TV Review: American Horror Story: Freakshow
The tagline for the fourth season of American Horror Story: Freak Show reads “we are all freaks,” and the producers could not be more right. AHS fans are gearing up for a long-awaited season of human deformities that span from the traditional strong man to a three-breasted hermaphrodite. Familiar faces come together with real-life unique beings to create the most unforgettable season yet.
“Fraulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities” is headed by German expat Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) who hears about an intriguing young lady (or ladies) living in Jupiter, Florida in 1952. What she finds is Bette and Dot Tattler (both expertly acted by Sarah Paulson), telepathic siamese twins that Elsa believes are destined for stardom. After some consideration the Tattlers head into the tent as the Curiosities latest main attraction. AHS: Freak Show will follow the ragtag group as they struggle with inexplicable events and the legality of their chosen careers.
The premiere episode also plays on one of the most terrifying children’s nightmares: sadistic clowns. Twisty (pictured above) is straight out of a Stephen King novel with an unnatural grin and murderous eyes. His creepy performance mounts tension as the audience prepares for what will surely be an AHS signature death scene. Beware those who fear these sideshow attractions; Twisty is going to be with us for a while.
Other passed AHS cast members return to the center ring behind new faces. Kathy Bates and Evan Peters headline the Curiosities as Ethel and Jimmy Darling. Both characters (among others we have yet to meet) are based on real-life carnival attractions: the bearded lady and the lobster boy (his fingers are fused together to form claws). Bates and Peters’ new personalities promise intriguing character development, but clearly echo their past roles in American Horror Story.
In case you felt this season was going to be a little far-fetched, the creators of AHS have added in unique beings from the modern world. Jyoti Amge holds the Guinness Book of Records title of World’s Smallest Woman at 2 feet 6 inches. She plays the delightful Ma Petite alongside the World’s Tallest Model Erika Ervin (Amazon Eve) who reaches 6 feet 8 inches, and Mat Fraser who plays Paul the Illustrated Seal due to his phocomelia (severe malformation of both his arms).
A main highlight of the episode and must-see for any Jessica Lange fan is the showstopping number “Life on Mars?” an Elsa Mars rendition of the David Bowie classic. Lange beautifully holds high notes as well as her German accent while her fellow oddities dance about the stage. AHS producers promise more musical numbers in coming episodes including “Criminal” by Fiona Apple and a cover of a Lana Del Rey hit.
Next week on American Horror Story: Freak Show viewers will meet more main characters and watch as Twisty’s killing spree sheds bad light on the Curiosities. Fan-favorite Emma Roberts looks into the future through a crystal ball as Maggie Esmerelda. Voodoo witch Angela Bassett returns in the form of Desiree Dupree, a stunning gender mix who comes with her strongman boyfriend Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis). They may have impressive talents, but can these unique personalities stand together against prejudice, the law and a rampaging clown?
American Horror Story airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX. See you all at the freakshow.