American Horror Story Season Four, Freakshow, has been very eagerly anticipated (by me, at least), and, during its premiere last night, the franchise failed to disappoint. Featuring a revolving ensemble of actors and the inclusion of artists such as Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett, AHS continually reinvents itself, much to its audience’s delight.
A few aspects I enjoyed most about last season’s installment, Coven, was the campiness, humor, phenomenal acting, and intelligent dialogue the show consistently delivered. Despite the plot, the gore, and the magic, the show turned out memorable characters and quotable quotes. I’m actually ashamed to admit that I miss those characters just a little.
As always with AHS, they like to bring you somewhere, drop you off, then kick you two steps beyond your comfort zone. I watched this season’s premiere with my shirt pulled halfway up over my head, covering one eye – sometimes both – and I’ll tell you why: clowns. It wasn’t enough to feature a traveling freak show, of course, so the stakes were raised by a murderous pair of Siamese twins, a bearded lady harboring palpable sexual tension for her mistress, a man with ‘flippers’, who has, let’s say, flipped a few switches, and oh – how could I forget? An evil clown. An evil clown who shows up in your bedroom at night and slices the life right out of you.
If that’s not the stuff of nightmares, I don’t know what is.
There’s always a transition period with this series, the time you sit back with your hand partially covering your face, determining that, this, in fact, is the way it’s going to be. You have to forget the previous season, wipe away the names, the stories, and get in that moment.
And, boy, did I get in that moment, double checking the locks and taking a few quick peeks at my kids before going to bed. AHS truly takes uncomfortable to a most uncomfortable level.
What I love most is how seamlessly the show transitions from adrenaline-secreting to laugh-out-loud funny, and that no matter what’s going on (See: Sarah Paulson, with two heads, conversing with herself), you believe it. Siamese twins? Sure. A tiny dude who bites the heads off live animals? Absolutely. A three-breasted hermaphrodite? Well, why the hell not?
I’ve tried to find the moral fibers that bind the stories, the seasons, together, the lessons to be learned, but the beauty of this show is there are none. The story is always just what it is, the characters who they are, for better or worse, and the scenes, however disturbing, are created simply to be consumed, much like cocktail shrimp on a buffet table.
The best thing about this buffet, though, is that it truly has something for everyone. There’s poison enough for all. Siamese twins not your speed? Try clowns with knives. Clowns with knives don’t do it for you? How about horny carnies? Demons? Witches? Ghost musicians? Deviant psychiatrists? AHS has got it all, all the time. If one thing doesn’t trigger your sympathetic nervous system, another surely will, with breaks to rest, and laugh, of course, in between.
It’s too early to tell how this season’s plot will shake out, but you can bet your fluffy beard I’ll be watching.