We’re just one episode away from the half-way point in American Horror Story: Freak Show and, true to form, it’s getting more infuriating each week. Is it really too much to ask for a serious storyline to have developed by this time? Any inkling of a plot is introduced and swiftly done away within the space of 40 minutes, a problem that especially shouldn’t occur in an anthology show.
While it may seem unfair to be shocked by this (aside from Asylum, each season of American Horror Story has been more concerned with aesthetics than character development) last year’s Coven made up for its lack of cohesion with interesting characters and often hilarious black humour. The problem with Freak Show is that it’s just no fun. It’s hard to come back each week when all you’re presented with are vile characters doing vile things to each other with no levity whatsoever. Even if the characters sometimes appear to turn a corner, it can only be expected to last for one week (as ‘Bullseye’ demonstrated). Any redeeming qualities this season may have had are diminishing quickly, and it’s time to turn things around.
Most confusing this time around is the character of Elsa. I’m going to a hazard a guess that she is supposed to be this season’s sympathetic villain. She’s too far gone to be a protaganist (even an anti-hero), and her actions aren’t awful enough to make her the primary antagonist. Any motive Elsa has for her actions is entirely fuelled by her own insecurities, so it seems as though Jessica Lange is frequently acting all by herself. It’s making her character forgettable, as well as being irritatingly distracting. This week her jealousy led to her attack on Paul. Elsa literally stabbed this man – simply for cheating on her.
Originally Elsa seemed like an interesting comment on society’s views on older women and their needs. But her actions in ‘Bullseye’ just seemed rash and unnecessarily dramatic. Oh, and she ends the episode lying to the woman she had called her only family moments before. Elsa, like the entire season, is a ridiculous hot mess. She’s fun to watch in small doses, but underneath the surface there’s not a whole lot there.
Meanwhile, Stanley is putting the pressure on Maggie to keep her promise and bring him something worth selling to the Abnormalities Museum. After a pretty harrowing dream sequence, where she contemplates drowning Ma Petite, Maggie is forced to agree to cut off Jimmy’s crab hands and bring them to Stanley. Emma Roberts is doing a good job with the limited material she’s been given, and I’m hoping the next seven episodes lead to some bigger changes in her character. As it stands, it appears she’s just going to repeatedly agree to murder the freaks, change her mind, convince Stanley that she’s committed to his plan and then repeat the cycle again.
At least we can rely on good old Dandy to spice things up a bit. He even displayed a little humanity this week, falling in love with Bette and Dot. Y’know, until Dot refuses to tell him a secret. Then he’s back to his old sociopathic ways. At least he’s consistent.
Honestly, watching Freak Show seems more like an endurance test than a television series. It’s strange that a show about a carnival seems to be having such a hard time having any fun at all. But there are still seven episodes left, and Asylum didn’t really hit its stride until the half-way point, so maybe that’s what will happen here. It might seem like a long shot, but I need as many silver linings as I can get in order to make it through the rest of this season.