*** WARNING: Contains spoilers! Please do not read on unless you've seen the season finale of "American Horror Story: Freak Show," titled "Curtain Call." Or if you don't mind spoilers, go right ahead! ***
The curtain finally went down on the insane eye candy that was "American Horror Story: Freak Show."
Dandy meets his maker in the form of the freaks he so adored throughout the season, but not before he assassinates the majority of the one-off characters. You name it: Seal Boy, The Strongwoman, Meryl Streep Jr., our beloved Toulouse. All murdered unceremoniously by Dandy's golden revolver. It felt a bit cheap watching him wander through the show grounds, picking them off one by one, and yet, at the same time, there was suspense that someone might be able to get away. I was rooting for the torso woman to escape somehow, but alas, the only one who survives is Desiree. So all the characters we grew to know and love are offed in about two minutes. Such cruelty.
Jimmy and his wooden claws return to the campground to find the pile of freak bodies in the main tent (yes, another "Nooooooo!!" from Peters. That must be some kind of record). He and Desiree, along with Bette and Dot, band together to take down Dandy in the only way that feels right: torture. His constant lust for attention does him in, and this time the freaks get to watch him suffer instead of the other way around. Letting the serial killer drown in Houdini's tank is appropriate, but some might say that's not enough, considering all he's done. I fall into the latter category; surely Dandy deserved more than that five-minute sendoff. Oh well, at least he ended up in a jar like the other freak specimens. The ultimate freak, the worst of them all.
But if we're going to be real, this fourth season was all about Jessica Lange's Elsa, who at the beginning of "Freak Show" had the classic redemption-story plotline: woman brutally wounded, rebounds with the help of mysterious stranger Massimo (Danny Huston), finds a home with a group of people who need a leader, then lives out her days providing a life for said people ... but it doesn't turn out that way. Elsa's need for fame, like Dandy except minus the outright insanity, drives her away from her one true desire -- love. And since Massimo has no soul/no capacity to love, plus a recent cancer diagnosis, she can't find it with him. Hollywood rejects her just as her beloved freaks did. So, what else does an ex-freak do? Sacrifice yourself to a two-faced Wes Bentley, of course!
Elsa's ending, though poetic on some level, also felt cheap. In many ways, Elsa is responsible for the deaths of several of her "children." In some cases, she's directly responsible (i.e. - she murdered Ethel). If I learned anything tonight, it's that if you face that spirit ready to take you to Hades, and you tell him to "take you now," he'll sympathize with you and send you to a wonderful version of Hell where everyone treats you like gold, you can once again perform your David Bowie song as many times as you want (I never want to hear "Heroes" or "Life On Mars" again), and none of the people you harmed/killed/tortured/belittled/treated like garbage seems to mind that you're there, getting off scot-free. Why does Elsa deserve to be vindicated? I kept hoping for a crazy surprise twist, but nothing came.
A microcosm of the season, the "Freak Show" finale is disjointed and all over the place, scrambling to find a cohesive, sensical ending. While all of the storylines were closed off (except for Stanley, where did he end up? And Chester. I guess he's rotting in jail for life), at this endpoint the story has been cut up and re-sewn so many times it's missing its main thread. There is nothing connecting the premiere with the finale except for Elsa. We had a focus at the start with Twisty terrorizing the town, but once he was killed the direction of the season was lost. Even Dandy, who made for a terrific Twisty replacement, was all but gone from the show for several episodes in a row.
With Elsa as the connection, "Freak Show" had no choice but to focus on her at the end. Sure, we see that Desiree and Malcolm-Jamal Warner hook up (aside: what, exactly, was the point of his character?), and Bette & Dot and Jimmy are pregnant (called it last week!), but that's all that happens outside the Elsa sphere. This is Jessica Lange's last "AHS" season, so maybe Murphy et. al. were trying to give her a proper send-off in the spotlight.
In a way, it would have worked better to say farewell to Lange's excellent work on this show by killing her off in a disgusting, horrible, memorable way. Instead we'll remember her last moments on the show with her eyes caked in blue eyeshadow, singing to a crowd of people in the afterlife.
I'm not sure if I'd ever buy a ticket for a repeat performance of this particular show. Now a spinoff, featuring Seal Boy and Meryl Streep Jr.? That I'm interested in.
Freak Of The Week: Dandy. Even though you knew he was going to die tonight, part of you still kind of wanted him to live. Finn Wittrock has been a pleasure this season, and I'd be surprised if we didn't see more of him.Random Thoughts:
- "I'm going to be a bizarre footnote in Hollywood history!" says Elsa. She could also be describing "AHS: Freak Show."
- The names of Elsa's two dogs -- Showbiz and Box Office -- are amazing.
- Dandy: "I've always found babies to be boring ... but FREAK babies!"
- Angela Bassett eats popcorn like a pro. I would love a GIF of her eating it while watching Dandy perish.
- All of those characters dead by minute 15. Then the last 15 minutes felt completely disconnected from the rest of the finale. It should have ended with Dandy floating in that tank.
- I know some of you loved my recaps, and a lot of you hated them. Sorry, opinion can be dividing. But thank you to those who stayed with me and sent me supportive, positive emails and tweets. Perhaps I'll see you next time around, wherever Murphy may take us.
"American Horror Story: Freak Show" airs on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. EST on FX and FX Canada.