The FX Network brings viewers a fourth American Horror Story season, this time called Freak Show with its debut episode Monsters Among Us.
Speculation regarding this season of American Horror Story has been rampantly strong for months. Teaser trailers were released to satiate the voracious appetite about Freak Show, the fourth season’s subtitle of the AHS television series.
Going into the first episode, Monsters Among Us, information regarding details of new characters were also released. American Horror Story series originals Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Evan Peters are back as members of a traveling circus oddities show. Frances Conroy and Denis O’Hare, also from Murder House, return for the fourth season. Series regulars from season three Coven, but relatively new stars to the FX series, Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett also join as “freaks” in the circus in Freak Show. They even let anxious viewers know who the masked murderous figure would be in the season. And just when we thought we got all the breadcrumbs we could handle, the main title sequence, which is known to include hints to the plot of the season, was released:
American Horror Story creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk first episode of Freak Show is a monster and stretches 90 minutes with commercials. All first episodes of American Horror Story must be viewed and reviewed as if they were a pilot as each season is vastly different from the rest. As a pilot, Monsters Among Us lacks the knowing and foreshadowing presence that Murder House’s pilot episode contained. Perhaps this sentiment would not be so strong if information about characters were not divulged prior to the season premiere.
Setting season four in the carnival atmosphere of Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities in the 1950’s was a masterful choice. Typically individuals marketed as ‘side show freaks’ came from dark pasts and lived a hostile existence typical of the American Horror Story motif. Further the time period is different enough to captivate and transport in the way AHS fans are accustomed. Though unclear at the present time, I do hope they allow art to imitate life and use real life human marvels’s story lines from the Golden Age to be inspiration and let modern performers be highlighted.
Then, just to ensure Freak Show’s success, a violent and hideous being murderously lurks in the background capitalizing on one of people’s most common fears. Creators Murphy and Falchuk once again enlist a masked figure, this time a serial killer known as Twisty the Clown.
The production, set and costume designers take advantage of this captivating and nostalgic time with magnificent and enchanting locations. Then there is the amazing make up and effects department conceptualizing a truly horrifying killer clown. The face of Twisty is enough to hook me in for the rest of the season.
The serial killer aspect of Freak Show and highlighted in Monsters Among Us is the most compelling feature of the episode by the halfway point and grounds the episode. Pilot episodes always suffer slightly as they scramble to introduce any and all important characters, and Freak Show has an excessive amount. Though all actors involved are exceedingly superior in their craft some veterans stumble with wavering accents, specifically Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange. Just when the viewer begins to settle into Elsa’s circus atmosphere, minding the attractions, the episode abruptly ends.
Freak Show (AHS4) should be a fun show to watch if just for the weird, bizarre but exceptionally different characters. I especially think Sarah Paulson’s portrayal of conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler will be the stand-out performance thanks to their polarizing personalities.
After watching Monsters Among Us I am unsure as to the direction of the rest of the series, whether Twisty or Elsa’s curiosities will gain traction as the defining plot. American Horror Story’s Freak Show is bound to be perversely sinister but I have doubts whether it will have that gratifyingly coalescent quality fans have longed for since season one’s Murder House. Monsters Among Us makes me think Freak Show is missing the one key aspect of AHS that makes the show mesmerizing – a haunting mystery concerning an imminent foreboding danger.
AHS Freak Show – Ep. 1: Monsters Among Us – Review