American Horror Story: Freak Show

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American Horror Story:
Freak Show
AHS season 4 dvd.jpg
DVD cover
Starring
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 13
Release
Original network FX
Original release October 8, 2014 (2014-10-08) – January 21, 2015 (2015-01-21)
Season chronology
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List of American Horror Story episodes

American Horror Story: Freak Show is the fourth season of the FX horror anthology television series American Horror Story. It premiered on October 8, 2014 and concluded on January 21, 2015. The season is mainly set in 1952 Jupiter, Florida, telling the story of one of the last remaining freak shows in the United States, and their struggle for survival.

This is the first season of the series that is not strictly anthological, with Lily Rabe, Naomi Grossman, and James Cromwell (as a younger Dr. Arthur Arden) reprising their roles from the series' second cycle, Asylum. Other returning cast members from the previous season of the series include: Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Jamie Brewer, Frances Conroy, Grace Gummer, Danny Huston, Jessica Lange, Denis O'Hare, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sidibe, and Mare Winningham. Ben Woolf also makes a return to the series.

Like its predecessors, Freak Show was met with mostly positive reviews, and consistently strong ratings, with the premiere episode attracting a then series high of 6.13 million viewers. It ultimately became FX's most-watched program ever, surpassing its previous installment, Coven.[1] The season garnered a total of twenty Emmy Award nominations, the most for any season of American Horror Story to date, including nominations for Outstanding Limited Series, and six acting nominations for Lange, O'Hare, Finn Wittrock, Paulson, Bassett, and Bates. In addition, Paulson won for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Limited Series at the 5th Critics' Choice Television Awards.

Plot[edit]

The fourth season is set in Jupiter, Florida in 1952 and follows the lives of a troupe of people belonging to one of the last remaining freak shows of its time. Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) is the owner of Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities; and her performers the bearded lady Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates), her lobster-handed son Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), the strongman Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis), and his three-breasted hermaphrodite wife Desiree Dupree (Angela Basset), as well as the newly recruited conjoined twin sisters Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson).

After their mother is found stabbed to death, Bette and Dot are discovered stabbed themselves at their farmhouse. The news makes headlines, and soon Elsa discovers the twins' existence. Believing the sisters to be her troupe's saviors, she brings them back to camp. They meet their fellow freaks Paul the Illustrated Seal (Mat Fraser) who has seal-like flippers for hands, Amazon Eve (Erika Ervin) who is the largest and strongest woman of the show, and finally the tiny performer from India, Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) who is the smallest woman in the world. Bette sees the show as their haven but Dot believes that they are being exploited for their appearance. Meanwhile, serial killer Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch) is responsible for recent murders and kidnappings that plagued the town.

A detective arrives at the freak show to arrest Bette and Dot for the recent string of murders. After calling them all freaks and threatening to drive them out of town, Jimmy kills the detective and the freaks dispose of his body. After a performance, which was bought out by a wealthy widow named Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy) and her emotionally stunted son Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock), Dandy demands to buy the twins, offering Elsa $15,000, but she declines. Enraged by his boring life, Dandy sets out to join the freak show, but Jimmy turns him down. Hoping to cheer her son up, Gloria finds Twisty on the side of the road and brings him home to surprise Dandy. Dandy searches inside his bag and finds a severed head, causing Twisty to knock Dandy out and run away. Dandy follows him back to an abandoned school bus in the middle of the woods, where he discovers the kidnapped children and realizes the two can work together.

New to the troupe are Dell and his wife Desiree, who fled Chicago after Dell murdered a man having sex with Desiree. Elsa allows him to be the show's bodyguard, but he soon becomes more than she can handle after he degrades her and beats up Jimmy for taking the freaks out in public to a diner. Ethel is less than happy about Dell's arrival; it is revealed that he and Ethel were once married, and after trying to kill his own son Jimmy, Ethel made him leave. When she learns that her liver is failing, Ethel makes Dell promise to look after Jimmy when she dies, though he is never to tell him of his true lineage.

Con artists Stanley (Denis O'Hare) and Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) set their eyes on Elsa's troupe, hoping to make some money by selling the freak's corpses to a museum. Posing as a fortune teller, Maggie joins the troupe and soon falls for Jimmy. On Halloween, Ethel tells the urban legend of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley), a man born with a face on the back of his head, who, if summoned on Halloween, will take a freak to hell with him. Elsa performs on Halloween night, unknowingly summoning Mordrake; who goes around camp learning the sad tales of its performers. Coming to Elsa's tent, she reveals her past life in Germany, where she worked as a dominatrix. She reveals that she was a victim of Hans Grüper, also known as Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), who amputated her legs while filming a snuff film. Mordrake is about to choose Elsa to take to hell, but he hears music and realizes Elsa is not the one. Jimmy and Maggie try to rescue the kidnapped children after discovering Twisty's hideout, but Dandy knocks them out and he and Twisty put on a show for the kids. The pair soon escape and Mordrake visits Twisty, asking to learn his tale. He learns that Twisty worked as a clown at a freak show, and after two dwarves convinced him the police were after him for molesting children, Twisty made a failed suicide attempt, that left his jaw blown off. After revealing his misdeeds, Mordrake kills Twisty.

Now that his mentor is dead, Dandy gets more curious about killing and starts by killing his maid Dora (Patti LaBelle), soon followed by a prostitute named Andy (Matt Bomer). Dora's daughter Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe) later visits Mott Manor looking for her mother. Gloria asks Dandy to see a therapist but he refuses to go anymore after the first visit. Gloria attempts to end the madness, but Dandy steals her gun, shoots her in the head and bathes in her blood. Stanley pressures Maggie to murder Jimmy and Ma Petite, but when she cannot go through with either one, he turns to Dell. After he blackmails him with the knowledge of his homosexual tendencies, Dell kills Ma Petite.

