After a week off for Thanksgiving, let’s recap and discuss the latest episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, entitled “Blood Bath.”
This episode began with the performers on the search for Ma Petite. When Del happens to find her dress torn and bloodied and suggests that an animal killed her, the group is overcome with grief, including Jessica Lange’s Elsa Mars. Mars weeps at the loss of her sweet, innocent friend but Ethel (Kathy Bates), who accidentally overheard Mars and Stanley possibly discussing the murder of the Tattler Sisters, isn’t buying it. Ethel drunkenly confronts Elsa informing her that she plans to make good on her promise to kill her if she ever found out that she put one of their kind in danger. Elsa tries to talk Ethel down but it doesn’t work and Ethel winds up shooting at Elsa, hitting her in the leg and blowing a hole through her prosthetic. Elsa then tells Ethel more of her story and attempts to sway Ethel from killing her. Ethel is steadfast and reveals that she not only plans on killing Elsa but the rest of the “freaks” as well. Elsa is able to turn her back to Ethel grabbing a knife and throwing it straight into her eye, killing Ethel before she can kill her.
I liked the acting in this scene a lot. Watching Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates spar is one of my favorite things about this season of AHS. As a result of Elsa’s actions, she goes to Stanley to stage an accident, making it look like Ethel killed herself in her car on the grounds of the show. In an interesting twist, we flash back to see Stanley and Elsa staging the scene and Elsa appears to be legitimately shaken up. Call me naive, but I actually bought Elsa’s reaction as sincere even though Stanley wasn’t so sure. Jimmy spends the episode processing his mothers death by drinking himself stupid which ended with him telling Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) that she would be better off leaving him.
This episode also featured a scene of lady revenge as Penny and her new sisters, Amazon Eve, Legless Suzi and Desiree, return to her fathers house to bring him to the camp and teach him a lesson. After tarring and feathering him, the women are about to kill him when Maggie enters to try and talk them out of it. She is successful and the women don’t kill Penny’s father, but Penny does issue him a very stern warning — which, if he was smart, he would abide by. I’m still not entirely sure that Freak Show won’t end with the people of Jupiter descending upon the camp like angry villagers on the hunt for Frankenstein’s monster, but we still have a few episodes left so I suppose all will be revealed soon enough.
All of that being said, now I need to address the other major part of the episode. For the first time since Asylum, I actually loathe something on American Horror Story, and that something is Dandy. I hate his character. I often try to understand what the thought process is behind creating a character like Dandy. He’s bizarre but not funny or even amusing, he’s aggressive but not quite campy, he’s insane but not really scary. From what we know, he’s a product of inbreeding and he’s very spoiled. An entitled and violent mess, Dandy has been surrounded by an enabling mother who can’t bring herself to seek out help for him for a number of reasons, all of them selfish.
I can understand on paper the idea of the juxtaposition of Dandy and the “freaks.” He’s the real monster but in the shell of a white, attractive, seemingly heteronormative and privileged young man. The problem with Dandy is that there’s no humanity to grab onto in his character and so, he is flat. We haven’t seen a young man lose control, we haven’t seen him snap. According to his mother, he’s always been this way. That is fine, I know for a fact there are people that exist like that in real life and they often become worse when they are entitled, but if that’s the case then we as an audience need a little texture. We need some complexity to make Dandy truly terrifying. He’s not like John Carroll Lynch’s Twisty, a troubled and probably mentally handicapped figure who was most likely made a monster. Dandy just is a monster, and watching him week after week is, for me, the most unsatisfying arc that American Horror Story has done in a long time.
As we near the end of the season with only five episodes to go, it would appear that we have entered the phase of the show where the series starts picking people off. The death of Ethel was a big one for the series and probably a hint of what is to come, especially if the teaser for next Wednesday’s episode, “Tupperware Party Massacre” is to be believed. The return of Gabourey Sidibe’s Regina Ross in “Blood Bath” probably signaled trouble for Dandy’s rus,e although to be honest, the murder of her mother happened so long ago that a resolution to that storyline so much later in the season isn’t really that appealing to me. It kind of feels like an after thought.
What say you, American Horror Story fans? Will Sidibe bring a reckoning down on Dandy or will she be his next victim?
American Horror Story is back with a new episode on Wednesday, December 10th on FX.