Friday, January 16, 2015

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 12: Show Stoppers

It’s Elsa’s going away party/dinner and inaugurating Chester as the new owner which is still going ahead. This includes Marjorie the doll saying nasty things to Elsa, and Elsa celebrating Stanley. This is going to be commemorated by movie night – a film where someone tries to con the performers of a Freak Show and faces their comeuppance. Stanley isn’t thrilled to watch it but Maggie insists he stays. Stanley senses a change in the air as a big package is brought into the room.

Inside is the preserved head of the Morbidity Museum director (murdered by Desiree after Maggie fainted). He tries to protest his innocence but Maggie has already exposed him. They stab him in the leg and chase him out into the stormy night – all carrying knives.

Onwards – Jimmy is being hidden by the show while he makes his recovery, though he’s sad about Dell’s death; Elsa accurately counters his attempts to romanticise the man’s memory. Jimmy is still pouty and angry and calls Maggie a “slut”; Elsa is not impressed by his desperate attempts to deny Dell’s killing of Ma Petite. She also defends Maggie for coming clean and saving them. She both calls him out and comforts him over the loss of his hands – and commands him to let Maggie help him.

Maggie treats his wounds which is agonisingly painful. She still professes love and being with him forever, he points out she’s kind of partly responsible for having his hands cut off. This has not endeared her to him – and her apologies and insistence she will make things right will neither resurrect Ma Petite or get his hands back.

Elsa gets a visit from the man who made her legs – and they embrace happily. She takes him, Massimo, to see Jimmy and convinces Jimmy of his skill by showing him her wooden legs. She also professes her love for Massimo and recounts the rest of his story. After Massimo taught Elsa to walk again, they were ready to flee Germany as the Nazis rose to power – but Massimo insisted on staying and hunting down the men who cut off Elsa’s legs. But the leader, Dr. Hans Grouper, got the better of him – he captured Massimo and tortured him over and over again. Massimo didn’t get to America until 1947 when he sought out Elsa. But Massimo claims the torture destroyed his soul – he can no longer love

Over to Bette and Dot having sex with Chester – under the disturbing watchful gaze of Marjorie (and there is not a sexy enough guy in the world to make that enjoyable). They ask him to put her away and he does – which of course means she rants at him later. She calls him a murderer, he says she did it and she points out she is actually a doll (what is the paradox of an inanimate object telling you they’re an inanimate object?) We have a flashback of him killing his wife and her lover; he collapses in tears and begs Marjorie to stay – and she says the twins have to go.

The sisters are feeling all happy and gooey when they go back to the bedroom – when Dandy drops in to tell them he is so sorry and wants to be friends and how brutally murdering his mother has totally reformed him: and he gives them his dossier on Chester.

The performers get together to discuss what will happen now, whether Elsa will stay with her Hollywood dream down in flames and ultimately coming back to Paul reminding them all that Elsa is dangerous. Whatever happened to Stanley, he talked before hand – telling them enough for Suzi to think Elsa killed Ethel. Paul reminds them of the same code that Elsa invoked –people who come after them get killed.

The next day, Chester runs through the line up for the show but Bette is now very disturbed by Dandy’s revelations even as Dot insists they can’t trust Dandy. Which is a shame for Chester because he wants to cut them in half and he wants to practice right now – the Twins up and leave because HELL NO.

Maggie, desperate for redemption, volunteers instead – and Chester hallucinates her as Lucy (his dead wife’s lover) who taunts him. Not wanting to be left out, Marjorie taunts him as well. Chester’s ranting is a little disturbing for the troupe but they don’t stop him from cutting Maggie in half

For real. It’s messy. And he’s not nearly a good enough magician to put her together again.

Chester has a meltdown and leaves the stage, leaving the rest of the performers with the aftermath. Desiree is practical though – she declares Maggie had it coming so they’ll steal her jewellery and bury her. While Chester goes back to his caravan and stabs Marjorie to death – I’m not even sure what really happened.

Eve tells Jimmy that Maggie is dead, he just numbly listens and doesn’t want to hear the details – she then tells him that Elsa is next.

Bette and Dot hurry to warn Elsa, when Elsa tries to play the mother card they counter that Ethel was the mother of the show, not her. When Elsa tries to get gooey over them warning her, Dot says they’re now even. When Desiree leads the performers to Elsa’s tent, it’s empty.

Elsa is met by Dandy who gives her money and documents. Why? Because she sold the show – for $10,000, as the performers learn when Dandy goes to the show the next day. Exploring the show he finds the mutilated remains of Stanley – his hands cut off and he now looks like Meep

And Chester goes to the police to confess to murdering Marjorie

Aaaand Massimo still makes Jimmy new hands – that look exactly like his old hands.

Ok we’ve got a lot to unpack here.

Elsa’s call out of Jimmy and Maggie’s ultimate fate is interesting and actually kind of nuanced in some ways. Jimmy’s grief over Dell was completely divorced from reality, grief for an idea and definitely out of touch with who Dell was. It created a relationship between Dell and Jimmy that just wasn’t there and, further, to mope after poor poor Dell while condemning Maggie is the height of hypocrisy. Yet at the same time, Jimmy is right that her apology is sorely lacking, not can I be surprised by Desiree’s cold condemnation of her; Maggie is not blameless in Stanley’s crimes.

I can’t say I overly like her character. There was an attempt to bring conflict to her character and certainly a level of redemption (I think, by the end, we were supposed to be shocked and sad at least a little that she was dead – unlike Dell and Stanley for example). But her character was largely defined by men in her life: Stanley and Jimmy and her own traits (the cunning that makes her a fortune reader, her past) are all downplayed next to that.

There has also been a huge amount of female victimhood on this show – can we even count the dead women? Ethel, Maggie, Regina, Nora, Gloria, the Tupperware women, Ma Petite, Alice, Lucy, even Marjorie; to say nothing of the victimisation of Penny, Elsa’s brutal back story and Bette and Dot being a target, tool or asset for just about everyone. Of course, not all of these characters are one note (and Jessica Lang reminds us what an actor she is during her scene with Massimo) and Ethel was pretty awesome and Bette and Dot have had some real season growth but the victimhood is wall to wall

On a related note – while I am happy to see Desiree be something other than overly sexualised, I am not a fan of her being the raging avatar of vengeance. She did that in Coven – ALL of Coven.

With Dell dead last week and Stanley dead this week, my predictions are correct. This season had several gay men, 1 bisexual woman and 1 lesbian and it has brutally murdered (or tortured to the point of death) every last one of them. 100% death rate (oh wait, Stanley’s un-named hustler manages to escape the universal death). Not only have they all died, but they’ve all either being completely non-character tokens (Andy, Alice, Lucy) or so irredeemably evil that we’re meant to celebrate their deaths without any real complexity or nuance to them.

Desiree remains as an intersex character who needs to head for the hills.

Storywise we’ve just lost it. Chester was brought in to play another round of mentally ill = serial killer with Dandy for two episodes then disappear? What is the point? Did they just run out of ideas and decide they needed something to stretch it for a few more episodes?

Next week is the last episode and there will be more to gnaw on – the awful and some of the very little decent too

Last point – I do like the niftily little tie in with the secon season: the Nazi doctor who tortured Massimo would become Dr. Arden, the aficionado of Mossy Banks in Asylum.