American Horror Story: Freak Show ‘Bullseye’ Recap: Episode 04.06

Freak Show
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“Bullseye” was slower than usual, focused on new characters and situations, and didn’t quite break new barriers in the exploitative gore department, unless you count an imaginary sequence in which Ma Petite nearly gets drowned in formaldehyde. We do see Elsa finally growing into her nefarious character, and the stakes have been raised for Jimmy, who finally appears close to attaining true happiness. Oh yeah, and Paul became a fully developed talking character, until he got (SPOILER) stabbed.

 

Elsa

The episode begins with Elsa throwing knives at a rotating bullseye, imagining and perhaps hoping that one day, soon, freaks will be tied to it. You know how the famous theater adage goes!: If there’s a knife-throwing game in the first Act…

Anyway. It’s revealed, completely randomly, that Elsa is hooking up with Paul. I didn’t even know he had a British accent, and now he’s yammering away all lothario style in her bed. Not only that, he has a second girlfriend, too, both of whom are in love with him and willing to go to great lengths for his love. You know, as much as I like Mat Fraser and Jessica Lange and the show’s continual attempts at propagating the notion that “freaks” are just like normal people, etc., this plot turn is the most hackneyed shit I’ve ever seen. I’m not even saying it’s improbable; it just seems like something the show’s creators came up with to drill into our heads that these are people we’re talking about, as if we didn’t already know that. Also, every freak is “good”, and every human (like Elsa) is bad. And people simply do not operate that way.

Elsa seems to be seriously slipping in the mental department. As if having malicious thoughts about her freaks wasn’t bad enough, she begins barking at them and telling them how she saved them all from orphanages and stuff, and she is especially defensive when anyone suggests that she got rid of the Bette and Dot, um… even though she totally did. If the final climax of the show is any indication of this, she makes the freaks prove to her that they trust her (which, I mean, usually if you have to ask for trust it’s because you’re not giving it, right?). Then, in the worst possible staff team building exercise EVER, she orders one of them to mount the bullseye wheel while she throws knives at them, and proceeds to stab poor spinning Paul ON PURPOSE.
I don’t really get what Elsa was trying to accomplish here. Even if she feigns apologies, which she does, it doesn’t exactly make anyone sympathize with her more than if she had stabbed him ON PURPOSE.

But in the end, we see Elsa as a really bad person, which is better than us seeing her as simply a morally ambiguous nut-job. Also, the entire subplot points to a showdown between Ethel and Elsa, something that hasn’t been really intimated at all season, but might (entertainingly) come to a head towards the end.

 

Dandy and Bette and Dot

The episode also kind of just jumps in to how Dandy is obsessed with the twins, and loves them so much, and yells at his mother how “he’s a freak just like them”. Well, not quite, Dandy, but cool how you make everything about you!

His affection for the girls seems legitimate because he buys them hair accessories and dotes on them. But because this is a psychopath we are talking about, his love is not only conditional, but dangerously tenuous.

Bette and Dot, on the other hand, are predictable as always about their predicament. As was the case when they first met Elsa, Stanley, and now Dandy, Bette is happy as a clam and Dot is a suspicious Debbie downer. I guess the series is just going to pass them on to the next villain until someone finally murders them.

There’s some talk that the twins can finally be separated through an uber-expensive operation. Dot has a fantasy in which she has been separated and Jimmy comes to her and they fall in love. How I wish that this plot line was more developed! How I wish that Jimmy and Dot had more time on the screen in general. They are two of the most interesting characters, and there is enough meat here for some truly good drama, which the show has yet to take advantage of.

Of course, Jimmy does have a girl he’s interested in. Too bad she almost murdered the most adorable character ever to appear on television…

 

Maggie

I’m still not even sure what is going on with this girl. OBVIOUSLY Maggie can’t possibly give a shit about Stanley. The show has done a piss poor job of even trying to mildly convince its viewers that Emma Roberts’ Maggie would murder any innocent freak for a creepy, old abusive man rather than run away and be happy with the handsome and benevolent Jimmy.

