WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON 4 OF AMERICAN HORROR STORY.
If I hadn’t already blown two recent entries on Ferguson, then this entry would certainly be about the Eric Garner grand jury decision, as well as the four or five instances that popped up in the last week and a half of even more black men being treated as big game by the police. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that I’ve said all I can possibly say, at least as far as this rage-blog is concerned, for the given situation. Also, if I have anymore police-related entries I have to change the name of the blog to Corbin Hates Police Brutality. And I’m not reprinting those fucking t-shirts.
So, to switch gears from a horrific American story, let’s talk about American Horror Story.
I’ve been a fan of AHS ever since it emerged, bloody and screaming profanities, in 2011 and stole my heart with the most delightfully batshit pilot episode of television I’ve ever seen. BLOOD! INTRIGUE! KILLER GIMP! DEMON BABY! CRYING DYLAN MCDERMOTT SOBBING AND CHOKING HIS CHICKEN! Finally, a show that was capable of speaking to all of my base instincts simultaneously. And this was all in the first fifteen minutes.
Even with my AHS Superfan card, I’ve been aware of the series’ faults. Specifically, its almost Bill Buckner-in-the-World-Series-level of dropping the ball in its final episodes. However, AHS: Murder Houseˆ and to some extent Asylum set the bar high in creating a new kind of Must See TV for every single one of us warped motherfuckers out there that sometimes want nothing more from our TV shows than cheap thrills, chills, and the occasional fan service cameo.
I’ll continue with an admission. I couldn’t finish Coven. Just couldn’t. About halfway through the season (and after every character had already died and been resurrected at least once), I decided that I couldn’t bring it within myself to care about a single thing that was going on in the series. Thus, I abandoned it like Odysseus’ men as they approached Scylla and Charybdis, well aware of the terrible fate that would befall them. Someday, with the help of a prodigious amount of chemicals, I will be able to restart and complete it.
Because of this failure in myself, I made a promise to myself that no matter how shitty Freak Show got, I would continue watching because god-damn-it, I owed it to Ryan Murphy and His Merry Band of Writers for the many hours of joy they’ve given me through the years. Like all of Lily Rabe’s scenes in Asylum.
I’m eight episodes into Freak Show and Ryan, dude, you are pushing it.
I’ve always been aware that AHS was never meant to be high critical fare, nor have I ever viewed it as such. However, Freak Show has done nothing but show me evidence that Murphy and Co. have been writing with Mad Libs for the past two years.
So what upsets me the most about Freak Show, other than a catastrophic lack of Dylan McDermott? Well, for starters:
1. The Actors Have Gotten Stale
I’ve heard people online bemoaning the fact that Jessica Lange may not be returning for the next season of AHS. To them, I say bite me. Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Frances Conroy, Sarah Paulson (oh please oh please oh please) and every other AHS ironman since Murder House need to go. With the exception of Denis O’Hare. That man is a genius.
One of the supposed selling points of the AHS series is that every season is something entirely different. That’s somewhat hard to sell me when I’m seeing Jessica Lange Being Power Hungry for the 26th time, or Sarah Paulson Being Annoying for the 100th time. God bless the producers for at least attempting to bring in some new, talented blood like Michael Chiklis, Angela Bassett, or Kathy “The Shaft” Bates, but they inevitably fuck it up by writing their character into the background (Bassett) or giving them a series of increasingly awful characters to play (Bates).
For a show that once delighted me with the sheer AMOUNT of ridiculous ideas they threw at me on a near episodic basis, I find it ridiculous that of all the things that have run dry, it’s the actors.
But wait! Here’s a solution! We’ll make them sing! That’ll play! Right?
