UK TV review: American Horror Story Freak Show (Episode 8)
Blood 'n' guts8
Alice Slater | On 09, Dec 2014
A search party for the beloved Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) is in full swing following the opening credits of Episode 8. Ma hasn’t dominated any of Season 4’s major plot arcs, and yet her presumed death fractures the camp in a fashion quite unlike the tragic murder of Meep the Geek (Ben Woolf) or the controversial disappearance of the Tattler sisters (Sarah Paulson).
With her small, childlike stature and sweetly trusting nature, Ma Petite represents “innocence itself” to the troupe of performers. Fräulein Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) describes Ma as her “most precious one”, when the inevitable blame game brings the accusatory eye of Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates) to her quarters. The fact that Ethel believes her old friend is capable of such a cold-blooded act of cruelty demonstrates the depth of irreparable damage within the Cabinet of Curiosities.
Episode 8 welcomes a more substantial guest appearance from Gabourey Sidibe, who continues to question the Motts (Finn Wittrock and Frances Conroy) over the disappearance of her mother (Patti Labelle). (The Motts are doing an absolutely terrible job of covering up their maid’s disappearance, but luckily no one besides Regina seems to have noticed.)
A glimpse into Dandy’s childhood (and a slither of expositional dialogue) is used to explain his murderous nature, thus disengaging him from the motiveless model of serial killer (i.e. Patrick Bateman of American Psycho) to which he has previously been compared.
At this point, however, it’s becoming less clear what it is our performers are fighting for and whether or not it’s a battle worth winning. With so much deceit, distrust and dishonesty in the camp, double-crosser Maggie Esmeralda (Emma Roberts) seems to have the right idea in her obsession with jumping ship and spiriting Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) away to a safer place – away from both Fräulein Elsa and Stanley (Denis O’Hare).
Ultimately, the revenge scenario instigated by Desiree (Angela Bassett), Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) and Legless Suzy (Rose Higgins) on behalf of newly initiated ‘freak’ Penny the Astounding Lizard Girl (Grace Gummer) demonstrates that this story is no longer about the waning popularity of the freak show: this is about survival of the fittest, and anyone that threatens the pack must be dealt with accordingly.
Of course, there are plenty of snakes in the grass to keep tension high: it’s simply a question of who will come unstuck first – and on which side Maggie will fall – before the season finale, which continues to creep ever closer.
American Horror Story: Freak Show is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.