Welcome back to the circus tent, folks!
When we last left off, we were introduced to our lovely freak show’s main characters.
- Bette and Dot, conjoined twins who murdered their mother and have joined the freak show to avoid getting caught. Bette loves celebrities and wants a taste of the good life; Dot is careful and neurotic, skeptical of the freak show.
- German expat Elsa Mars, a wannabe star who runs the circus. Revealed to have no legs in a WTF twist ending to the premiere.
- Jimmy Darling, a human lobster with deformed fingers that pimps his umm… touch out to the women of Jupiter, Florida for a few extra bucks. He murdered a police officer that came looking for the twins. His mother, Ethel, is a bearded lady that serves as Elsa’s right-hand woman.
- An evil clown named Twisty that has haunted my nightmares all week. He’s taken some people prisoner and is holding them on a school bus. Because that’s what scary clowns do, obviously.
Onto the main show!
On the Radio, Off the Shelf – We open on a radio show recapping the murders and the missing detective. When detectives show up to question the freak show, Jimmy points them over to Elsa, who still doesn’t know that Jimmy murdered Detective Bunch last week.
When the detectives ask Elsa to look around, she tells them to get search warrant, but inviting them to look around if they buy a ticket to the show. But the detectives have some bad news – a new curfew is going to be imposed on the town, one that could definitely serve to shutdown the carnival if nobody can come to watch it.
Bette helps Elsa to sell to the detectives that the missing detective was a drunkard, who already collected a statement from the twins. Though they aren’t buying it, the detectives leave, but first give Elsa an ominous warning that they’ll be back.
Meanwhile, a worker of a toyshop arrives, looking for who I suppose is his boss. There’s no one around… except for a toy robot, which made me jump more than I should have.
The toy is tracking blood, however, leading our worker around the shop and directly passing Twisty, who is pretending to be just a clown costume. When the worker finds his boss’s head on the shelf, Twisty stabs him from behind. And I thought I hated my job.
Bored Now – We get our first glimpse into the Mott household. Gloria and her son sit across from one another at an overly long table, eating dinner in near-silence. Gloria sips wine while Dandy creepily sharpens his fork. When their maid brings Dandy escargot, he announces his boredom and frustration.
Gloria tries to calm him down, recalling that Dandy is lucky to have avoided the police sniffing around an altercation he had with a woman. While Gloria tries to persuade Dandy to settle down and have children, he wants nothing of the sort. He wants “to be a thespian,” which Gloria reminds him is not for him.
Dandy runs out, while Nora, the maid, takes the opportunity to pin the town’s murders on him. She details to Gloria that Dandy has been disfiguring the neighbour’s cat. Gloria denies that he would do such a thing. Instead, she goes out looking for Dandy and finds a clown walking down the road. “Do you do birthday parties?” she asks. Worst decision ever.
Dandy, in the meanwhile, has gone back to the circus to try to join. He gives a wholehearted pitch to Jimmy, begging him to take a chance on him. But Jimmy sends him away, demanding that he be grateful for the privilege he’s been given in his life. Dandy responds to his own failure by bashing his head into the steering wheel.
When Dandy returns home, he has a meltdown, yelling at his mother about how much he hates her and his life. Gloria tries to calm him down by introducing him to his new personal clown, Twisty. Dandy is infatuated from the moment he lays eyes on him. Roll the Casablanca clip: this is gonna be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Dandy tries to put on a puppet show for Twisty, but to no avail. Dandy demands that the clown amuse him, but he knocks him out and runs away, but not before Dandy gets a look into his bag of tricks, so he follows him.
New In Town – Strongman Dell Toledo shows-up to join the freak show with his wife, Desiree Dupree. Flashbacks reveal that when Dell caught Desiree with another man in Chicago, he snapped his neck. Whoops.
Desiree reveals to Elsa that her talent (?) is that she has three breasts and both sets of genitalia. “What does that make you?” Elsa poses to Dell. “The happiest man on Earth,” he responds with a smile. Elsa agrees to hire them, thinking that a strong male presence may help the show.
Ethel pays Dell a visit, telling him to stay away from Jimmy. Further flashbacks reveal that he’s Jimmy’s father and that he almost killed his own son just for being a mistake. Ethel is livid when she hears that Dell has been put in charge of the show to protect everyone.
A Star Is Born – Bette is practicing singing (not well, of course), so Desiree tries to come up with a talent for the twins. She suggests that they shoot ping-pong balls out of their cooch, because she’s obviously been spending too much time watching Winona Ryder in the South Park movie.
Jimmy has another idea: to give spotlight-adverse Dot a chance to show off her pipes. Dot’s rendition of “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” is perfection. Elsa looks threatened to have another performer in the group, while Bette looks crestfallen by her sister’s talent.
Dell shows-up to propose an idea to get around the curfew: a matinee show. But Elsa is opposed, sure that people will only come out to see freaks at night. Not wanting to be bossed around by a woman, Dell puts down an iron fist, demanding that the curtain go up at 3:00 the following afternoon. I’m happy to have the talented Michael Chiklis around, but wouldn’t it be prudent to, you know, listen to your boss for at least the first few hours that you work somewhere? I get that Elsa wants some testosterone to protect the freak show’s troupe, but this feels a bit too commanding from Dell right at the beginning.
