Monsters Among Us
|"Monsters Among Us"|
|American Horror Story episode|
Conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler
|Directed by||Ryan Murphy|
|Featured music||"Life on Mars?" by Jessica Lange|
|Original air date||October 8, 2014|
|Running time||64 minutes|
"Monsters Among Us" is the premiere episode of the fourth season of the anthology television series American Horror Story, which premiered on October 8, 2014 on the cable network FX. It was co-written by creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk and directed by Murphy.
The episode introduces Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) who runs one of the last remaining freak shows in the United States in the hamlet of Jupiter, Florida, and her recruitment of conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson). It also introduces the rest of her traveling performers and the murderous clown known as Twisty (John Carroll Lynch). The episode is the second longest in the series' history, clocking in at just over one hour without commercials. The premiere episode is notable for the series as it is the first premiere episode of a season not to feature flashbacks to another year.
In Jupiter, Florida 1952, a milkman enters the house of Eudora Tattler (Ann McKenzie) to find her dead, and upstairs finds an injured pair of conjoined twins: Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson). They are rushed to the emergency room, shocking and sickening the hospital personnel. Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) arrives and asks candy striper, Penny (Grace Gummer) about the "discovery" and then invites Penny to her Freak Show known as "Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities", infiltrating the secure wing (in candy striper garb) to meet them. Elsa tells the twins that she tried to meet them at their home, but now that they are out of the house she has come to see them. As the conversation progresses, it becomes apparent that the twins can communicate with each other without speaking. Bette takes an immediate shine to Elsa, but Dot despises her.
Near Lake Okeechobee, a couple enjoy a picnic. Twisty (John Carroll Lynch), a clown with a disturbing visage, appears and knocks them unconscious before stabbing Troy (Andrew Duplessie) to death with scissors. Terrified, Bonnie (Skyler Samuels) runs and he chases her. Later on, Twisty slaughters a married couple and takes Bonnie and Corey (Major Dodson), the son of the murdered couple, to the woods and imprisons them in an old bus.
Elsa spots a member of her troupe, Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), at a local diner. Jimmy expresses his belief that the show's days are numbered and his desire to live a normal life away from the freak show. Later at a tupperware party, Jimmy (who has severe ectrodactyly) uses his fingers to pleasure a curious young party-goer. Elsa returns to see the twins and asks them to explain their mother's murder. They first lie and claim that a man broke into their house. Elsa again confronts them at their home after they escape from the hospital, planning to run away. The twins confess to Elsa that their mother kept them captive and when she refused to let them leave the house, Bette stabbed her to death. Two days later, Dot stabbed Bette non-fatally out of guilt at not preventing the murder.
After accepting Elsa's offer for a new home, Ethel (Kathy Bates), a bearded lady and Jimmy's mother, tells the twins how Elsa rescued her from the drunk tank and reunited her with Jimmy. Dot is smitten with Jimmy but disgusted by Ethel, and refuses to perform in the freak show. Ethel warns that there is no other life for them. Penny (who was kidnapped and drugged for days) emerges into Elsa's tent, wanting to go home. Elsa starts up a projector showing a film in which Penny was involved in what appears to be a freak-filled orgy, guaranteeing Penny's future silence.
Jimmy expresses to Ethel that he wants to leave the show, but she tells him to forget about it as they would never be accepted by society. That evening, a detective (Dane Rhodes) attempts to arrest the twins for the murder. The other carnies fill the tent before the detective calls them "freaks", causing Jimmy to slice the detective's throat open in a fit of rage. Later, Jimmy leads a procession of carnies who carry the detective into the nearby woods, as he rants that he is tired of being treated differently by society. After his speech, the carnies hack the policeman's dead body apart while Twisty watches.
The wealthy Gloria (Frances Conroy) and her stunted son, Dandy (Finn Wittrock) buy every seat for that night's performance, delighting Elsa who is convinced that the twins' arrival will revive the freak show's fortunes. The show gets underway as Ethel provides the introduction, showing off the "freaks" followed by Elsa singing David Bowie's "Life on Mars?". Dandy is enthralled with the twins and offers to buy them permanently, for $15,000. The twins decline, claiming they have found their new home.
Elsa confesses to Ethel that she brought the twins into the show to draw crowds, not for the family of carnies, but for her own glory. Ethel agrees that Elsa is gifted enough to be a true star. As Elsa prepares to go to bed, she undresses and reveals that she is legless below both knees.
Erik Adams of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B+. IGN reviewer Matt Fowler gave the episode a 7.6 out of 10, praising the characters set up and the killer clown, though felt the introductory elements with Elsa and the twins was overlong. Critics have also praised the performances of the cast, particularly Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson. Verne Gay of Newsday wrote: "Paulson's performance so memorable that it's not a completely incidental question. Then, of course, there's Lange."
The episode received a total audience of 6.13 million viewers, making it the series' most watched season premiere and the series' most watched episode ever. As a result of these particular high ratings, the show was immediately renewed for a fifth season.
- Adams, Erik (October 8, 2014). "Review: American Horror Story: Freak Show: 'Monsters Among Us'". The A.V. Club.
- "Meet the World's Shortest Woman (and American Horror Story: Freak Show Star!)". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- Eggertsen, Chris (August 13, 2014). "Newest American Horror Story Co-Star Is the World's Smallest Woman". HitFix.
- "American Horror Story: Freak Show – "Monsters Among Us" Review". IGN. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
- "'American Horror Story: Freak Show' review: Creepy creatures". Newsday. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- Kondolojy, Amanda (October 9, 2014). "Wednesday Cable Ratings: 'American Horror Story' Tops Night + 'South Park' 'Teen Mom II', 'The Daily Show, 'Key & Peele' & More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on October 11, 2014. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
- Stack, Tim. "'American Horror Story' renewed for fifth season after setting ratings record", Entertainment Weekly, 13 October 2014.
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