Well. This season of American Horror Story is over, the freak show is closed for business, and I AM FUCKING THRILLED. I’ve waited for this day for so long, so let’s not waste any time, but I’m sure you can imagine that I basically hated everything that happened in that episode. Well, you would be wrong about that one…
I hated a solid 90% of it. 10% is still very much a failing grade, but we have to take the good where we can, right?
Pluses, or, The Glimmers of a Good Show
-Okay, credit where credit is due, right? That sequence with Dandy hunting and killing the C- and B-list freaks was actually pretty good. It had a nice thriller feel to it, and as much as I didn’t WANT any of those characters to die and nor did I fully understand the intention behind it (I’ll get to that later), it was kind of weirdly fun to watch. Is that wrong? Am I a sociopath? Plus 800 points for making my cold, dead heart feel SOMETHING during an AHS episode.
-I’m also kind of thrilled that Amazon Eve got in a FEW hits right before she died. Did we ever get her backstory? No. Am I pretty pissed about that? Yes. But did it feel really good to watch her punch Dandy in the face? Yes. Did it feel like we were her, and we were punching Ryan Murphy in the face? No? Just me? Okay. Plus 200 points.
-I also kind of liked the return of Bitchy Jessica Lange, with her really charming star exterior even though in secret she dominates NPH’s Cute Husband (yes, this is where they fit David Burtka in this season, and I won’t say it wasn’t clumsy) and screams at everyone all the time and is generally a horrendous wretch. Plus 1,000 points for character consistency across all of the seasons.
-Watching the freaks kill Dandy was also satisfying and the way that they did it was kind of fun, but… wash.
Minuses, or, This Entire Season
-But also it took them five fucking seconds to kill the tenth Big Bad of the season. The episode where he slaughters a bunch of freaks needed to happen like three or four episodes ago when, presumably, nothing more important was happening (my brain is actively blocking out the earlier episodes), and then there needed to be a bigger, better showdown with the surviving freaks and Dandy like there was tonight, except this one was SUCH a fizzle. The dinner scene was fun! It had promise! I was expecting something gruesome and fucked up! But instead, after we’ve seen characters sawed in half and dismembered and full on Meepified, they just drown him and eat some popcorn. Great. Minus 1,000 points.
-Also, I get that every time someone insults Dandy he basically goes on a killing spree, but that is NOT A VALID OR SATISFYING CHARACTER TRAIT AT ALL. His final murder spree was fun to watch on the surface, but it served legitimately no point other than to clean house and set up the only survivors as, you know, Murphy’s favorite stars. Just like everything else this season, there was absolutely no point to this. Minus 2,000 points.
-Can we just talk about this Elsa nonsense for five seconds? So, she just stalks a bunch of people, and then is super famous, and then Danny Huston and his horrendous Italian accent are dying (this season should have been called Terrible Accents, which is a far more apt name and would have filled me with way more dread than Freak Show ever did), and then we have to talk about the snuff film again, so she commits suicide. BLAAAARGH. I just… on the surface this sounds like a compelling plotline, but it wasn’t – at least not the way it happened. It all raced right by and left no emotional depth in its wake, which should have been the tagline for American Horror Story: Terrible Accents. This had better not be Jessica Lange’s last season, because that would be a crying shame. Minus Jessica Lange’s two Oscars, because she is fucking better than this.
-Also, this is the second season finale in a row where J-Lange has ended up in some sort of weird purgatory at the end, and instead of knotty pine, Elsa is just in the freak show and gets to perform forever… seriously?!? Minus 5,000 points, because although Elsa didn’t have to bear any punishment for her multitude of sins, apparently WE had to be punished with Kathy Bates’ accent and that FUCKING blue eyeshadow/suit combo. The stuff of fucking nightmares.
-I also need to briefly mention that while Desiree’s happy ending kind of made sense (what guy wouldn’t want a wife with three boobs?), Jimmy, Bette and Dot’s whole situation was just so fucking weird. It’s not like the show has done any sort of work to make these characters even a little bit sympathetic, so I’m not sure why we had to watch them have a happy ending. Like, let’s not forget that both of these people are literal murderers and that both of their murders (Bette and Dot’s mom and the policeman) weren’t super righteous. Minus one three-headed baby.
-Are we SERIOUSLY never going to find out what happened to Denis O’Meep?!?!? Are you fucking KIDDING ME?!? Minus ONE HUNDRED MILLION THOUSAND BAJILLION POINTS.
-I didn’t think a season finale could be worse than when Cordelia “Meatball Eyes” Goode turned out to be the goddamn Supreme, but I was proven wrong, because this one ended with FUCKING EDWARD MORDRAKE, the biggest waste of time to ever cross a television screen. (It was ever so slightly nice to see Twisty, which is not a sentence I ever thought I would be saying). Minus 100,000 points.
-DID YOU REALLY FINISH THIS SEASON WITH ANOTHER ANACHRONISTIC DAVID BOWIE SONG?!? REALLLLLLLY?!?!?!?!?!? MINUS ANY PATIENCE OR DIGNITY I HAD LEFT.
There was truly no way to end this season. Murphy & Co. had backed themselves into a million corners with loose plot threads, a pile of dead characters, and shockingly, no actual conflict at all that felt real or earned, and there was no ending to this season that was ever going to be the least bit satisfying. Usually, AHS leads up to some kind of event or decision or something, but this one seemed to only have one unifying “thing” that formed any sort of connection – how much of a “freak” you are, and how that corresponds to your acts of sin. We had two people declared as the “biggest freaks of all” in this finale – Elsa and Dandy – but I don’t think either of them even came close to earning that title. I don’t think anyone on this show did. A freak show offered glorious opportunities for this season to get weird and wild, which I think it tried to do (and very occasionally succeeded at), but a bunch of unsympathetic people with weird physical deformities does not a show make.
I do feel compelled to note that this season achieved a single useful task, and that was the Pepper-centric episode that linked it back to Asylum. Again, I need to give credit where it’s due, and not only did that episode contextualize an entire character, it had real emotional depth thanks to a narrower focus and careful storytelling. Unfortunately, as the only bearable episode in the entire season, it stuck out like a sore thumb – an unfortunate reminder of what this season could have been.
The worst part is, this show did have people who had the potential to be truly sympathetic – I would count Paul, Legless Suzy and Amazon Eve among them – but they were constantly relegated to the background while less interesting characters like Jimmy and Bette/Dot got to prance around doing nothing at all. (The Bette/Dot character, incidentally, is the absolute worst waste of potential and of Sarah Paulson’s talent on this show by a very long shot.) This show was riddled with problems – the odd pacing, the constant introduction of new characters despite the total lack of development of any of them, the confusing Big Bad whiplash – and while problematic shows can sometimes be funny or weird for it, this wasn’t even enjoyable. It was, frankly, painful for the most part to see a ton of talent be completely squandered.
Better luck next season, Murphy, and let’s hope Jessica Lange comes back for a real swan song. This season didn’t deserve her – or, really, any of the other actors or crew who did their best to flesh out the skeleton you gave them. As for me, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed until October. Thanks for sticking with me through my constant fury, and until season 5, I’ll be raging over never knowing what happened to Denis O’Meep.