Overhearing Elsa's plans to help get rid of the twins with Stanley, Ethel confronts Elsa, accusing her of killing anyone who steals her spotlight. Ethel shoots Elsa in her wooden leg, finding out her secret. However, Elsa throws a dagger through Ethel's eye, killing her. After she and Stanley make her death look like a suicide, Jimmy sinks into a drunken despair over his mother's death. Dandy visits the Tupperware party women and kills them all, framing Jimmy for the crime. Elsa prepares for her move to Hollywood after Stanley promises her a career in television, but when Dell tells her of Stanley convincing Jimmy to sell his hands to afford bail, she realizes he is not to be trusted. Traveling salesman and magician Chester Creb (Neil Patrick Harris) visits the freak show, falling in love with the twins. Elsa sells the show to Chester to go with Stanley to Hollywood.

Dell tries to commit suicide by hanging himself but is saved by Desiree. When he admits to murdering Ma Petite to Desiree, Elsa shoots Dell in the head and kills him. During a feast to welcome the new owner, the freaks reveal they know of Stanley's true intentions, after Maggie confesses to Desiree. Desiree kills the curator of the museum and gives her head to Stanley. Stanley is chased around camp by the freaks, who later turn him into their own version of Meep. The next day, the troupe is rehearsing under Chester but Bette and Dot refuse to be his assistants and leave. Maggie volunteers, however, Chester hallucinates and sees Maggie as his wives who criticize him; he saws Maggie in half, killing her. He then chases Marjorie into his caravan and kills her also, believing Marjorie caused the hallucination. Chester leaves the freak show and turns himself in to the police. After careful consideration, the troupe believes Stanley's word and they plan to kill Elsa the same night. Before they can, Elsa is warned by Bette and Dot that she will be killed next, so Elsa sells the show to Dandy and moves to Hollywood.

The freaks quit and turn on Dandy which causes him to go on a killing spree. Desiree survives by hiding during the rampage while Jimmy is away from the grounds, and Bette and Dot are tied up in his tent. Jimmy comes back to see the corpses of his family in the performing tent, and finds that Desiree is the only survivor. The twins marry Dandy back at his mansion, but is revealed to be an act of vengeance, as Desiree drugs Dandy at dinner. He awakens to find himself chained in Harry Houdini's Chinese torture tank, and drowns while the remaining freaks watch.

In 1960, Elsa is now a household name with her very own TV show and multiple hit songs, yet she is not entirely happy with her life. When asked to perform for Halloween, Elsa refuses and meets with her old flame Massimo Dolcefino (Danny Huston). Massimo refuses to run away with her and tells her that he is dying. That night, the president of WBN tells Elsa that a copy of her snuff film has surfaced and her involvement with a freak show whose members (she is shocked to hear) were all murdered has been discovered, and this will ruin her career and marriage. She agrees to perform on Halloween, summoning Edward Mordrake and his troupe, who kills her. During the telecast, Desiree is married with two children, and a pregnant Bette and Dot are happily married to Jimmy. Instead of taking her to hell, Mordrake banishes Elsa to a reincarnation of her freak show, where all of her deceased freaks now reside and she finally finds happiness with her true family.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main[edit]

Special guest stars[edit]

Recurring[edit]

Guest stars[edit]

