*** WARNING: Contains spoilers! Please do not read on unless you've seen Episode 5 of "American Horror Story: Freak Show," titled "Pink Cupcakes." Or if you don't mind spoilers, go right ahead! ***
Too many fake-outs. The dreaded ha-ha-made-you-think-they-were-dead ploy has been used before on "American Horror Story," but never more than once per episode, and never this haphazardly. I mean, really. The entire first scene at the American Morbidity Museum is the figment of Stanley's imagination, what he envisions to happen when he manages to destroy the freak show. Then we get the incredibly cruel fake-out with Bette and Dot, which surely struck fear into the hearts of "AHS: Freak Show" fans everywhere. (Not like it matters, because we see Bette and Dot for a total of five minutes this episode anyway.)
Much of the focus is on Dell and Desiree, whose relationship got considerably more complicated -- turns out he's a closet gay man, not to mention a closeted freak, and she's actually 100 percent woman. Dell is being set up to be a bad guy, full of rage and aggressiveness, and we see two instances of his possessiveness, once with a barely there Matt Bomer (R.I.P.) and again with Desiree when she walks out on him. It isn't even about love (though Dell might think it is), but about ownership. What's his is his, even though he's obviously not even interested in Desiree. Thank goodness for Angela Bassett's acid tongue, or else this storyline would have been like paint drying. At times it felt like I was watching some two-bit daytime drama, not "AHS." We come here for blood, gore and ridiculousness, not this sentimental stuff.
Jimmy and Maggie continue to dance around each other, though they're still managing to follow the traditional forbidden love cliche: boy and girl from different worlds, resistant at first, but you know they're going to get together eventually. The fact that the two actors are together in real life also makes their hook-up an inevitable thing. I'd rather "AHS" just cut to the chase and have it happen, already. Then we can get to the part where a jealous Bette and Dot do everything in their power to split them up, in the process discovering Maggie and Stanley's identities and exposing them. Yes, that's where I see the plotline heading. I just hope it doesn't take until Episode 12 for it to happen.
Least interesting of all is Elsa's storyline; after she chokes on stage (no encores for her!), Stanley manages to convince her to want her own TV show, through him. While it's fun to listen to the tongue-in-cheek diatribe against TV and its corruptive, cheap appeal, it just fell flat. In the end, there's no way Stanley is going to outwit Elsa. "AHS" made that painfully clear when Stanley accidentally dropped all of his nudey-man magazines. His one "weakness" -- that he likes men -- is splayed out for all to see, and is there to remind us that he has secrets. Stanley can be blackmailed just like the rest of them, and again, that's something which is obviously going to happen eventually. Will he hook up with Dell, too? With Matt Bomer dead, Dell might be lonely enough to latch onto the next available male body. We still don't know what's going on in Stanley's pants, and we'll probably find out through Dell.
Can we praise Frances Conroy, who very plainly saved this episode? In every season of "AHS," the woman outdoes herself with that voice and that hair and those eyes. My kingdom for an entire episode of her insane dialogue, which never ceases to make me smile. Paired with Finn Wittrock, it's a match made in heaven. Wittrock turns in another fantastic performance as Dandy: one minute pristine, lying around in his tighty-whiteys, the next staring sternly into the camera, smouldering intensity personified. Gloria states that he's "like his father before him," blaming incest and her own poor parenting for the way Dandy has turned out. Any bets on Dandy being Bloody Face's grandfather, father, or other relation?
In any case, the scene where Dandy stabs Matt Bomer to death is too much, too late. "AHS" is obsessed with grotesque stabbing chest deaths this season, and I don't know why. But to drag this particular murder on and on was actually bordering on distasteful. Even when Twisty stabbed that teenager earlier in the season it wasn't this bad. It's as if "Freak Show" was trying to make up for the dull plodding of the rest of the plot with a grisly murder and two fake-outs. Yes, we get to see Seal Boy and Bette and Dot encased in formaldehyde and out on display in the museum, which is cool, but it's not real. Twisty's death has left a gaping hole in the middle of "Freak Show," and it's almost as if the showrunners are trying to find some way to replace the scary, creepy factor. Dandy is a good villain, but they need to pick up the pace and up the variety of murders. There should be no more stabbing deaths for the rest of the season. That should be a rule.
And where does Elsa take Bette and Dot at the end of the episode? To Gloria's, where I assume she's going to sell the two-headed woman. This is a benefit for Bette and Dot, at least so they can be away from the freak show and not the next target for Stanley, but it's also a detriment. The mixing of the three (two?) -- Bette, Dot and Dandy -- should make for some interesting scenes. With Gloria as the sprinkles on top, this could be real magic. But this is "AHS." Anything can turn on a dime.
Until next week, when I hope I have more exciting things to write about than stuff that didn't even happen.
Freak Of The Week: Let's give it to Desiree. Why? 1) Who needs cleavage when you have a third boob wrapped in red sequins? And 2) her medical story is actually pretty awesome. I swear, every visit to that doctor is so heartwarming. A shame what happened to his hands.
- Even though I know they're poison, I still want a pink cupcake.
"American Horror Story: Freak Show" airs on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. EST on FX and FX Canada.