American Horror Story: Monsters Among Us   First Watch 
October 10, 2014 8:21 PM - Season 4, Episode 1 - Subscribe

One of the last freak shows in the U.S. struggles for survival in Jupiter, Florida. Unexplained deaths in the community cause alarm.

But mostly, it's all about Jessica Lange. And Kathy Bates. And Angela Bassett. And (weirdly) David Bowie.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord (26 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wasn't that clown the worst? Oy yoy yoy. This show has always been nightmare fuel, but ye gods.

Really impressed by the Sarah Paulson special effects. No Lily Rabe this year -- boo!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 8:28 PM on October 10, 2014

I wondered if that was a sign Bowie might appear later on in just as Stevie Nicks did last season.
posted by cazoo at 9:13 PM on October 10, 2014

I don't see this topping season one but the first ep was still entertaining.

The twins are great. The music sounds very familiar but I'm not a fan of it.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 9:24 PM on October 10, 2014

Aside from the clown, who is legitimate nightmare fuel, I can already see this season squandering a lot of the horror potential of its setting choice in much the same way last season did.

Dear Ryan Murphy: monsters aren't as scary if they're also your protagonists. They are even less scary if you clearly like them better than you like their victims.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:54 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wondered if that was a sign Bowie might appear later on in just as Stevie Nicks did last season.

Fingers crossed!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:07 PM on October 10, 2014

That clown.

posted by at 10:32 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Fingers crossed!

I don't think those fingers were actually crossed.
posted by homunculus at 10:45 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


From Brian Moylan's Vulture recap:
We met lots of other great freaks, most notably Evan Peters’s character who will heretofore be known as Edward Dildohands.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:02 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm hoping this season is better than the last.

My personal ranking of AHS in order of quality:

Season 2 - Asylum
Season 1 - Horror House
Season 3 - Coven

Last season was just not working for me, it felt too uneven like they didn't know what to do with all those quality actors other than to dress them up in amazing wardrobe and set designs.
posted by Fizz at 6:30 PM on October 11, 2014

Coven began extremely well, I thought, but lost focus toward the end. I get the feeling a lot of "wouldn't it be cool if"s were tossed around, and all of them managed to find their way into the show. The thing is, a lot of that stuff was pretty cool, but it didn't totally cohere. I suspect a lot of Murder House was made up as it went along, too, but it seemed to lead to a planned ending in a way that Coven...well...didn't. I mean, this wasn't a BSG-style fiasco of an ending by any stretch, but it wasn't the strong ending it might have been. It definitely wasn't the incredibly strong ending of Asylum.

I have a good feeling about Freak Show, though. I feel like it's establishing a milieu in which the creators have a lot of latitude to indulge whims without losing the plot, which is exactly what a show like this needs. I think that Coven struggled with the temptation to do whacked-out shit regardless of whether it made the overall story any better, or even derailed it. But really, AHS is at its best when doing whacked-out shit is part of the game. Freak Show is beginning at a point of surreality, allowing itself to approach 1952 without regard for anything like historical accuracy, allowing itself to approach life as we know it with only moderately greater regard for accuracy. So there's a lot of wiggle room vis a vis randomness. That's for the best.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:27 PM on October 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I started watching AHS "live" last season, and since that ended I've gone back and watched S1 and (so far) about half of S2. I agree that S3 was less horrific than S1 or what I've seen so far of S2, but I enjoyed it a lot all the same — probably my second-favorite show of last season, behind only Fargo.

My main takeaway from S1 and S3 is that out of an all-around very good cast, Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy are especially good, and a hundred times more so when they have scenes together. Seriously, just put those two on screen together for an hour, and I would watch that over and over.

monsters aren't as scary if they're also your protagonists. They are even less scary if you clearly like them better than you like their victims.

Less scary, yes. Not necessarily less entertaining.

Lange's anachronistic, German-accented "Life on Mars" has got to be one of the weirdest things ever in this wonderfully weird show.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:50 AM on October 12, 2014

I really like American Horror Story. I think of it as beautiful trash, like a Victor Hugo or Wilkie Collins novel. Most lauded television shows like Breaking Bad are also really trashy, but neither the critics nor the shows themselves ever seem to want to admit it. American Horror Story is unrepentant. I cannot wait to see how much audaciousness they pile into this season. The first episode is off to a good start.

It definitely wasn't the incredibly strong ending of Asylum.

Is that the consensus about the end of Asylum? I thought it was pretty poor, but that's the case with all the seasons. Each season piles so many crazy plots upon one another --- any one of which could be the basis of a show --- that there's no way they can all be resolved. But this is also what makes the show unique and what makes the beginning of each season so glorious. The first five or six episodes of Asylum are a perfect little movie in themselves. When seems like there's no way to stuff more insanity into one building, they introduce Anne Frank. I love it. And I especially love it when the characters in one subplot get a glimpse of stuff happening in another subplot, so you get a serial killer being all: "WTF, is that a demon? Eh, whatever. Back to making furniture out of skin."