But that doesn’t stop the show from giving viewers “what they want”: a glimpse into an alternate world in which Maggie drowns Ma Petite in a glass canister of formaldehyde as she cries and pounds on the walls. Show, I do not get you. You espouse how freaks are used for entertainment and demonstrate how good-natured and innocent they are, and then you gleefully submit to (some of) our deepest perverse desires of watching a sweet innocent woman suffer.

But the point is that Maggie has a change of heart and brings Ma Petite back, unharmed (THANK GOD), and tells Jimmy they should run away together, and he’s happy and all, but then she is told by Stanley nuh-uh, no way, I will kill you… and then Jimmy goes to Dandy’s house to see about the twins, and that is how our episode ends. What will happen next?? (My guess is Jimmy is made into chop suey by a killer clown).

 

Overall

Guys, I don’t know. Some parts of this show are good and some parts are freaking atrocious. It’s exhausting seeing interesting characters go nowhere again and again each and every week, like something from Groundhog‘s Day. But I love the acting.  If AHS Freak Show was performed by a bunch of bad C- list actors with typical good looks and no personalities, I wouldn’t have made it past the second episode. But we are talking about Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, and Wes Bentley here, for pete’s sake! And that adorable Ma Petite. So bring on the next episode, FX. I haven’t given up on you yet.

"Bullseye" was slower than usual, focused on new characters and situations, and didn’t quite break new barriers in the exploitative gore department, unless you count an imaginary sequence in which Ma Petite nearly gets drowned in formaldehyde. We do see Elsa finally growing into her nefarious character, and the stakes have been raised for Jimmy, who finally appears close to attaining true happiness. Oh yeah, and Paul became a fully developed talking character, until he got (SPOILER) stabbed.   Elsa The episode begins with Elsa throwing knives at a rotating bullseye, imagining and perhaps hoping that one day, soon, freaks will be tied to it. You know how the famous theater adage goes!: If there’s a knife-throwing game in the first Act… Anyway. It’s revealed, completely randomly, that Elsa is hooking up with Paul. I didn’t even know he had a British accent, and now he’s yammering away all lothario style in her bed. Not only that, he has a second girlfriend, too, both of whom are in love with him and willing to go to great lengths for his love. You know, as much as I like Mat Fraser and Jessica Lange and the show’s continual attempts at propagating the notion that “freaks” are just like normal people, etc., this plot turn is the most hackneyed shit I’ve ever seen. I’m not even saying it’s improbable; it just seems like something the show’s creators came up with to drill into our heads that these are people we’re talking about, as if we didn’t already know that. Also, every freak is “good”, and every human (like Elsa) is bad. And people simply do not operate that way. Elsa seems to be seriously slipping in the mental department. As if having malicious thoughts about her freaks wasn’t bad enough, she begins barking at them and telling them how she saved them all from orphanages and stuff, and she is especially defensive when anyone suggests that she got rid of the Bette and Dot, um… even though she totally did. If the final climax of the show is any indication of this, she makes the freaks prove to her that they trust her (which, I mean, usually if you have to ask for trust it’s because you’re not giving it, right?). Then, in the worst possible staff team building exercise EVER, she orders one of them to mount the bullseye wheel while she throws knives at them, and proceeds to stab poor spinning Paul ON PURPOSE. I don’t really get what Elsa was trying to accomplish here. Even if she feigns apologies, which she does, it doesn’t exactly make anyone sympathize with her more than if she had stabbed him ON PURPOSE. But in the end, we see Elsa as a really bad person, which is better than us seeing her as simply a morally ambiguous nut-job. Also, the entire subplot points to a showdown between Ethel and Elsa, something that hasn’t been really intimated at all season, but might (entertainingly) come…
Episode Score - 5.5

5.5

Not the worst television I've ever seen, but could be so much better, like virtually all American Horror Story episodes. This episode gets an extra half point for Ma Petite's screen time and Dandy's awesome and frightening domestic relationship with the twins.

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About the Author

Patricia Marquez
is a writer and film enthusiast newly relocated from Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, her work has been published in Pacifica Literary Review and the York University Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. A horror buff at heart, she now lives in Austin, Texas with her demon cat named Pim.
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