“American Horror Story: Freak Show” Episode 4.5, “Pink Cupcakes.” Starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, and Sarah Paulson; Written by Jessica Sharzer; Directed by Michael Uppendahl.
You guys remember that episode of “Beavis and Butthead” when they watch an Accept video, and Butthead’s all “usually destruction is pretty cool, but here it just – I don’t know – it falls flat”? Where “American Horror Story” is concerned, I would agree that demolition and destruction can be kind of cool. Under extreme duress I would admit to enjoying my viewing time, if only for the cathartic vent that follows. But tonight? Yeah, it just, kinda, I don’t know, it fell flat.
The episode opened with the ol’ bait and switch – our shysters were at a gala wherein freak corpses were celebrated on display. Except they weren’t. We were only witnessing Stanley McMysterypants sharing his fantasy of fortune gained at the cost of dead sideshow performers. He and Maggie scheme to murder our stars for fun and profit. Stanley decides his checkmate hinges on Elsa, so he tries to seduce her with promises of a variety hour on television. Elsa, however, finds television to be a vulgar medium, a cheap alternative to the encompassing silver screen, and will not agree to plaster her face alongside shampoo and coffee commercials.
How very meta.
As best I can tell, the episode in fact paid tribute to two films throughout. Jimmy’s rehearsal was pulled from the opening of “Goodfellas,” and Dandy’s scenes were straight up Patrick Bateman. It’s possible that Stanley’s fantasies were a nod to “Funny Games,” only far less interactive and while they might have stirred a bit of frustration, it wasn’t for the same reason or of the same intensity that I experienced while watching “Funny Games.” I was mostly just exasperated at the cheap trick of showing the death of top billed cast members followed by a big old “PSYCH!!”
After an impromptu hookup with Jimmy (because why the hell not), Desiree experienced some bleeding. She assumed that Jimmy got a little out of control with the lobster claws, but when Ethel delivers her to the kindly country doctor from episode 3 she learns that she is in fact all woman, and all her “freak” attributes can be easily corrected. Also that she can have babies. Ethel, having lived through that horror, warns her of the dangers of Del Toledo’s spawn, and she and Desiree become tent mates.
Meanwhile, while Desiree is fooling around with Del’s son and having a miscarriage, Del is at a gay bar. I’m not gonna front – I was a little surprised. All though the show certainly did it’s job in foreshadowing that one: Del’s two most notable relationships were with a bearded woman and a woman presumed to be intersexed. But he’s fallen in love with a prostitute who does not share the love. Del throws an epic tanty after he’s rejected by both his young man and his wife, and does some horrific damage to our kindly country doctor.
The reveal of Del as a homosexual seems almost dangerous. Are we supposed to rationalize his monstrosity because he’s been living this secret, shameful life? Well that’s antiquated and harmful. The scenes did give Michael Chiklis an opportunity to give what is probably the best male performance of the entire series, but it also sets up all three gay characters as either morally deviant or a replacement for the expendable and violated damsel. Those ideals are expected for the era in which the show is set, not the era in which it airs. I hope for better as our plot thickens and more guest characters arrive.
Gloria has discovered Dandy’s new hobby, and has to deal with cleanup. She credits her own sub par parenting as well as all the inbreeding that comes with affluent marriages.
Meanwhile, Elsa experiences a nightmarish bomb of a performance for the locals who arbitrarily turned on her. She looses her opportunity for “TV” to the twins and so hatches a plan to get them out of her way. Enter the reconciliation of plot between Dandy and Freaks; Dot and Bette are delivered to his door in this week’s cliffhanger. Elsa also listened to a Bowie album this episode – literally. “David Bowie” was actually printed on the vinyl on her gramophone. When I consider the musical choices combined with all the movie references of the season, I’m genuinely curious if this will culminate in a Bobby Ewing type reveal. Or maybe Ryan Murphy was just really into Bowie last summer.
I will admit that the show has got me thinking. I want to go back and look for clues, and I want to discover them on my own rather than visiting message boards to read fan theories. I also want to not do that so I’m not nearly as disappointed when this all plays out as dartboard drama of a Lynchian nature. This week’s hour passed with neither negative nor positive emotion, which was possibly just the breather I needed to regroup.