Well, have you all caught your breath yet/woken up from your nightmares? Because I just did, and let me tell you, I still feel pretty freaked out that a clown is going to come into my room and stab me a whole bunch of times. On that note, welcome to the freak show.
The proverbial stage is set in Jupiter, Fla. in 1952. I’m digging the period feel we haven’t really seen since “AHS: Asylum” – though “Murder House” and “Coven” had flashbacks, they were still set overall in present day. The show is clearly stronger when it absolutely immerses itself in a time.
A milkman finds a woman murdered and an injured pair of siamese twins in a closet. Oh hi, Sarah Paulson pulling double duty, literally. A woman named Elsa (Jessica Lange) drugs Penny, a candy striper, (Grace Gummer) and gains access to the two and gets them to join her freak show. She knows that the two played a hand in their mother’s murder (Bette, the sweeter one couldn’t take her mother’s cruelty anymore, and Dot later stabbed Bette). They have two hearts but only one reproductive system, which leads to a discussion about pleasure that permeates the rest of the episode. These “freaks” are pretty horny.
Cut to a creepy clown named Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) starting to do tricks for an unsuspecting couple getting handsy while having a picnic. Twisty starts stabbing the man and the girl tries to run away, but all we see is him chasing after her. We find out later he’s locked her and a little boy (whose parents he kills) in cages in a trailer, where he freaks out and starts destroying everything once he accidentally pops a balloon animal. His backstory is going to be a doozy.
I can already safely say this is 100 times better than “Coven,” making up for everything I felt about last season.
Elsa runs into one of her performers at a diner in Jupiter, who she scolds for flirting with a waitress. She says they are trying to establish their freak show in Jupiter and can’t screw that up. Said performer is Jimmy (Evan Peters) who has lobster hands – which we find out later he uses to finger women. And you thought “Masters of Sex” was perverted.
The cast of characters ranges far and wide: a bearded lady (Kathy Bates), the tallest woman, the tiniest woman, a man with the tiny arms and hands, Pepper from “Asylum” (!) and more.
While Dot misses the comfort of the farm, Bette is loving the star-like attention and possibility.
The bearded lady, Ethel, says at one point, “This place is as good as it gets for folks like us.” She’s right. It’s a cruel world for people who are different, and even more so in the 1950s compared to now.
Penny loses it when she discovers Elsa had the freaks party and pleasure her and film it. Elsa is quite the manipulator.
When a detective comes to arrest Dot and Bette for their mother’s murder, Jimmy slices his throat (!) and rallies up many of the freaks to chop up the body with him. Twisty hangs in back watching…aaaaaah.
During the show itself, Dandy (Finn Wittrock) and his mother Gloria (Frances Conroy) are the only ones in the audience. Dandy wants to buy Dot and Bette, though Elsa says they are not for sale, and the duo agrees. Gloria tells Elsa, who gave it her all in her cabaret performance, “By far the most freakish thing of all tonight was your pathetic attempt at singing.” Ouch.
Elsa gives a heartbreaking speech to Ethel about wanting to be a star, and the episode closes revealing Elsa as a double amputee – a “freak” herself.
Well, I’m already hooked. Give Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange Emmys this instant, Twisty is officially the creepiest clown in history and I can’t wait to see what’s next.