American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.12: “Show Stoppers”

Grace Gummer as Penny, Mat Fraser as Paul the Illustrated Seal.

“Show Stoppers” is the perfect name for this second-to-last episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show. I think my wish from last week was granted. If you haven't caught up with the season so far, please do. There will be spoilers and theories in this recap, so if you want surprises, get thee to a television set, then come back here and share your own wagers for how Freak Show will come to an end. There's certainly a lot to take in, and I'm glad they kept this episode inside the tents. No forays into town, no popping by Mott Manor.

We find our freaks celebrating new management! Elsa (Jessica Lange) sold the freak show to Chester (Neil Patrick Harris) at the end of last week's episode. I guess by default, she sold it to Marjorie (Jamie Brewer) as well. Have I mentioned how creepy Marjorie is? Given what we know— well, I'll get to that in a minute. Elsa dismisses Chester to spend a few last moments with her original freaks and Stanley (Dennis O'Hare) the freakiest of them all.

Elsa's got a whole evening of celebration planned, though! A feast, time spent together, and a favorite film. I laughed when the freaks begged, “Not The Sign of the Cross again.” Asylum fans will remember that as Sister Jude's film of choice, and though the two share a face, I doubt Elsa would be keen on Jude's choice of entertainment. No, the movie on the block is none other than Freaks. It's a nice allusion to how this season began, to its inspiration, and mostly to what's about to happen to Stanley in the next two minutes.

And there's Maggie (Emma Roberts), once again blowing the subtly out of every situation. Don't worry, my wish for Maggie came true as well. No, Desiree presents Stanley with a flashback and a gift: Lillian Hemmings' (Celia Weston's) head in a jar! That's what you get for selling their friends as curiosities, Stan. You're next.'

Cut to Jimmy (Evan Peters), now orphaned a second time, and he is pissed that Dell (Michael Chiklis) is gone. Elsa admits she killed him because he killed Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), and she heard his confession with her own ears. Jimmy knows how far the freaks go to protect their own. I guess they stopped looking for that detective you murdered, Jim. Good for you. Elsa leaves him with the promise of new hands and Nurse Maggie, who actually looks remorseful, but I still hate her stupid face.

Elsa is updating the lighting for her freak show when her beloved Axm— I mean, Italian limb crafter Massimo (Danny Huston) reappears. It's nice to have a bit of love story. American Horror Story is clearly not lacking in the story portion of their venture. In a shocking turn of events, Massimo is a murderous freak too. After Elsa survived the snuff film, Massimo hunted down the men who harmed her and killed them. The leader, one Hans Gruper (Well hello again Dr. Arden!), captured and tortured him, rendering him soulless and incapable of love.

Well, okay then. I actually don't hate the connections between seasons at this point (really, they've only connected Freak Show to Asylum, which makes me terrified the aliens will rear their ugly and pointless heads), but I wish they'd keep those things to allusions and jokes. I still don't get why it has to be connected. Anyway…

Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson) are happy with Chester, Chester is happy with them. Marjorie is still jealous and creepy as hell, but she forces Chester to admit that he killed his wife and her lover because of course he did. Marjorie is a doll and even though she looks possessed and probably is, she didn't murder anyone. Actually, I'm pretty sure Marjorie is the only one with a clean record. Chester…well, Chester goes a bit off the deep end and literally saws Maggie in half. Intestines everywhere. Maybe next time don't engage the obviously crazy magician, okay?

I agree with Desiree (Angela Bassett), “She had it coming.” I'm thinking we've been wrong all along, guys: Desiree is real protagonist this season. She's smart, she's confident, she's gorgeous, and she is the sassiest gal with the most common sense. Maggie's in pieces and Desiree's response? Steal her jewelry, and bury the bitch.

Angela Bassett as Desiree Dupree.

Bless you, Desiree.

Oh, and thanks to beloved Dandy (Finn Wittrock), the twins know Chester is one fry short of a Happy Meal. Dandy seems to be in a more exciting version of Freak Show. I miss him. I miss his storyline. His murdering rampage appears to have gone the way most of American Horror Story's plots go: somewhere we will never see them again. Since all the seasons cross over, I'm hoping Dandy gets a real story, filled with bloody shenanigans, ridiculous men's ware, and a mad dash across Europe.

Chester turns his anger on Marjorie and ”kills” her, then turns himself in to the police. I hope they locked him up somewhere he can find the mental help he needs. It's been fun, NPH. See you around!

Oh hey, remember when Stanley tried to throw Elsa under the bus by claiming she killed Ethel (Kathy Bates? Now the freaks remember too, and by now we are all well-versed in what freaks do to those who threaten their own. Without the horrible musical numbers, I've been enjoying the score a lot. Elsa isn't in her tent, so she lives another night.

No, she calls Dandy of all people to bail her out. Guess who owns the freak show now?! It is what he's always wanted, so I guess his life of crime has moved over for life in the limelight. Let's be real for a moment here: when the music swells and Dandy takes the stage and bows? That was the most perfect moment of this whole season. Maybe I love Dandy too much. I don't care.

Bonus: Stanley is alive, limbless, and stuffed into a geek costume. He'll certainly frighten the children!

And Jimmy. I thought it was pretty awesome he chose to have his new hands be lobster hands. Here he is, the only one of them would could have passed for normal, and he chooses to be a lobster boy. I still have a glimmer for hope for you, Jim. I do.

So far, here's where we stand with The Death Count:

Ethel Darling

Ma Petite

Meep (Ben Woolf)

Twisty (John Carroll Lynch)

Dell Toledo


Stanley (I'm still counting him because he's basically dead)

Lillian the Curator

Marjorie (why not?)

Dandy's Death Count:

Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy)

Dora Ross (Patti LaBelle)

Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe), by proxy

Andy (Matt Bomer)

The Avon Lady

Several Unsuspecting Housewives


That one detective Jimmy offed and we kind of forgot about

Dot and Bette's mother

Dandy's early victims

It's all over next week, ladies and gents. I think we can rest assured that Elsa will survive. We did have that glimpse of her on a magazine from our brief Pepper (Naomi Grossman) adventures. Some people are claiming Chester's ledger from last week's episode is a clue for season five, but honesty, I don't have a theory on what show runner Ryan Murphy may have cooked up in his twisted brain.

I think Jimmy's done for. He's too smart, but too loyal to leave his remaining family and start over. Desiree is bound to survive be the happiest broad imaginable. The Twins seem like the sacrificial type and Dandy… I want him to burn the freak show to the ground. If he's going out, I sure hope it's in a blaze of glory. Because you all know Dandy is my favorite.

One more to go. What do you think we'll get in next week's season finale?

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.