Episodes[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original air date Prod.
code
U.S. viewers
(millions)
39 1 "Monsters Among Us" Ryan Murphy Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk October 8, 2014 (2014-10-08) 4ATS01 6.13[5]
Jupiter, Florida. 1952. Conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson), who share the same entire body, are taken to the hospital after a milkman finds them injured in their home, near their dead mother who was brutally murdered. News spread of the twins' existence, leading local carnival freak show owner Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) to visit them in the hospital where she attempts to recruit them to join her troupe. Although skeptical, the twins agree since they have no one else to look after them and they move in with Elsa's troupe of freaks who include Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), a boy with syndactyly, and his mother Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates), a bearded lady. Meanwhile, Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) is a killer clown/serial killer who murders a teenage girl's boyfriend and a young boy's parents, imprisoning the young boy and teen girl in an old bus. Twisty later shows up at the freak show camp grounds, but goes seemingly unnoticed. When a police detective arrives and attempts to arrest Bette and Dot for the murder of their mother, Jimmy slices the man's neck open after he calls them all "freaks". Jimmy leads the troupe in hacking the corpse apart, pronouncing they are no longer going to be pushed around and made to feel different from everybody else. After Elsa's group puts on their first show with Bette and Dot as "The Siamese Twins", there are only two attendees, the wealthy but shallow socialite Gloria Mott (Frances Conroy) and her dangerously disturbed son Dandy (Finn Wittrock), who purchased all the seats for that night's performance. Dandy bargains with Elsa to buy Bette and Dot for $15,000, but the twins refuse. Elsa later tells Ethel that she brought the twins aboard to get more attention for the show and to boost her own fame. As Elsa prepares for bed, it's revealed that she is an amputee, legless below the knees.
40 2 "Massacres and Matinees" Alfonso Gomez-Rejon Tim Minear October 15, 2014 (2014-10-15) 4ATS02 4.53[6]
The police arrive at the freak show to investigate the detective's disappearance, and to inform Elsa that a curfew is now in place in Jupiter following the string of murders around the county. Meanwhile, the carnival strong man Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis), Jimmy's father, and his three-breasted hermaphrodite wife Desiree (Angela Bassett) arrive to ask Elsa for a job. Elsa, initially reluctant, makes Dell head of security, but soon realizes what a mistake it was after Dell schedules a matinee against Elsa's orders, attacks Jimmy much to Ethel's dismay, and frames another performer, Meep, for the murder of the detective after Jimmy had tried to frame Dell. Meep is arrested by the police and eventually murdered by inmates in jail. His body is then returned to the freak show site where the fellow freaks gather round and mourn. Elsewhere, Dandy asks Jimmy if he can join the freak show, as he dreams of being on stage, but after Dandy accidentally insults Jimmy, he is rebuffed and sent away. After falling into a fit of rage, Dandy returns home to find that his mother, Gloria, has hired Twisty the Clown to cheer him up. However, Twisty storms off after Dandy tries to look inside his clown bag. Dandy follows Twisty back to his trailer where the two children Twisty is holding hostage attempt an escape but are recaptured by Twisty and Dandy.
41 3 "Edward Mordrake (Part 1)" Michael Uppendahl James Wong October 22, 2014 (2014-10-22) 4ATS03 4.44[7]
On Halloween, the freak show gains a new member, a young clairvoyant fortune-teller named Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) who tells Elsa that her fame is yet to come and she will be meeting a "tall dark stranger" soon. Maggie is a con artist working with a man called Stanley (Denis O'Hare), who is determined to find and dissect a freak to sell to the Museum of Morbid Curiosities. Meanwhile, Ethel learns that she has cirrhosis of the liver and has only six months to one year left to live. Falling into a pit of despair, she turns to alcohol and tells Dell to keep an eye on Jimmy. Elsewhere, the deranged Dandy becomes even more obsessed with Twisty and even goes trick or treating dressed in a homemade Twisty costume. After attempting to kill his maid Dora (Patti LaBelle) and backing off after she calls him out, he visits Twisty's trailer and torments the children being held captive there. Twisty stalks a family with a daughter scared of clowns, and kidnaps her teenage brother (Dalton E. Gray). Meanwhile, the freak show troupe refuses to perform on Halloween due to the superstition surrounding an English freak from the 1800s named Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) who murdered his travelling troupe and killed himself because the face on the back of his head told him to. The majority of the troupe is convinced that Mordrake will arrive as a ghost should any carny perform on Halloween night. Elsa, refusing to believe this, practices on stage, and Mordrake appears, looking to take a soul from the purest freak to join his spiritual troupe in Hell.
42 4 "Edward Mordrake (Part 2)" Howard Deutch Jennifer Salt October 29, 2014 (2014-10-29) 4ATS04 4.51[8]
As Mordrake continues his search for a new freak to join his spirit troupe, he learns the past of Ethel, Legless Suzi, Paul the Illustrated Seal, and Elsa. After revisiting her story, Elsa begs Mordrake to take her with him; as he is about to comply, he is distracted by some distant music and passes on her. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Maggie venture into the woods to avoid being arrested for violating curfew, but stumble across Twisty's trailer. After freeing the children and phoning the police, Maggie hides in the woods as Twisty gets ready to murder Jimmy. After following the music, Mordrake finds Twisty in the woods about to kill Jimmy, and the killer clown reveals his backstory. Twisty was bullied by the carnies of the freak show he worked for previously out of jealousy for his popularity among the children, and was forced to flee after being tricked into thinking the police wanted to arrest him for child molestation. Falling into a pit of despair and rejected by the townsfolk, who labeled him a pervert and molester, Twisty fails to kill himself, only to obtain gruesome facial disfigurement from the botched attempt, and becomes obsessed with making children happy. After several failed attempts, he becomes deranged and kidnaps children for an audience. Mordrake, seeing the pain and grief Twisty has suffered, kills Twisty and adopts him into his spiritual troupe. A distraught Dandy picks up Twisty's mask and returns home, where he murders Dora, continuing Twisty's murderous path. As the town learns that Twisty is dead, the curfew is lifted; and, as a mark of respect, many residents of the town visit the freak show to thank Jimmy, and a newfound respect is given to the freaks as they mingle and get along with the townsfolk. Elsa announces her grand premiere to the town and tickets sell out. Stanley arrives at the freakshow where he poses as a Hollywood agent and asks for a ticket.
