In the American Horror Story: Freak Show finale recap, Dandy finally gets what’s coming to him and we find out the fate of Fraulein Elsa Mars…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
At some point or another every great act has to come to an end.
Then again some acts don’t really deserve an encore and that seems to be the case with this season of ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’. The premise of the show was straight out of horror movie heaven — a traveling group of freaks complete with any number of physical abnormalities all tapping into both primal and carnal emotions not to mention a healthy dose of fear. The main antagonist was a killer clown with a face ripped right out of the scariest nightmares you had after watching the movie ‘It’ for the first time.
But a strange thing happened on the way to ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ being good — it wasn’t.
The series in large part teetered between creepy carnival fun and down right annoying, which made it even harder to love or hate for that matter. Musical numbers showed up one after the other in the early episodes as we watched Jessica Lange fumble through a bad German accent to sing songs that hadn’t even been written yet before the show really came to a crashing halt as Jimmy the Lobster Boy tried to grumble his way through a rendition of ‘Come As You Are’ by Nirvana.
Characters were brought onto the show with absolutely no purpose — here’s looking at you Neil Patrick Harris — while others were just wasted (why was Emma Roberts resigned to do nothing all season long until she died?).
It’s not to say it was all bad. There were some episodes — like last week’s penultimate hour — that felt like the show everybody wanted this to be. A carnival of horrors dabbling in the human element not a bad sideshow act complete with musical numbers. The finale unfortunately was the exact opposite of the show that aired last week. The last hour spent with the ‘Freak Show’ was terribly orchestrated with obvious ending and yep, you guessed it, another goddamn musical number.
I wanted to like this season. Actually, I wanted to love this season. But I just didn’t. I couldn’t. There wasn’t enough substance to love. Where ‘Coven’ made me love catty teenage drama queens while desperately hoping for a sequel, ‘Freak Show’ made me long for season five to start already.
On that note, let’s recap the season finale of ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ titled ‘Curtain Call’.
All Dandy Mott ever wanted was to be part of the show. He felt deep down inside that he was a freak and what more logical solution would there be for him than to join a freak show, right? Well he was cast aside early on before learning the art of murder from Twisty the Clown and then developed his own blood lust, which resulted in a whole bunch of dead people including his maid, his mother, and a room full of sex-deprived Tupperware housewives. But now Dandy’s come full circle. After making sure Bette and Dot were clear about the kind of man they chose to be with when he exposed Chester for the voices-in-his-head sociopath that he was, Dandy bought the freak show from Elsa as she gallivants out to Hollywood to start a new life.
Now he’s ready to make his big debut.
Dandy has all his new employees hang banners up advertising his performance where he will dance and sing the songs of Cole Porter. Of course no one gives a damn about a rich kid singing tunes on stage (badly I might add) but Dandy is determined to make it work. When Paul the Seal Boy and the rest of the gang break the news to Dandy that his idea is shit, he loses it and blames all of them for his misfortune. He abuses the troupe and demands results and finally they’ve had enough.
Amazon Eve pops him in the mouth and they all hold Dandy down while informing him of the reality of the situation. He’s probably used to his mother telling him special he is when the fact of the matter is he’s just boring. He informs the new boss that he’ll be going on later that night all alone because they are quitting, effective immediately. Paul caps it all off by spitting in Dandy’s face.
So instead of prancing up on stage to sing a watered down rendition of ‘Anything Goes’, Dandy gets made up in his tent, complete with rouge and lipstick, before sauntering out into the fairway where he finds Paul asking about his last paycheck. Dandy pulls a gun and puts a hole right through Seal Boy’s head. He finds and kills Penny as she tries to hide behind some freshly hung laundry. He kills Toulouse and Legless Suzi as well as Ima and a whole bunch of other unnamed show workers. He finally tries to get the drop on Desiree, but she stays hidden until Amazon Eve finally makes one attempt to subdue Dandy. Just when it seems she’s going to get the upper hand, Dandy finds his gun and shoots her in the leg before putting a bullet through the back of her head.
