UK TV review: American Horror Story Freak Show (Episode 7)
Alice Slater | On 02, Dec 2014
So, it turns out that a decadent life of foie gras and caviar for breakfast isn’t quite enough to keep the Tattler sisters (Sarah Paulson) at peace with the fact that, despite his wealth, Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) is clearly a repugnant human being.
As Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) attempts to extract the girls from their luxurious new setting, he tries to reason with them: “I know this seems like the life of Riley now but trust me, this is no place for you because to them, you are nothing more than a curiosity, a freak to gawk at.”
When it’s gently pointed out that the alternative, performing in a Freak Show, is a somewhat similar situation (albeit with less caviar), Jimmy pulls out all the stops to demonstrate why the latter is preferable: “Because you’d have a whole community of people to protect you,” he replies, and his sweet and earnest eyes suggest that still, after everything that’s happened, he believes that these words are true.
The community spirit of the Freak Show remains fragile and the threads of distrust are about to get increasingly tangled. The problem with secrets is that those who have them are easily manipulated. Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities, as we know, is crawling with secrets and no one is more aware of this than our resident Burke/Hare wannabe, Richard (Denis O’Hare).
A well-meaning bartender learns that while “never fall in love with a hustler” is undoubtedly good advice for us all, he would probably be better off not dispensing unsolicited advice to the patrons of his bar. Closeted and heartbroken, Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) essentially seals his own fate – and that of his victim – by reacting to this unwelcome suggestion with his fists.
Strongman Dell undergoes a moral metamorphosis in Episode 7 as he sinks even lower into the depths of corruption. Although it’s clearly only a matter of time before he is forced to face the consequences of his actions, his actions nonetheless result in a black armband moment that will leave you clutching your pearls in horror.
Bette and Dot Tattler physically embody the corruption of innocence that is thematic throughout Season 4 and the motif of metamorphosis is played out quite literally, as Dot differentiates herself from her sister with a glamourous new hairdo that seems to match the arrogance and vanity that leaves her so susceptible to manipulation. Penny (Grace Gummer), the corrupted nurse and lover of Paul the Illustrated Seal (Mat Fraser) also undergoes a violent transformation in a toe-curling scene reminiscent of body modification flick American Mary.
Ethel Darling (Kathy Burke), who seems to be a fan of the portentous one-liner, warns Jimmy: “All that goodness will bring you is an early grave.”
Alas, never a truer word was spoken.
American Horror Story: Freak Show is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription. Seasons 1, 2 and 3 are also available.