to Chester. She asks for time alone with her core cast and announces that, as a thank you to Stanley for getting her a television show, she will screen Freaks. (From her own private collection, of course. The film was virtually forgotten within a couple years of its 1932 release, and outright banned in England for over 30 years. I guess you really can get ahold of anything in Germany.) Stanley isn’t familiar with the movie, so the freaks take joy in describing—in great detail—the plot of the film. Of course, this foreshadows what’s about to happen. 

But first, a gift. Inside a sparkly box is the head of the museum curator. Maggie told them everything and after torturing him on the spinning wheel, Elsa stabs him in the leg and lets him run for his life. The freaks go after him, well… Freaks-style, but addressing the film you’re cribbing from doesn’t make it homage, it just makes it sloppy. They chase Stanley under a caravan and go after him, in a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the Freaks finale. Later, it’s revealed that Stanley has been turned into a sort of chicken-man, an almost identical version of the revenge carried out by the freaks in the film on the beautiful and duplicitous Cleopatra.

Chester is having sex with the twins, and they are a little creeped out with Marjorie watching them. The girls ask him to put Marjorie away, just this once, and he agrees. When the girls return to their trailer, Marjorie “comes to life” and fights with Chester. She convinces him that he doesn’t need the two, living girls and convinces him to kill them. Meanwhile, Dandy visits the twins, promising he is there purely out of friendship. He outs Chester as a murderer and offers them a file as proof. The girls don’t want to hear it and they kick him out, but Dandy’s planted seeds in their head.

The following day, Chester is discussing a new run-down for the show. The twins don’t want to be his assistant anymore, and Chester is momentarily hurt. Then, he announces his intent to saw them in half. The girls are scared of that term, and flat-out refuse. Chester becomes agitated, and the twins leave. Maggie steps in and offers to take their place. He allows her to get into the box, but his mind is a million miles away. He goes into full rehearsal mode, patter and all. But in this version of the trick, he slaps manacles around Maggie’s ankles. Then he begins to saw. Maggie freaks out because she cannot move her legs and therefore cannot curl up out of the way of the saw. She screams, but Chester, lost in his own delusion, doesn’t stop. The other freaks come running to the sounds of Maggie’s screams, morphing into dying gurgles. Blood drips from the box, but Chester is still in the “zone” and throws open the box, proudly revealing the “trick”: Maggie sawed in half. Her guts spill out onto the floor. The freaks are shocked, except Desiree, who thinks Maggie had it coming. “We steal her jewelry and bury her,” she says simply.

Chester is in the middle of a serious mental breakdown. Back in his trailer, he finds “Marjorie” packing. He doesn’t want to leave, so she will. Chester doesn’t want that, either, so he attacks, stabbing “Marjorie” to death. He’s overwhelmed with grief and remorse, and goes straight to the police station to turn himself in. The cops are worried when the upset, bloody man comes in with a small, blanket-wrapped body, but are at a loss when they unwrap the package and discover nothing but Marjorie.

Jimmy is a mess over Dell’s death. He is mad at Elsa for killing him, even though Elsa had his confession that he killed Ma Petite. So Jimmy turns his anger towards Maggie (clearly, this is before she gets sawed in half). Maggie insists that she’ll make it up to him, that she has changed, and that her love for him was never a lie. Jimmy doesn’t care. Shortly after this, Maggie is murdered, so add another depressing note to Jimmy’s fucked-up life. Elsa, though, has a happy surprise for him: she has found Massimo and he is coming to make new hands for Jimmy. Maybe he can plug up that gunshot wound in Elsa’s leg while he’s there. Jimmy doesn’t want ornamental prosthetics, until Elsa reveals to him her own false legs. Massimo and Elsa would have been married, were it not for folly.

After Elsa’s butchering, Massimo took care of her—taught her how to walk, dance, etc. But things started getting ugly in Germany. Elsa left for America, but Massimo stayed behind to seek vengeance for Elsa’s legs. He hunted and killed the men, until he got to the leader of the pack, Dr. Hans Gruber (another Asylum crossover). Massimo wanted to torture Gruber, but Gruber got the drop on him and shot him before he could make a move. He kept Massimo imprisoned, tortured him, electrocuted his genitals. By now, the war was in full swing. An SS officer above Gruber needed bookcases for his tremendous collection, so Massimo was released from Gruber’s cell and spent the remainder of the war building bookcases. After the war, he came to America and spent his time trying to find Elsa. He wrote her a letter but when he didn’t receive a response, he did not pursue. He was “like Pinocchio, no humanity.” Basically, his penis no longer works.

Sketches are made for a perfect set of hands. Work begins. By the end of the episode, Massimo has finished and is strapping the new mitts onto Jimmy’s stubs. But these are not anatomically perfect hands; they are Jimmy-perfect hands. They are his lobster claws. If you didn’t see that coming, I don’t know what to tell you. 

While Stanley was fleeing the bloodthirsty freaks, he tried to save his skin by outing Elsa as Ethel’s murderer. The freaks had other things on their mind then, but with things quiet at the moment, they have time to think about what Stanley said and realize it makes a lot more sense than Ethel offing herself. So they decide to mete out a little more freak-justice and kill Elsa. The twins rush into Elsa’s tent to warn her. She is mad that they came in unannounced and discovered her as she removed her legs, but the girls don’t have time to pontificate on that. They warn Elsa to leave now. “Now we are even,” Dot says. So when the freaks come in, thirsty for Elsa-blood, they find her tent empty.

Elsa meets up with Dandy briefly. She doesn’t know where to go or what to do, but she knows how to get money. She sells the carnival to Dandy. For the second time in as many days, the carnival has been sold. This time, she got $10,000. Good thing Chester turned himself into the police; can you imagine the bloodbath that would have occurred if he and Dandy had to face-off? Actually, I would have really liked to see that.

American Horror Story: Freak Show closes next week. I have no predictions, because there really hasn’t been any plot to speak of. It’s just a collection of heinous crimes perpetrated by heinous people. The most interesting character, Twisty, was killed off halfway through the season; the second-most interesting character, Chester, came and went in the blink of an eye. The freaks are basically a bloodthirsty mob. Even Jimmy, the sweetest and most intelligent of the bunch (well, maybe tied with Paul) has been so damaged, there’s likely no coming back. Dandy has returned, seemingly “cured” of his homicidal tendencies. I’d be happy if every single character met a gruesome, bloody death. Except Paul and Eve. I like them.

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Weekend: Jun. 27, 2019, Jun. 30, 2019

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