Thursday, December 4, 2014

American Horror Story: Freak Show - “Blood Bath” recap and review

by Melissa Parkin

With an episode name such as “Blood Bath,” it doesn't take much to guess what is about to go down. Following the events of “Test of Strength,” tensions are higher now than ever at the Freak Show. After Stanley (Dennis O’Hare) blackmails Dell (Michael Chiklis) into killing one of the “freaks,” Dell’s left with no choice but to take out the most vulnerable of the pack. Everyone frantically searches around the fairgrounds for the missing Ma Petite. To Jimmy’s shock and horror, he discovers one of her dresses nearby in the woods, covered in blood. The troupe assumes Ma Petite was mauled by a wild animal, but Ethel isn't sold on the theory.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
She confronts a distraught Elsa, accusing her of killing poor Ma Petite out of jealousy. As the fight escalates, Ethel pulls a gun out on Elsa and shoots her in the leg, only to realize that she has fake legs. Elsa relays her story of how she lost them to the cruelty of a snuff film. Due to the grace and kindness of a doctor (Danny Houston), Elsa was gifted with beautifully crafted prosthetics. Ethel can’t forgive her betrayal, and prepares to kill Elsa. Just as she raises the gun, Elsa manages to snatch up a knife from a nearby stand and throws it right into Ethel’s eye--killing her instantly.

Elsa and Stanley stage Ethel’s body in an elaborate car crash to cover up the murder--making it look like Ethel committed suicide. After her funeral service, Desiree brings the women of the troupe together, declaring Ethel a true fighter that never needed a man to take care of her.

Penny’s love for Paul caused her depraved father to disfigure his daughter by knocking her unconscious and having her entire face tattooed into a lizard. He even had her tongue forked, turning her into a proper “freak”.

As retribution, the women from the troupe break into Penny’s father’s home. He greets his daughter with a shotgun, not realizing Desiree, Legless Suzi, and Amazon Eve already have the drop on him. Knocking him unconscious, the women drag Penny’s father back to Dell’s trailer on the fairgrounds. Now helplessly bound to a chair, her dad begs for his daughter’s forgiveness. His pathetic plea goes unheard as the group pours scowling hot tar all over him. Maggie overhears the commotion and walks in on the act as Desiree preps to mutilate and kill the man. Maggie begs Penny to not go through with it. His daughter finally decides to take the high road. Penny banishes her father from her life and leaves him to fend for himself outside of town in a bloodied, tarred mess.

The next morning, Jimmy remains inconsolable in his mourning, losing Maggie in the process as he tells her to leave him during a drunken stupor. Having hit rock bottom, he takes comfort in Elsa’s new recruit, Barbara, a morbidly obese woman Elsa nicknamed Ima Wiggles. Things don’t look much better on the other side of town.

Gloria is at wit’s end with the destructive nature of her psychotic son, Dandy. She takes counsel in a therapist, who sways her to trick Dandy into visiting him for a psychological evaluation.

Telling her son that the doctor is there to measure his level of genius, the young man flippantly responds to the assessment questions with a truly disturbing perspective. When Dandy becomes wise to the ruse, he irately confronts his mother about her wishing him to be institutionalized. The argument spirals out of control and Dandy winds up holding a gun to his own head. He threatens suicide. Gloria begs him not to, telling him that she couldn't live with herself if he died. He obliges her and turns the gun on her instead, shooting her square in the forehead.

In true American Horror Story fashion, Dandy closes out the show by disrobing and climbing into a bathtub that just so happens to be filled with his mother’s own blood, giving the episode’s name both a figurative and literal connotation.

Following the exemplary two-part Halloween episode, “Edward Mordrake,” AHS lost a little bit of its steam. The suspense and horror elements sizzled away after Twisty the clown’s mournful exit. Prolonged back stories bogged down the plot. The one solid factor that the show continues to build on is Finn Wittrock’s impressive depiction of Dandy Mott. “Test of Strength” thankfully seemed to be the turning point in the series, and “Blood Bath” proves that Freak Show is back on the right course after a mild rough patch. The shock factor, and rising body count, continues to stoke the fire for what will hopefully be a grand finale.

American Horror Story: Freak Show “Blood Bath” Episode Rating: A -


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