A Freakish Finale

Arts  /  by Simon Shore '16  /  January 30, 2015

What do you get when you put together a bearded woman, a killer clown, and a man with lobster hands? A freak show, of course. The season finale of American Horror Story: Freak Show, which aired last Wednesday, left many viewers shocked, confused, and seriously disappointed.

Unlike other horror shows such as The Walking Dead or The Vampire Diaries, American Horror Story (AHS) is an anthology series, meaning the plot and characters completely change with each season. The show’s past three seasons, Murder House, Asylum, and Coven, have followed a variety of different characters, ranging from psychotic mental ward patients to aspiring teenage witches. However, the fourth and most recent season, Freak Show, tells a story far more complicated and personal than any before.

Set in Jupiter, Florida, in 1952, Freak Show focuses on one of the only remaining freak shows left in America and its struggle to survive. This show, called “Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” is a collection of abnormal humans, rejected by society because of their physical deformities. The troupe, led by Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange), is always welcoming new members, such as two-headed, conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) and three-breasted Desiree Dupree (Angela Bassett). While the troupe is supposed to be a safe haven for misfits, internal conflicts as well as friction with the outside world create constant – and highly entertaining – drama. Throw Twisty the Murderous Clown and a chameleon salesman suffering from PTSD into the mix and you have the recipe for an eerie thriller.

While every 13-episode season of AHS so far has had a bone-chilling finale, Freak Show’s ending was one of the most surprising yet. Stop reading here to avoid spoilers: After selling the show to Dandy, a deranged millionaire man-child, and moving to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting, Elsa realizes that stardom is not nearly as fulfilling as being the ringleader in Florida. Elsa knows that she cannot return to her troupe because, in her constant pursuit of fame and power, she has harmed many of the freaks and they despise her for her selfish actions. Left in a state of panic and depression, Elsa summons the ghost of Edward Mordrake, a man with two faces, to take her soul, thus relieving her of her misery and loneliness. However, instead of bringing Elsa to Hell and punishing her for her crimes, Mordrake brings her back to the freak show, where she is given the chance to start fresh in the afterlife. After all the pain and destruction Elsa caused during her time with the troupe, she is allowed the opportunity to turn over a new leaf with the freaks, as if nothing ever happened. While I usually love a happy ending, I have to admit that a part of me was somewhat hoping that Elsa would go down in flames. Sure, she had some redeeming qualities, but let’s be realistic: you can’t murder your friends and expect them to totally forgive you. We can all agree that friendships involve some conflict, but if we learned anything from this show, it’s that you probably shouldn’t kill your friends when things don’t go your way.