Somehow we’ve had twelve episodes of American Horror Story’s fourth season over the last few months. Which means this, the lucky thirteenth, is the last.
These series always feel far too short, ending just as I’m getting into them. That’s part of the magic I suppose, and in fitting with the circus-y theme, always leave the audience wanting more.
The story of these freaks has been, to my mind, magnificiently woven and has taken the AHS franchise to new places. Not every idea, as ever, has worked, but I would say that more have than in previous series.
Of course, the fear hanging heavy is that Jessica Lange won’t change her mind and return to the series for the next season. So if “Curtain Call” is really her own curtain call, then it had better be good.
With Dandy having bought the show at the end of the last episode, the freaks find themselves under the boot of a new tyrant. And, tensions between the freaks and the murdery man-child quickly get…bloody. Meanwhile Elsa is still searching for her televisual ticket to fame, and eventually discovers that it is neither what she wanted nor wants.
So Dandy’s purchase of the show was not ever going to end well, but the freaks are determined to make an effort of it, not least because Dandy, to quote Paul, has “money pouring out of his ears”. But when Dandy’s new singing show doesn’t immediately make him a show, he goes a little…Dandy on them.
The scene where he walks around the camp gunning down each of the freaks with a gold revolver, is a quietly chilling scene — watching our favourite characters be excecuted without a scrap of dialogue, and barely a note of music. Jimmy’s anguished discovery of the pile of bodies mirror’s the audience reaction at such a callous end for our favourites.
Dandy spares the twins, so he can force a suddenly compliant Bette to marry him in a weird fantasy-fairytale wedding at the Mott house. But Jimmy and Desiree escaped the slaughter, and make an appearance at the wedding feast as the new staff. Dandy’s blurred confusion as he is drugged and the betrayal is revealed — after his cooing over the idea of “freak babies” — is second only to his impotent rage as they chain him in Houdini’s glass escapology case and slowly fill it with water.
Desiree gives voice to what I’ve been saying all along, Dandy is “the biggest freak of all.”
It’s, in many ways, a sad end for the troupe of friends. But it’s not really the end.
When Elsa arrives in Hollywood, she is repeatedly snubbed by the TV executives, until she meets a man called Michael Beck. Fast forward, and Elsa is a cantankerous star, unhappily married to Beck, but with a successful show. She still refuses to perform on Halloween — for reasons regular viewers will know — but changes her mind when the tape of her legs being cut off surfaces to ruin her.
Initially, she wants to run away with Massimo, but when he tells her that he has barely a month to go, she embraces her true nature. Performing on Halloween summons Edward Moredrake again, and again she offers herself to go with him. Instead, he sends her to her own personal afterlife, where she is greeted by all of her old freaks, and dressed up to perform — all her sins forgiven. And the survivors? Desiree is seen with her children and husband Angus — remember him? — and Jimmy married to a heavily pregnant Dot and Bette.
So Freak Show is done. To be fair to the creators, they did promise something different, and with this series they’ve delivered it. In the same way as all horror you have an examination of the human condition through the glass of the weird, and the message at the end was the same as the message throughout — those who appear normal are the biggest freaks of all.
It’s a bit saccharine, perhaps, but ASH has earned it. And a happy ending, of sorts, is a beautiful close. Elsa is back where she belonged all along, and Ms Lange gets the best send off that the show can manage.
- The return of Edward Moredrake — and Twisty — was not quite what I had expected, but tied in well with the story.
- One thing this series has done is bring Finn Wittrock to a wider audience. He has been brilliant as Dandy.
- Throughout the previous twelve episodes, the effects with the twins’ two heads has been brilliantly executed. Sad, then, that when Dandy has them tied up it is clearly a dummy head switching sides. A little disappointing.
- I continue to hope against hope that Jessica Lange will change her mind and return for the next series. She has made this series.
- And on that note: Sarah Paulson has absolutely shone as the twins. Two girls, two distinct personalities. Perhaps she could fill any Lange-shaped void? A tough ask, really.
- “The freaks shall inherit the earth…“