43 5 "Pink Cupcakes" Michael Uppendahl Jessica Sharzer November 5, 2014 (2014-11-05) 4ATS05 4.22[9]
Stanley tries to kill Bette and Dot by making them eat poisoned pink cupcakes, however the attempt fails. Next, Stanley begins to move in on Elsa by making deals with her about her possibly appearing on television and having her own show. Elsa is reluctant until she is laughed and booed off stage midway through her performance. Maggie tries to send Jimmy away, fearing for what Stanley will do to him. Dell is nowhere to be found and Jimmy is sent to look for him in his trailer. Jimmy only finds a drunk Desiree, and after the two bond, Jimmy begins to pleasure Desiree with his hands. However, she screams and begins bleeding from her vagina. Ethel takes her to the hospital where she is informed that she has had a miscarriage. The doctor also reveals that Desiree is in fact 100% female, and he can perform a surgery to make her a normal woman. Meanwhile, Dandy visits a gay bar on the hunt for his next victim. Dell visits the same bar and meets with his regular lover, Andy (Matt Bomer), the two have a fight and Dell leaves. Dandy finds Andy and the two go to Twisty's bus, where Dandy kills him. Gloria receives a call from Dora's daughter, Regina Ross (Gabourey Sidibe), who asks to speak with her mother. Determined to protect her murderous and psychotic son, Gloria lies and tells her that she will not be able to contact her mother for a while. Desiree informs Dell that she can have children and that she is a real woman, and tells him she knows he is Jimmy's father. She leaves him and moves in with Ethel. After learning of Desiree's possible surgery, Dell visits the doctor at his office and breaks his fingers so he can no longer perform any surgery. Elsa sees Stanley taking the twins on a picnic, which makes her jealous and angry. Later, she lies to the twins saying she is taking them to a fitting, but actually drives them straight to Gloria and Dandy's mansion.
44 6 "Bullseye" Howard Deutch John J. Gray November 12, 2014 (2014-11-12) 4ATS06 3.65[10]
Elsa brings an old spinning wheel out of storage and begins practicing throwing daggers at it in preparation for her upcoming TV show. After sleeping with Paul, Elsa soon becomes jealous of him having an affair with Penny (Grace Gummer), a local girl from town, behind her back. The night of her birthday party, she learns of her performers' suspicions that she had something to do with Bette and Dot's disappearance. Elsa reminds them all that none of them would be here without her, and they should be grateful for her saving them. To prove their loyalty, Elsa demands that one of them be strapped to the wheel and let Elsa do her routine. Paul reluctantly volunteers and after two missed hits, Elsa purposefully hits him in the gut; also refusing to call for a doctor. At Mott Manor, Dandy declares his love for the twins, telling Gloria that he intends on marrying them. Mistrustful of Dandy, Dot soon learns of a pair of conjoined twins that have been separated for the first time. She realizes that Dandy could easily pay for the surgery. Stanley pressures Maggie into leading Jimmy to a barn and killing him. Reluctant to do so, she suggests an easier freak; Ma Petite. After taking Ma Petite out to the barn and putting her in a tank to be killed, Maggie realizes she can't go through with it. She begs Jimmy to leave town with her immediately, but Stanley confronts her angrily, telling her they need the hands of Jimmy no matter what. Dandy asks Bette and Dot to share their secrets with him, telling them that he saved the children Twisty kidnapped. Dot declines to tell him a secret, calling Dandy out on his lies. Dandy later reads Dot's diary and realizes he can never truly feel love. He admits to Gloria that his only true purpose on Earth is to bring death. The doorbell rings and Gloria follows Dandy to the door, finding Jimmy. Dandy welcomes him in and says he must be here for the twins.
45 7 "Test of Strength" Anthony Hemingway Crystal Liu November 19, 2014 (2014-11-19) 4ATS07 3.91[11]
Jimmy goes to the Mott's mansion to retrieve Dot and Bette, but a comment made by Dandy makes Jimmy realize that Dandy was the second masked clown who captured the children, and was the one who was going to saw Maggie in half. The twins leave Dandy after Dot learns that he read her diary, and Dandy becomes furious. Upon returning to the freak show, Jimmy confronts Elsa for selling the twins, but the twins tell Jimmy he misunderstood and lie for Elsa, hoping to blackmail her for 50% of the box office returns in the process. Penny, after caring for Paul, returns home to tell her father that she is moving out, but he knocks her out and has his "artist friend" tattoo her face and head, and give her a forked tongue, making her the freak she wants to be. Meanwhile, Stanley sees Dell at the gay bar and threatens to out him to the troupe unless he delivers him the body of a freak. While trying to kill Amazon Eve, Dell underestimates her size and strength, and is beaten up by her and thrown out of her caravan. After the women of the freak show mistakenly assume Dell was intending on raping Eve, they rally together and threaten to kill him until Jimmy steps in and takes Dell out for a drink to discuss his violent attitude. Dell tries to bash a drunken Jimmy over the head with a brick to kill him, but can't go through with it. Jimmy tells Dell that he knows Dell is his father and they bond. Upon returning to the showgrounds the next morning, Dell puts a drunk Jimmy to bed. However, later that night, Dell sneaks into Ma Petite's tent and brings her a pretty dress. She tries it on and he hugs her until he crushes her, breaking her spine in the process. He delivers the body to Stanley who sells it to Lillian Hemmings (Celia Weston) from the Museum of Morbid Curiosities, where Ma Petite's body is proudly shown on exhibition.
46 8 "Blood Bath" Bradley Buecker Ryan Murphy December 3, 2014 (2014-12-03) 4ATS08 3.30[12]
