I’m torn about how I feel about last night’s episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, “Orphans.” On one hand, it told an emotional, heartbreaking story of the first character to make the transition from one American Horror Story universe to another, and even provided the details of that transition. On the other hand, what in god’s name are they doing wasting an entire episode on what has essentially been a background character for the first nine episodes, with only two left to go? This isn’t The Leftovers, here. For a campy, plot-driven series to abandon, oh, THE PLOT three episodes from the end of the season when viewers are still a little confused as to where this is all heading — that’s bad. To completely omit your main antagonist who had finally picked up some much needed steam from the episode before the season’s penultimate episode? Bad.
So, last night’s episode was essentially the closest thing American Horror Story has ever come to a bottle episode, mostly focusing on Pepper’s story. Additionally, it also provided the (mostly unnecessary) backstories of a few other characters, with a few scenes relating to the overall season story arc thrown in almost as an afterthought. The episode opens with Salty randomly dying in his sleep of a stroke, and we learn for the first time because these are clearly very important characters — that Salty was not, in fact, Pepper’s brother, but her husband.
When Elsa was working as a lowly chorus girl in Boston, she had a vision that freaks could draw in an audience, so she visited a local orphanage and rescued Pepper, who had been abandoned by a sister who could no longer care for her. Having known “nothing but abandonment” her entire life, Pepper finds unconditional love for the first time after Elsa takes her in. Flashback Elsa is a much nicer person than regular Elsa.
Understanding that Pepper had maternal and womanly needs, Elsa goes to great lengths to find both Ma Petite and Salty — and together Salty and Pepper become a union with the most adorable pinhead wedding ever. I have to admit though, I was thinking, “What if they didn’t like each other?” Sometimes you have a cat, and you adopt another cat to keep the first cat company and you know, it doesn’t always pan out. I guess in this case everybody is lucky that it did.
So Pepper was happy for her days, until the series of events that transpired in last night’s episode. I thought it would come out that somehow Stanley poisoned Salty or something, since he later cuts off his head and sells it to the museum, BUT NO, it was just a garden variety stroke. Way to keep up the continuity, American Horror Story.
Ma Petite Was Traded For Three Cases Of Dr. Pepper
Good old Ma Petite. She had such a positive and optimistic outlook on life, right up until her untimely death, even though she was basically traded into servitude as a sideshow act at a freak show for three cases of Dr. Pepper. Even Coca Cola would have been slightly less insulting.
Say, Why Don’t We Take Pepper To Her Sister Who Wants Nothing To Do With Her?
As usual, the decision making in last night’s episode was sketchy at best. Poor Pepper, she’s lost her human baby doll and soulmate, since she has absolutely no one, not a single soul left now (except for all of the freaks at the freak show who still love and care for her) we should probably take her to that sister who abandoned her at an orphanage all those years ago. Jesus. I have a more difficult time dropping my dog off at my parents house when going out of town then Elsa did leaving her daughter-figure at her estranged sister’s house.
Welcome To Briarcliff!
. . . Which obviously panned out even worse than could have been possibly imagined. Pepper’s sister and sister’s husband might actually be the worst people on this season so far next to the guy who tattooed his own daughter’s face, in framing Pepper for the murder of their pinhead baby. Couldn’t they have just dropped her and the baby off somewhere, and then Pepper would have lived happily ever after with the baby she always wanted so badly? NOPE, NOT MURDERY ENOUGH.
Oh god. Just oh god. The scene where Sister Mary Eunice (welcome back, BTW!) mistakes Pepper’s tears of anguish for tears of remorse? This episode was like a crime of passion. Ryan Murphy didn’t just want us dead, he wanted it to hurt. Good job, mission accomplished.
A side note: the Briarcliff scene was introduced as taking place in 1962, a full ten years after the start of Freak Show. Does that mean Pepper spent ten whole years with that horrible woman? She might have been better off in the asylum in the first place.
Meanwhile, In Philadelphia
Desiree: “Hey Maggie, I’ll kill you myself if I find out that you and your creepy partner had anything to do with all of these freak murders.” Maggie: “LOL that’s interesting because I have some fun stuff to show you in Philadelphia.” What’s the end game here? Jimmy is in prison, and they had broken up anyway. What does she have to gain by selling out her partner to the freaks, who will in turn want retaliation on her for being a co-conspirator?
I don’t know. I also don’t know if those were really supposed to be Jimmy’s hands in that glass jar, as the previous scene alluded to Stanley offering him a trade for the money he needed to hire a lawyer. Jimmy’s pretty dumb, but surely he’s not that dumb? Oh wait I forgot everyone on this show is dumb.
Elsa Makes It Big After All?
Ohhh, F*CK YOU, Elsa. This scene was also difficult to watch, as poor Pepper remembers the gesture her adopted mother taught her before abandoning her. But anyway, Elsa has to be like, what, 75 at this point in the narrative, but she still “owns” Friday nights? I’m also curious to see how a 65-year-old woman with little prior showbiz experience outside of a freak show makes it big in Hollywood when her only “connection” is a complete fraud. I guess we have two episodes left to find out. Please just let her die horribly before it all ends.
After the winter hiatus: NPH!