Review: ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ fell short on its promises

Terror. Shock. Disgust. Intrigue.

These are just a few of the many reactions people have when watching popular FX series, “American Horror Story.” Since its premiere in 2011, “AHS” has gained major attention from fans and critics alike. The lure of the show is in large part a result of its constantly changing nature, each season set in a different location and time period, featuring a unique cast of characters with stories to tell and dark secrets to reveal.

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“AHS” creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy hiked up excitement for the show’s fourth season when they revealed it would revolve around a struggling 1950s carnival, run by ringleader Elsa Mars, (Emmy award-winner Jessica Lange) and supported by a cast of struggling “human oddities.”

 

The Oct. 8 premiere promised ecstatic fans, including myself, a story that would be the most brilliant, exciting and suspenseful season yet.

Unfortunately, “Freak Show” fell short on these promises. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t fantastic.

One thing many viewers enjoy about “AHS” are the provocative characters and the stirring stories. In “Freak Show,” there were plenty of great characters, but most of the story lines ended much too soon or were left incomplete.

The tale of Twisty

The deranged clown who was the source of most of the pre-premiere buzz was killed off in episode four, right after we learned his sob story.

Twisty was the most terrifying and unpredictable character, and killing him off so early was a huge mistake.

Jimmy Darling

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One of the most disappointing characters of the season was the Lobster Boy portrayed by reoccurring series actor Evan Peters.

At first he is set up as the hero of the group who is going to build rapport between the carnival “freaks” and the “normal” townsfolk.

But after a few episodes this aspect of his character is tossed aside as he becomes a bumbling character in a forced romantic relationship with Maggie (Emma Roberts), and has odd sexual interactions with the Fat Lady in order to cope with his mother’s death.

Character stuggles

Along with the plot holes, the most disappointing thing about this season was all of the throw-away characters.

By the finale, I found myself apathetic about any of the freaks’ fates. None of the freaks had much character development, much less a storyline that could gain an emotional connection with the audience.

With the exceptions of Ethel, played by Kathy Bates and her eyebrow-raising accent, and Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge), simply because of her adorable persona, I wasn’t that upset when any of the characters died.

There were a couple characters that kept viewers coming back each week, Dandy being the most deliciously wicked of them all. Although I don’t agree with him replacing Twisty as the dangerous serial killer on the show, I must admit newcomer Finn Wittrock played Dandy Mott brilliantly.

His development from a momma’s boy with toddler-like temper tantrums to a murderer who bathes in blood and believes himself to be God was one of the most entertaining aspects of the season.

Dandy was one of the only multi-faceted characters, his only weakness being an obsession with conjoined twins, Bette and Dot, which ultimately led to his demise in the finale.

Sarah Paulson portrays both twins very well, and their story line, although not as captivating as Dandy’s, developed naturally throughout the season. Their transformation from hermit misfits with conflicting personalities to confident women with a selfless sisterly bond was heart-warming.

What it comes down to is …

Overall, “Freak Show” had a lot of potential to develop great story lines and characters in its 13 episode run, but fell short when it came to both.

For many viewers, this has brought to question the future of the show especially since Lange has announced she may not return for season five. The fear of her absence coupled with Murphy’s new strategy of filling up time with gore, violence and cringe-worthy sexual content for shock value rather than developing a fascinating narrative, has made many avid fans question if “AHS” has reached the peak of its success.

Collegian A&E Writer Erica Grasmick can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @E_Graz_.