Ma Petite's bloody dress is found in the woods, along with some bones of unknown origin, and the troupe assumes that she has been mauled and eaten by a wild animal. However, Ethel has other suspicions and accuses Elsa of killing Ma Petite for stealing her thunder. As the relationship between the two comes to a crashing halt, Ethel shoots Elsa in one of her legs, only for Ethel to be taken aback by the revelation that Elsa has fake legs. A flashback reveals that Elsa was carried from the aftermath of the snuff movie to a doctor (Danny Huston) who crafted the legs for her. While Ethel prepares to shoot Elsa in the head for lying to her and betraying her, Elsa throws a knife into Ethel's head, killing her. With the help of Stanley, Elsa constructs a suicide for Ethel in which Ethel crashes her car into a tree with a chain around her neck, decapitating her. The troupe believes this story and they mourn Ethel while Jimmy falls into a pit of despair and casts Maggie away. In response, he falls into the arms of a new recruit of the troupe, a morbidly obese woman with the stage name Ima Wiggles. After Ethel's burial, and sick of being treated badly, Amazon Eve, Desiree, Penny, and Legless Suzi plan revenge on Penny's father by sneaking into his house, knocking him unconscious and bringing him to Dell's caravan. They tar and feather Penny's father and prepare to mutilate and kill him. Maggie hears his screams and begs them not go through with it. Penny lets her father go and banishes him from her life. Meanwhile, Dora's daughter Regina pays the Mott household a visit to investigate her mother's disappearance and refuses to leave without seeing her. Gloria, under, lies to Regina. Dandy is tricked by Gloria into visiting the therapist and becomes enraged when he realizes what is going on and that his mother thinks he should be institutionalized. Upon returning to the house, Dandy shoots Gloria in the head and bathes in her blood.
47 9 "Tupperware Party Massacre" Loni Peristere Brad Falchuk December 10, 2014 (2014-12-10) 4ATS09 3.07[13]
After killing his mother, a deranged Dandy visits Maggie at the freak show to receive a reading. Maggie assures Dandy that there may be some trouble in his future but he will prevail. More confident than ever, Dandy leaves to continue his grisly work of being a serial killer, but is stopped by an extremely drunk Jimmy. Jimmy accuses Dandy of having something to do with the twins' disappearance and threatens Dandy, knowing he had a part in the clown murders. Dandy calls Jimmy pathetic as he falls to the ground, promising vengeance on Jimmy for taking Bette and Dot away from him. Elsa and Stanley track down the twins and bring them to the farmhouse. Stanley declares that the townspeople have gone on a rampage and that they will be safe there until the doctor comes to perform their surgery. The twins realize that having separate lives is not worth losing one of their own and vow to not get the surgery. With the truth of his sexuality and guilt over Ma Petite's murder becoming too much for Dell, he attempts to hang himself, but is later saved by Desiree. After Jimmy is too drunk to perform at a Tupperware party for the housewives, he sees hallucinations of Ethel, who tells him to get over her death and move on. Once Jimmy leaves, Dandy shows up at the door claiming that his car broke down. He murders the whole group of women, gouging out their eyes and leaving them to float in the pool. Regina confronts Dandy and tells him she has contacted the police about her mother, but is shocked when Dandy openly admits his murderous streak. He lets Regina escape, but she soon returns with Detective Colquitt. Dandy promises the detective one million dollars if he kills Regina; which Colquitt does without a blink, shooting Regina in the head. A drunken Jimmy goes back to his caravan, only to find Dot and Bette waiting for him. Dot declares her love for Jimmy and says they can live happily together, with Bette agreeing, but Jimmy declines their advances, claiming he is in love with someone else. As he exits the caravan, police cars show up to the freak show. The corrupt Detective Colquitt arrests Jimmy for the murders of the Tupperware party women, and drags him away in a police car.
48 10 "Orphans" Bradley Buecker James Wong December 17, 2014 (2014-12-17) 4ATS10 2.99[14]
Pepper's life is shattered when she awakens to find that her husband Salty has died in his sleep. After trying to console Pepper, Desiree learns from Elsa about the origins of the freak show. Elsa reveals that when she first moved to the United States, she worked as a chorus girl in a carnival in Boston, Massachusetts. Noticing the freaks were not treated as they should be, Elsa set out to make a business and a family of her own. Pepper was the first to join Elsa's troupe, after being found in an orphanage. Elsa recalls that soon later she realized Pepper needed something else, thus she recruited Ma Petite to act as Pepper's own child and found Salty who became her husband. Realizing Pepper has no one now after both have died, Desiree suggests returning Pepper to her elder sister. Meanwhile, Stanley convinces Elsa to let him take care of Salty's body after telling her he would have the pinhead cremated, but he chops the head off and sells it to the Museum of Morbid Curiosities. Maggie finally confesses to Desiree that she and Stanley are con artists. Desiree warns her that if she finds out either of them hurt any of the freaks, she will kill her. Dot and Bette attempt to convince Maggie to help Jimmy by getting him a lawyer with the money they saved up for the surgery, but Stanley gets to Jimmy first, suggesting another way to earn the money. Realizing she needs help, Maggie finally confesses to Desiree her and Stanley's true intentions, warning her that all the freaks will soon die if nothing is done. The two visit the museum, where Desiree is shocked to find Ma Petite's body and Salty's severed head on display. The curator reveals their newest display; a pair of hands supposedly belonging to Jimmy. Elsa tracks down Pepper's sister, Rita (Mare Winningham), and convinces her to take Pepper in. Flash forward to nine years later, Rita gives birth to a deformed baby. Pepper's brother-in-law convinces her sister to frame Pepper for the baby's murder, committing her wrongly to Briarcliff Asylum. Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), has Pepper assist her in the library at Briarcliff with sorting magazines. While doing so, Pepper finds a magazine with Elsa on the cover.
49 11 "Magical Thinking" Michael Goi Jennifer Salt January 7, 2015 (2015-01-07) 4ATS11 3.11[15]
