Here we are, about half way through the fourth season of American Horror Story. Rumors are running rampant about what season five will told for the AHS players but as far as I’m concerned we’ve still got a ways to go on Freak Show. I want to start by asking you: If you’re reading this, are you still on board with this season? I am still enjoying the series, but casually, you could say, as I find that for as much as the series enjoys having large and exciting casts, it rarely knows what to do with them.
There really are no supporting cast members on American Horror Story any more, and this is a big problem. It began during Asylum where the storytelling was uneven due to its lack of focus on a central character or a focused plot. In Coven, they narrowed things down a little bit which felt like an improvement, even if audiences didn’t love the season overall. Now, in the sixth episode of Freak Show titled “Bullseye,” I find myself confused about who and what this season is actually about.
Jessica Lange’s Elsa Mars is clearly intended to be the main character but as the season progresses, I find her to be continually one note and very difficult to feel sympathy for. In tonight’s episode, Elsa is supposed to be celebrating her birthday, surrounded by her “monsters” (is she the Lady Gaga of Jupiter, FL?). She flies off the handle when they begin to question her in the disappearance of Dot and Bette, whom she has delivered to Dandy and Gloria Mott, thus solving her problem of the young stars who are stealing her spotlight. Dandy reveals to Gloria how much he cares for the girls and that he might actually be in love with them. Bette feels strongly for Dandy as well but Dot isn’t having it and her rejection sends Dandy into a rage and his spineless mother watches helplessly, trying to make him feel better.
Here’s my question: do the writers behind American Horror Story actually think that their audience could be capable for sympathy for Dandy? Are they trying to shine a light on the entitled young mass murders who have filled the news over the last ten years? I would imagine the answer to be “yes,” as AHS has spent a lot of the first half of this season trying to explain Dandy to us. He’s a failed actor, he has cold, sociopathic tendencies, he’s a product of inbreeding but, unfortunately, that’s just not enough. I’m tired of this storyline, I think it’s incredibly shallow and find my mind wandering towards wondering where other characters, like Del and Desiree — who were absent during this episode after being a big part of the focus in “Pink Cupcakes” — are while Dandy is on screen.
Meanwhile, back at the camp, we learn that Paul is in love with a “normal” girl in the town and she loves him back. When Elsa gets a hint of this she flies off the handle again and guilt tricks her “monsters” into proving their trust for her by strapping into her spinning bullseye and letting her throw the knives. I understand a bit of camp here and there but as far as I’m concerned, this was the most hammy event we’ve seen on the series in a while. Jimmy volunteers but Paul steps in and on her third throw, Elsa “misses” and strikes him in the gut. We see in the tease for next week that he has reunited with his lady love so are obviously led to believe that he survives.
Also happening at the grounds is Esmerelda being pushed by Stanley to murder one of the freaks so he can sell the corpse to the museum and receive a big payday. Of course he wants Jimmy but Esmerelda talks him down from the Lobster Boy and suggests Ma Petite instead but ultimately, can’t bring herself to kill her. Finally, Ethel is the only one left to celebrate Elsa’s birthday with her and while she pledges her loyalty to Mars, she threatens her in the exact same breath, telling her if she ever finds out Elsa did something to the Tattler Sisters, she’ll kill her. I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again and goofy accents be damned: I love Kathy Bates on this season of AHS.
And there you have it. A pretty flat episode of American Horror Story. I will continue to watch because I like the small, thoughtful moments of the series a lot, but the further in that we get, they appear to be few and far between. But, once again, I ask you: what are your thoughts on Freak Show? Am I being too hard on the series? Am I the only one who misses Twisty the Clown? Let’s hear your take in the comments below!
American Horror Story airs Wednesday nights on FX.