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AMERICAN HORROR STORY Recap: “Massacres and Matinees”

Last week the premiere of American Horror Story: Freak Show secured the biggest episode of the series, not to mention in FX Network history, racking up 10M+ viewers. Apparently fans of the franchise can’t get enough of Twisty the Clown and Jessica Lange’s sideshow attraction. It didn’t take long for FX to renew the series for a fifth season, even though Freak Show will (allegedly) be Jessica Lange’s last. While our own Alicia Lutes and many others across the web have already begun to speculate what the next season will bring, we’ve still got a lot more of this season to get to first!

It was smart for the season to apply some pressure to the gang in the premiere episode, seeing Jimmy and the Freaks murder and dispose of a detective who came to get Dot and Bette, who are suspects in a murder case. This week, the cops are back investigating the disappearance of one of their own. Elsa, cool as a cucumber, tells the men they will need a warrant if they would like to look under her tent any closer… Meanwhile, Twisty the Clown is back at it, this time causing trouble in a local Jupiter toy store. I could describe this scene in great detail but I think it works so well as a piece of horror (everything from the music to the editing to the casting is incredibly creepy) that I would suggest you just watch it yourself. All you need to know is that Twisty the Clown is really freaking scary.

Back at the tent, Evan Peters’ Jimmy is showing some major anger issues and doing his best to be the patriarch of the crew. Of all of his AHS characters, Jimmy and Tate Langdon from the premiere season Murder House, might be my favorites. Jimmy decides that dismembering and burying the body wasn’t enough and that they’re going to have to burn the remains in order to protect the group. Francis Conroy on the other hand plays Gloria, a sickly obsessive and complacent mother to Dandy, expertly portrayed by Finn Wittrock. We find out there’s a lot more sickness to Dandy as he decides to team up with Twisty the Clown after Gloria hires Twisty to provide Dandy with some “entertainment.” As of now, as far as I’m concerned, Gloria and Dandy are the biggest freak show that we’ve seen yet.

This week we also meet Angela Bassett and Michael Chicklis, a pair who come from out of town and who are desperate to join up with Elsa Mars and her group. They come with some baggage of their own as we discover not only that Chiklis’ strong man has a major temper (he tells Elsa during a confrontation “No lady is the boss of me”) but that he also knew Ethel (Kathy Bates) in a past life.. and is Jimmy’s father. The plot thickens!


Meanwhile, the freaks are hard at work trying to find Dot and Bette’s talent. As it turns out, Dot can sing, and does, performing a rendition of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” Side note: both this week and last featured performances of contemporary music within the context of the 1950s era Freak Show. Apparently, this is jarring to many an AHS fan. I don’t find it as distracting since in the now four seasons of American Horror Story I’ve learned that all bets are off. I would suggest that this is probably something fans should get used to for the season.

As the episode wrapped up, there was some fighting between Chiklis’ Dell Toledo and Peters’ Jimmy, leading Jimmy to try and frame Toledo for the murder of the missing detective. When the police do return to the camp with a search warrant, they find the evidence planted not on Toledo but on Meep the Geek. In one of the more moving and sad moments of the series, we see Meep thrown into jail with people five times his size looking to pick on a “freak.” As Jimmy later says, “He’s not tough. He’s just weird.” And, sadly, at the end of the episode, Meep’s dead body is carelessly returned to Jimmy and the crew.

One thing that is becoming apparent is the divide between the freaks and the rest of the people in the town. In this same episode, Jimmy tries to take part of the group into town to eat lunch with the rest of the citizens of Jupiter. This does not end well and ratchets up the “us vs. them” mentality. Only two episodes in, there seem to be some major conflicts brewing both within the show and outside of it.

Coming up next week on Freak Show is a return to the two part Halloween episode, something that Murphy and co. introduced back in season one with Murder House. If you recall, those were two of the most intense and tragic episodes of the season. Take a look at the tease for next week below and tell us, do you think things are about to get especially dark?

American Horror Story: Freak Show airs Wednesday nights at 10 pm on FX.

Images: FX

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  1. I feel like the writers could have been a bit more subtle with some of the elements of this episode.  How much creepier and unexpected would Dandy’s actions have been if they hadn’t been foreshadowed by the family maid in an earlier scene?  We didn’t need a flashback to earlier in the episode to know that Jimmy tried-and failed-to frame Del.  So much of this show is smartly written, I just wish they’d stop trying to hold our hand through it.

    • davy_delbeke says:

      This is so true! I absolutely agree.

    • donovan says:

      True! Another NO-GO was the “falling down on knees and scream to the sky”-scene at the end. I guess KITSCH is & was always a part of Ryan Murphy’s projects. I hope he grows out of that as a writer… But I’m really happy to see Emma Roberts again….