American Horror Story: “Massacres and Matinees” Review

I have to say, I’m liking where things are headed on American Horror Story: Freak Show.

Spoilers ahead!

In this week’s installment, aptly titled “Massacres and Matinees,” we are introduced to two of the freak show’s newest members: Michael Chiklis’ strongman Wendell “Dell” Toledo and his triple-breasted hermaphrodite wife Desiree (played by the returning Angela Bassett). Dell’s got a bit of a temper and some ideas of his own when it comes to Elsa Mars’ “Cabinet of Curiosities,” which results in… you guessed it: conflict.

We can assume that Dell and Ethel (bearded Kathy Bates) have a complicated past that resulted in Jimmy. Indeed, it’s Jimmy versus Dell for much of the episode as the two play tug-of-war over who gets to be the carnival’s protector. The father/son dynamic of the two work to great effect here: each are alike in their temperament, and though they are both acting in what they each perceive as being in the freak show’s best interests, Jimmy sees his co-stars as people rather than objects that customers pay money to see.

There's nothing like family.

There’s nothing like family.

It’s with Jimmy where Freak Show begins to lie heavily on its more obvious theme, that “freaks” are people, too. And though I don’t disagree with that sentiment, Jimmy tends to repeat this message quite a bit throughout the episode. To an extent, this barrage of rhetoric cast a predictable shadow over Meep the Geek’s death at the end, lessening the emotional impact of Jimmy’s mistake.

Meanwhile, our old friend Twisty is still being awful and creepy and is now getting paid to personally entertain an entitled, rich kid. Dandy’s “loving” mother (I use quotes around loving because who in their right mind would think it a great idea to hire such a horrifying clown?) employs Twisty to help cure Dandy’s “boredom.” And thus begins a beautiful friendship between boy and clown, happily killing people in a secluded shack in the middle of the woods.

But I can’t help but sense there being a sadness behind Twisty’s eyes. John Carroll Lynch’s performance is incredible to watch, how he’s able to emote so well with no dialogue and so much of his face covered by a mask. Deep down, I think he just wants to entertain. And when he fails at that, he cuts people’s heads off. Side note: when the mask drops and shows Twisty’s missing half-of-face, I pretty much nope’d out of my chair.

Conjoined twins Bette and Dot receive significantly less attention in “Massacres and Matinees” than they did in last week’s premiere. This week was all about finding a talent for the sisters to perform. When Bette’s ability to sing falls short of her eagerness for being a star, her sister steals the spotlight with her incredible singing voice (cue Freak Show‘s second musical number). Obviously, Dot’s talent encroaches on Elsa’s act in the freak show, and using Bette’s jealousy to her advantage, Elsa conspires with Bette while Dot is asleep (read: she slips her a knife). The implications of this exchange are disturbing and make me oh-so-excited for next week’s episode.

David Bowie -- I mean, Elsa -- doesn't look very happy.

David Bowie — I mean, Elsa — doesn’t look very happy.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

  • That opening sweep of the carnival to the close-up of the radio was a great way to open the episode. Kudos to Michael Goi for bringing us the fantastic cinematography of AHS.
  • The trail of blood behind the robot toy was a humorous twist on the conventional bloody footprint.
  • Dandy’s nippled glass might be the most disturbing thing yet on Freak Show.
  • How much electricity do you suppose the Ferris wheel uses? It always seems to be running, regardless of people…

Leave a Reply