American Horror Story: Freak Show Premiere Recap: Odd Ball

AHS

Based on the premiere of Freak Show, Jessica Lange wasn’t just towing the company line when she said that this season of American Horror Story could well be its best yet. The first hour — which took us to Jupiter, Fla., in 1952 to ask who really are the “Monsters Among Us,” the freaks or those who misjudge them? — was stylish, shocking and irresistibly over the (big) top!

DOUBLE VISION | Over the course of the episode, dueling diary entries offered us the very different perspectives of Sarah Paulson’s conjoined twins, Bette and Dot Tattler, who, after murdering their (over?) protective mother, were recruited by Fraulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities. On one hand, movie buff Bette was thrilled — she saw Elsa (Lange) as a glamorous savior. On the other, repressed Dot was horrified — she likened their joining the carnival to entering the gates of hell. (In fairness to the grump, she did have a point: They couldn’t enter the fairgrounds without passing through Satan’s mouth.) But even Dot eventually found something to like about their new lot in life: lobster boy Jimmy (Evan Peters, at his most adorable). Not only did she flash a rare smile when he winked at her, but she fully committed to her new “family” after he slit the throat of the cop who showed up to arrest her and Bette. (And they say chivalry is dead.)

A STAR IS REBORN | As for Elsa, Fraulein Mars quickly established herself as a daring fashion plate (rocking, among other get-ups, an outré outfit that appeared to be stolen from Cruella de Vil’s closet and made primarily of Afghan Hound hair), a shrewd businesswoman (able to get an eviction notice forgotten using nothing more than her skivvies and a bottle of schnapps) and, sadly, a star that never rose. Following a dazzling performance of Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” the Dietrich wannabe cried to bearded henchwoman Ethel (Kathy Bates) — Jimmy’s mother, by the way — that “it’s too late for me.” But, devoted to a fault, Ethel assured her that it wasn’t, and in fact, with the Tattlers now generating buzz for the show, it was only a matter of time before Elsa’s name was one of the household variety. Then, after Ethel left Elsa’s tent, the chanteuse unhooked and removed the prosthetic legs that we had no idea she had been wearing all along.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST | While Elsa busied herself introducing a bratty candy striper (Grace Gummer) to the pleasures of opium and orgies (and filming it all!), and Jimmy earned pocket money by using his “claws” to feel up horny housewives (at a Tupperware party, no less!), demented Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) stalked the area, taking the occasional break from his murder spree only to make balloon animals for the kidnapping victims that he locked in an old bus. (Shudder.) On a prettier note, fancypants Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) was so taken with the Tattlers after attending their unveiling that he instructed his snobbish mother, Gloria (Frances Conroy), to purchase them for him. Alas, no sale, said the sibs in a rare moment of agreement.

OK, your turn. What did you think of the premiere? Will Twisty leave you tossing and turning tonight? And how fast will you be heading to iTunes to see if Lange’s “Life on Mars” is available? Grade the episode below and then elaborate in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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78 Comments
  1. StephonJS says:

    Great start! Man Ryan Murphy out did himself this season. This will top Coven

    • Joey says:

      Anything would top Coven. That season was the worst of them all. Freak Show had a great start, like Coven. Hopefully it doesn’t completely fall apart like Coven did.

      • wrstlgirl says:

        No kidding. Coven was the worst.

      • I liked Coven, but the ending was horrible…it all was going good right up till then. The worst season for me was Asylum and I’ll always love the modern take of season 1. I kind of want Ryan Murphy to go modern one more time and not just for a flashes like he did in Asylum.

        • Cory says:

          For me Asylum outshines every other season so far by leaps and bounds. Season 1 fell apart halfway through and Coven was mostly just misguided all around.

          • Kevin says:

            Asylum was my fav too, but I liked murder house as well, coven, despite its many errors, was still pretty damn entertaining, and the acting is always great with this cast. But Freak show is just so damn amazing.

          • Terry says:

            While I’m not quite as critical of the other seasons as you, I can’t disagree with your thoughts either. Asylum will be extremely difficult to surpass. It made me forget Murder House and I wanted more Asylum when Coven was on. This said, it’s still one of the best network shows on TV.

        • Ram510 says:

          I agree with every word. Coven started great and fell apart. But Asylum was just horrible right out of the gate and never got it together. Season 1 was the best. But ryan Murphy seems as though he can’t keep a series going for very long

  2. Isabel says:

    I don’t even have a fear of clowns and that clown just totally freaked me out… Maybe I should have watched with the lights on

  3. alistaircrane says:

    Unfortunately, I found it quite slow and not very entertaining compared to previous seasons. That clown is horrifying, though, and I jumped when it appeared on the merry-go-round.

  4. R says:

    It’s ‘toeing the line’ not ‘towing the line’

  5. Chris says:

    I’ve never gotten around to getting into this show (got bored through Season 1, 2’s setting didnt interest me so I skipped it, and missed 3 though I’d like to check it out) but I finally sat down with this season and really enjoyed it. Looking forward to next week.

