If this week’s penultimate episode of American Horror Story Freak Show is any indication, we’re going to see a lot of gore in the season finale next week. “Show Stoppers” is a pretty good name for this episode made me laugh while covering my eyes. Remember last week when I said that we were in a batshit crazy new plot with Jamie Brewer and Neil Patrick Harris? Indeed we are, and we got to see more of Chester and Marjorie this week. And Dandy—well, we’ll get there. (Careful: there are spoilers below!)
At the beginning of the episode, the freaks are hosting a dinner and movie night for Richard Spencer. When it becomes clear that they know all, that no one believes his Richard Spencer story any longer, Stanley is afraid. Understandably so–they’ve got the head of our friend from the American Morbidity Museum in a jar, and they’re moving toward Stanley. They put him on the wheel of death just long enough to make him dizzy, then tell him to run.
They chase him with knives. Oh, Stanley, what have you wrought? Anyway just before they catch Stanley, he throws out a piece of information: Elsa killed Ethel. Perhaps it’s the utter plausibility of it, but it doesn’t take long for everyone to believe it. Either way, goodbye Stanley.
Across the way, Elsa sits with Jimmy. He’s morose, of course, mourning the loss of his hands. And he’s got no hands left to extend in friendship (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to Maggie, who desperately wants his forgiveness. Ah well.
Also happening is another tryst between Chester and Marjorie and Bette and Dot. Only it seems that Bette and Dot are beginning to be a little put off by Marjorie. They ask Chester to put her on the floor rather than the nearby, and he does. But later, Marjorie berates Chester about the encounter. Chester is forced into admitting to himself that he killed his wife and Alice. Oh, Chester. Bette and Dot, who don’t have Marjorie’s voice to tell them about Chester’s past, are enlightened by Dandy, who shows up at the freak show and gives them a dossier on Chester.
The performers, meanwhile, are having a drink. They really understand, now, that nothing about Ethel’s death makes sense. Because…Well because people do not decide to commit suicide in such an elaborate fashion. Not people like Ethel, especially. Everyone becomes convinced of Elsa’s guilt. Molly, you in danger, girl.
Elsa, meanwhile, has reunited with Massimo (Danny Huston). They’ve found one another, and oh, Massimo is going to make Jimmy some new hands. In a flashback, we get Massimo’s story after the war. He went looking for the men who hurt Elsa and was imprisoned for a long time by the leader of the group, whose name, I swear, was “Dr. Hans Gruber.” Anyway, by the time he got out, he felt as though he’d lost most of his humanity, his soul, so when Elsa didn’t answer a note he sent her in America, he didn’t come to find her. Well.
Back in the big tent, Chester has called a meeting. He’s the show’s new owner, so he wants to work on the acts. He’s acting more and more crazy, and when Bette and Dot don’t want to be his assistants any longer, he looks like he might explode right there on stage. Everyone seems a little put off, a little anxious around him.
But for some reason, Maggie doesn’t get the hint of danger, or she doesn’t care, or something. She volunteers to get into the magician’s box. She knows this trick. Except Chester is having One of Those Moments. He sees Maggie not as herself but as Alice/his wife/Marjorie. He chains her feet together. Uh oh. Maggie’s screaming, but everyone seems to be too stunned to move. Chester saws the poor girl in half before anyone movies. When they’re trying to decide what to do afterward, Desiree has what’s the best ever line–“steal her jewelry and bury the bitch.”
So they do. Chester, meanwhile, runs back to his trailer. Marjorie berates him again for what he’s done, says they’ll have to run. Chester stabs Marjorie, and there’s a bloodbath. But when he takes her body to the police station to report the murder, there’s only a small wooden puppet in a blanket. Oh, Chester.
Eve, meanwhile, has to break the news to Jimmy. She finds Jimmy sitting on the bed. He’d been thinking about the first time he was onstage, and we see Ethel introducing her young son onto the stage in 1946. In the present, Eve tells Jimmy about Maggie.She also tells him that the group is going after Elsa for killing Ethel.
But Elsa has friends left. The twins go to her and inform her of the plot to kill her. Elsa doesn’t believe, at first, that her monsters would do such a thing. But Bette and Dot are coldly logical: “you killed their real mother” she tells her. Ethel. “Where will I go” says Elsa. “Anywhere but here” answers Bette. When the girls rally and Desiree leads them with a war cry of “ETHELLLL” and downs a bottle of liquor, they’re disappointed not to find Elsa, but the mob dies down.
Earlier in the evening, Elsa met with Dandy and then left the freak show for good. She sold the show. To. Dandy. Ooooh, my. Dandy walks into the ground of the show, looking for all the world like a kid in a candy store. He basks in the wonder of owning such a thing. And then he hears a scuttling backstage. What is that sound? Ooooh, shit. It’s Stanley. And he’s been……Changed. No arms, no legs. In one of Meep’s costumes.
Episode Grade: A-. Lots of spooks and thrills, and a few utterly transfixing moments this week in the penultimate episode. Looking forward to the finale. You can catch me live-tweeting it during the episode next week @parttimemonster and reviewing the episode here.