American Horror Story: Freak Show, S4, E1 – “Monsters Among Us”

“And who is that, Orgasmo the Crab Boy?”

“Dolores Claiborne’s accent hurts.”

“That clown is wearing a head hat.”

“I think Tate’s new mom is gonna get it on with Tate’s old mom.”

These are just some of the thoughts that ran through my head during the Freak Show premiere on Wednesday. Well, the “Orgasmo” gem came from my husband; I had a similar thought but was unable to verbalize it so eloquently. There was certainly a lot happening in the opener, but these divergent plot points only culminated in a discordant mess. I think I hated it. That being said, I loved the premiere of Coven, and that turned into the worst season of AHS yet. Thus, maybe this painful episode is a harbinger of a great season – or at least that’s my stab at optimism for today.

There were a few things that were great. Sarah Paulson is flat-out amazing as conjoined twins Bette and Dot. Incredible acting paired with seamless special effects result in the unquestioning acceptance of these characters, which is quite a feat. And then there’s Twisty the Clown, who gives Pennywise a run for his money as the most terrifying clown to ever exist. Actually, let me amend that – Twisty wins.

I did not go into this with a positive attitude; I didn’t want to get my hopes up after the Coven incident. However, I have to admit that the first half had me hooked. A murder. Siamese twins. A Cabinet of Curiosities. Freaks. The atmosphere was appropriately dingy and macabre while the characters were full of secrets and intrigue. But then it was all just too much – the gang bang, the dismemberment, and – this is what really pushed me over the edge – the butchering of the Bowie classic, “Life on Mars.” Don’t get me wrong, I adore and respect Jessica Lange, but that was brutal.

Still, something just rubbed me the wrong way about the start of Freak Show, and it wasn’t until I talked with Tarah that I fully understood the problem. Via text, my incredibly perceptive sister outlined the issue as follows:

[blockquote source=”Tarah”]I love Jessica Lange, but I feel like it’s becoming too focused on her. Season 1 was about the Harmons and she was just a really interesting and important side character. Season 2, it was about Lana and Kit primarily and Sister Jude was important and all, but wasn’t the central focus. But since Coven, I feel it’s just focused on how awesome Jessica Lange is and, while true, I prefer her as an interesting yet important side character instead of being in the spotlight. Before she used to “steal the show” because she wasn’t the main character. Now that’s kindof lost and sorta makes it more boring because now the side characters aren’t as dynamic.[/blockquote]

This completely nails down the problem with AHS anymore. Lange is fantastic, no doubt, but her charm is wasted when she is cast as a lead. She is at her best as a quirky secondary character, something we haven’t been treated to since Sister Jude.

I guess it was only the first episode, so it’s really too early to say where all of this will go. I plan on maintaining my pessimistic worldview that Freak Show will be another trainwreck; this way I can’t be disappointed, but only pleasantly surprised if it miraculously becomes good. I am not hopeful.

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