After several nearly-exhausting months of teasers, leaked casting news, posters, trailers and a creepy, stop-motion opening sequence featuring a naked androgynous clown with a giant boot-wearing leg for a dick, American Horror Story: Freak Show had a LOT to live up to. And it did! At first! As I have mentioned probably a few times now in my recaps, the first four episodes were as solid as they come. After having viewed the premiere, I even cautiously anticipated that it might end up being the best season yet.
But after delivering flat-out the best, most complicated, terrifying yet sympathetic villain the series has seen so far, they pulled the old Ryan Murphy Flimflam, as I am now calling it, blowing their load FAR too early and killing off their best character four episodes in. Without the looming presence of Twisty the Clown driving the plot, the last three episodes have seemed to fall apart.
With American Horror Story on hiatus this week for Thanksgiving and just six episodes left in the can, I thought it would be a good time to explore some ideas on how they could still possibly turn this thing around and deliver an ultimately satisfying ending that would make us forget the last three episodes never ever happened.
Give Us A Villain We Can Stand Behind
With Twisty out of the picture, one gaping hole in the dynamic is a real threat. Stanley is a conniving sleaze but, for all we know, hasn’t actually shed any blood himself, instead manipulating Del, who is too much of a hapless, pathetic idiot to be considered an actual villain. And Dandy Mott is a cartoon more than anything, albeit a murderous one — but then again, who isn’t a murderer this season? Even Bette and Jimmy, who are two of the closest thing you’d call protagonists, have already killed people.
Think about it: the best seasons of American Horror Story were also the ones with the best villains. Murder House had the Rubber Man/Tate, the horrifying Infantata, Constance and even the house itself. Asylum had Bloody Face, Son of Bloody Face, Sister Mary Eunice as the devil-possessed nun (who was THE BEST), and the creepy Nazi dude played by James Cromwell. These were all excellent villains. Coven did not have excellent villains, and it was also the weakest of the three.
With a handful of new characters to yet be introduced, Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, Gabourey Sidibe, and Lily Rabe returning as Sister Mary Eunice (who will not likely be evil unless they come up with a way to make the devil time travel — actually, CHECK, DO THAT), there’s still time. And of course as we mentioned before, Twisty is returning in some capacity (even though he’s not supposed to), although his character is not really that scary anymore.
Introduce A Mystery, Or Better Yet, Mysteries
I’m a total sucker who loves a whodunit. It’s why I’m still watching Gracepoint even though I stare down irritatedly at my phone almost the entire time, occasionally to pause and guffaw at something dumb a character says on screen. Again, the best seasons of American Horror Story had mysteries that needed to be solved and killers that needed Scooby Dooing. They smartly dragged out both the identities of the Rubber Man and Bloody Face (both of them) until near the end of their respective seasons. Even the sub-plots, like what Dr. Arden was doing to his patients and what the deal with the aliens was, was enough to keep us hanging.
Coven of course had the big reveal of who the Supreme turned out to be, even though it ended up being pretty disappointing, and what Cordelia’s creepy husband was up to — even though that turned out to be likewise disappointing. If the Twisty storyline would have ideally been dragged out at least halfway, if not two-thirds of the season, the payoff of his tragic background and motivations would have been that much richer. And as for other areas of the plot — what if, instead of divulging Stanley and Maggie’s motives as soon as they met them, the writers had them just show up as two shady, untrustworthy characters and let the audience figure out what their sinister angle was? Since we already know, it makes it harder to invest.
Remember That It’s American Horror Story
I think you all know where I’m going with this. Enough with the frigging musical numbers. Yes. Asylum had “The Name Game” montage. And it was great! Nay, perfection. But let’s not forget that it was also the delusion of a woman gone mad. Personally, I feel that these song and dance numbers are very obtrusive and self-indulgent. I’ve had six seasons to not watch Glee. Why would I want to start now?
Aside from the music, these last few episodes have been overall just light on the horror in general, with the only deaths being just plain upsetting, as with Ma Petite — or random and upsetting, as with the gay prostitute. Without the real threat of evil stalking these characters, viewers are left with just a bunch of jumbled, incoherent storylines that don’t have much weight to them. When it comes to the campy horror genre, you’ve got to have more than just camp to make it work.
Six episodes left. Come on Ryan Murphy, you can do this. You’ve got [insert applicable sports reference here that I can’t make because I’m the type of person who writes like 1000 words about American Horror Story.]