  6. Leo says:

    Thought it was a little slow. really dull in some spots

  7. Lilly says:

    As a German native speaker, I have to say I am extremely impressed with the quality of Jessica Lange’s German. First time I’ve ever seen/heard an American actor/actress play a German on television who speaks German which sounds like it’s actually a German who’s speaking it. Kudos!

    • Doesn’t she speak German in real life? I could be wrong, but I thought I heard that somewhere.

    • CountryQueen says:

      She worked hard to achieve that – but of course, she is Jessica Lange, and she would expect nothing else of herself. She is so great. If you haven’t yet seen Grey Gardens with her and Drew Barrymore do! It’s incredible – especially when you then watch the real ladies they play. This lady is the real deal!

  8. AnnieM says:

    Liked everything except using out-of-period songs. Next week we have Dot singing Fiona Apple, soon JL will be singing Lana Del Ray…and it’s supposed to be 1952. Maybe I’m being too literal-minded for some, but it bothers me, throws me out of the story too much.

    • abz says:

      I really find that weird as well. I wasn’t familiar with the song Elsa sang in this episode, but Lana Del Rey, how does that make any sense?

    • Have you seen Moulin Rouge ?

    • Elsa (Jessica Lange) singing Bowie’s Life on Mars – Amazeballs!
      I think that’s fine to take up music from the future times if it gives the desired message… just curiously thinking songs related to freakshows and circuses… Britney’s “Circus” anyone? :P

    • Rob_And_Co says:

      It bothered me too, but then I wondered if it may have anything to do with Emma Roberts’ psychic character… Maybe she sees the songs in the future and writes the music sheets for the other characters to play. I think that would be great.

      • RicFule says:

        I got the impression that her character was just CLAIMING to be psychic to get into the Freak Show for hidden purposes. Of course, the previews jumped around, so I could be mistaken. Plus, she wasn’t around for the opening episode , and as such, couldn’t have done that song for Elsa.

        • Rob_And_Co says:

          I haven’t seen any previews, I just read about it somewhere so indeed, it can’t be that. Then if it is only for the purpose of having Jessica Lange singing I do not thing I am on board with that. Continuity is important in such shows, at least they should come up with an excuse. And JL singing was not really that good in my opinion.

  9. aleksa says:

    What type of accent is Kathy Bates doing? (Not a criticism, I just couldn’t place it.)

  10. brandon says:

    by far the best premiere for this show it lived up to its name freak show

  11. thelastreporter says:

    Loved Katy Bate’s Baltimore accent. As a fourth generation Baltimore resident, I can tell you it’s not easy to imitate, but she did a great job!

  12. thelastreporter says:

    To add more:

    Honestly, I’ve seen some reviewers pan the premiere episode. But to me it was a masterpiece, a macabre work of art.

    It was the nearly perfect. No, not nearly, it was perfection.

    It was so good that I believe it will lose some.

    The last scene of Jessica Lang taking off prosthetic legs brought tears to my eyes.

    Again, I am a big fan of American Horror, but this year it is beyond the highest standards!

  13. Isabel says:

    This episode was definitely slower than previous premieres but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’d rather have a slow build up to a strong and fast paced climax than a fast start and slow burn. I really enjoyed the first episode and am looking forward to more.

  14. Patrick says:

    This is the perfect format for Ryan Murphy.

    I don’t think there has been any Murphy series that hasn’t started with a great (if uneven) first season, just to COMPLETLEY fall apart (Glee and Nip/Tuck to name a few)

    The fact that he can reinvent the show every year means it’s fresh like a new series that only has one arc! Perfect for Murphy

  15. katedfw says:

    That freakin clown is going to scare me to death!

  16. Frankye says:

    I found AHS FreakShow entertaining, started off a little slow, but picked up a soon as Twisty was introduced. AHS Coven is still my favorite as the historic elements mad it seem in a sense real. AHS Murder house was a good kick off. Asylum was too gruesome and gory for no reason. Ryan has done it again, whether people like the show or not. People will still tune in.

  17. ocedalv says:

    So, is this connected at all to Asylum? Because the character played by Naomi Grossman (weird bald girl with a brother) is the same one, right? It’s the same prosthetic ears and teeth and hair cut. Makes me wonder…

  18. Rebecca says:

    It was good…I want to see where it goes. I can’t believe John Carroll Lynch is the clown!!! I was shocked when I found that out. He doesn’t strike me as playing that type of character. So good for him.

  19. Walkie says:

    Isn’t it supposed to me a “Horror Story”? Nothing about it is scary. They have already overexposed the clown which might have been a scary character.

    And I have no idea why they have Kathy Bates doing that accent.

    It would also be nice to see some sort of plot.

