Saturday, December 20, 2014

American Horror Story: Freak Show – “Orphans” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin

Taking a step back from last week’s gore, AHS gave viewers an emotional rollercoaster ride. A distraught Pepper rattles her betrothed, Salty, with no response. Maybe the Pinhead passed away from a stroke during the night. His wife mourns the loss, remaining near his lifeless body. Stanley is all too eager to help dispose the corpse. Once he gets his hands on Salty, he severs the head to sell to the gallery. Desiree tries her best to comfort Pepper, and Dell takes notice of her effort. He pleads with her for a second chance, but Desiree turns him down. Desiree leaves the tent and informs Elsa of Pepper’s grief. Miss Mars relays the Pinhead’s tragic tale.

Abandoned at an orphanage by her sister, Pepper comes to meet Elsa as her first freak show recruit. Mars takes the young girl under her wing, giving Pepper the love she’s never known before. As time passes, Pepper becomes restless with maternal instinct, prompting Elsa to barter an exchange with the Maharaja of Kapurthala for the tiny angel, Ma Petite. With her maternal needs fulfilled, Pepper's unrest still grows. Again, Elsa steps to the plate, discovering a fellow Pinhead. The moment Pepper and Salty meet, the connection is kismet. Elsa recalls the merry ceremony as the two Pinheads wed.

Bringing viewers back to 1952, Maggie performs a reading for Desiree and her new lover, Angus. The con artist uses her talent of observation to give the happy couple a pleasant prediction, until her emotions get the better of her. She enters into a fit of self pity, declaring that their love is destined to fail. Love always does. Desiree confronts the girl, and Maggie confesses to the partnership between her and Stanley. Returning to her tent, Maggie is greeted by Dot and Bette. The twins offer her the finances to post Jimmy’s bail, but she’s reluctant. Jimmy is unaware of the help outside, and Stanley doesn't miss a beat. He heads right to the prison to make the Lobster Boy a deal. He tries swindling Jimmy into giving up his hands in order to pay for the costs to retain a lawyer.

Elsa knows that with her departure to Hollywood soon, Pepper will need a stable environment. Taking her to Sudbury, Massachusetts, Mars reconnects Pepper with her long lost sister, Rita. Unfortunately, Rita isn't too keen on taking responsibility for Pepper. Elsa pours her heart out to the woman, declaring just how precious Pepper really is. Once her sister finally caves in, Pepper and Elsa share a tear-jerking goodbye. Finally, Elsa’s kindheartedness shines through. Her love for Pepper is undeniable.

The same cannot be said about Rita. Season two’s Asylum collides with Freak Show as Pepper’s story further unfolds. Turns out, Rita and her husband Larry aren't taking too kindly to Pepper’s presence at their house. After Rita gives birth to a deformed baby, Larry convinces her to do the unthinkable. The pair can’t stand living a life with the two freaks, so Larry kills the newborn. Rita goes to Briarcliff Mental Institution, informing Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) of the recent tragedy. Larry and Rita fabricate a story to the police, declaring Pepper responsible for the grisly murder. The poor, innocent Pinhead finds herself locked away in the asylum as a result.

Meanwhile, Maggie takes Desiree on a fieldtrip to the American Morbidity Museum, showing her Stanley’s murderous handiwork. The little body of Ma Petite is on display beside Salty’s severed head. Then, the curator reveals the new exhibit during their tour. Maggie passes out in horror at the sight of the two “lobster” hands in the display case.

After the continuous blood baths dominated the beginning of the season, it’s refreshing to see the change in atmosphere. The entire episode of “Orphans” is dedicated to strict character development. Credit goes to Naomi Grossman for her stunning performance as the Pinhead Pepper. She’s given only a few words of dialogue throughout the entire show, and yet her physical mannerism enraptures the audience. Grossman’s ability to project such virtue and sincerity with a mere expression is unparalleled. AHS’s casting is perfection. Any viewer that doesn’t feel their heart wrench while watching this episode, should check their pulse. The wave of emotions, and the combination of Asylum’s world, makes this one of the best of the Freak Show season.

American Horror Story: Freak Show – “Orphans” Episode Rating:  A +
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