“American Horror Story: Freakshow” recap (4.8): Sticks and Stones


Oh American Horror Story, I know they say you have to kill your darlings, but why do you have to kill my darlings?  This episode saw the demise of two of the strongest female characters on the show, but it also witnessed a gang of women teaming up as vigilantes to punish an evil man, so I guess they cancel each other out.

First up, Dandy’s inevitable descent into terror/ascent into the show’s best villain continues. After the incident with Patti LaBelle and the loss of the twins’ stabilizing influence, Gloria finally concedes that it’s time to put Dandy in therapy. She tells her shrink—in a really excellent bit of writing and performing – that since he was a little boy Dandy seemed like “a foreigner; a perfectly groomed aristocratic boy who could play the part but didn’t quite understand the language.”  She recounts how animals and other children always seemed to meet untimely ends around Dandy, and the whole time the poor psychiatrist is scribbling “AAAAAAAHH PSYCHO RUN AWAY.”  But psychiatry is still in its infancy, so he thinks Dandy’s proclivities would be best addressed by some ink blot tests, as opposed to, say, a barrage of anti-psychotics that haven’t even been invented yet. When Gloria returns home from the doctor, she finds Dandy playing host to Patti LaBelle’s daughter Gina (Gabourey Sidibe, always a welcome sight).  Gloria is like “OH. WELL. YOUR MOTHER IS BUYING SQUASH. IN…UM…SOUTH AMERICA.  SHE’LL BE BACK…TOMORROW.”


Once Dandy gets Gloria alone, he’s like “You know we have to kill her, right?” She balks, and he blames her for his madness and inbreeding, which: fair. Dandy raises the gun to his temple, but Gloria begs him not to pull the trigger. So, of course, he turns the gun on her. Not only does he kill his mother, he pours himself a Cialis-style bath of her blood in hopes of gaining her powers.


I am so sad to see Frances Conroy go, even if all she got to do this season was look fabulous and enable her son’s depravity. Dandy and Gabourey are facing off next week, and hopefully she kills him or at least musses up his hair.

At the freak show, things are even grimmer.

First, Jimmy finds Ma Petit’s bloodied dress and the carnival is thrown into a paroxysm of grief. No one is more distraught than Elsa, who is lost without her human hot water bottle. Ethel, however, is convinced that Elsa’s mourning is all a shame, which is a pretty fair assumption considering that five minutes ago, Elsa was entertaining the idea of killing the twins. She protests that, cruel intentions aside, she never actually hurt anyone, but Ethel is too drunk and heartbroken to take heed.  She’s like “I LOVE YOU, ELSA, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT’S PAINFUL TO BE AROUND YOU. AND IT’S DEFINITELY TOO PAINFUL TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE YOU’RE A MURDERER, SO WE ARE BOTH GONNA DIE TONIGHT.” She pulls out a gun and the trigger, but all it does is blow a hold in Elsa’s shapely wooden leg.


Elsa relays the story of her dismemberment and then goes on a whole tangent about the mad genius who crafted her new legs.  The doctor is played by Danny Huston, so presumably this isn’t the last we’ll see of him. Anyway, Ethel is moved by Elsa’s story, but not enough to deter her from killing Elsa. So Elsa, of course, throws a knife straight into Ethel’s bearded face. In the aftermath, Stanley stages a suicide scene in which he conveniently gets to decapitate Ethel and hang on to her head. (So now Kathy Bates is two for two on AHS headlessness.)

Elsa experiences a moment’s remorse over stabbing her best friend, but quickly gets back to business, traveling to Miami to recruit a Fat Lady for the show. It’s unclear why she’s here except a cannon fodder/ a bosom for Jimmy to cry on.


Jimmy seems grimly determined to drive himself into alcoholism the same way that some children take it into their heads to dig a hole to China. Emma Roberts tries to pull him out of that hole for a while, but quickly gets frustrated and leaves him there.

The only bright spot in this week’s proceedings occurs after Ethel’s funeral, when Amazon Eve, Desiree, The Legless Lady (still not clear on her name), and Grace Gummer (known as the The Astounding Lizard Girl since her forcible tattooing) band together to protest the system that hurts and violates them with impunity.  Together they decide to take revenge on the evildoer nearest to hand, Lizard Girl’s dad. They kidnap him and take him back to the carnival where they douse him in tar and feathers.


They’re preparing to commit further atrocities to his body when Emma Roberts swoops in and puts a stop to it. As much as I agree with Desiree’s argument that Erin Brockovich Junior will never understand what life is like for the freaks, I’m also glad they stopped before they did anything truly heinous. (Although I’m far from convinced that the tar and feathers alone aren’t enough to kill that guy.)  I would definitely watch a show just about the freak ladies as a band of superheroes committed to tearing down the patriarchy.

See you next week!

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