Thursday, January 8, 2015

American Horror Story: Freak Show--Episode 11

4.11: Magical Thinking

--Welcome back, Freak Show! You’re worrying me a little bit, because there were only three more episodes to wrap shit up, and you wasted most of this one on Neil Patrick Harris. Okay, maybe it wasn’t really a waste in its own right. The Twisted Tale of Chester and Marjorie is an effective one-shot subplot that would be right at home if there weren’t so little time remaining to weave a resolution from many tangled threads. The last two eps BETTER be focused.

--We picked right back up with Stanley trying to talk Jimmy into selling his left hand. I was half-expecting this to be a lame fakeout, but no! Jimmy fell for Stanley’s act, drank poison, got himself hospitalized, woke up to find both his hands gone. Poor, poor, Jimmy....maybe. When you think about it, this might lead to a vaguely happy ending for him. With lobster mitts, he’s a freak and people shun him. With no hands, he’s a cripple and people feel sorry for him. As he recovered, Jimmy got a visit from Dell, who admitted that his initial disgust for his son was the result of being the only non-lobstered man in the family. Treated like a freak for being normal. Which is all the more poignant when you remember Dell’s gay. It was a sweet scene and I thought maybe Dell would get his redemption. Fate would prove me wrong.

--I guess I have to retire the “Deah dah-ry” running gag (it wasn’t that funny anyway), because Bette and Dot have burned their diaries and left the past behind. They are happy, so happy I fear for them. Peaceful and reconciled to their place, the sisters have only one remaining need: sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Because this show likes to be about SEX whenever it can. Which of the various available menfolk should have the honor of Bette and Dot’s maidenhead? Enter Neil Patrick Harris as Chester, seller of chameleons. I was skeptical about this. I like NPH, as most people do, but he’s built his career on being very distinctive and it’s hard to see past his unique demeanor. Luckily, he’s also a good actor, channelling a bit of Joel Gray. He begged Elsa to hire him. He does magic! And ventriloquism! Elsa’s just counting down the hours until she leaves for Hollywood, but she did perk up upon discovering Chester’s knack for numbers. He could be the new owner the freak show needs! But there’s a big, biiiiiiig catch.

--I mean, it’s American Horror Story. Absolutely no one is devoid of a fucked-up backstory and/or some form of psychosis. Chester is a war vet. He has a metal plate in his head. It buzzes. Buzz buzz buzz. And then there’s Marjorie, Chester’s plump-faced, red-dressed ventriloquist’s dummy. She has the voice, and occasionally the form, of Jamie Brewer. And she is one jealous bitch. Is it weird, thinking someone with Down Syndrome makes a good creepy psychopath? Like I said last season, Brewer has very good screen presence and isn’t afraid to do weird things on camera, and I still say that’s better than trying to overlook her condition. The ep took its time uncorking Chester’s backstory. After the war, he entered into a weird love quadrangle with Marjorie, his wife, and his wife’s lesbian lover. Poor Chester unraveled rapidly, and one day he came home to find that “Marjorie” (giant air quotes) had hammered the two women to death. Now Chester’s a fugitive, and understandably horrified when Bette and Dot put the moves on him. But he couldn’t resist their allure. Uh-oh.

--Meanwhile, Dell and Amazon Eve sprung Jimmy from a police van. Dell murdered the two police officers for...some reason. Way to go, Dell. It earned the freak show a visit from an angry Detective Turdlicker and all his minions, but they failed to find Jimmy. A lot of characters seemed oddly absent this week, apparently eclipsed by NPH, which is lame. What about Dandy, the more relevant woman-slaughtering nutbag?

--Oh, there he is! Detective Turdlicker had been spying on Dandy’s behalf, and got some nice photos of Chester canoodling with the Tattlers. Dandy was so unhappy that his face did its best California Raisin impression. He got the dirty on Chester, then stole Marjorie just long enough for Chester to really freak the fuck out. Marjorie told Chester, the newly appointed owner of Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities, to make Bette and Dot the not-at-all-fake victims in his patented sawing-a-woman-in-half act. Horrors! Kinda weird that Dandy could predict Chester’s lunacy so easily, but maybe it takes one to know one?

--So we’re near the end and more characters need to die. This ep deep-sixed another headliner, and not how I’d hoped. I was wondering where the hell Desiree and Esmerelda were, given that they were the first to discover Jimmy’s fate. They returned in the last few minutes, bearing the embalmed Ma Petite, and while Esmerelda broke the news to Elsa, Desiree confronted Dell at gunpoint and forced him to confess. He did, weeping, horrified at himself. I believe that Desiree might have found it in her heart to show mercy. But Elsa didn’t. One bullet through the skull and Dell Toledo was dead, along with his chances of being a good man. Discussion question: Did he deserve to die? One school of thought says all the redemptive acts in the world could not make up for his murder of Ma Petite. You could also argue that Stanley is the real villain here. I’m hoping Stanley gets a far worse fate, but here and now, I am sad that Dell brought this end upon himself. He was one of this show’s better male characters, in his own way.

--Two more episodes and so much to take into account! Can Dandy be defeated? Will the freaks lay down justice on Stanley? How does Elsa begin her TV career? Will Chester bisect Bette and Dot? Will Jimmy learn to live handless, and will he dodge the crimes of which he stands falsely accused? Will Jimmy and Esmerelda end up together? Can we please have more Danny Huston? And whatever will become of the fragile, happy little world of the freak show? I demand answers to all these questions. Pressure’s on.

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