What an ambitious premiere.
American Horror Story has proved to be one of the most terrifying and delightful surprises of the past few years. The show’s unique ability of resetting itself every year with a brand new premise affords it an unlimited amount of potential. The first season, Murder House, hooked me with its unique brand of craziness, but it was the subsequent seasons (Asylum, and Coven) that truly allowed the show to soar to great heights. Freak Show sees Ryan Murphy and his writing team tackle a circus troupe in 1952, and it’s a world that’s brimming with oddities and darkness.
As always, Jessica Lange is phenomenal, and the fact that this might be her final season on the show makes it all the more bittersweet. I don’t exactly want to picture the series without its complex and terrifically talented lead actress, but Lange’s portrayal of Elsa Mars, the manager of Fraulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities, is already a homerun. The premiere paints a layered picture of an aging starlet still vying for breakout success, and it’s made all the more captivating with the final reveal of her amputation and prosthetic legs. Lange is electric in every single one of her scenes, and I absolutely can’t wait to learn more about her backstory in the coming episodes.
Even moreso than Lange, Sarah Paulson deserves major props for her astounding turn as conjoined twins Better and Dot. Although the CGI used to bring the two to life is extremely distracting, Paulson marvelously differentiates the twins with every look and line delivery. In addition, I love the split screen effect which further contrasts their perspectives. Now that Lange has won the Emmy twice, I have a feeling it’s Paulson’s time to shine this year. Simply incredible.
We’re introduced to the rest of the cast in small doses, and Evan Peters’ turn as Jimmy leaves the most impact, particularly with his murder of a pesky detective and his subsequent urging of the freaks to chop the corpse to pieces. However, the premiere’s greatest achievement is most certainly the introduction of Twisty the clown. I can’t express how terrifying this character is, and that’s made all the more impressive seeing as how his initial introduction is made in broad frickin’ daylight. In addition, his torture of his victims (through performances) is all the more unsettling and creepy. Please writers, give Twisty as much screentime as possible this season. I”m already dreading his scenes.
– Will Jessica Lange smoke in every season? Is it a mandate from her end?
– Jimmy pleasuring the women with his deformed/webbed hands is just the kind of twisted material you’d expect from this show. And Ethel the bearded woman (played by the awesome Kathy Bates) is his mother? Nice!
– Where is Angela Bassett and why wasn’t she in the premiere? I guess they’re leaving the big guns for later.
– The actress who plays the candy stripper involved in the freaky circus orgy is none other than Grace Gummer, Meryl Streep’s daughter. Hopefully she’ll be better here than she was on Extant.
– Honestly I was kind of bored by Elsa’s “Life on Mars” performance. But people online sure seemed to have loved it. I am however eagerly looking forward to her much-hyped Lana Del Ray performance.
– Frances Conroy was an absolute standout last season, and I’m thrilled that she’s back. This year she plays Gloria, a woman with a son who’s a huge fan of “freaks”. I can’t wait to see what these two have in store of us (especially after their offer to buy the twins is refused).
Gloria: (after giving Dandy her seat) Mother made it toasty for you.
Gloria: (to Elsa) By far the most freakish thing of all tonight was your pathetic attempt at singing.
With a compelling new status quo and a whole lot of style to spare, AHS is back with a bang.