There really is no way to reconcile all these plots, so the seasons always sputter out. Coven was the most frustrating because it always felt like it was building up to something instead of just luxuriating in its own craziness. (Also: we never saw that winged skeleton in the intro! Sacrilege. The season never lived up to that intro. It also was too consistent in its worldbuilding; I missed the crazy inconsistencies of genre in Asylum.) I think this show really suffers from the fact that American TV is not plotted out in advance. Constant deadlines often force writers to find brilliance, but the worst elements of nearly every good TV show is the result of writers writing themselves into a corner. Only the first season seemed to have a conclusion in mind.

On the other hand, it doesn't really matter. Horror has never been good at endings. Stephen King has never written a good ending, but that doesn't ruin the beginnings and middles.

Anyway. My predictions for the new season: the scary killer clown is Kathy Bates's bearded lady; Frances Conroy's character will open a competing freak show and the cast of freaks will suddenly double partway through the season; one Sarah Paulson character will kill the other.
posted by painquale at 2:26 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I watched the first half of this episode on a bus commute, knowing that at some point it would become too embarrassing to watch in public and I'd have to put it away. The lobster boy gigolo scene did it for me.
posted by painquale at 2:32 PM on October 13, 2014

Also: I really enjoyed Price Peterson's photo recaps of Coven at, and he's back at it for Freak Show.
posted by painquale at 2:51 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

FanFare: The lobster boy gigolo scene did it for me.
posted by homunculus at 3:46 PM on October 13, 2014

Heh! I loved this part of the recap:
... How do you think Elsa lost her legs? (Do not say orca.)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:32 PM on October 13, 2014

"They're my headliners."
Okay, I'll be back for episode two.

Lange's anachronistic, German-accented "Life on Mars" has got to be one of the weirdest things ever in this wonderfully weird show.

I kept getting a Lili Von Schtupp vibe from her which was a little distracting, but I've been meaning to catch the show since it started so I'm game.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:28 PM on October 14, 2014

Full version of "Life on Mars?"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:48 PM on October 14, 2014

Man, fuuuuuuuck that clown.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:11 AM on October 15, 2014

I'm wondering if Elsa is heading towards a Norma Desmond-like delusional break from reality based on her desire to be a star. I think maybe we see a little bit of that already: while Ethel, in introducing the freak show, seems to be half-heartedly giving a monologue that she's given too many times, probably well aware that the show is failing, Elsa doesn't seem to notice until well into her "Life on Mars?" performance that the "full house" consists of two audience members.

Plus there's that brief but intriguing glimpse of Lange in some sort of clown makeup and costume (more of a elegant European-type clown, not a creepy American-type clown), at about 1:23 in homonculus's link above, watching film of something. We don't know the significance of this (possibly a flash forward?) and aren't shown what she's watching, but I'm reminded of Norma Desmond watching her own movies from her glory days by that bit.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:28 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I liked it, it was weird and creepy and made me want to take a shower afterwards in a Cronenberg sort of way.

But that clown...may be a dealbreaker. Because nope. Although I do like it when TV makes me uncomfortable, I don't like it when TV does THAT. I could probably have dealt with the murdering, but the kidnapping is going beyond creepy. Especially when the poor little boy says "I think he killed my parents"...just...ew.

But I'll watch Episode 2.
posted by biscotti at 1:32 PM on October 15, 2014

For some reason I can't read the Hollywood Reporter at all on my ipad, but apparently Clowns of America is unhappy with the AHS clown.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:21 PM on October 15, 2014

Not normal clown behavior, says Glenn Kohlberger, president of Clowns of America International. He spoke to the Hollywood Reporter about the mixup: "Hollywood makes money sensationalizing the norm. They can take any situation no matter how good or pure and turn it into a nightmare."

Maybe I've been wrong to think that clowns aren't funny, because that po-faced seriousness is hilarious.
posted by painquale at 4:23 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think this show really suffers from the fact that American TV is not plotted out in advance.

See, that's one of my favorite things about this series. The creators routinely introduce new elements only to get bored with them an episode or two later. Huge arcs are introduced and then dropped just as quickly. The ghost of a dead teenager confronts Tate and reminds him that he asked her if she believes in God, and she said yes, and he shot her; we see the shooting at the beginning of the next episode and that does not happen. A murdering child is introduced in Asylum and then the last we see of her, she's hanging out under a bridge murdering people and then the show forgets about her. That whole Anne Frank thing somehow manages to happen and then has no permanent repercussions. Precious fucks a minotaur - and by the way, Precious fucks a fucking minotaur - and in the episode it happens, she's enjoying it, but then in the next episode it's retconned to having been traumatic. Misty Day gets stuffed into a coffin for a couple episodes because the showrunners realize they've painted themselves into a corner as far as stakes go and none of the principals can actually die as long as she's around. Then she dies and goes to hell because why not.

I don't know, I have a hard time not seeing AHS as pretty much outsider art and that's one of the things I love best about it. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in this season as Murphy's attention span does its thing.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:19 AM on October 16, 2014

It's so weird to call it outsider art, given its popularity and pedigree and mainstream appeal and the actors that it draws, but that seems completely correct.
posted by painquale at 7:41 PM on October 16, 2014

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