Why AHS Freakshow was awful


Sean Koepfinger, Assistant A&E Editor

 American Horror Story: Freakshow was building up to be the best season yet.  Unfortunately, it was the worst.  Now before anyone gets upset, allow me to explain.  Freakshow as a standalone tv series was pretty good, but as a horror anthology it just didn’t live up to the standard.  If you haven’t seen the finale, you might want to click away now.

Freakshow fell into the same genre confusion trap as previous AHS season: Coven.  While Coven became more of a teen chick drama than a horror series, Freakshow became more of a quirky family drama.  Many people praised the season for its positive message concerning the titular “freaks” with taglines such as “We’re all Freaks,” and as wonderful as this message is, I feel the season became overly focused on it and forgot about a more important goal: scaring the bejeezus out of viewers.

The first season of AHS set the correct stage for horror.  The plot was a little muddled and the finale seemed a little grim after sitting through the entire season, but it was climactic and satisfying, something that recent seasons have failed to do.

The second season suffered from similar plot issues, but it also had something that none of the other seasons managed to do correctly: a strong, terrifying, central villain.  Bloodyface created a focus for the season.  No matter what other horrors tormented the characters, Bloodyface and his story connected each episode together and helped unify the season making it one of the best seasons in my opinion.

With these two seasons in mind, let’s look at Freakshow again.  Freakshow started strong.  Twisty the clown was perfect for a central villain.  He was terrorizing the town, he was mysterious, and he was downright scary.  The first mistake of the season was killing off such a strong character so early.  Sure this allowed Dandy to develop and become the mildly unsettling psycho that he became, but no matter how many people he murdered a whiny, spoiled, rich boy could never be as menacing as the silent, merciless killer-clown.

The remainder of the season had few truly terrifying moments and instead felt more like a Tragedy.  But this doesn’t mean it was a bad show.  The characters were strongly developed and loveably flawed and i was upset everytime one of them died, but I was never scared.  This brings me to the finale.

I had high hopes for the finale.  After the disappointment of the Coven finale, i was really hoping for something redeeming.  But without a central antagonist, or even a singular challenge to overcome, there wasn’t much left to do in the finale but tie up loose ends.

The most climactic moment of the finale occurred in the first ten minutes, with Dandy going on a shooting spree through the camp in broad daylight.  But mass murder does not equate to horror.  There was no suspense.  Sure it was unfortunate to watch such loveable characters being cruelly slaughtered, but it was pretty straight forward.  Horror is based on anticipation, knowing what is about to happen and dreading the inevitable.  With Dandy’s killing spree, we had no time to fear for the characters.

The remainder of the episode was spent jumping forward eight years and seeing the happy endings that the surviving characters got.  But for a horror series, this seems too positive, too perfect, and for those reasons: unsatisfying.  After Dandy’s death, there was no fear left.  Nothing to anticipate.  Instead we get to watch Jessica Lange’s Elsa Mars live out her dream life in Hollywood and then become bored with her fairytale ending and essentially commit suicide.  While this would have been fine for any other genre of drama, it seemed highly unclimactic for a horror series.

The icing on the cake for why this finale just didn’t do it for me, is the corny afterlife that Elsa Mars ends up in.  This ending made her character seem like the focus of the entire show.  While her character was decent, she was by no means the most interesting character of the season and this ending just seemed boring and too happy-go-lucky.

While i appreciated the strong character development and successful tying of loose-ends, Freakshow was plagued with an unfocused plotline and an over focus on delivering a feel-good message.  Hopefully the next season will get back to AHS’s horror roots and give us something to fear once again.

Do you agree with me?  Did you love the finale or hate it?  What do you want to see next time?  Let us know in the comments below.