Thursday, January 8, 2015

American Horror Story: Freak Show - “Magical Thinking” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin

Let the bodies, and body parts, hit the floor. Stanley persuades Jimmy into doing the unthinkable. After being wrongfully arrested of murdering a houseful of women, the Lobster Boy agrees to give up one of his hands in order to pay for a proper attorney. Stanley manages to get Jimmy out of prison to perform the procedure, but all doesn't go according to plan. Awakening to bleary vision and unbearable pain, Jimmy finds himself chained and shackled in the county hospital. Realization sets in as he soon discovers that Stanley double-crossed him--both his hands have been amputated.

Traveling salesman, Chester, (Neil Patrick Harris) arrives at the freak show with a fascination for the troupe. With quite the knack for magic, he performs for Elsa in an attempt to gain employment. Miss Mars remains less than enthused by his routine, particular with his unsettling ventriloquist doll, Marjorie. His bookkeeping skills however prove useful, so she allows him to join the act as an opener. It doesn't take long though for some to see that this magician isn't quite right in the head.

The twins aren't privy to his peculiarities, and in fact take an immediate interest in him. Chester convinces them to work as his assistants for his magic act, to which they are all too obliging. Dot and Bette are on the prowl for that special someone to deflower them, and home in on the illusionist. The pair goes to Chester’s trailer, and witness his idiosyncrasies with his beloved Marjorie. He’s revealed to be a veteran battling quite his fair share of demons, in which he talks to his puppet as if she is real. Dot and Bette overlook the oddity and offer themselves to him anyway. To make matters worse, Elsa sells the freak show to Chester, leaving the entire camp in his hands.

At the same time, a familiar face lingers in the dark corners of the camp, keeping tabs on Dot and Bette. He is revealed to be the detective working for Dandy Mott. When the cop reports back to his employer about the twins’ recent carnal endeavors, Dandy devises his next move. He learns the truth about Chester’s past. As it turns out, the salesman killed his wife and her female lover upon returning home from the war. But he wholeheartedly believes that Marjorie committed the crime.

Dandy uses Chester’s delusions against him by stealing the doll, declaring that Marjorie ran away from him. When he reunites the owner with his puppet, Dandy revels in seeing the hallucinations take over. Chester speaks with the ‘human’ form of Marjorie (Jamie Brewer), in which she declares her displeasure with him. The magician swears he’ll do anything to appease her. In return, Marjorie informs him that he must do his own dirty work from now on. His first task, sawing the twins in half.     

Later in the evening, the police come to haul Jimmy back off to prison. Dell and Eve ambush his transport though, killing two officers in the process as they break him out. The entire taskforce roars into the fairgrounds, strip searching the entire joint to find Jimmy. Thankfully, they come up empty-handed. The ladies of the camp however find all they need. Maggie and Desiree come clean to Elsa about Ma Petite’s murder, and Elsa seeks justice. Desiree gets a confession out of Dell for the killing, and Elsa shoots him in the head.

This colorful cast of characters fails to disappoint. With new additions, Neil Patrick Harris and Jamie Brewer, Freak Show continues to strive in the right direction. Harris is undeniably charming through and through, even more so as his character’s demented temperament is revealed. It is a truly wondrous depiction that projects the captivating nature required of an illusionist, along with a happy helping of internal torment. Jamie Brewer only adds to the entrancing storyline with a new brand of sinister, bound to leave audiences even more leery of puppets. Her voice alone grips viewers, and that presence refuses to let go. The grisly discovery of Jimmy’s dismemberment is also enough to leave the faint of heart feeling squeamish, and in that sense, the horror most definitely delivers. As for everybody’s favorite villain, Finn Wittrock still manages to be the scene stealer of the cast. Though featured in only a small portion of the episode, Dandy’s round-the-bend charisma cements an everlasting impression with viewers. As some resolve is found and new problems arise, the rollercoaster that is Freak Show proves to be worth the watch.

American Horror Story: Freak Show “Magical Thinking” Episode Rating: A -


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