The 7 Lines That Defined the American Horror Story: Freak Show Finale
Quoth the Lobster Boy: "The freaks shall inherit the earth"
Barkers rev up your engines. The Freak Show is over, and the incessant quote canonizing can begin.
As another season of American Horror Story closed on Wednesday, the freak fetishist became the freak. (If that meant we got to see Finn Wittrock in his skivvies, then so be it.) But Dandy Mott’s downfall was just the beginning of the curiosities delivered by Elsa Mars and her band of outsiders.
Picking up short after Dandy (Wittrock) began his tyrannical rule of the side show, the anthology show’s season finale was a veritable a parade of zingers and bon mots worthy of creator Ryan Murphy, starting with
1. "For ‘Anything Goes,’ I need the magenta light to accentuate my spirited rendition."
It’s no surprise Dandy (Wittrock) didn’t make fast friends with his new employees. In fact, he insolently informed the freaks – already all too aware of their receding allure – that they were “yesterday’s news” and proposed to give them all “some new startling look.” Yeah, with Dandy’s sick sensibilities, that meant exactly the kind of torture and whimsical disfigurement you might envision – or, more likely, that you’d never hope to. It was too much, too humiliating. The freaks stood up for themselves. As fast as he could grab his gold-handled revolver, Dandy got to whistlin’ and shootin’ the freaks at close range. (Oddly, he favored Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” over Cole Porter in this instance. Guess there was no time to get the magenta gels in place.) A testament to the writers’ and director’s talents, the show that’s all about how hideous and horrifying so-called “freaks” are supposed to be proved as powerfully as ever that true ugliness lies in the most human of actions and intentions. Dandy’s just a guy – a sadistic nightmare of a guy, but ultimately just a guy with a gun. And a superficially handsome, charismatic one at that. Not exactly the nightmare-inducing vision we saw at the top of the season vis-a-vis Twisty (John Carroll Lynch).
2. "Do you think we might even make a three-headed girl?"
Having spared only his conjoined twins/sexual playthings Dot and Bette (Sarah Paulson), Dandy quickly pulled together a well let’s call it “unorthodox” wedding attended by stuffed zebras, kangaroos and the like. But what about the wedding night? Of course Dandy wasted no time telling Dot that “a stallion demands a certain amount of respect from all of his mares,” which has to be the least enticing threesome come-on ever. Also worth noting: The only thing that gives Dandy true joy is the thought of breeding “freak babies” with the twins. Nix my previous statement – that is the least enticing threesome come-on ever.
3. "Bette Davis couldn’t have given a better performance."
As Dot succinctly put it, even though her sister isn’t much of a singer, she was a better actress than we ever could have imagined. Somewhere between the carnie massacre and the three-headed baby talk, Desiree (Angela Bassett) – who’d managed to hide from Dandy during his rampage – discovered the corpses of her fallen friends leading up the aisle of the big top to Penny (Grace Gummer), through whose neck Dandy had symbolically driven a mic stand. Desiree teamed up with Jimmy (Evan Peters) and the twins to exact thrilling revenge on Dandy (and not just because Jimmy temporarily abandoned his Marlon Brando biker hate for a tux with tails).
4. "You may look like a motion-picture dreamboat, but you are the biggest freak of all."
After the twins arranged to slip Dandy a Mickey in his bubbles, he woke up chained and encased in a glass case. Desiree reiterated the sick agenda enacted at the bidding of freak collector Lillian Hemmings (Celia Weston) and spat that Dandy was just like her: “That’s where you think freaks belong: powerless behind glass, a human car crash to stare at and remind you how lucky you are.” Bassett finished off Desiree’s virtuoso speech: “Well maybe that’s true. Maybe that’s all we are. But let me tell you this, pretty boy. You may look like a motion-picture dreamboat, but you are the biggest freak of all.” As the freaks watched and chomped on popcorn, water began gushing in and made Dandy a drowned rat. Desiree deadpanned bitterly, “That boy is a star!”
5. "We could be heroes!"
While all this transpired, Elsa (Jessica Lange) was just another struggling Tinseltown triple-threat getting dismissals from secretaries like, “If you ask me, change your act. Marlene [Dietrich] did it better.” (Nope. Elsa didn’t ask you, and for that you get a punch straight in the kisser). Flash forward to 1960, when “Queen of Friday Night” Elsa is one of the first stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame thanks to three Emmys for The Elsa Mars Variety Hour and three gold records (“Ich Bin Elsa Mars,” “Du Bist Mein Baby” and the holiday favorite “Merry Christmas, Knuddelmaus”). She’d met an up-and-coming showbiz guy named Michael Beck (David Burtka), and their partnership had taken Elsa to the top. But the insatiable hunger for fame and power had ravaged the relationship between Elsa and her “p—y of a husband,” who only approached her now to film schlocky holiday specials. (Mind you, I didn’t think the idea was half-bad. In fact, I would give both legs to see Elsa and Andy Williams singing "Autumn Leaves" in matching pumpkin suits? … What? Too soon?) Later, Michael enlisted his coldhearted bigwig boss to join him in telling Elsa that Hedda Hopper had discovered Elsa’s old German snuff films and that her career was hurtling toward destruction. And, oh yeah, the whole Cabinet of Curiosities had been slaughtered. With every thread of her very being unraveled, Elsa announced she would film one last Halloween Spooktacular because she wanted to “go out with a bang.”
6. "It took us ages to build these towns and then – boom! – gone in a flash."
In the middle of these power plays, Elsa had a fleeting moment of relief when her beloved doctor Massimo Dolcefino (Danny Huston) visited Los Angeles. His time in Nevada helping the army test atomic bombs inspired the quote above, to which Elsa responded wistfully, “Yes, I know what that’s like.” Elsa thought she and Massimo might run away together and finally find the love they both desired, but he told her he he’d be dead in a month from a rare bone disease. Just before that wallop, Elsa had said wearily, presciently, “I have always, always, always been cursed – first by having my dreams ripped away, and now I’m cursed by having them all come true.”
7. "The freaks shall inherit the earth."
Technically Jimmy said this during the awesome Dandy takedown, but it really sums up the spirit of a surprisingly rose-colored finale – particularly in the wake of an episode splattered with crimson. As Elsa crooned David Bowie’s “Heroes” on the Spooktacular, we got updates on the uniformly happy futures of our freaks watching from afar: Desiree and Angus (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) are still happily coupled. Jimmy’s married to Dot, and they’re expecting a baby (three-headed freak or not, that isn’t diclosed). Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) even got a hauntingly happy ending as he arrived with a full-faced Twisty to finally claim Elsa. But! Edward realized Elsa was not meant for his realm after all. Instead, she was sent to that Cabinet of Curiosities in the Sky to reunite with all those she, and we, lost: Penny and Paul (Mat Fraser), who got married; Ma Petite (Jyoti Amge) and Meep (Benjamin Woolf) in his most fabulous marabou finery(!), and Ethel, who was as wise and bearded as ever. Indeed, Ethel got the last lines of Freak Show, including giving Elsa wry redemption with the assurance that “stars never pay.”
Cue one more rendition of "Life on Mars" for the road, freaks!