08 “Blood Bath” (American Horror Story) [SPOILERS]

ahs freakshow

I am, thanks to the internet dark patch resultant from our┬árecent move and general business of relocating an entire flat’s contents (my flat’s contents) from one place to another, running a little late with my reviews. Fortunately, American Horror Story is a week behind due to some American thing. Thanksgiving, or some such.

But anyway, we are well and truly into the season now, and to say that it’s gone batsh*t crazy feels like an understatement. As ever this series has assembled an excellent cast, given them varied characters to develop, and let them run riot.

And, as ever, it hasn’t all worked. The approach is something along the lines of throwing everything at the story and seeing what sticks. It may not be the best approach, but it does work, and now is about the point where a coherent storyline starts to emerge.

So after a week’s hiatus, what does Freak Show have to offer us?

Well, in short, a whole lot of death.

After last week’s heartbreaking ending, the freaks are out searching for Ma Petite, and bring back only her bloodied dress. Elsa is overcome with grief, not that Ethel believes it is genuine; having overheard Elsa plotting the twin’s death with Stanley last week, she corners her at gunpoint, only to end up with an expertly thrown knife through her eye. Jimmy takes his mother’s death hard, and lashes out at Maggie. And a worried Gloria sends Dandy to a shrink, as Dora’s daughter Regina turns up looking for her mother.

There’s approaches to furthering a storyline, but killing everyone (well, a lot of people) is pretty radical as they go.

I was definitely floored by Ma Petite’s unsavoury end last week, and Elsa’s reaction mirrored my own. The fact that her genuine grief was then thrown back at her by Ethel worked well as a foil. And even Elsa being forced to kill her friend was emotional. What put it nicely back into perspective was her reaction to her “discovery” of Ethel’s death. Hammed up, overacted, and illustrating why her stardom never did arrive.

The troupe is disintegrating, and whilst in part that is down to the odious Stanley having wormed his way in, he was only let in by Elsa. Or, more accurately, her greed. The way Stanley helps Elsa cover up the murder is as gruesomely grim as anything that AHS pulls out, seeming almost comical in its darkness.

The Dandy strain of the story is deep into the rabbit hole of weirdness. First off Gloria playing to Dandy’s vanity in dressing the psychiatrist up as an IQ tester, when her worries about him grow to weighty. To be fair, he has been murdering people, so she probably ought to be worried.

And at last Gabourey Sidibe has arrived on the show. Sadly, her character has yet to display the sort of vibrancy of Queenie in Coven. Presumably her role will grow as the story creeps to a conclusion, and there is definitely something darker than first appearances suggest (Well, this is American Horror Story… -Ed). For now though, it feels like the longest introduction ever.

The real climax comes when Dandy kills Gloria though. It’s the “coming of age” moment we’ve been moving towards, him ridding himself of both the mother figure and the controlling and restraining influence. The moment at the end when he bathes in her blood, having spoken earlier about the potential for such an act to grant the strength of the dead person, is symbolic and terrifying, in that over-the-top, typical way of this series.

There is, also, worth mentioning Penny’s revenge on her father. Egged on by Desiree and with the other women in tow, she kidnaps her abusive dad, and in a fairly brutal scene the ladies pour boiling tar over him. Maggie’s intervention saves them from killing him, but Penny’s embrace of her freak identity and the power it gives her embodies so much of what this series has been about.

The hit and miss element of AHS is, honestly, why I love it. It doesn’t make for a perfect show, but it makes for a creative explosion, both ideas which work and don’t as a result. Say what you like about loose plot threads, odd plot twists, and the rest — American Horror Story consistently keeps me both guessing and watching.

Closing thoughts:

  • One of the most quietly significant moments, to my mind, was Del’s reaction to Jimmy’s screams upon finding Ma Petite’s dress.
  • So, Dandy’s childhood friend disappeared never to be seen again. But I thought Dora was the first person Dandy had killed. So what happened to the gardener’s son?
  • Only five episodes to go. If they keep killing characters off at this rate, they’re going to run out before the end…

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