UK VOD TV review: American Horror Story Freak Show Episode 11
Neil Patrick Harris10
Alice Slater | On 17, Jan 2015
It seems a little late in the game to introduce a new character, but the creepy charisma of Neil Patrick Harris in a top hat is always a welcome diversion from the status quo. His character, Chester, is also a welcome diversion for the Tattler twins (Sarah Paulson): with their independent hearts healed following a gentle rejection from angel-faced Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) and their joint decision to leave Bette’s beau Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) out in the cold, they are full of life and embarking on a mission to lose their virginity.
If we learned anything from The Conjuring, Dead Silence and that freaky episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s that ventriloquist dummies are not to be trusted. Chester’s wooden pal Marjory (voiced by series jewel Jamie Brewer) is clearly the kind of marionette that turns out to be possessed by a little dead girl ghost or a demon with extra-long fingernails, and they make quite the little creepy double act.
Meanwhile, things are looking bleak for Jimmy. In Episode 10, his dismembered hands were revealed to Maggie Esmeralda (Emma Roberts), so it’s with morbid glee that the story of how Jimmy came to part with his pincers unfolds – confirming our suspicions that a dodgy deal occurred between Jimmy and Stanley (Denis O’Hare).
The plot arc involving the unlawful procurement of body parts carries a heavier weight than just the ick factor. Even in death, the performers in the Freak Show are denied autonomy over their own physicality; the bottling up of Jimmy’s hands, Salty’s head and Ma Petite’s body to be displayed indefinitely to the gawping public is a harrowing concept. It’s a macabre burlesque of the reality of medical training in the 50s, when formaldehyde specimens were seen as an archaic method of studying anatomy and illustrations were favoured over things in jars. These vast collections of unusual specimens lost their value to the medical community and were shunted to museums to become a more socially acceptable version of the old-fashioned ‘freak show’: consumable entertainment for the masses.
There’s a question mark hovering over the future of the Freak Show, as Elsa (Jessica Lange) starts to pack her glamourous costumes and endless supply of night creams for the glitz of Hollywood. Although she intends to sell the show to the highest bidder, it isn’t yet clear who will stump up the funds. Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) and Jimmy may fantasise about taking ownership of the carnival, but it looks as though Dell’s murky past is about to catch up with him…
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.