AHS Freak Show Episode 1 Review

Kathy Bates is back as the Bearded Woman.  Source: Provided
Kathy Bates is back as Bearded Woman Ethel Darling. Source: Provided

“It’s kooky and it’s freaky and it’s a little bit creepy.  Freak Show delivers a visual treat”

Disturbingly brilliant with a warped visual excellence…and an insane killer clown.  It’s the easiest way to describe what American Horror Story: Freak Show is all about.

Set in 1950’s Jupiter, Florida, German ex-pat Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange – welcome back) has dreams of stardom.  Her somewhat jaded dreams have led her to become the proprietor of a freak show attraction (which she aptly named “Fraulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities”) that is struggling to bring in the crowds and the dollars.  Her troupe of oddities includes bearded lady Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates rocking a very convincing Canadian accent) and her son Jimmy (the underrated Evan Peters) who has a penchant for dressing like Marlon Brando and has deformed hands (that are also good for pleasuring bored housewives).

After discovering the existence of conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson), Elsa sets out to convince the twins to join her troupe believing these girls will change her fortunes.

Lange from the onset owns.  She just owns.  AHS has been an incredible journey for her and with Elsa Mars, Lange once again gets to sink her teeth into a faded wannabe, reaching for stars that were never really in reach.  A snarly beauty who blends the lines of mother and abuse of her ‘monsters’.  As Elsa crows in the first episode “My monsters are the beautiful, heroic ones, they provide a laugh or a fright to people who need entertainment.”  Paulson here, can finally lay claim to her co-lead status as twins Bette and Dot.  The visuals for the twins are seamless and Paulson flawlessly gives both Bette and Dot identifying quirks and qualities that will have you picking a favorite of the two very quickly.

There’s also a very prominent side story which is most likely to give every viewer a new-found fear of clowns as it appears there’s a psychotic clown roaming around Jupiter who has a penchant for murder and collecting children.

AHS Creator Ryan Murphy has a knack for bringing to life the stories of outsiders which was so wonderfully created in the form of the excellent Asylum and the hit and miss Coven  so the task of telling the tale of a band of circus freaks in 1950’s Florida feels like a natural step forward.  With Freak Show, Murphy takes a step closer to the darkness that enveloped Asylum and steps away from the more modern and glossy Coven – which could be seen as a risky move considering Coven has been the most successful AHS series to date.

Amid all it’s over-saturated landscape, watch out for a certain scene that will delight AHS devotees – Jessica Lange clad in a powder blue suit bathed in copious amounts of blue eye shadow belting out a rendition of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”.

To be sure, there is nothing like Freak Show on TV.

American Horror Story Freak Show begins tonight, 9:30pm on Eleven.

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