American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.08: “Blood Bath”

Penny (Grace Gummer) was a candy striper, then an opium-assisted "actress," then a young lover, now a tattoo-faced, fork-tongued lizard girl thanks to dear old dad Vince (Lee Tergesen)
Penny (Grace Gummer) was a candy striper, then an opium-assisted "actress," now a tattoo-faced, fork-tongued lizard girl thanks to dear old dad Vince (Lee Tergesen).
Welcome back to the Freak Show! I hope you dames and gents had a lovely break to spend time with your own caravan of carnies.

To recap a show like this, blood must be spilled along with SPOILERS. Now, getting caught up…

When last we left Elsa’s (Jessica Lange) overly extravagant tents, the freaks had been joined by Penny (Grace Gummer), now the Amazing Lizard Girl thanks to her father being a Grade-A dirtbag, and Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) met her end thanks to Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis). I can’t help but feel that all of this is a slow (very slow) build-up to what I’m praying is a phenomenal explosion.

We get the first hint of terror to come opening with Gloria Mott (Francis Conroy) in therapy. Finally, someone does something intelligent on this show. She’s clearly torn between her love for her son Dandy (Finn Wittrock) and the reality that he’s a serial-killing nutcase. You guys already must know how psyched I am that we got Dandy'ss backstory this week. Is it morally corrupt to wish for a show just about Dandy? His character is one of the saving graces this season. Dandy did just start killing out of boredom: he had it in him all along.

Speaking of killers, the search for Ma Petite ends with her tattered, bloody dress out in the field.

Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) apparently has a knack for finding dead things. Ever the center of attention, Elsa is floored by her grief. And Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates) is having none of it. I cannot express my love for Ethel enough. She is so no-nonsense, and it’s refreshing and wonderful, so you know she’s gonna die. Did you really learn nothing from poor Paul (Mat Fraser)? You let on you know too much, you get a knife in the gut.

Massimo Dolcefino (Danny Huston) was the creator of Elsa’s amazong appendages.

Ethel asks the million dollar question: “Who are you, Elsa Mars?” Here’s what we know: Elsa is jealous of Marlene Dietrich, her legs were amputated in a snuff film, and now we know an Italian designer named Massimo Dolcefino (Dany Huston, our former Axeman from Coven) built her those snazzy prosthetics. But Ethel is totally right; we don’t know anything about Elsa except that she runs the freak show and she hates people stealing her spotlight. I love her protestation about never hurting anyone. Um, what about Paul?

Ethel (Kathy Bates) has had just about as much baloney from Elsa as she’s gonna stand.

I’m telling you, Ethel is a lady of her word. She threatened to take Elsa out if she found out she was lying and sure enough, that pistol is set to take her down. Turns out Ethel didn’t know about Elsa’s freak appendages. Oops. Then she turns the gun on herself. Elsa invites her to have one last drink and chucks a throwing knife into Ethel’s eye. In order to cover up the murder, Stanley (Denis O’Hare) helps Elsa frame it as a suicide. I’m not certain if it’s actually possible to decapitate yourself with a chain tied to a tree, but I’ll let it stand. Elsa, of course, gallivants off on business to find a replacement freak.

That’s some strong mourning for murdering your best and oldest friend. She brings us Barbara, AKA Ima Wiggles (Chrissy Metz). Where, oh where, are we going, Elsa?

Barbara, AKA Ima Wiggles (Chrissy Metz)
Barbara’s got her own charms, but we’ll all miss Ethel.

Oh, Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts), you’re as bad an actor as Elsa. I guess she is in love with Jimmy? He saved her from Dandy after all, but I think I missed the part where she stopped seeing him as a money-making scheme and as boyfriend material instead. I just don’t like her. I do want her wardrobe, though.

Gabourey Sidibe is back as Regina, and she is taking no crap from the Mott family. Sorry darling, but you’re right. Dora (Patti LaBelle) isn’t buying squash. Dandy murdered her. I hope Regina gets to stick around for a while, maybe to pull a Lana Winters and up-end Dandy’s reign of overly indulged terror.

Dandy (Finn Wittrock) will play games with Regina (Gabourey Sidibe) until the squash comes home.

Remember when I said I wanted a show about Dandy? I really want a show about Dandy and this mysterious therapist. Dandy doesn’t miss a beat on that inkblot test and I’m horrifically entranced by his interpretations. “It’s going to be a very messy cleanup.” Oh, I bet it is, you sicko. Why didn’t the therapist lock him up on the spot? Well, where would the fun be in that? Regina, girl, get the hell out of that house. I know you’re livid and want to know where your mother is, but you know what Dandy’s about.

Horror Rule No. 11: When given the opportunity, get the hell out of Dodge before you get murdered.

Back at the freak show, our leading ladies, former candy-striper Penny, Legless Suzy (Rose Siggins), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervine), and queen bee Desiree (Angela Bassett) form a plot to tar and feather Penny’s father for his “chicken shit” treatment of his daughter. Little Miss Spoil Sport Esmerelda barges in just as things are getting good and fumbles around what appears to be a moral compass. Can we please get rid of her already? She’s just there, not contributing to the plot or doing anything important.

With the help of therapy, Gloria Mott (Francis Conroy) faces her family issues.
Just when you think this episode is going to end light on the gore, we snap back to darling Dandy, who’s on to Gloria’s scheme and having none of it. He’s got a golden pistol to match his crystal baby bottle for cognax and he promises to end it all to relieve his mother of the burden of dealing with him. Gloria, of course, “cannot live with [him,]”so he shoots her instead. Bang. I’ve really got to stop proclaiming my love for characters. See where it gets me?

Thanks to Ryan Murphy, we’re treated to some Dandy butt, followed by the episode’s titular and very literal blood bath. I can only assume it’s Gloria’s blood, and Dandy, do you have any idea how difficult it is to get bloodstains out of porcelain? Where did that bathtub come from anyway?

We’re left, once again, with the foil of Dandy and Jimmy, both suddenly motherless. Jimmy is lost in the drink, Dandy is…still in a bathtub full of blood.

So relaxing… and about the only way Dandy was going to get back into his mother’s heart.
There are only two episodes left until the winter hiatus, and I am begging and hoping and praying that something major happens and soon! Though I think that American Horror Story: Freak Show isn’t tossing in everything but the kitchen sink, I’m gonna need something more substantial than unfortunate deaths. Move the plot forward, please! The previews look promising and filled with Dandy’s madness unleashed.

Was he making puppets? Shudder.


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 ExquisitelyOdd.com.

Read all posts by Meghan Harker for Criminal Element.

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