For some reason, we found “Pink Cupcakes” (which have never before sounded so unappetizing) to be the first real episode this season that really ...bothered us. Not that we found vicious killer clowns (who friends of ours understandably referred to as “Stabby the Clown”) with no lower jaw (due to a tragic backstory) cheerful or anything, and Twisty’s whole storyline had a perfect payoff. We don’t have a pathological fear of clowns, but he was pretty threatening. So I could have started writing these “Ten Things” pieces as usual, right after the premiere, but there weren’t any big plot or character reveals (okay, Elsa’s legs were a surprise) that Ryan Murphy hadn’t already either hinted at or flat-out told us about in the media, or that we hadn’t more or less figured out. We hated Dandy by the time the second episode he appeared in ended, and it was kind of obvious he wasn’t going to be a benevolent character. Last Wednesday, though, we got some good reveals, and for the first time, we exclaimed out loud in surprise, and really, really were disturbed by a murder enough to also curse loudly. So let’s get on with the show. One, two …three.
1. Del is a closeted gay. Well, of course he would have to be closeted even if he wasn’t a manly circus strongman for a living; as a gay man outed in a small town in 1952 you would almost certainly end up on the receiving end of a vicious blanket party, set on fire, or be the victim of another hate crime (or have your life ruined in some other way) if you were not closeted. That’s why we were genuinely surprised to see him at a gay bar, and more than that, desperately, hopelessly infatuated (and even professing his love) with guest star Matt Bomer, playing a smoking hot young man named Andy who turns tricks and hustles for a living. He basically referred to the bar as his office. It was hinted at before that Del was not 100% heterosexual, though you had to pay attention to pick up on it. Well, being married to a woman with a male member next to the female one was kind of a red flag, but it could be argued that if a man had an opportunity to be with a hot, gorgeous woman with three perfect breasts, he might be willing to overlook the male member.
2. …or what appears to be a male member. Turns out Désirée is all woman. Well, maybe even more than all woman, since she has three breasts and a clitoris large enough to be mistaken for a penis. When she’s hammered and lonely and turns to Jimmy to “make her feel something”, they both panic when his hand comes away from between her legs covered in blood and Ethel takes her to see the kindly, compassionate Dr. Bonham from “Edward Mordrake Part One”. He’s got some news for her: what she (and a doctor in her past) thought was a penis turned out to be a (very) oversized clitoris. It’s (figuratively) connected to her extra breast. He gives some medical explanation about her body producing a really, really high amount of estrogen because it was trying to compensate–it didn’t sound completely medically legit to us, but we will suspend our disbelief. He tells her surgery can give her normal-sized lady parts (we liked how removing the “accessory” breast wasn’t even alluded to as an option when doing surgery–hey, let’s not get crazy here!).
3. Désirée was also pregnant, and was bleeding so badly because she was having a miscarriage. The doctor tells her that she can even try again and having a child is a distinct possibility for her (though she should probably hurry because her biological clock is ticking). We see surprise, then wonder, then hope in her eyes as this sinks in. “I can have a baby with Del,” she murmurs. But, she damn sure has a change of heart before long, because…
Why are you still moving? You’re supposed to be dead!
4. By the time Del finds her, she’s packed a suitcase to movie into Ethel’s trailer. Del is desperate to get her to stay, and we half expected him to hit her or shake her or some other form of domestic abuse, but guess he knew better. She tells him she was pregnant, he says, “A baby… great!” half-heartedly, and then it escalates very quickly. Turns out she knows Jimmy is his son. She keeps telling him that he is the one with freak blood in him, not her, but all their years together he made her feel like she was such a freak of nature that she didn’t deserve anyone better than him …or a better life. She wants to have a kid, but not his. To add to Del’s despair, remember that this is taking place after Andy pretty much broke his heart, telling him Del he was delusional if he thought they would ever have any kind of relationship, or even contact, without having to pay like ever other trick. After telling him she was leaving him for a real man who deserved to be with her (and she tells Del what he calls her “big dick” is going to be surgically corrected by Dr. Bonham), Désirée leaves him standing there, with Del clearly about to have some kind of meltdown. Towards the end of the episode, Del pays a personal visit to Dr. Bonham and breaks his fingers, possibly his hands too. Then, just in case the doctor didn’t get the message, Del threatens to snap his grandchildren’s fingers “like twigs.” Soooooo, that surgery won’t be happening.
