Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: American Horror Story: Freakshow

Title: American Horror Story: Freakshow
Starring: Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Finn Wittrock
Language: English
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Episodes: 13

In case you missed it, I've already covered and ranted on Asylum and Coven, so check those out. I'm going to reiterate again that I absolutely loved the first season. I thought it was brilliant, unique, and extremely intriguing. TL;DR I wasn't too crazy about Asylum, in fact, I was disappointed, and Coven made up for it for the most part. Of course, you can click the links for details. So, what did I think of this season?

The setting is 1952 in Jupiter, Florida where the last remaining freakshows still exist. In this season, we follow Elsa and her troupe through their spectacular performances, relationship drama, and the struggles of surviving in society as a "freak".

Once again, I was very cautious going into this season as I got my hopes up with the asylum concept only to be disappointed. Even though I enjoyed Coven more, I still wanted to keep that cautious feeling going into this as the concept could lead to some spectacular things. Keeping with tradition, we have plenty of returning actors such as Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, and surprisingly Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates. Like previous seasons, the actors may be the same, but the characters are not, excluding Naomi Grossman as Pepper who appeared in Asylum. Speaking of which, this is the first season that obviously ties together two seasons: Asylum and Freakshow.

Like previous seasons, the show started off strong and kept my interest, wondering where this would all go in the end and offering a strong introduction the main characters. There was a good diversity of characters and personalities to keep matters entertaining. I enjoyed majority of the subplots presented throughout the series, from Jimmy's rocky relationship with his parents to Pepper's backstory with Elsa and her family. For the most part, I enjoyed them and the characters that inhabited Jupiter. Most of them were effective in pulling out certain emotions from me whether it was a positive or negative impression and the actors did an outstanding job being consistent delivering that feeling. The visuals are still consistently appealing and they didn't abuse Dutch angles this season (thank, God!). The most impressive thing about the visuals lies with the costume and make-up department. Lastly, I want to commend the casting director for including actual people with abnormalities, even more commendable is that they didn't exploit these medical conditions carelessly. Whether they had any previous experiences with acting or not, I felt that they portrayed their characters in a very believable light and I easily felt sympathy for their situations.

Similar to Asylum, the show did lose some steam somewhere toward the middle. While I already mentioned that I enjoyed the subplots and even the main story, it started getting more and more cluttered and convoluted. There was way too much going on and delivered to its viewers very sloppily. I felt this the most with Elsa, Jimmy, Bette, and Dot. Elsa's backstory more than anyone elses. It felt like the writers wanted the viewers to struggle with the choice of whether to sympathize or dislike her character, but couldn't quite convey that struggle properly. She had a tragic past, but she also did a lot of selfish and underhanded things. The story also seemed to lose direction with Dandy. He was an interesting character with some unusual and sometimes uncomfortable fascinations. Even though I disliked him, I wanted to know more about him to understand why he's so...messed up. I thought all of the "freaks" were intriguing and I enjoyed learning about them, even creepy Twisty the Clown. On the other hand, some of the events that occurred with these characters and later entries either seemed unnecessary or obviously exaggerated for shock value. Also, I didn't enjoy the musical most of the numbers presented in this show as it didn't fit the time period whatsoever and it completely distracted from the tone or setting of Freakshow. This is not Glee; please do not mix the two! Per tradition of every season of American Horror Story, the ending was a little on the weak side.

In the end, I can confidently say that American Horror Story: Freakshow was my third favorite season. I enjoyed a lot of the characters, built an emotional attachment to some of them, and the visuals were an upgrade from Coven. I will admit that it wasn't a perfect season and the story did become quite cluttered somewhere in the middle and toward the end. I'm sure my feelings may change a little as far as its position in my liking it as it's pretty close to how much I enjoyed Coven. I am curious what they're planning to do this year with American Horror Story: Hotel, especially with Lady Gaga speculated to be part of the cast. Lastly, I would like to leave my thoughts and prayers to Ben Woolf who played Meep in Freakshow and his family. May he rest is peace.

Rating: 3/5

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