[RECAP] American Horror Story: Freak Show



Ok folks, season finale time. Ready? 

Everyone dies. No, seriously. Everyone dies.

Dandy treats the freaks like shit, and Paul finally stands up for them. How does Dandy respond? By shooting all the freaks. He marches through the carnival and shoots, in order: Paul, Penny, Toulouse, Suzi, a few unnamed carnies, and Barbara. He seeks out Desiree, who is hiding in a closet. While he’s looking for her, Eve tries to attack Dandy with an axe. The two tussle, and Dandy ends up shooting her in the leg to get her down to his level, then the head. By this time, Desiree has a better hiding place, and Dandy doesn’t find her. Instead, he is annoyed and goes back to the tents, where he has the twins bound and gagged. “Come with me.” As if they had a choice.

Jimmy comes to the carnival, the first time in weeks, and is disturbed to find the place empty. In the big tent, he finds the corpses of his fallen brethren piled. Desiree finally comes out of hiding and the two cling to one another.

Dandy takes the girls to his home, where they have a small wedding with just a preacher and his stuffed animals looking on. Technically, he is marrying Bette (legally I guess…?) but they’re a package deal. Bette is ecstatic. After the brief ceremony, they sit to a wedding feast. It soon becomes clear that Dandy’s champagne has been drugged. The twins reveal that they’ve hired Desiree as their housekeeper, and Jimmy arrives with an invite to see Dandy’s premiere performance. Dandy passes out. When he wakes, he’s stripped to his undies and chained in a Houdini escape box on the carnival’s main stage. Bette, Dot, Desiree and Jimmy taunt him for a while, then fill the tank with water and take their seats in the audience, eating popcorn while they watch him drown. “Heck of a show,” Jimmy declares.

So that’s it for the freaks. They all (pretty much) died. But we’re not done yet!

It is 1960. Hollywood, California. Elsa is a star. Shortly after arriving in Hollywood in 1953, she started stalking Mr. Gable, president of WBN, a television network. She loses it and throws a fit in the lobby, bringing security out, and a young man named Michael Beck, junior vice president of casting. He takes pity on her and helps her up. This fortuitous meeting led the two to be wed, and Elsa became a three-time Emmy winner, whose Friday night variety show was said to have changed the face of television.

Of course, things are never as perfect as they seem on television.

Elsa is miserable and lonely. Her husband cheats on her, she cheats on him. All her “friends” are on the payroll and do whatever she wants, so they aren’t cast away. A publicist wants Elsa and Michael to do a Halloween spread in Parade magazine to promote her All Hallows’ special. Elsa doesn’t work on Halloween and leaves for an “engagement at home.” This engagement is with Massimo. She wants to run away with him to Rome, get married and grow fat together. But Massimo is just there to say goodbye; he is riddled with cancer and doctors give him a month to live.

When Michael comes home with Mr. Gable, Elsa is wasted. They have a publicity nightmare on their hands. Hedda Hopper got a hold of Elsa’s German films, including the one where her legs are cut off. She tries to play the “it’s fake” card, but both Michael and Gable have seen it. There is no talking Hedda out of it – she’s publishing an article on the films next week. Hedda also hired a P.I. who discovered Elsa’s freak show in Florida. All the freaks are dead, found buried in a mass grave. This actually seems to affect Elsa, and she’s genuinely heartbroken over her “monsters.” Interestingly, this is the point where Gable brings up the morality clause in her contract. The deviant porno is fine, but running a freak show is definitely breaking that morality clause. Anyway, Gable will pay out her contract, and Elsa decides to perform on Halloween. Suicide.

For her Halloween special, Elsa sings another David Bowie track, “Heroes.” Her vocals are far too sultry to match the musical accompaniment, which sounds very close to the original instrumentation. Sure enough, Edward Mordrake rolls into town on a cloud of green mist. Twisty is with him. Elsa stops singing in the middle of the show. She’s talking to Mordrake, whom only Elsa can see. She begs him to take her, claiming to be the biggest freak of all. Mordrake recognizes that this is a suicide plan. He stabs her in the chest; to the audience, it looks like she had a heart attack.

Elsa is dead, but she is not in hell. She is back at the freak show, with all her “monsters.” Ethel, Ma Petite, Ethel, Eve, Paul, Penny, etc. She performs as the headliner to a packed house. Basically, Elsa made it to heaven. The few living “freaks” have made very normal lives for themselves. Desiree married Angus and they have two children. Jimmy married Dot (and Bette…? Still not sure how that works out legally) and the twins are pregnant.

There wasn’t a great swell of music or anyone riding into the sunset, but it was an unequivocally happy ending. For a show that lives and dies by murder, mayhem, and whatever fucked-up shit they can cram into an hour, it doesn’t seem to fit. I did appreciate bringing it back around to Mordrake. That was a nice way to tie it all up.

So there it was, folks. Season four of American Horror Story is over. Like every season before, it was pretty to look at, featured some great performances and some wicked set pieces, but it is a story wasteland. And yet, I will be back for season five. I am a total masochist.

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Weekend: May. 30, 2019, Jun. 2, 2019

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