American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.02: “Massacres and Matinees”

Mat Fraser is one of the extraordinary actors cast in this season’s American Horror Story: Freak Show.
One of the things I love most about Freak Show so far is the inclusion of actual people as the “freaks.”Sure, you have your effects makeup and your digital editing, but it’s refreshing to see the producers using entertainers like Mat Fraser (as Paul the Illustrated Seal), Rose Siggins (as Legless Suzi), and Jyoti Amge (as Ma Petite) for cast roles. I think it adds the genuine edge this season is looking for, the line between what is considered “normal”and what is deemed “unnatural.”

The opening scene felt like an homage to the movie Freaks, with everyone chanting Jimmy’s (Evan Peters) praises. Jimmy, of course, might need a course in anger management. I know your first murder can be stressful. Hang in there. Jimmy seems to be the motivating factor for the other performers; he’s desperate to prove himself worthy of respect (maybe don’t kill anyone else, then?) In his eyes, the freaks are “no better, no worse; just regular people.”

Can’t hard-working performers get some pie and coffee in peace?

I like Jimmy. He’s a standup guy. This week’s diner scene struck me as one of the most powerful of all four seasons of American Horror Story. The horror in this case stems from it being the most real and accurate representation of how “normal”people treat “others.”It hurts to watch and it hurts more to know that on some level, we’re all guilty of assuming the worst about someone based on their looks.

The exploration of his character is nicely done, from his relationship with his mother to the appearance of his long-lost father. Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) rolls in as Elsa’s (Jessica Lange) new strong man, meaning he’s charged with keeping her charges in line, and he's brought along his three-breasted wife Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett), who has a bonus male organ added to her female plumbing. Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates) is understandably furious, but Jimmy is in the dark as to their familial association. Given Toledo’s less-than-pleasant methods of discipline post-diner incident, I can’t wait to see what happens when Jimmy learns the truth.

Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) is strong enough to lift an anvil and to be Elsa’s hammer.

Of course, Dell Toledo is a murderer, too. Like father, like son? I’m starting to think having a skeleton in the closet—or in your tent—is a pre-req for joining Elsa Mars' freak show. Jimmy already hates the guy. I’m bummed his plan to frame him for the cop’s murder fell through.

I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid of clowns until this season. Did I like them? Not really, but fear was a little too extreme. Now I’m afraid there’s a murder bus in the woods in the yard. Cut to your friendly neighbor toy shop, and there you will find a young clerk breaking Horror Rule No. 3: Do not follow the trail of blood.

Honestly, man, were you really so focused you didn’t see the gross clown hiding amongst the nicely laundered costumes? Well, Twisty’s certainly enjoying his killing spree. At least he’s having fun, right? That look of euphoria after the clerk’s murder is probably the most disturbing thing about it.

Just a simple, utterly deranged mother and son.

The only thing more terrifying is, of course, our return to Dandy (Finn Wittrock) and Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy). I am siding with the maid, Dora (Patti LaBelle), regarding Dandy being a brat.

You have got to be kidding me. I like her, which means she’s likely going to be brutally murdered. Sorry, Dora. Did everyone else see Dandy’s crystal whiskey baby bottle? I guess that’s what you get for naming your kid “Dandy.”And a grandbaby? You are off your rocker, Gloria. That boy does not need to procreate. He needs a psychologist.

Dora (Patti LaBelle) knows a bad seed when she sees one.

The crowning glory for Gloria is her poor decision to present Dandy with a gift. Guess who it is. Twisty. Of course it’s Twisty.

Horror Rule No. 4: Don’t pick people (or clowns) off the side of the road.

Even more frightening is Dandy’s sudden obsession with Twisty. At the mansion, they mirror each other’s movements. Dandy even follows Twisty to the murder bus after Twisty bashes his head with a club! When our girlfriend from last episode escapes the bus, Dandy brings her back as a token for Twisty, which he accepts. Dandy clearly feels like an outsider in his lavish world (we heard his declaration of running away to join the freak show), but apprenticing to a killer clown is really not the way to go, sir. It sure ain’t Broadway.

Superficial differences like looks and wealth don’t matter. Dandy and Twisty are kindred, deep down.

A final note on Twisty last night: WHAT THE HELL IS HIS FACE? Or WHERE? The directors gave us what we wanted: the reason Twisty wears the mask. Can we take it back? Because I cannot unsee that horror. No wonder the cast members were freaked out. Hell, real clowns the nation over are upset because of Twisty. For those of you who freaked out, as I did, Twisty has no lips, very few teeth, almost no lower jaw, and dear lord, were those maggots? We’re promised his backstory in episode 5. Do we want to know?

What I want to know is what’s going to happen to Bette and Dot. Unfortunately for Dot, her dreams of stardom were shattered last night. Bette is clearly the more talented sister, and you can bet Elsa is going to use that to get back at both of them for usurping her spotlight. She even gives Dot a knife. How else do you turn conjoined twins against each other?

Seems crazy, but only one of them is talented.

So far, I’m enjoying the pace of this season. It’s nice to spend time getting to know these characters (especially if the endgame is humanizing them and making us root for them), and I don’t feel like I’m inundated with backstory. I’m cautiously optimistic. We all know American Horror Story tends to suffer from biting off more than it can chew (I’m looking at you, Twisty!), but this season seems…simplified. I really hope it stays that way.

Edward Mordrake
The unusual Edward Mordrake?
Next week is Part One of the Halloween Special in which I am MOST excited to see their take on Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley). If you don’t know about him, Mordrake was an English gentleman said to have two faces, his natural face, and one on the back of his head. Think Professor Quirrell from Harry Potter. It’s said that though the back face was mute, its lips would move and its expression would change. Mordrake reportedly claimed the second face would whisper to him, tempting him with evil thoughts and deeds.

Keep the lights on next week.

Meghan Harker grew up in a small, awkwardly-named town in Georgia. She attended Brenau University, where she earned her BA in English and a minor in Graphic Design; she also attended the University of Cambridge, England, where she didn't quite master the perfect Oxbridge accent. She's an avid reader, writer, and fire spinner. She's currently working her first novel, a paranormal thriller. Visit her blog at

Read all posts by Meghan Harker for Criminal Element.

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