‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ episode 11 review: Dell shocker, Chester’s arrival fail to save ‘Magical Thinking’
“American Horror Story” has to be one of the strangest shows out there. You can have an episode like “Orphans” that is almost completely gut-wrenching and perfect in nearly every way, and then follow it with one in “Magical Thinking” that is really just bizarre and someone hollow.
The largest issue we have with this episode is that it feels almost like the same trap “Coven” fell into all over again. Rather than Lance Reddick this time, though, it is Neil Patrick Harris. No doubt that both he and Jamie Brewer were fantastic as traveling salesman / eventual freak show owner Chester and his puppet / wannabe person Marjorie, but why introduce a character so late in the game, and then spend so much time on them? It adds to the overall confusion of this series. Look at how little of Dandy we had during this episode, and how Desiree only showed up in a few moments. Instead, we spent a whole lot of time on a character we had zero emotional investment in. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to tell Chester’s story with only two episodes left.
This show is great at presenting ideas and characters, but then when the dust settles, struggles to put most of these things together. Take for instance Bette and Dot, who were suddenly ready to make love to any man they could decide on immediately after having this sweet love story with Jimmy. This trivialized that, in particular the lack of concern that the twins had for Jimmy after his arrest. We know that he hurt them emotionally, but still. Dell, meanwhile, is suddenly in “I want to be a great father” mode, which is somewhat ironic given that this is the episode Elsa shoots him in the head for killing Ma Petite.
This is an episode that is extremely hard in many ways to review, largely because the biggest criticism that we have of it is fairly simple, and can be applied to almost everything in the story: Nothing really made sense. Gone was the cohesion of early episodes, and now it feels like there are many characters living dozens of miles away from each other, even though they live at the same fairground. They just never communicate.
We leave this episode with the feeling that Elsa is off to Hollywood, that Jimmy is completely on the run after losing his lobster-hands and being broken out by Amazon Eve and Dell, and Maggie trying to make her road to redemption a success.
In the end, “American Horror Story” ultimately followed up one of its best episodes of the entire season with one that we consider at present to be one of its worst. Scattershot storytelling replaced the emotional arcs, and we now enter the last two episodes without a real sense of if there can be a satisfying end to this story. Grade: C.
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