What the hell even happened last night? We got the Strongman’s secret gay love affair, his chopped-up lover played by the White Collar dude, his wife Desiree’s short-lived elation upon realizing she’s actually a woman and not so-much a freak, Elsa’s perpetual delusions of grandeur, the murder of conjoined twins– oh wait, not really—and a mother-son serial murder cover up. I’d like to say “Pink Cupcakes” was a messy exploitative disaster, but it’s impossible to deny that the episode wasn’t one of the craziest spectacles on cable television I’ve ever seen.
As expected, Stanley finally emerges and basically just rolls up to the Carnival pretending to be a Hollywood agent, and lays down the charm on Elsa, coaxing her to be on a television program (lies!). Elsa, who is proving to be the least developed character on the show thus far, goes into a spiel about how she’d rather die than sell-out “true art” for a spot on TV. This is a half-assed attempt at characterization. I mean, seriously, up until this point we haven’t had any evidence that Elsa cared about the traditional aesthetic qualities and mediums of art until now, and I’m right about this oversimplification of character, because it’s only a few scenes later that Elsa is booed off stage and decides to join Stanley. Well, that didn’t take long to flip-flop on her principles.
Anyway. Stanley’s sequences strangely and nonsensically show him fantasizing about killing the freaks for money. In the opening sequence, Stanley and Maggie attend a lavish ceremony at the museum of oddities. Their contribution is displayed, and it’s a dismembered Paul the Illustrated Seal in a glass case. Of course this isn’t real, and we are supposed to be shocked even though Paul hasn’t actually been killed. This sequence doesn’t really make any sense, anyway, because it occurs before Stanley actually visits Elsa’s carnival and lays eyes on Paul, so is this Maggie’s fantasy? But this breach from the reality of the show occurs again when Stanley “fantasizes” about killing Bette and Dot, having given Bette poisonous pink cupcakes and making Dot lie in bed in horror, attached to her dead, decaying sister. We even cut to him lying to the Museum’s curator how they died of an illness while staring at the dead sisters’ torso. But it’s all imaginary.
I get it. Bette and Dot’s fake death is disturbing. But why not actually make it horrible (as in, horror), by making it real? Ryan Murphy doesn’t seem to understand that the audience only becomes horrified when what it views falls into the realm of believability. Seeing something horrible in and of itself does not mean we will be horrified; it must be given build-up, suspense, and context.
Ironically, “Pink Cupcakes” is Dell’s episode. A lot happens to him. He basically is revealed to be gay and also goes ape-shit on a perfectly nice doctor. So I guess this all begins when Desiree discovers she’s not really a “hermaphrodite” but is actually a woman, and the nice doctor who helped Ethel during her time of woe ensures her that not only can she have children, she can also have an operation to remove her enlarged, um, penis. The less details the better. But of course, later, she leaves Dell because he’s a shitty husband and doesn’t want to have kids, and the last kid he had had lobster-hands and hates him. Before this, we find out that Dell has a boyfriend who is played by Matt Bomer, who is a prostitute, and who won’t stop prostituting for Dell. This scene was actually pretty good. Maybe it was because of the strong acting, but I managed to feel bad for Dell.
After Dell comes home and finds out Desiree is going to leave him and have a “normal life”, Dell attacks the benevolent doctor, threatens his grandchildren, and breaks his hands. In summary, Dell’s character is complex and troubled, and Chiklis delivers a powerful performance of a man stunted and enraged by his own freakish qualities, as well as his hidden sexuality and sense of powerlessness.
One must wonder how Dell is going to react when he discovers his lover has been hacked to pieces by that asshole, wanna-be clown Dandy. After killing his house-servant, Dandy encourages his mother to help him bury the poor woman in the yard. Then he gives an internal monologue of how “vacant” he is while exercising and preening about in tighty-whiteys, which was SUCH A BLATANT American Psycho Patrick Bateman rip-off I wondered if AHS might be sued.
He heads to the gay club, approaches Matt Bomer’s prostitute characters and lures him into the woods and Twisty’s abandoned trailer (by the way, Bomer plays the worst prostitute ever. What kind of male prostitute lets himself be lured to certain death inside the middle of the woods by a handsome creepy serial killer?) What follows was one of the most offensive displays of gay male murder I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Why Bomer would agree to such a scene is beyond me. But the sensationalism of the show officially jumped the shark the moment Dandy cut off Bomer’s second arm after he squeaked, “Killlll meeee….”
By the way, is this show intended for teenagers?
If this season has main characters, it can be argued that they are Elsa and Jimmy. So let’s talk about them.
Elsa is still envious of Bette and Dot’s likeability and maybe taking her place as the lead attraction of the show. The irony here, of course, is that they are blindly being led to their deaths by Stanley. So Elsa shouldn’t be too jealous. During her singing act, the audience first believes we are in store for another David Bowie rendition, but instead we are presented with a tragic Elsa being pelted by trash by an unhappy audience. Elsa doesn’t have too many redeeming qualities. In past AHS seasons, her character was maniacal and cruel, yet clever. In Freakshow, she seems neither clever nor particularly interesting. This isn’t Jessica Lange’s fault but rather the writers who are not giving her much to work with whatsoever.
The episode ends with Elsa driving Bette and Dot (who are not dead, remember?) to Dandy’s house, presumably to give them away to the cruel hands of Dandy. I had totally forgotten that they even knew each other, and now the show is really stretching it to get characters to interact with each other, and with this, Freakshow has officially become Coven.
Thankfully, the one saving grace is Jimmy, whose pathos and sadness at not “getting the girl” at least for this episode, tugs at the heartstrings. His sadness comes to a peak when he actually tries to hook up with Desiree, who is not only wasted but emotionally vulnerable. Thankfully their make-out session is cut short (in a highly stomach-turning manner), but the consequences of him mackin’ on his father’s wife are sure to come to a head in subsequent episodes.
Overall, I’m not a huge fan, but this episode was certainly better than Edward Mordrake despite being a step down from the first couple episodes. I fear the season will continue to devolve into smutty, boring shock-gore, drawn-out and pointless characterizations, failing yet again to make use of its many talented and alluring actors.