When he goes back into the trailer for one last attempt to find Desiree, she’s nowhere to be found and Dandy exits before returning to his tent to retrieve his spoils of war. Inside the tent are Bette and Dot, tied to a pole, just waiting on Dandy to return. He says he has something he wants to show them and that’s the last we see of them for now.
As the sun drops and nightfall comes out to play, Jimmy returns to the freak show with his new wooden hands and a healthy appetite. He’s starved after living out in that barn for so long, but when he gets back to the show there’s no one around. The lights aren’t on and it appears the show is shut down. He goes looking for Elsa, but her tent is empty. He arrives at the big top and when he wanders inside, Jimmy discovers the last show this troupe will ever put on. Dandy has posed all of the freaks inside for one last ‘performance’ and Jimmy’s horrified to see all of his friends and family massacred.
Desiree comes out of hiding when Jimmy arrives and the two embrace, both shocked and sad to lose everyone in one fell swoop while realizing they are the only ones left alive — but where are the twins?
All Part of the Act
When we next find Dandy he’s marrying the twins in a ceremony at his house. Technically, he’s just marrying Bette, but he invites Dot to join in with them when they jump into bed to consummate the marriage. This is the happiest he’s ever been and Bette is all he’s ever wanted. Life is Dandy (get it?).
Bette and Dot have even prepared a four-course meal filled with all of Dandy’s favorites. They even hired an expensive French maid, well versed in the culinary arts, to prepare the dinner. Dandy sips his champagne and can’t help but feel a sense of real wonder that he’s finally gotten everything he’s ever wanted. Little does he know he’s about to get everything he deserves.
The bubbly in his glass is also making Dandy feel a little bubbly in the brain. Seconds later, Desiree pops out of the kitchen. It seems she is the expensive French maid and Jimmy is set as the new butler. Some knockout drops added to Dandy’s beverage have him falling over passed out and now it’s time for the real show to begin.
Back at the main tent, Dandy awakens to find that he’s chained to the floor and quickly realizes that he’s inside a deep tank surrounded by four glass walls. Jimmy tells Desiree that just killing Dandy wouldn’t be enough. They are carny folk. There has to be a show.
So they’ve pulled out Hardeen’s tank of water and just like the famous magician brother of Houdini, they are setting up Dandy for his final act where he can escape the chains and swim to safety in front of a live audience. Of course Dandy is no Hardeen and has no chance to escape. He begs and pleads with the remaining members of the freak show, but it’s all for naught. Dandy tells Bette he loves her and promises a great life for them together, but the sisters have had enough of this proper nut job and close out his act with a simple declaration of ‘I hate you’ before turning on the water and sending Dandy to his final grave.
Jimmy, Desiree, Bette and Dot sit back, popcorn in hand and watch Dandy struggle to break free but only for a few seconds before the water fills his lungs and the life evaporates from his eyes. Dandy is no more.
1960 — Hollywood, California
So whatever happened to Elsa Mars and was that copy of ‘Life’ magazine inside Briarcliff that touted her as huge television star just a figment of our imaginations?
It seems Elsa did make her way to Hollywood where she sat the lobby of a big television studio day after day just trying to get a meeting with the head of the studio. Finally after one exceedingly long afternoon where Elsa sat waiting for hours only to find out the studio boss escaped out the back door to avoid her, she snaps and slaps the receptionist and breaks down in tears. Thankfully a nice man named Michael appears and helps to console her. He’s a junior vice president in charge of casting and also happens to be of German descent.
What a coincidence!
The next time we see Elsa it’s 1960 and she’s one of the most successful television stars of the time. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is debuting and giving her the first star and why not? She’s known as the ‘Queen of Friday Night’. The ‘Elsa Mars Hour’ is the most popular variety show on television not to mention her three gold records! All is right with the world — except it’s not.
Elsa is quietly miserable, no longer enjoying her dalliance with wealth and fame. Her husband is a pussy, who bows and scrapes at her feet like a dog. She doesn’t have any friends, only gophers who scream ‘how high’ whenever she says jump. Nobody truly loves her and she doesn’t love anyone back.