5. Stanley has an extremely creepy fantasy life. All of his lovely daydreams we saw underscored how vile a man he really is. His grandiose dream of Paul’s body floating in a tank before an awed crowd of horrible rich people was unsettling. The horrifying shot of the Tatler Twins torso floating in the glass display tank–and especially the fact that Bette’s head was dead and rotting probably days before he finally smothered Dot, who was begging him for help (and begging Bette to wake up) –was disturbing as hell. So was Stanley’s casual explanation to the museum owner he sold the body to when she asked how they “expired”: “The droopy one caught a cold and died first.”
Please …kill me. Please, kill me?
6. Elsa is getting desperate. She practically spits on the floor when Stanley tries to entice her with the idea of her own television show, but then when the entire crowd (not into anachronistic performances of songs, no matter how good they are) turns on her, we see her hopes burning to the ground. When Stanley comes by after the disastrous show, and she says to him wearily, “Tell me about zis… television,” we can see her fighting back tears. Once again, Jessica Lange’s performance on AHS breaks our hearts. She doesn’t get really scary until she sees Stanley driving away without her, Bette and Dot in the back seat. Her next move is to talk to the twins and tell them she wants to help their and look after them since they’re new to the business and Elsa is not. We didn’t expect, though, that she would drive them straight to the Mott residence in the guise of taking them in for a wardrobe fitting. “I have brought you something I believe you want,” she starts out to Gloria right before the episode ends. To be fair, I don’t think she would have taken them there if Elsa knew Gloria’s son was a blood-thirsty, homicidal sociopath. She probably just wanted them out of the way, maybe even only temporarily. How could THAT go wrong?
7. Maggie is having second thoughts. First she tells Stanley she did not agree to be involved with murder. Later, when she surprises Jimmy rehearsing, she pretends to read his palm and gives him a not-too-subtle fortune: something bad is coming for him, and he needs to get the hell out of there fast. She seems to be attracted to him, but still won’t let him kiss her. Hopefully she will end up ratting Stanley out more directly, and the freaks will end up cutting his throat and stabbing him (all together) about 70 times and then burning the body, the way they did with the police detective.
Jack the Ripper was a Windsor, for God’s sake.
8. Dandy’s mother Gloria is more batshit crazy–and darker–than we thought. At the very least, a sociopath. She’s mad at Dandy for killing Dora (“She was a mother!” is her first horrified reaction),but is pretty casual (and clever) about the way they dispose of the body. “These are special bulbs from Holland. Please do not question me!” she shrills at the men hired to dig a twelve-foot hole ( actually for Dora’s body). Oh, and we find out that Dandy’s father also had homicidal “urges”, due to inbreeding (according to Gloria). One day he ended up “swinging lifeless from a Japanese Maple” because he couldn’t stand struggling with his urges any more and “suppressed them the only way he could” (also according to Gloria). She tells Dandy he has to be careful who he kills, since it’s 1952 and they might have relatives who come looking for their missing family member; instead it needs to be people no-one will miss. The scene of them finishing up the bulbs planted over Dora’s corpse ends with on a disturbing note, with Gloria quietly telling her son, “we’ll figure something out.”
9. Jimmy is a local hero, though when Maggie points this out to him, he says, “Right now, I want to throw up.” Turns out Jimmy still feels terrible about poor Meep (though I bet the local chicken population is feeling better) being beaten to death in prison and then dumped in a sack on their doorstep. In the scene where Jimmy and Désirée are drowning their sorrows in her trailer, he loses it and weeps, “it shoulda been me.” Interesting trivia: Ben Woolf, the actor who played Meep, also portrayed the Infantata, arguably the most frightening character from AHS Season One, AKA Murder House.
There’s nothing worse than the hurt of loving someone you can’t have.