Stanley convinces an imprisoned Jimmy that the only way to pay for a lawyer is to sever one of his hands and sell it. He concocts a plan to smuggle Jimmy out of the prison using his Viking prostitute, who poses as an EMT. After Stanley puts him under, Jimmy awakens to find not one, but both of his hands have been removed. Dell visits him in the hospital and realizes Stanley double crossed Jimmy. The two make a plan to buy the Freak Show from Elsa once she leaves for Hollywood. Bette and Dot set out to find someone to deflower them, when they run across traveling salesman, named Chester (Neil Patrick Harris). Chester dreams of performing his magic in front of an audience, along with his Dummy named Marjorie (Jamie Brewer). Chester also reveals that after fighting in Normandy, he had a metal plate implanted in his skull; which causes him to hallucinate Marjorie as being alive. Elsa agrees to let him perform, but only if he balances the books in return. After Chester asks for them to accompany him in his magic act, Bette and Dot seduce Chester and sleep with him. Dell reveals to Elsa what happened to Jimmy and Elsa pleads with him to get Jimmy out of there. As the cops are transporting Jimmy back to prison, Eve throws a brick through the windshield and she and Dell kill both officers, rescuing Jimmy in the process. Meanwhile, Dandy hires a private investigator to follow the twins and soon learns of their transgression with Chester. He confronts Chester after Marjorie goes missing, revealing that he knows what Chester did in his past. A flashback reveals that Chester's wife, Lucy, had an affair with a woman named Alice (Angela Sarafyan), and in a jealous rage he murdered the two, believing that Marjorie committed the murders. Dandy tells Chester where Marjorie is and once finding her, she tells Chester that he needs to kill the twins. Maggie tells Elsa about Ma Petite's true fate. Desiree pulls a gun on Dell in his caravan, demanding to know whom he has killed. Once Dell confesses his crime of smothering Ma Petite, Elsa shoots him in the head.
50 12 "Show Stoppers" Loni Peristere Jessica Sharzer January 14, 2015 (2015-01-14) 4ATS12 2.94[16]
The freaks hold a feast to welcome Chester as the new owner of the freak show, but after Elsa asks him to leave her and the troupe alone, she reveals their true intentions. Maggie reveals to Stanley that she told them everything he had done, outing him as a con artist and a murderer. They also reveal the severed head of the Museum of Morbid Curiosities curator, Lillian Hemmings, whom Desiree murdered in vengeance. Stanley pleads with them to let him live and claims Elsa is not to be trusted, that she was the one who murdered Ethel. The freaks ignore him, proceeding to chase Stanley around the camp with weapons. Meanwhile, Dandy visits the twins and warns them of Chester's dark past, but they demand that he leaves after claiming they do not trust him. Elsa introduces Jimmy to an old friend of hers, Massimo Dolcefino, who intends on making him a pair of prosthetics just as he did with Elsa. In a flashback, Massimo tells of how he went after and slaughtered the men who took Elsa's legs. All except the leader that is, Dr. Hans Grüper, who shot Massimo and tortured him until he was later released by a general. As Chester goes over the new routines, the twins admit they no longer want to be his assistants after he requests to saw them in two as part of the performance. Maggie volunteers to do the trick and Chester places her into the box. Seeing the faces of his deceased wife and her lover, Chester saws Maggie in half without realizing and to the dismay of the freaks, her organs spill out from both halves. Chester "murders" Marjorie in a rage, blaming her for making him commit all those atrocities. Dot and Bette warn Elsa that she needs to leave immediately, as her freaks intend on killing her to avenge Ethel's murder. Desiree declares justice for Ethel, but as she and the others rampage into Elsa's tent they find she is already gone. A bloody and distraught Chester walks into a police station and admits to a murder, revealing Marjorie to the confused officers. Elsa meets Dandy before she leaves town and receives $10,000 in exchange for the freak show. Reveling on his new stage, Dandy discovers an extremely mutilated Stanley, who now resembles Meep. In the final scene, Massimo delivers Jimmy his prosthetics, revealing wooden replicas of Jimmy's lobster claws.
51 13 "Curtain Call" Bradley Buecker John J. Gray January 21, 2015 (2015-01-21) 4ATS13 3.27[17]
After purchasing the freak show from Elsa, Dandy blames the freaks for the lack of tickets sold. Having enough of their new owner, the remaining freaks announce that they quit. In another psychotic rage, Dandy walks the camp grounds with his pistol and begins to massacre the freaks one by one; killing all of the remaining freaks. Desiree is the sole survivor of the carnage, avoiding Dandy by hiding underneath her bed as Eve sacrifices herself to save Desiree. A newly healed Jimmy returns to the freak show to find his entire family displayed under the big top, dead. Desiree reveals herself and the two embrace. Bette and Dot, following a kidnapping by Dandy, agree to his hand in marriage and the sisters announce they have brought in a new maid to make Dandy a glorious feast. At dinner, Dandy begins to feel lightheaded and it is revealed that Desiree, having posed as the maid, has drugged Dandy with the help of the twins and Jimmy. Confused and betrayed, Dandy learns of the freaks plan to seek vengeance on him just before he passes out. Dandy awakens to find himself locked in Hardeen Houdini's Chinese water torture cell. Desiree, Jimmy, Bette, and Dot watch on in pleasure as he slowly drowns in the tank. Meanwhile, Elsa arrives in Hollywood to fulfill her dreams of stardom. She requests to meet with the president of WBN, but is turned down by the secretary who makes her wait all day. Elsa instead meets Michael Beck (David Burtka), the Junior vice-president of casting. In a flash forward to 1960, a now-famous Elsa receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now married to her manager, Michael, and having immense fame, Elsa is still unhappy and meets with her old flame Massimo Dolcefino. Elsa asks him to run away with her to Rome, but Massimo reveals that he is dying of lung cancer. She is later confronted by her husband and the president of WBN, telling her that a copy of her snuff film has surfaced. Realizing that she will never find true love and that her career is nearly over, Elsa agrees to perform on a Halloween special, knowing this will summon Edward Mordrake. With Elsa singing on the live telecast, Mordrake and his coterie appear. As Elsa performs, Desiree, now with a family of her own, is shown watching the broadcast, along with a pregnant Bette and Dot who are happily married to Jimmy. Mordrake stabs Elsa and takes her into the afterlife, but banishes her to the freak show grounds, saying she does not belong in his troupe. Walking into the big tent in the afterlife, Elsa is greeted by Ma Petite and all her other deceased freaks, including Ethel who welcomes her back. She takes the stage along with her freak show family, as she closes the series singing "Life on Mars?" in front of a large and sold-out audience, finally finding true happiness and absolute fame.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