2. The Goddamn Singing
Some evil prankster of an executive must have told Ryan Murphy that there was a massive dovetail between Glee viewers and American Horror Story viewers. I’m not an expert on market demographics, but I feel like that’s a bit off. When I tune in to American Horror Story I want to see (in no particular order) killer men in rubber suits, stabbings, car crashes, 6-hour gazebo construction, the guy from Kick-Ass! shooting up a school, demon babies, alien babies, ghost twins, Emma Roberts, cast members from American Beauty in absurd cameos, hot sex scenes that get interrupted by demons and/or aliens, mutant vampire beasts, ex-Nazis, demonic possession, and Dylan McDermott recapping the entire episode over the credits in the style of a beat poet while dressed as a lion tamer with Spanish subtitles.
You know what I don’t want to see? Shitty Moulin Rouge-esque covers of Top 40 Hits Throughout History. Somebody got Glee in my American Horror Story and I’m pissed. It got on my nerves when Jessica Lange started singing Lana Del Rey. I got mad when they let Sarah Paulson(s) sing. My brain broke when they OPENED A FUCKING EPISODE WITH EVAN GODDAMN PETERS SINGING WHATTHEFUCKING NIRVANA.
There is a method to this madness. All of this song and dance and razzle dazzle bullshit is to distract you from one thing.
3. There’s No Horror In American Horror Story
At some point between Coven and Freak Show, Ryan Murphy got hit on the head with a brick and forgot the 2nd word in his own show’s title. Coven was already showing signs of losing its way when the scares started getting buried in girl-power-I-think scenes and Stevie Nicks fetishizing. Freak Show doesn’t even pretend it’s trying to scare us. For a show that started off being influenced by grind house films, b-movies, and David Lynch turn into a campy circus that caters to all your weird friends that are really, REALLY into Amanda Palmer.
There were some legitimate jump-out-of-your-couch moments in Murder House, mostly at the start when everything was left blissfully unexplained. Freak Show just seems to be content with letting the makeup artist/actual freaks do the actual work in creating an unnerving atmosphere. And no, random stabby murder is not HORROR. It’s slasher fare and it’s lazy as all shit.
The horror has given way to cheap shock value. Pace running a little slack? Just strangle the smallest woman in the world! That’ll keep ’em watching. Stab Kathy Bates in the head! THEN CUT IT OFF WITH A CAR CRASH! OMG YES! I’M A FUCKING GENIUS. SOMEBODY PEE ON ME!
And gosh-darn-it, guys, that horror NEEDS to be there. Because when you take all that away you just have a story. And therein lies the biggest problem with Freak Show.
4. There Is No Story.
We’re less than five episodes away from the series finale and a main over-arching plot line has yet to make itself known. Season 1 had The Harmon Family versus The Murder House, Season 2 had Jessica Lange Fighting For Her Asylum Against The Devil And Nazis, and Season 3 had Blah Blah Something Something Supreme.
As for Freak Show…well, we killed Twisty the Clown in Episode 4 (admittedly, with the best use of Wes Bentley since Ghost Rider), Jessica Lange seems to be switching sides of the moral compass depending on what scene is happening, Denis O’Hare seems content with only killing the non-plot-integral characters, and Michael Chiklis and Angela Bassett are collecting a paycheck. The only thing that resembles a main plot has been Finn Wittrock’s (my new favorite AHS actor) turn as Dandy Mott, who plays like a campy hybrid between Patrick Bateman and Norman Bates that was born into the Edward Scissorhands universe.
When the series DVD is finally released, I hope there is a Dandy Supercut that exists that only contains his scenes. This should work, since most of his scenes seem to happen in the periphery of Lange-land anyway.
I still have some faith left that Ryan Murphy has some tricks left up his sleeve and has a Book of Revelations-style smorgasbord of fuckery to throw at us for the final episodes like he always does (BET YOU WEREN’T EXPECTING THE PINHEAD TO BE AN ALIEN, ASSHOLE). However, I feel like the Murphy Well has run a little dry as of late and AHS will go the same path as Nip/Tuck: another Ryan Murphy show that became just a little too pleased with itself.
The best solution: More McDermott.