Episodes of ‘American Horror Story’ have been running long this season. Last week’s was more than an hour and a quarter (including commercials). Reruns and syndication may wind up having whole storylines cut out of episodes to fit into normal timeslots. Considering that ‘Freak Show’ is the weakest season of the series so far, this practice seems more than a little indulgent.
In episode ‘Bullseye’, Elsa tells everyone that conjoined twins Dot and Bette have run away (which is funny, because people are supposed to run off to the circus, not away from it). Of course, we know that’s bullshit, and many of the freaks suspect as much as well. Nevertheless, Elsa throws a big tantrum, pretending to be upset that anyone would accuse her of wrongdoing. She demands a test of trust and loyalty, and straps Paul (the little-armed guy) to a spinning wheel that used to be part of her knife-throwing act years earlier.
What the other freaks don’t know is that Paul is Elsa’s secret lover, and she discovered that he’s been unfaithful to her when she smelled perfume on him. In fact, he’s been seeing the candy striper girl from the hospital (Grace Gummer), who has fallen quite in love with him and has told her very angry father that she’s going to marry him. Elsa tosses a knife directly into Paul’s stomach. She claims that it was an accident, but that’s obviously belied when she neglects to call a doctor for him and taunts him about dying slowly.
Meanwhile, the twins are with the Motts, and nutjob Dandy couldn’t be happier. He believes that he’s in love and treats them like princesses. He tells his mother that he’s going to marry them. Of the two, naïve Bette thinks that he’s her Prince Charming and returns his love. Dot is disgusted by him, but plays along because she knows that he can afford the separation surgery she desperately wants.
Dandy’s bliss is shattered when he reads Dot’s diary and learns what she really thinks of him. Why can’t he have the happiness he deserves? I guess there’s nothing else to be done except to grab a big knife and murder the shit out of everyone, right? Before he can do that, however, Jimmy shows up at the house looking for the girls. Dandy just lets him right in for reasons unclear. What does he have planned now?
Back at the circus, con man Stanley needs a payday soon, and thinks that delivering Jimmy’s flipper hands to the American Morbidity Museum will do just the trick. He wants Maggie (a.k.a. Esmerelda) to lure Jimmy into a trap, but because she’s developed feelings for the boy, she diverts Stanley’s attention by claiming that they’ll have an easier time grabbing and sneaking away with the diminutive Ma Petite instead. He agrees. The next morning, Maggie tells Ma Petite that she has a surprise and wants her to come out to a shed in the woods. Maggie puts her in a jar, and we’re subjected to another fake-out fantasy sequence where she drowns Petite in formaldehyde. However, Maggie ultimately can’t bring herself to murder, and so takes Petite out to look for fireflies and then returns her to the circus. Naturally, Stanley is furious. He demands that they return to the original plan to lop off Jimmy’s hands.
We’re only halfway through the season, but I worry that the show has run out of twists and tricks to pull. Without the evil clown as a wild card, Dandy and Stanley will have to share responsibilities as the season’s main antagonists, and I don’t feel that either one is a strong or interesting enough character to pull that off. On the other hand, this series has found ways to surprise me in the past, so I’ll try to give it the benefit of the doubt. I suppose we still have plenty of time left for something truly crazy to happen. We really could use that about now.