UK TV review: American Horror Story Freak Show (Episode 9)
Reflections on the Futility of Tupperware8
Ghosts of Carnies Past9
Alice Slater | On 16, Dec 2014
After the carnage of cast members in Episode 8, murder most horrid continues to reign over the Floridian suburb of Jupiter. With just two episodes left, we’ve reached that point in American Horror Story Season 4 where no one is safe.
Episode 9 is an episode of ghosts: the dead reappearing to talk to the living; fictitious imaginings manifested by grief; loss and fear of what’s coming next. Only Dandy (Finn Wittrock) remains high spirited as he crafts what we shall affectionately call a ‘meat puppet’ to keep himself occupied between Tupperware party massacres and baths of blood.
The blood baths that Dandy has developed a taste for are almost certainly a reference to the 16th century Austrian aristocrat and serial killer Elizabeth Bathory, who infamously bathed in the blood of virginal servants in the hope that it would give her a youthful appearance. Bathory’s murderous antics sowed a seed of fear of the upper classes in popular fiction, and the corruption of the affluent, the powerful and the educated is a common theme in all strands of horror, from American Psycho to Hostel to Interview with the Vampire.
Dandy is the personification of this fear: charming, handsome, well-groomed and stinkin’, freakin’ rich. He can charm his way into the homes of strangers, talk himself out of even the most compromising situations and, when all else fails, bribe the authorities to keep schtum. He says it himself: “I am above the law, beyond the law. I am the law.”
The fate of Regina (Gabourey Sidibe) is a demonstrable example of the social hierarchy in place in 1950s Florida, and it’s a hierarchy that’s only too familiar to contemporary audiences.
It is, of course, the polar opposite of the experiences of the carnies, who continue to be shunned by the wholesome suburban inhabitants of Jupiter: “These Floridian rubes have finally turned against us…” are Fräulein Elsa Mars’ (Jessica Lange) words of warning to Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson). It begs the question: the nature of a carnival is its mobility. With all the accusations, loss of life and trouble with both the police and the townsfolk, why hasn’t anyone suggested they pack up the Ferris wheel and leave?
Fräulein Elsa, both a beauty and a Machiavellian manipulator, continues to work in cahoots with Stanley (Denis O’Hare) to try and pickle something – anything – worth a few bob, and right now we’re going to place a bet that Stanley’s unusually large appendage is destined for the pickling jar. Just a hunch.
American Horror Story: Freak Show is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription. Seasons 1, 2 and 3 are also available.