  20. Jen says:

    The jury is still out for me. I’ll have to watch another episode before I decide if I like it. I feel like they might have overdone it with the background synths and music. It was distracting at times. Also, I feel like they overused the split camera effect too. My last concern is also with the newer songs. It looks like there will be a few this season. I just hope that it doesn’t turn into Glee on PCP. All in all though, with a little tweaking and settling in I think season could be great.

  21. John Moshier says:

    great story Jessica lange look for another emmy the twins are great the clown scarist one Ive seen since penny wise

  22. Rose duMort says:

    I found the most disturbing characters in this episode to be Little Lord Fancypants and his incestuously doting mother.

  23. R.O.B. says:

    I went to go see the movie Hostel when it came out, and this family came in with two kids and sat in front of us. They couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, these kids. And they sat there with their parents watching this whole thing. I could barely pay attention to the movie – I felt ashamed, and they weren’t even my kids. I never went to another torture movie. After watching AHS last night, I had the same experience. Several times. All I could think was, “There are 8 year old kids being allowed to watch this. Thousands of them, probably.” I think about 5 or 6 lines were crossed last night. I feel dirty.

  24. carmen says:

    That freaking clown was in my nightmare. Next time I will watch it with somebody and not alone :/

  25. TVSERIESADDICT says:

    Outstanding episode. Outstanding, fantastic, magnificent, and absolutely excellent performance by Sarah Paulson. Outstanding writing and setting. wow.. just wow!

  26. Terry says:

    Who thinks Twisty the Clown harkens back to a Nazi party antihero to Fraulein Elsa Mars during the Holocaust? Didn’t Elsa/Lange look pitiful with the caked on turquoise eye shadow in her tent high on Opium. Bearded Lady Bates has a real thing for Miss Thang..me thinks.

  27. IPF Godfather says:

    Great start to a great series! Looking forward to more Murphy, Lange, et all MAGIC…

    As for its place in the pantheon…not to “flame” these comments but I can’t understand all the love for Asylum. Personally, I thought that was BY FAR the worst installment in the series. In fact, I found it so difficult to watch that I almost quit on AHS for good until I got sucked back after watching Coven (saved on DVR once I ran out of things to watch after the fall season ended last year).

    Anyway, by my estimation:
    1) Murder House
    2) Coven
    3) Freak Show (with potential to go higher of course but can’t see a way it could fall behind Asylum)
    4) Asylum

    Lastly, Props to Twisty…one freakishly scary character…

  28. pam says:

    In a word..TWISTED!

  29. We’ve covered infidelity, mental illness, female empowerment and racial bigotry, but as a disabled person who has been stared at and treated like I’m stupid since I was a kid, it’s nice to see someone saying something about how the disabled are treated.

  30. Scott says:

    While I enjoyed the show, the music was a bit much during the entire episode. It was distracting and hard to hear some of the dialogue.

    • Alexis says:

      I totally agree, I almost put captions on because it was so hard to hear. My fiancé and I were constantly asking each other “what did she say?” and “can you hear it at all?”

  31. sstrudell says:

    Well I enjoyed the first episode, I found the music a bit overwhelming. At times it seemed to overpower the dialogue. I hope that was just for the first episode.

  32. Maria says:

    Excellent start!
    I watched the new series “The Strain” and the special effects ruined the show for me. I think they should look into hiring the special effects people from “Freak Show”. The Clown make up was insanely perfect, along with all the other FX.
    I hope this season does not jump the shark like last season with Stevie Nicks twirling around singing…gag

  33. Doug says:

    One thing that must stop immediately are the songs with music styles that are not from the 1950s. This isn’t a Baz Luhrmann movie.

  34. DQTX says:

    I assume I’m in the minority here. I didn’t care much for it. There is no supernatural element. Crazed killers, we have those on the news every day. I guess if you’re afraid of clowns, this would count as “Horror” for you. But, as I am not afraid of them, I don’t find anything scary about it,
    I personally loved all the previous seasons. But this one, while visually appealing, is leaving me less than entertained.

  35. Wendy says:

    Anybody else notice the guy dressed like Freddy Krueger in the background?

  36. P. Adam says:

    I am sorry they filled almost an entire episode with a series of vignettes. I would have preferred that they be spread out over time. Twisty is the story of a simple hearted man who cannot fit into the world he loves. A cliché? I was reminded of Chuck McCann (a favorite) in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

    Early on I decide that Mat Frasier had a handsome face. How that was used was very well done. I don’t object to the short stories, it was the packaging.

    I have come to enjoy several of the other regulars. Amazon Eve and Jyoti are a fascinating team. They have been together in interview shows and the such before. The pumpkin “boo” was adorable, like comedy in a Shakespeare tragedy–very well done.

    I missed Kathy Bates. She’s such a superb actor. Pepper’s reaction at the end showed much more “normality” than I expected. However, her facial expression as she polished Jessica’s nails was perfection! (I am new to the series.)