"It feels like a Douglas Sirk movie; it's very 1952 presentational and then the horror is an unexpected jab. As opposed to last year, which was crazy camera work and comedy. This year feels different."

–Series co-creator Ryan Murphy on the fourth season[18]

In November, 2013, FX announced that the show had been renewed for a fourth season.[19] Series co-creator Ryan Murphy hinted that clues about the fourth season would be hidden in the final episodes of the third season. In March, 2014, the season was revealed to be set at a carnival, according to co-executive producer/writer Douglas Petrie. It was also revealed that Lange will be playing a role similar to Marlene Dietrich.[20] Murphy revealed that the season will take place in 1950, adding: "If you look historically what happened in the year 1950, there's some more clues in that year. It's a period piece. We try and do the opposite of what we've done before. Jessica Lange has already started practicing her German accent so I'm very excited!"[21] Murphy indicated that this season draws inspiration from Tod Browning's Freaks and Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls. This season features the largest set ever constructed for American Horror Story, with Murphy stating: "We had to build an entire city. We built an entire huge compound and then we had to build the interior of all those buildings on set. It's all period. And it's all based on [production designer] Mark Worthington's immaculate research."[22]

Casting[edit]

Ryan Murphy confirmed that Jessica Lange would be returning for a fourth season,[23] although said to be in a reduced capacity.[24] She portrayed Elsa Mars, the owner of the freak show. In November 2013, Murphy said he approached Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett to return.[25] Bassett later confirmed in an interview with Access Hollywood that she would be indeed coming back.[26] They portrayed Desiree Dupree and Ethel Darling, respectively. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sarah Paulson revealed she would be returning, possibly for a main role,[27] which was later revealed to be the conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler. It was announced at the PaleyFest 2014 that the cast members present at the panel would all be returning for the fourth season in some capacity, including Denis O'Hare (Stanley), Emma Roberts (Maggie Esmerelda), Frances Conroy (Gloria Mott), Evan Peters (Jimmy Darling), and Gabourey Sidibe (Regina Ross).[28] Jamie Brewer was also added to the present roster, although Murphy later indicated Brewer may not appear during the season.[29] She was later confirmed to portray the ventriloquist dummy Marjorie after appearing in a promo for the final episodes.[30] Additionally, Michael Chiklis was announced to play the father of Peters' character and ex-husband of Bates' character, the strongman Dell Toledo. Finn Wittrock was the last lead actor joining the cast.[31] He portrayed the psychopathic Dandy Mott.

In July 2014, TVLine reported that Wes Bentley would appear in the season' two-part Halloween episode as Edward Mordrake.[32] At the Comic-Con 2014, it was announced that John Carroll Lynch would portray one of the central antagonist during the season, Twisty the Clown.[33] In August 2014, Patti LaBelle joined the cast for a four-episode story arc as the mother of Sidibe's character, named Dora, the Motts' housekeeper.[34] Also in August 2014, it was revealed that Matt Bomer would be guest-starring in one episode as Andy, Dell's secret lover.[35] Murphy took to his Twitter account to announce that the world's smallest woman Jyoti Amge has joined the cast as Ma Petite.[36] Murphy had written a role specifically for Coven alum Leslie Jordan, but he was unable to appear on the show due to scheduling conflicts.[37]

In September 2014, it was reported that Asylum alum Naomi Grossman would return to portray Pepper, which marks the first time a character appears in multiple seasons of the series.[38] Lily Rabe also reprised her Asylum character Sister Mary Eunice McKee in the tenth episode, "Orphans".[39] Mare Winningham made an appearance in the same episode, as Pepper's sister Rita. Neil Patrick Harris guest starred in two episodes as Chester, who takes over the freak show when Elsa leaves for Hollywood. Harris' husband, David Burtka, appeared in the season finale as Elsa's husband.[40]

Filming[edit]

"There's something going on there that is so non-American but totally American, so sexy and dark but there's hope everywhere."

–Co-creator Brad Falchuk on shooting in New Orleans, Louisiana[41]

At Paley Center for Media's 2014 PaleyFest event, Ryan Murphy announced that the season's filming would take place again in New Orleans, Louisiana, although the show's setting is in Jupiter, Florida.[42] The premiere episode was directed by co-creator Murphy, his first effort since the pilot.[43] Principal photography for the season began on July 15, 2014.[44] Production on the season concluded on December 19, 2014.[45]

Marketing[edit]

A video released in July 2014, entitled "Fallen Angel", was reported by many news sources to be an official Freak Show trailer. The video – which featured the American Horror Story title card – was later taken down after FX confirmed it was fan-made. Before the debut of the fan-made video, FX had not released any official trailers concerning the upcoming season.[46] The first official teaser was released on August 20, 2014, entitled "Admit One".[47]

As with previous seasons, FX released a series of teaser trailers on the show's YouTube page. FX also used the marketing hashtag #WirSindAlleFreaks in the German language, and its English translation #WeAreAllFreaks.[18][48]

Reception[edit]

Reviews[edit]

American Horror Story: Freak Show received a Metacritic score of 69 out of 100 based on 19 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[49] The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an 79% approval rating with an average rating of 7.7/10 based on 38 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Though it may turn off new viewers unaccustomed to its unabashed weirdness, Freak Show still brings the thrills, thanks to its reliably stylish presentation and game cast."[50]

Awards and nominations[edit]

In its fourth season, the series was nominated for 76 awards, 21 of which were won.

