American Horror Story: Freak Show – Season 4, Episode 10: “Orphans”

The most horrifying aspect of American Horror Story: Asylum, for me, was Pepper. She terrified me from the moment I saw her, and even more so when the reason behind her commitment was revealed. In spite of seeming harmless and sweet-tempered in Freak Show, I just couldn’t get over the whole baby-drowning thing – I literally thought about it any time that Pepper had a scene. And then American Horror Story did that amazing thing they do where they make you feel guilty for despising a character under false pretenses. I hate when they do that. But I love it, too.

Naomi Grossman is probably the most under-appreciated member of the American Horror Story cast. This is mainly because she does not seem like she is performing at all. It was not until those Asylum aliens enhanced Pepper’s intelligence that it even occurred to me that the actress herself likely did not suffer from microcephaly. Asides from her masterful portrayal of a character with a child’s mentality, Grossman additionally generates varying emotions of fear, misunderstanding, and ultimately intense sympathy, all depending on which belief is currently held by the audience. The woman deserves an Emmy.

While learning the devastating truth about Pepper, viewers are also exposed to an entirely new side of Elsa. Elsa remains a completely deplorable character, but her treatment of her “first monster” reveals a genuine, maternal relationship with Pepper. She helps out of the orphanage and into the family that she always wanted. When Elsa takes Pepper back to her sister, it is not out of malice, but because Elsa truly feels that it is the best place for Pepper. Pepper is arguably the only person that Elsa actually cares about other than herself.

“Orphans” was without a doubt one of the best episodes all season. With three episodes left, I don’t see how this season can get any better, but, dare I say, I actually think it might.

 

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