In what already looks to be the scariest and most hellish American Horror Story series to date, Freak Show threw a million curveballs at us with its shocking premiere. It’s as though they put all of your nightmares into one place with a cast of characters that is unique in television. Scene by scene, things that became twisted became even more twisted and then somehow managed to twist into themselves. It was extremely difficult to determine the standout moments (and don’t even get me started on Ma Petite), but these were the eight things I just couldn’t even handle:
1) Bette and Dot smoking a cigarette.
Easily the most compelling character (characters?) in television history, Sarah Paulson plays diametric opposite “Siamese twins” Bette and Dot Tattler. They’ve been sheltered their entire lives, and we first meet them at a hospital after the murder of their mother. Like a moth to a flame, freak-hunter Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) whisks her way in with her manipulative charm and says, “What pretty girls you are.” Within moments, she has them both under her spell and proceeds to offer the sassier one, Bette, a drag off her Lucky Strike cigarette. Without any camp whatsoever, her sister, Dot exhales the smoke. This is especially a brain-fuck because minutes before we learned that they have four lungs.
2) Lobster Boy’s “flipper action” with the girl in yellow.
The scene opens with what looks like the tamest gathering since the series began — possibly a suburban women’s book club — and it slowly unfolds into a sexual fetish twist none of us saw coming. Before you know it, the dainty girl in the yellow dress is having an orgasm from Jimmy Darling, a.k.a. Lobster Boy (Evan Peters), giving her a claw-some experience. I have to say, I myself am curious as to what those hands could do. The real question is, Was he charging those girls money or just having a damn good time?
3) The clown’s balloon popping.
What’s worse than a psychotic serial-killing clown? How about a psychotic serial-killing clown kidnapper? And that’s exactly what “Twisty” the clown (John Carroll Lynch) is. He makes Pennywise from It seem like a clown I would want at my kid’s birthday party. Seconds after we learn that he keeps his victims in the back of his makeshift bus of a home, he comes in and proceeds to entertain his victims — with a doll, colorful handkerchiefs, and finally a balloon animal. And it was excruciating to watch. He twisted and contorted it into shape with what seemed like careful precision, but then it popped. He proceeded to go absolutely ape-shit and ripped his place apart. I stopped breathing.
4) Pepper’s return (or is a pre-return?)
As Pepper is the first character we have seen twice in the American Horror Story series, her return was a very anticipated moment, and it definitely did not disappoint. We know this is 12 years before we see her in Asylum, and so now we get to glimpse into her past. As a bonus, we witness her giving what looks to be a pretty good manicure. One thing I wonder, though: Wouldn’t she have found it completely mind-blowing to show up at Briarcliff Manor 12 years later and recognize all of those people but as different people? Or does it even matter because she’s bat-shit crazy?
5) The candy striper orgy.
Karma was a bitch to her. First seen at the beginning of the show saying that she would kill her own child if it were born like Bette and Dot, now she staggers into the scene weary from a drugged-out freak orgy. Elsa plays the grainy footage to show her what she did or, what’s crazier, who she did it with. (Yes, Pepper is involved). The best part was her saying “I liked it.” Guess that’s what you get for wearing red lipstick to work.
6) Jessica Lange as Elsa Mars as David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.
Reminiscent of The “Name Game” scene from Asylum, this had Elsa Mars stealing the show again with the musical number “Life on Mars” — an almost impossible feat when you consider the company she was in. She came onto the stage and was captivating and freakish in her own right. The strangest part was thatvery familiar lady in the audience who was filming it. What was that about? Elsa wants to be a one-woman show, and her act proves her capable of it. It was mesmerizing, I watched it at least five times.
7) The troupe hacking the dead policeman into little bits.
What’s scarier than a psychotic serial-killing clown kidnapper? How about an entire freak show willing to chop a body up like a butcher? Earlier in the show, Elsa said, “They wouldn’t harm a fly,” and though he was already dead by the hands of Jimmy Darling, the entire cast of freaks had absolutely no issues cutting his ass up. All of them. To make things more horrific, the scene closed and then zooms out to good ol’ Twisty watching with a pleased look in his fucked up eye.
8) Elsa removing her legs.
This was a complete blindside that left my jaw dripping on the floor. High on opium, Elsa confessed to Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates) that she brought the twins into the show for her personal gain. Afterwards when she was alone, she listened to a classic German record and proceeded to take off her legs. One by one. She places them neatly by the bed and reveals her true form to us for the first time. It is shockingly sad. She is crying and staring off and it is easy to sense her pain. This just might be the most tortured of all of Jessica Lange’s American Horror Story characters yet, and I am dying to see what happens next.