DEADtime TV: American Horror Story Freak Show – ‘Show Stoppers’

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American Horror Story Freak Show, begins its attempts to miraculously resolve all of its subplots before the finale in “Show Stoppers”, but if you’ve been following along throughout the season, it’s easy to see that this is an impossible task. There are way too many of them, including the newly added Chester the ventriloquist/dummy, to take care, so American Horror Story does what it does best and simply murders them off. Yes, there’s a lot of murdering to be done, and Freak Show has the just the freaks to do it.

They start off with Stanley, whose journey to riches has come to an end now that Maggie and Desiree have revealed his deadly secrets to the rest of the troupe. While explicitly detailing the plot synopsis of Tod Browning’s Freaks, the group gives him a crazy trophy for all of his work – the severed head of the lady who buys all of his freakish collectibles. Then, they perform the finale of Freaks on Stanley. For a wrap-up, Stanley certainly gets what’s coming to him. At the same time, it’s too easily solved, since his presence in the camp has been one of the biggest focal points of this season and the conclusion to his story is surprisingly short.

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Meanwhile, there’s lots of other stuff going on at Elsa’s Cabinet. The freaks are against Elsa because they know she killed Ethel, and they plot revenge against her – again, by heading to her tent at night and murdering her. But Dot and Bette get there first, warn her of her imminent demise, and she takes off to stardom. Again, it’s a weird twist for Freak Show, one that doesn’t effectively end Elsa’s run on the show; and from the story about Pepper, we know that Elsa doesn’t die anyway since she lands it big in Hollywood, so any tension that should be evoked here is wasted.

Before she makes a run for it, though, she brings in Massimo Dolcefino, the guy who made her wooden legs. She wants to get Jimmy the hands that he deserves after they were so terribly cut off by Stanley, so she brings him back to help out. He graciously does so, but not before reiterating the story of Elsa’s torture. He went after her torturers to kill them, and succeeded gutting everyone but Hans Gruper (who goes on to become the mad doctor in Asylum). Another tie-in between Freak Show and Asylum, but again a harried exposition about Elsa and Dolcefino to give them some much needed backstory. The good that comes out of this, though, is the show’s final reveal, that Jimmy chooses to keep his lobster hands, albeit wooden this time, instead of opting for the regular shapes. In this, it feels like Freak Show has finally found a good place for Jimmy, though the way it gets there is less than effective.

The weirdest part about “Show Stoppers”, however, is the way it treats Maggie. Chester, going nuts after Bette and Dot force him to put away his dummy Marjorie during sex, decides he wants to murder someone. Preferably, it will be Bette and Dot, but when Maggie decides to volunteer for his magic act of sawing a woman in half, he opts for the easier target instead. Marjorie urges him on, because he’s the dummy (get it?), and he follows through with the slicing and dicing, pulling the box apart to reveal Maggie’s intestines falling out of both sides. Gruesome and fun? Hell yes! A fitting end to Maggie’s story? Definitely not. It really feels like a waste for both Chester and Maggie, but ultimately Maggie’s fate is the real flaw here. What strikes me most unrealistic about this whole setup is that Maggie would definitely not volunteer for this act. She very nearly was sawed in half by Dandy back in “Test of Strength”, so it seems unlikely she’d want to get back in a box for another round of “saw the woman in half,” even if it is just a “magic trick.”

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Whatever the case, at least “Show Stoppers” does manage one surprising trick in its final act. Now that Elsa’s gone, the Cabinet needs a new owner, and before she gets out of dodge, she sells the whole place to Dandy. Finally, Dandy, who has drifted so crazily across Freak Show with nary a connection, now finds a place to come home to. It’s Freak Show’s sweeping statement that Dandy deserves to be the leader, because he is such a freak himself; he has now found a home for his insanity, the perfect place for him to shine, and this is one of the best things that Freak Show does in “Show Stopper.” Here, it feels that the show has finally found the right place for Dandy, and it will be interesting to see what happens with the Cabinet in the season finale.

Other than that, though, it’s difficult to tell what the overall moral of Freak Show will be until the show drops it on us last minute in the finale. While this season has not done a great job of cleaning up its subplots – and I’d argue that it’s probably the worst the show has done so far – there’s still a chance that some things can be rectified. If “Show Stoppers” is any indication, there’s at least some semblance of an ending coming that will draw Dandy and the freaks together, or separate them for good.

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