10. Dandy, unsurprisingly the new big bad (well, next to Stanley, who is also deadly but mainly just a greedy, scheming piece of shit looking for a big payday) is clearly just getting started. Either he or his mother decided a gay bar would be a good place to find a victim (we also loved the very serious MAN WANTED poster with an ‘artist’s sketch’ of a clown mask that Dandy passes). When Del leaves, crushed, Dandy zeroes in on Andy, and pays him a hundred dollars to come back to the Abandoned School Bus of Murder with him, and of course, things get really disturbing. The fact that Andy turned out not to be dead even after Dandy stabbed him brutally over a dozen times in the torso AND sawed one of his arms off was the first thing this season that really caused us to feel deep horror.
- Gabourey Sidibe will be back as Regina Ross, Dora’s daughter in New York. We loved the “Mrs. Mott, I’m feeling really uncomfortable, so I’m going to go now” line of hers when she was on the phone with Gloria, who was starting to ramble about raising Dandy. We doubt she’s going to stick around more than a couple of episodes, though it would be nice if she ended up beating Dandy to death. That was also a great reveal when Gloria hung up the phone and the split-screen disappeared to show Dandy, standing in his underwear, covered with Andy’s blood.
Motion pictures are the expression of our souls, our inner dreams, our fantasies.
- We knew the Bette and Dot torso in the giant fish tank was a fantasy, but did anyone else worry at first that poor Paul the Illustrated Seal was really floating in the formaldehyde and that the rest of the episode might be the flashbacks to how he ended up in there? We were unsure, but did let out a big sigh of relief when we realized what the writers had done. Everyone should probably worry about his place in the new knife throwing act, though…
- I had a good laugh at the way Dandy at first tried to act innocent when his mother screamed because she found Dora dead with her throat cut. “Somebody’s broke into our home and murdered Dora!” he proclaims unconvincingly. Meanwhile, his mother, who immediately figured out that he did it , starts yelling at him about having to clean up his messes almost the second he rushes into the room. That smirk he got after he turned his back and walked away from Gloria to go to his room was chilling, as was his practicing ‘acting faces’ in the mirror.
- That was an amazing monologue written for Del talking about the pain he goes through and how he is only strong on the outside, and Michael Chiklis knocked it out of the fucking park. It was obvious Del knew how desperate he sounded, begging Andy to let him get him a nice apartment with a record player and good light so he could sketch, to only be with him because he loves him so much, but the words kept flooding out as if he was trying to purge himself of something he’d wanted to tell another human being all his life. Give him a couple more scenes like that and Chiklis might just earn himself an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor. For the record, a month has passed since Del and Désirée arrived in Jupiter.
- Look around that ‘Morbid Museum’ in the scenes where Stanley is talking to the owner about the twins. There is some seriously disturbing stuff in there (and once again, we are 99.9% sure it was inspired by the real-life Mutter museum*). There are at least two Elephant Man-like skulls, and some really horrible things in jars.
- I got a huge grin on my face when Jimmy referred to the pinhead duo as Salty and Pepper to the crowd after their act, which seemed to include a drum kit, a large mallet, and slapstick humor. “Salty and Pepper, Ladies and Gents!” We love it.
- Boy, that crowd REALLY turned on Elsa fast. Guess they are not Bowie fans. Speaking of Bowie– great song choice to use of “Fame” in the montage of her getting ready to go have “publicity photos” taken (that ends with her hope being crushed). The self-satisfied smirk on Stanley’s face when he saw Elsa unravelling onstage made me want to break his neck …and I’m a huge fan of Denis O’Hare, so I have always taken his side before no matter how much of a rotten prick his character is –until that moment. Hopefully Stanley and Dandy will both get an even more horrible variation of the notorious Todd Browning “chicken lady” treatment.
Next episode, “Bullseye,” the freaks–including Ethel– seem to be turning on Elsa too. Check out the preview (again) below!
*Which I hope to visit some day, then sometimes during dark, sleepless nights question the decision of putting a visit to that house of horrors on my bucket list.
Possibly the most breathtaking still of the set yet.