Year Association Category Nominee(s) Result
2015 46th NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a TV Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Angela Bassett Nominated
Outstanding TV Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special American Horror Story: Freak Show Nominated
72nd Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Mini-Series or TV Film Jessica Lange Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Mini-Series or TV Film Kathy Bates Nominated
19th Satellite Awards Best TV Series – Genre American Horror Story: Freak Show Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or TV Film Sarah Paulson Won
41st People's Choice Awards Favorite Cable Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show American Horror Story: Freak Show Nominated
Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress Jessica Lange Nominated
26th PGA Awards Outstanding Producer of Long-Form TV Brad Buecker, Dante Di Loreto, Brad Falchuk, Joseph Incaprera, Alexis Martin Woodall, Tim Minear, Ryan Murphy, Jennifer Salt, James Wong (also for Coven) Nominated
19th ADG Awards TV Movie or Mini-Series Mark Worthington (for "Massacres and Matinees") Won
17th CDG Awards[51] Outstanding Made for TV Movie or Mini-Series Lou Eyrich Won
Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Awards 2015[52] Mini-Series or TV Movie Period and/or Character Make-up Eryn Krueger Mekash, Kim Ayers Won
Mini-Series or TV Movie Period Special Make-up Effects Eryn Krueger Mekash, Michael Mekash, Christopher Nelson (petition) Won
Mini-Series or TV Movie Period and/or Character Hair Styling Monte C. Haught, Michelle Ceglia Won
13th VES Awards Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program Jason Piccioni, Jason Spratt, Mike Kirylo, Justin Bal, Eric Roberts (for "Edward Mordrake: Part 2") Won
Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program Tommy Tran, JV Pike, Rob Lutz, Matt Lefferts (for "Edward Mordrake: Part 2") Nominated
62nd MPSE Golden Reel Awards[53] TV Short Form Music Score Episode: "Monsters Among Us" Nominated
51st CAS Awards[54] Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing – TV Movie or Mini-Series Bruce Litecky, CAS (Production Mixer)
Joe Earle, CAS (Re-recording Mixer)
Doug Andham, CAS (Re-recording Mixer)
Evan Daum (ADR Mixer)
Kyle Billingsley (Foley Mixer)
(for "Monsters Among Us")
Nominated
6th Dorian Awards[55] TV Musical Performance of the Year Jessica Lange (for "Life on Mars?") Nominated
Campy TV Show of the Year American Horror Story: Freak Show Nominated
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards 2015[56] Best TV Series Nominated
Best TV Actress Sarah Paulson Won
Best TV Supporting Actor Finn Wittrock 2nd place
41st Saturn Awards Best Actress on TV Jessica Lange Nominated
Best Guest Starring Role on TV Neil Patrick Harris Nominated
Best Syndicated/Cable TV Series American Horror Story: Freak Show Nominated
Glamour Awards 2014[57] International TV Actress Jessica Lange Nominated
36th Young Artist Awards[58] Best Performance in a TV Series - Guest Starring Young Actor 15-21 Dalton E. Gray Nominated
SXSW Film Design Awards 2015[59] Excellence in Title Design American Horror Story: Freak Show Nominated
5th Critics' Choice TV Awards Most Bingeworthy Show Nominated
Best Actress in a Movie or Limited Series Jessica Lange Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Limited Series Finn Wittrock Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie or Limited Series Sarah Paulson Won
BMI Film & TV Awards 2015[60] BMI Cable TV Music Awards Mac Quayle Won
Charlie Clouser Won
César Dávila-Irizarry Won
67th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Limited Series American Horror Story: Freak Show Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Jessica Lange Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Denis O'Hare Nominated
Finn Wittrock Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Sarah Paulson Nominated
Angela Bassett Nominated
Kathy Bates Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special Ryan Murphy (for "Monsters Among Us") Nominated
67th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie Monte C. Haught, Michelle Ceglia, Daina Daigle, Amy Wood, Sherri B. Hamilton Won
Outstanding Main Title Design Ryan Murphy, Kyle Cooper, Lee Nelson, Nadia Tzuo Nominated
Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role Jason Piccioni, Justin Ball, Jason Spratt, Tim Jacobsen, David Altenau, Tommy Tran, Mike Kirylo, Matt Lefferts, Donnie Dean (for "Edward Mordrake: Part 2") Won
Outstanding Costumes for a Period/Fantasy Series, Limited Series or Movie Lou Eyrich, Elizabeth Macey, Ken van Duyne (for "Monsters Among Us") Won
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie Bruce Litecky, Joe Earle, Doug Andham, Evan Daum (for "Magical Thinking") Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie Michael Goi (for "Monsters Among Us") Nominated
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie or Special Gary Megregian, Timothy A. Cleveland, Paul Diller, Steve M. Stuhr, Lance Wiseman, Jason Krane, John Green, David Klotz, Noel Vought (for "Curtain Call") Nominated
Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie or Special Robert J. Ulrich, Eric Dawson, Meagan Lewis Nominated
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special Eryn Krueger Mekash, Michael Mekash, David L. Anderson, Justin Raleigh, Christopher Nelson, Kim Ayers, Luis Garcia, James MacKinnon Won
Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (Original Dramatic Score) Mac Quayle (for "Orphans") Nominated
Outstanding Make-up for a Limited Series or Movie (Non-prosthetic) Eryn Krueger Mekash, Kim Ayers, Lucy O'Reilly, Michael Mekash, Christopher Nelson, Jillian Erickson Won
Outstanding Short-Format Nonfiction Program "American Horror Story: Extra-Ordinary Artists" Nominated
19th Online Film & TV Association Awards[61] Best Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Jessica Lange Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Michael Chiklis Nominated
Denis O'Hare Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Angela Bassett Nominated
Kathy Bates Won
Frances Conroy Nominated
Sarah Paulson Nominated
Best Miniseries American Horror Story: Freak Show Nominated
Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Direction of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Writing of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Music in a Non-Series Nominated
Best Editing in a Non-Series Nominated
Best Cinematography in a Non-Series Nominated
Best Costume Design in a Non-Series Won
Best Makeup/Hairstyling in a Non-Series Won
Best Sound in a Non-Series Nominated
Best Visual Effects in a Non-Series Won
Best New Titles Sequence Nominated
31th Artios Awards[62] TV Movie or Mini-Series Robert J. Ulrich, Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer, Meagan Lewis (Location Casting), Becky Silverman (Associate) Nominated

Soundtrack[edit]

Every cover song used in the season was made available for digital download on services such as iTunes and Amazon.com after the episode in which it appeared aired, except the cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" performed by Jessica Lange at the climax of the season finale "Curtain Call".

Year Song Performer Episode(s) Notes
2014 "Life on Mars?" Jessica Lange "Monsters Among Us"
"Pink Cupcakes"
"Curtain Call"
"Criminal" Sarah Paulson "Massacres and Matinees"
"Gods and Monsters" Jessica Lange "Edward Mordrake (Part 1)"
"September Song" Jessica Lange "Bullseye"
  • Originally performed by Kurt Weill
  • Released on November 12, 2014[66]
"Come as You Are" Evan Peters "Test of Strength"
  • Originally performed by Nirvana
  • Released on November 19, 2014[67]
Note: All songs released by 20th Century Fox TV Records.

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