DEADtime TV – American Horror Story: Freakshow – Bloodbath

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Everyone in Elsa’s Cabinet is reeling from the loss of Ma Petite, devastated that something could swipe her in the night and eat her alive. That’s not really the case, of course – a monster did take her, but it wasn’t no wolf – and even Elsa has bigger plans after Ma Petite’s disappearance. Perhaps this murder was the tipping point for Freak Show, the one event that cements the direction of the show from here. I don’t really think this is possible, though; there’s got to be more to it than Elsa’s freak show falling down around her because of her own hubris, right?

Whatever the case may be, Freak Show takes steps to ensure that, now that we’re in the final episodes of the season, something will happen. The show’s not clear about what that will be – will Jimmy become the new head of the show? Will Elsa head off to Hollywood? Will the twins really go through with the surgery? – but hey, when has American Horror Story ever had a good sense of direction?

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“Blood Bath” is an episode that is in opposition to its title, though. It’s a slower-moving plot, taking time to look back at the origins of Elsa’s leg prosthetics, speaking with Ethel to attempt to persuade her that Elsa’s not so bad after all. Much of “Blood Bath” is verbose and overly expository, and that’s not at odds with what Freak Show has been handing down lately. It’s just the way the episode handles that exposition that’s kind of a bummer.

Ethel’s death, aided and abetted by Stanley as he comes up with a macabre way to hide Elsa’s knife-to-the-eye killing, would seem to indicate that maybe Elsa’s freak show ain’t such a safe place to be after all. But the rest of the camp is strangely uninterested in wondering what’s going on and why murders seem to be de rigeur anymore. In fact, at Ethel’s funeral, Desiree finds herself oddly inspired by Ethel’s strongwoman attitude, so much so that she gets a band of merry women together to hunt down Penny’s father to get revenge.

“Blood Bath” offers this up so haphazardly that it’s hard to identify where the sentiment came from. It’s a quick, almost unnecessary way to involve Penny in the freaks, a character who at best adds very little to the plot anyway. Freak Show needs to tighten up her place in the camp, and the necessity of adding her to the cast, before it can even attempt to try to make a sweeping statement with her character.

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Dandy’s story, though, is more interesting despite its continual distancing from the actual meat of this season’s plot. The dead maid’s daughter Regina (Gabourey Sidibe) comes to the Mott estate, prompting Dandy to want to kill her; Gloria, meanwhile, wants to get Dandy some serious mental help, although she’s a bit too late. I’ve begun to like Dandy more and more throughout the season, not in an “I’m rooting for this guy!” sort of way but because Finn Wittrock is playing it so tongue-in-cheek. Dandy isn’t a very realistic character, but he is a metaphor for “normal” people being more of a freak than anyone with a disability, so I guess Freak Show is doing its job there.

Still, I can’t help but feel that Freak Show is getting too sidetracked with these other subplots to deal with any strong themes about the freaks themselves. Right now it’s difficult to pinpoint what the meaning of this season really is, and I certainly don’t know right now what to expect as far as any sort of finale. Coven was the same way, but there was a semblance in that season that the coven was falling apart and needed to be pulled together. With Freak Show, I’m not sure whether Elsa’s Cabinet ending is a good or bad thing, and I definitely don’t know how the freaks feel. That’s the biggest thing I’ll be looking for in the coming episodes; they can throw more freak deaths at me all they want, but it’s the meaning behind them that needs development.

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