*** WARNING: Contains spoilers! Please do not read on unless you've seen Episode 6 of "American Horror Story: Freak Show," titled "Bullseye." Or if you don't mind spoilers, go right ahead! ***
The central image of tonight's episode -- the bullseye -- is possibly the best symbol to illustrate the main themes of "American Horror Story: Freak Show." The idea of chance, a simple streak of good luck or bad, can impact your entire existence. The knife can either hit harmlessly between your legs as you're strapped on the spinning wheel, leaving you scathed but alive, or it can pierce your stomach, leaving you to bleed out slowly. One guess which destiny most of the freaks have suffered (metaphorically, of course).
And this is precisely what Elsa boasts throughout the whole hour: that she saved the freaks from an even worser fate. By bringing them all into the freak show, she has made them her family and protected them from the outside world. To make matters worse, it's her birthday week, so she's expecting unconditional adoration (along with swanky gifts) from her "children." Just before warmly accepting all of the odds-and-ends gifts, she admits in a little monologue (while whipping knives at the bullseye -- yes! Jessica Lange throwing knives! fun!) that she's willing to stop anyone and anything that gets in the way of her hunt for fame.
Seal Boy/Paul, who gets better and better every week, is obviously the brains of the freaks, and has Elsa figured out. He's sleeping with her in what seems to be a semi-dedicated relationship, though it's obvious he's a mere plaything. He's also sleeping with Meryl Streep, Jr. on the side, in what appears to be a more sincere, real love. (If this is as close as we're going to get to an "AHS" Meryl Streep monologue on a dimly lit staircase, I'll take it.) The bullseye is just as representative of love -- something exceedingly hard to find and even harder to keep. Elsa and Seal Boy, Seal Boy and Meryl Streep, Jr., Jimmy and Maggie, Dandy and Bette; they're all cases of love based on deception. Even within the same body (Bette and Dot), love is received and dealt with in completely different ways.
Dandy is repulsive to Dot and an absolute dream to Bette. Even after he blows up playing "Tell Me A Secret" (a terrible game, truth be told), Bette is still in love with him. Dot wants to use him solely for the money to pay for separation surgery. Whether or not Bette and Dot will ever come apart is becoming one of the biggest "will they or won't they?" questions of the season. As I've said before in other recaps, I don't think they'll ever be separated, mainly because it means the twins will die. Whatever happens, this is a genius way for "AHS" to advance Bette and Dot's storyline in a believable manner. Their motivations are so disparate, and both so strong (the desire to be in one's own body, the desire to be loved), that there's no way to solve the problem instantaneously or easily. It's going to get worse before it gets better.
Same goes for whoever Dandy encounters in the near future. His final speech of this episode, delivered to a wide-eyed Gloria after reading Dot's diary, is some intense, scary acting from Finn Wittrock. When he states "I was never destined to feel love" with flat affect and overflowing eyes, I was right there with him. We've all been there on the couch, alone, empty and desperate. Then he lost me when he said that his purpose was to bring death, but overall the effect was there: Dandy has completely and totally gone off his rocker, and instead of combating it, he's accepting it. He knows he must kill. More chest stabbings on the docket for next week!
Speaking of killings, Stanley doesn't really seem to be accomplishing much at the freak show. Maggie so obviously has attachments to all of the freaks, so I don't really understand why he's assigning her to do it. She (thankfully) wimps out of killing Ma Petite -- which we saw anyway thanks to a fake-out scene -- and scrambles to get Jimmy to run away with her. Stanley threatens her and tells her he wants the lobster claws. We know that's not going to happen, but what will? The ideal outcome would be someone finding out about Stanley's "affliction" (a 13-inch ... ahem ... appendage) and then mailing him off to the museum. Ten bucks on that happening eventually.
I'm not even sure if Jimmy will make it back to the freak show grounds, because last we saw he was entering the Motts' house and Dandy's standing in the foyer with a knife tucked into his pants. Not looking good for Jimmy. Or Elsa, for that matter. By the end of the episode the freaks don't trust her anymore (even her beloved Ethel), her freak show is failing, her love affair is kaput, her singing career looks very doubtful, and she's hiding major secrets from everyone around her. She's also a terrible knife thrower. "I just want to be loved." Yes, Elsa, so does everybody. But the difference is we don't sell people to murderers and we don't throw knives at family.
The freak show is coming apart at the seams, and with Stanley around to pick it apart as it falls loose, things don't look good for our beloved crew. I only pray the killings
stay in black-and-white remain in his mind. Until next week!
Freak Of The Week: Seal Boy/Paul. He has two women (that we know of) calling him "lover boy," he wears a white tank top nearly 24/7, and he rocks full-body tattoos like no one's business. Hope he survives.
- Gloria: "I have RC Cola too!"
- Anyone else notice the opium smoke was computer-generated?
- We're basically seeing all the freaks die in horrific ways and/or be encased for display without actually having them killed off. I can't decide if it's a genius move by the showrunners or just a deliberate tease. I almost died myself when Ma Petite was clawing at the side of that jar.
- Speaking of Ma Petite, who wouldn't love to open a birthday gift box and see her inside, smiling and being adorable?
- My favourite shot of the episode was the twins seated in the middle of the long Mott table. Bette looking adoringly down at Dandy, while Dot suspiciously eyes Gloria. All so well-placed and symmetrical. "AHS" nails it with stuff like this.
- Gloria: "Hindsight is 20/20, dear."
- Let's just hope Stanley and Dandy don't pair up. If they do, no one will get out alive. Methinks Dandy is about to go on a killin' spree.
"American Horror Story: Freak Show" airs on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. EST on FX and FX Canada.