American Horror Story: Freak Show Season 4 Review “Blood Bath”

American Horror Story Season 4 Episode 8 Blood Bath (5)

This has not been a good week for mothers on FX- certainly not your garden variety Mother’s Day material, that’s for sure. I won’t spoil the other show for those who haven’t seen it, but abandon all spoiler hope those that enter here for the latest episode of “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” the aptly-titled “Blood Bath.” Actually, fathers didn’t fare too well, either- but at least Penny’s made it out alive. Not so much for the two mothers here: Ethel (Kathy Bates) and Gloria (Frances Conroy). Honestly, between this, the other show and “The Walking Dead,” it’s a wonder I’m not completely traumatized.

Okay, let’s talk it through, people. First up, there was Ethel, who hit the roof after Ma Petite was found presumed dead, placing the blame squarely on Elsa, even though we know that it was actually ex Dell who did that dirty deed. Though her later post-death histrionics were firmly of the crocodile tears variety, given what happened later on, I think her grief over Ma Petite was genuine. But not Ethel.

Ethel then declared her intentions to shoot Elsa, then herself, pulling out a gun to prove it. Elsa ducked out for some schnapps as a last drink, but grabbed a knife instead, and boom went the dynamite into Ethel’s skull. As if that weren’t enough, Elsa roped Stanley into covering it up- or should I say chained him into it?- as Stanley came up with the effective-if-gruesome method of having Ethel chain her neck up and drive into a tree, ripping her head off in the process: suicide by car, as it were. Everyone bought it, hook, line and sinker; especially with it being fairly common knowledge that she was not long for this world anyway.

All of this death riled up the female contingent of the carnival, save Elsa, who already had her fill. So, Desiree, Eve, and Evie (or whatever the lady with nothing lower than her torso is called) took to Penny’s house to avenge her father’s cruel decision to forever mark his daughter as the Lizard Lady, thanks to that alarming face tattoo he saddled her with. So, they knocked him out, took him back to Desiree’s trailer and quite literally tarred-and-feathered him before threatening to castrate him, among other things.

Lucky for him, Maggie talked Penny out of it at the last minute, which is something, considering what she and Stanley are there to do. Clearly, she isn’t going to be comfortable with the messy stuff, so Stanley’s on his own- not that he needs much more help between Dell’s assist on Ma Petite and his antics with Elsa. Either way, daddy was set free with a threat and a promise to finish the job if he ever came near Penny and her new “family.”

Last but not least was poor Gloria, saddled with a lost cause of a son who took after his father in all the worst ways. A last-ditch effort to “cure” him via psychiatric care was made with the heard-but-not-seen Dr. Feinbloom, to no avail, as one would expect, save a recommendation for immediate incarceration in an mental institution. The voice of the doctor definitely sounded familiar- Zachary Quinto making a vocal cameo, perhaps? Creator Ryan Murphy did say the seasons were connected, and this was definitely pre-“Asylum”…

Things got hairy when Gloria arrived home to see that Dora’s daughter Regina (Gabourey Sidibe) was there and asking questions Gloria simply didn’t have solid answers for. She exclaimed that she was staying until her mother arrived, so Dandy made mother a deal- if she killed Regina for him, he’d keep attending therapy sessions. She was understandably not keen on this, so Dandy pulled out a gun and threatened suicide, but Gloria protested, so he shot her instead. Did not see that coming!

Actually, I didn’t see either of these deaths coming, especially given how relatively early it is in the series, sort of. I mean, there’s still five episodes left, at least. They don’t usually start dropping big names until near the end, and they just took out two series regulars. That takes some guts, but it’s also just what the show needed to keep us on our toes, much as was the case with Twisty’s Halloween episode demise, which I also didn’t see coming.

Let’s face it, this season has been more weird than scary, so the least they can do is keep us guessing as to what will happen, and this season has been nothing if not unpredictable. It’s still one of the most fascinating things on television, horror or otherwise, even if this season hasn’t been my favorite. Of course, I’ve heard mixed reactions to every season, so there you go- to each their own, I suppose. Personally, last season was my favorite, with the first a close second. Even “Asylum,” with its cluttered narrative and excess was never less than interesting, and “Freak Show” is no different.

Could it be better? Maybe. I think a lot depends on how, well, freaked out you are by freaks and clowns and the like, and I’m just not, having previously gotten my freak on with the originals granddaddy of the subgenre, “Freaks” and my personal childhood creeper, Disney’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” arguably their scariest effort ever.

After those two, it’s hard to get me wigged out about anything carnival-related, if I’m being honest. Been there, done that, as it were. Not that “Coven” scared me, either, but I found it more consistently entertaining, I suppose. (It’s hard to top Stevie Nicks, people!) That said, the title sequence is undeniably disturbing, and this “Freak Show” certainly has its moments- enough to keep me watching, to be sure. I’m not sure I could ask for much more, honestly.

What do you think of “American Horror Story” this season? Are you suitably freaked out? Or are you more entertained than scared, like me? Or are you out-and-out disappointed? Sad to see Ethel and Gloria go? Do you think Penny’s dad will tempt fate and come back with a posse to finish the carnival off- or will they eventually take him out? Will Dandy kill Regina sooner or later? (Looks like later, from the trailer for next week.) Who will be next to die? Who will be left standing, if anyone? (Besides Pepper, that is.) It ain’t over till the fat lady sings- okay, that’s actually next week, too, if the title is any indication, but you know what I mean. Sound off below, and see you next week!