“I have always, always, always been cursed. First by having my dreams ripped away. Now I’m cursed by having them all come true”
~ Elsa Mars
The only thing that keeps Elsa going today is the fact that an old friend is coming to visit her.
Massimo — the miracle surgeon who once gave Elsa back her legs — has come to California to see his old friend. Elsa is still very much in love with him and she suggests that they run away together after all she cheats on her husband and he cheats on her and at this point they are only together as a matter of convenience. Unfortunately, Massimo has some bad news. He’s been diagnosed with cancer and only has a month left to live.
At this point, Elsa has nothing left to live for either.
The final nail in the coffin comes later that night when her cuckold of a husband shows up with the studio president and they have some bad news. It seems a reporter somehow found old eight-millimeter films of Elsa’s time in Germany — remember her sexploitations and subsequent torture back in the day? — and this reporter is going live with the story in one week’s time. To make matters worse, the reporter hired a gumshoe to track Elsa’s movements after she left Germany and they discover that she used to run a freak show — the same freak show that ended in a massacre when all the performers were found dead one day in a mass grave, much to Elsa’s shock and horror. They’ve tried to reason with the reporter and tried to pay her off, but a major expose that will bring the TV queen crashing down is bigger than any dollar amount.
So despite an earlier refusal to do a show on Halloween, Elsa agrees to go on and give the network one final show before she’s drummed out of the business all together. Of course you remember what happens when carnival folks put on a show at Halloween? Edward Mordrake appears and he needs a soul to claim before he can return to hell.
So Elsa goes on stage and performs David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ for no apparent reason whatsoever. There was no other song that would have fit better here? It’s a Halloween show for pete’s sake, she couldn’t just sing ‘Monster Mash’ and get over with it? Is there some contract that says ‘American Horror Story’ has to butcher at least two different David Bowie songs this season?
Anyways — in the midst of her final show, we get flashes back to the last surviving members of the freak show set against the backdrop of a normal life. Desiree had her operation and now she’s married to Angus and raising two kids. As the family is walking down the street, Desiree catches a glimpse of Elsa on TV and has to stop for a quick look at her former boss tearing it up in Hollywood. In another part of the country, Jimmy is living with his new wife (wives?) Bette and Dot and they are expecting a baby. When Elsa pops on the TV screen, Dot notes that she’s already seen this show and quickly changes the channel.
Back at the final edition of the ‘Elsa Mars Hour’, Edward Mordrake has arrived right on time with Twisty the Clown and all his other victims still in tow. He missed out on taking Elsa the first time around and now she’s sacrificing herself in a weird suicide ritual. Edward decides to give her wants she wants and stabs Elsa in the heart, but she’s not getting dragged back to the ether with him.
No, instead he sends her to the church where she meets up with the cast from ‘Lost’ or at least that’s what if felt like.
Following her death, Elsa awakens in the big top back at the freak show. She’s greeted by Ma Petit and all the other people who were killed by Dandy that day many years ago. Finally, Elsa comes face to face with her old friend Ethel, who is finishing the final touches on the stage so she can get ready to go on that night. She tells Elsa that this is where they were always destined to be. In the middle of the freak show, surrounded by loved ones, and it’s a packed house every night. Elsa wonders why she’s been sent to heaven when so clearly she deserved to pay in hell. Ethel explains that just like Elsa said all those years ago — stars never pay.
With that, Elsa gets dolled up for her next performance and as the curtain raises, she walks out ready to sing and with that ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ comes to a close.
This was a show plagued by inconsistencies. Like a flame that tried to burn bright but instead flickered out with a lack of air to breathe. There were a few things to like (Finn Wittrock was the standout performer by far) and others to despise (musical numbers, story that rarely developed). Hopefully season five of ‘American Horror Story’ brings back some of the scarier elements or at least a more interesting plot because this one largely fell flat and ended up forgettable by the time the final curtain dropped.