A Night on the Town – Jimmy snaps during dinner, a byproduct of his guilt for murdering the detective. With the help of Paul and Amazon Eve, he’s looking to burn the body and scatter the ashes. Evan Peters’ acting is underrated on this show – he does a good job here convincing me that he’s distraught, vindicated and petrified at the same time.
The trio is certain that if people got to know them, they would understand that the members of the freak show are just normal people.
Later in the episode, Jimmy tries to prove his point by taking the troupe to the town diner. Naturally, everyone looks at them as if they don’t belong. Hands down, the best part of this scene is Pepper. She just wants her meatloaf, damnit. Phil tries to eat another customer’s leftovers, which upsets the diner’s staff. They attempt to kick them out, but Jimmy refuses, citing that they’ve done nothing wrong.
Dell arrives and instantly commands that the group return to eat at the camp. Jimmy gives him lip, again refusing to leave. But strongman Dell doesn’t like being disobeyed and proceeds to kick the shit out of poor Jimmy. He shoots the others a look. Poor Pepper isn’t getting any meatloaf.
When Jimmy returns, he takes his grievances right to Elsa, admitting that he killed the detective when he sniffed around looking for the twins. Elsa instantly knows that she made a mistake hiring Dell… and something needs to be done about it.
You’ve Got A Friend In Me – Twisty returns to his home base (i.e. the abandoned bus in the middle of the woods) and continues to terrorize his prisoners, a teenage girl and a young boy. Except this time, he’s terrorizing them with kindness, giving them the robot toy he got earlier from the toyshop.
Until, of course, he shows them the head of the boy who worked in the toyshop! GOTCHA!
The girl knocks him in the mouth, attempting to escape. Twisty’s teeth come right out, showing that his oversized smile is a prosthetic over a mouth that’s been all cut up. I just knew his smile was too good to be true! I wonder if the dentists on The Amazing Race have the same thing going on…
So as our kidnap victim runs out of the bus, she runs right into Dandy, begging him to help her. But Dandy picks her up and returns her to the clown. “You’re going to have to do a much better job of confinement if we’re going to have any fun,” he says in all seriousness.
Again, this is looking like the start of a beautiful friendship. A beautiful friendship that haunts my dreams.
What I Need Is A Good Defense – We get our first matinee show, with new headliner Dot. She sings “Criminal” by Fiona Apple, which seems a bit too on-the-nose for murderers. I’m kind of digging the use of current music in the 1950s. It’s cool stylistically and I don’t mind the fact that Fiona Apple wasn’t even alive at this point in time.
Dot slays it, naturally, which leaves both Bette and Elsa looking jealous.
The next day, the detectives return with a warrant based on the disappearance of Detective Robert Bunch (who may or may not be an inspiration for a Robert Munch story). They received an anonymous tip that the body is in Dell’s trailer. Very smart thinking by Jimmy and Elsa; too bad Dell isn’t as dumb as he looks.
“Tragic when a plan breaks down,” he gloats. It turns out that Dell saw Jimmy going into his trailer and hid Bunch’s badge under Meep’s bed. The detectives put Meep into prison, where the other prisoners approach him, clearly angry for what he’s supposedly done. Because if there’s anyone honourable enough to protect the townspeople from a creepy serial killer, it’s a bunch of other potential serial killers. Funny the way the world works.
Jimmy blames himself, but Ethel tries to comfort him. Jimmy wants to help Meep get out of jail by telling the detectives the truth. But as he leaves the tent, he sees Meep’s dead body returned, forcing him to break down and grovel into the dirt, as the other members of the freak show crowd around.
Finally, that night, Elsa wakes up Bette for a little bit of shit talking against Dot, who completely upstaged her twin. Elsa tells Bette that she is the star and that Dot has a dark soul. “She wants what you have and she knows how to take it. But you mustn’t allow it,” Elsa whispers and repeats herself. She then shuttles off into the night, leaving Bette to plot against her own sister.
If the two are telekinetic, I’m sure Dot will be onto her sister’s disloyalty very soon. Still, this is a very cool plot development. Seeing two Siamese sisters plot against one another is a great direction for this storyline.
Episode Rating: B-
I thought this was a good second episode. More world-building mostly (like the introduction of Dell, the beginning of Dot’s ascension into a headliner and Bette’s jealousy, the intertwining of Twisty and Dandy’s plotlines, etc.) Not as good as the premiere, though it was nice to get some good stuff out of Evan Peters, who had virtually nothing to do last season.
I think the show is hurt by the slow rollout of the various characters. We still haven’t met Emma Roberts or Denis O’Hare, but it looks like that happens next week. Hopefully next week advances the plot a bit further, rather than just tossing a bunch of balls into the air and forcing us to watch them be juggled around.
Ha, a juggling joke in a carnival show recap? I’m too much.
- Can we talk about the opening credits for a minute here? They’re incredible. Such intricate detail. The music is similar to previous seasons, but sounds carnival-y.
- John Carroll Lynch, still killing it (literally and figuratively) as Twisty.
- I love the camerawork this season. When Jimmy goes to see Elsa, the camera flips upside down; the camera does the perfect job of distinguishing between Bette and Dot as well. Many critics are comparing the filming style to Brian De Palma and it’s hard to disagree. The technical work being done this season is tremendous.
- RIP Meep. We hardly knew ye. I’m sure the chickens you used to bite the heads off of will be glad you’re gone though.
- I’m now completely in the mood for meatloaf.
What did you guys think of the episode? Feel free to comment!