Friday, January 9, 2015

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 11: Magical Thinking

A brief backtrack – Jimmy in prison and Stanley offering his terrible bargain: let him cut off his left hand and sell it in exchange for enough money to hire a lawyer. Desperate and reminded of what happened to Meep in prison, Jimmy struggles but finally agrees. Of course trusting Stanley is a bad idea:

Jimmy drinks something Stanley gets him which makes him violently sick – Stanley then has him sent to the hospital, having his co-hort/hookup/hustler pose as an ambulance driver.

Jimmy wakes up, chained to a bed with a very unsympathetic nurse (who thinks he’s a murderer, is absolutely terrible at her job and refuses pain medication) – and both his hands cut off. Stanley lied – how shocked are we not?

To the freak show with Bette and Dot using the diary for some internal musing – and praising their fellow “freaks” who are pressured to hide away - but instead celebrate themselves and they’re also all happy pleasure seekers, refusing the message that pleasure is wrong that is foisted on everyone else. Bette and Dot are focused on this – particularly sex – and they also burn their diary: they no longer want to keep secrets from each other. It’s a nicely symbolic moment for the twins’ relationship after so much resentment.

There’s a new visitor to the show – chameleon salesman (yes, really) and war veteran Chester. Chester sees Dot and Bette as totally different people which I suspect the show will link to the metal plate in his head. Bette and Dot are focused on him as their first sex partner. Chester also puts on a magic act

He tries that act – and creepy ventriloquist act – on Elsa who isn’t impressed. But she agrees to let him warm up the crowd in exchange for him also doing the book keeping. He’s fawningly grateful. And when he’s alone he argues with Marjorie, the creepy ventriloquist doll – she criticises him and he gets upset… oh… this is not going to go well.

He goes to the twins, giving them the gift of a music box and asking them to be his magicians assistant when he saws women in half (Dot and Bette are a little wary about being sawn in half given their history of attempted separation) – he explains the trick to them and also tells them how beautiful he thinks they are. They remind him of someone – that someone apparently being women he used to watch have sex with each other along with his creepy doll Marjorie.

The performance goes excellently – but there’s a man in the background watching all suspiciously (or with suspicious camera angles anyway).

Bette and Dot get all dressed up to seduce Chester that night – interrupting him arguing with Marjorie. They kiss him and grope him and he has a migraine and more flashbacks to Chester refusing to join his wife and her lesbian lover in bed. He comes back to the present and after another screaming headache looks like he’s going to have sex with Bette and Dot –but he wants Marjorie to be involved as well…

They have sex.

And afterwards we get more flashbacks – which point to Chester killing his wife and her lover at the urgings of Marjorie. In the present, he meets with Elsa who has a deal for him – she wants him to buy the show since her looking through his books found he was quite wealthy. He agrees, eagerly, though Elsa looks less eager when she hears who Chester intends to make Marjorie the headliner –and give her Elsa’s tent.

Over to the hospital, Dell visits his son and realises how completely conned Jimmy has been by Stanley – but Jimmy is still clinging to hope and Dell offers more hope by praising modern prosthetics. Jimmy also has a dream of buying the show from Elsa since she’s leaving and they’re all hopey and trying to be happy, Dell also trying to find common cause with Jimmy by saying he was a freak at home since he was the only one of the family who didn’t get the clawed hands and how his dad wasn’t impressed. In case we’re faaaar too subtle, Jimmy notes Dell “was a freak for being normal”. There’s some very belated attempt for Dell to play paternal.

Dell goes to tell Elsa what happened – and that Jimmy is going to be thrown back in prison without his hands to protect himself: Elsa tells him they have to free Jimmy and Eve hurries after Dell because she wants to help him.

They rescue Jimmy from the police van in which he is being transported – Dell killing the two police.

Dandy’s detective takes him photographs of Chester, Bette and Dot together and Dandy reacts predictably.

The police naturally raid the Freak Show looking for Jimmy (they’ve always attacked the show with little reason so now they were bound to) and Chester freaks out and distracts everyone because Marjorie is missing. He sets out on his own to try and find her when no-one else, understandably, cares. As he runs through the show he finds Dandy – who tells him that Marjorie has told him all of his secrets – (actually his private detective) including killing his wife and her lover. Though Chester claimed Marjorie did it – and we have a flash back of the brutal murder of both women by Marjorie with a hammer.

Dandy tells him that Marjorie is in the big tent and Chester goes to her – to hear her demands: top billing and the twins sawn in half.

Before we finish the episode – we had revelations last episode to Desiree and Maggie Esmeralda –  Meggie takes Elsa to see the preserved body of Ma Petite – Elsa melts down.

Dell goes back to his caravan to find Desiree waiting for him with a gun. After a brief snipe about his sexuality, Desiree demands he tell her who he killed. He confesses to killing Ma Petite, claiming blackmail as an excuse; Elsa comes up behind him and shoots him in the head.

So…. Chester? Why? If there’s one thing that has characterised this season it’s that it has had little idea of what it wanted to do. We’ve had a setting, we’ve had characters and then the plot has just been… random. Lots of little plot elements that were resolved or allowed to lie fallow. Yes we have Stanley and Maggie, but often episodes went by without them actually doing anything. Twisty the Clown. Dandy. Edward with the demon face in his head. And now a man who talks to his ventriloquist dummie? Pick a plot line.

Dandy and Chester bring the mental-illness murderers up to two – (assuming Chester is insane and Marjorie isn’t actually a possessed toy). This is a far too common and dangerous depiction – mentally ill people are not more violent than the general population – quite the opposite in fact; but depictions of the mentally ill are rife with serial killers, murderers and people who kill for random reasons

And to continue the awful LGBT depictions of this episode – we have a dead female couple who appeared just to die. And Del, after being a brutal, awful murderer, a suicidal closet case and generally completely awful person is now dead as well. I’d say Stanley better watch his step given the fate of LGBT people on this show – but since he’s a depraved murderer whose one defining feature outside of being evil is his enormous penis, it’s almost going to be a relief when he joins the LGBT body pile.