There were some good things about the season finale of American Horror Story: Freak Show. No, stop laughing. There were. There really were. The best part, of course, is Dandy’s death, where Bette and Dot trick him into marrying them so they can drug him and have Desiree and Jimmy orchestrate his demise. It’s very well constructed and, like Jimmy says, necessarily showman-like, something many of the deaths this season have been lacking.
The three of them surrounding the Houdini water tank (which miraculously doesn’t appear out of nowhere, having been introduced to us episodes ago) looks like the finale of Pippin, where the circus people are trying to convince Pippin to kill himself in the name of art. But they’ve already decided that Dandy should die, and it’s delightful watching him plead and struggle for his life after being such a pompous bastard — but such a dreamy pompous bastard in his tighty-whiteys. The tableau of the three of them in shadows in the audience staring at Dandy’s dead body floating in the water was one of the best images of the entire season, behind Dandy stringing up his mother after he kills her and Elsa Mars walking into a hospital carrying her devil-faced carpet bag.
The funny thing about this whole scene is that Dandy asks how Jimmy got in his house, and we get a flashback so we can see just how Jimmy got in the house. Oh, that is what matters. Of all the jumps in logic and plot holes and inconsistencies of this season, the one thing that really matters, that we’re going to take 30 seconds out of this finale to explain, is how Jimmy got in the house. Well, thank God for that. Know what I wish they had taken five seconds to explain? Who shut off the water in Dandy’s cage. We see Desiree turn it on, and at the end, he is drowned and they’re all sitting in the audience, but the water stays level? Who shut off the damn hose? That’s something I really want explained.
Okay, okay. Sorry. We’re speaking of good things. The scene where Dandy stalks down all the B-list freaks (you know, everyone who hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar, Emmy, or Ryan Murphy’s He Looks Like Kurt Cobain Hall of Fame) is very exciting. It’s tense and filled with action and, while I hated what was happening, at least it all seems to make sense. My attention was held, and I wasn’t thinking about how much I didn’t care about Dandy or why he wanted to own the freak show or why he thought anyone would come to it when we haven’t seen anyone come to the freak show for the entire season. I mean, wasn’t the whole point of it that it was always on the verge of closure? But no, we’re trying not to think about the fact that the whole season was leading up to the freak show being torn apart, and it’s ruined in about four minutes thanks to a homicidal rich kid. Bet you didn’t see that coming. (I don’t think the writers did, either.)
With Dandy dead and a few of the freaks alive, that really wrapped up just about everything I cared about. Though this whole finale seems a little bit superfluous. This season there was no unifying mystery, no central question or major concern to string it all together. We weren’t waiting to see who was the supreme, or if Lana would catch Bloody Face, or anything like that. It was just like, “Well, I guess I should watch this so that I know it’s finally over. Oh, good, it is. Now can I watch Empire in peace?”
So yes, Jimmy and Dot get married, and he knocks her up. Bette stares at the TV and pretends like she’s not there. Poor Bette. I was always #TeamBette. Desiree marries Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and they have some kids. Oh, look, something else that was set up a few episodes back. Hear, hear for continuity.
The part of the finale that I absolutely hated was everything about Elsa’s journey to Hollywood. (Okay, fine, that’s lots of parts.) Her standing out in the lobby of the network was classic Elsa Mars, so I was into that, but then suddenly she meets Neil Patrick Harris’s husband and he makes her a star? The only question we wanted answered was how Elsa Mars, who is a freak without any talent, becomes famous. Well, apparently the answer is by marrying Neil Patrick Harris’s husband. That’s all it took.
Next thing we know she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. How? By singing bad renditions of David Bowie songs on TV? (Remember this season when we were doing anachronistic pop songs and then we just stopped all of the sudden halfway through the season? Yeah, I didn’t remember either.) I just can’t believe that Elsa is famous based on her singing ability. It just doesn’t add up. I was waiting to see if she’d taught the world to embrace their inner freak or something, or brought the freaks to the public and made it all right. But no, she sang David Bowie songs. That’s all she had to do.
Then we had to suffer through that long scene where she finally reunites with her Italian lover and finds out he’s dying. Really? We’ve seen this guy for about seven seconds the whole season. Devoting five minutes to their love is sort of like devoting 20 minutes of the Madonna biopic starring Arianna Grande that Lifetime is sure to make in five years to that one time that Courtney Love threw makeup at her backstage at the MTV Music Awards. He was inconsequential to us and Elsa’s story, but here it is.
Finally, after the sins of her porno past are about to become public, Elsa agrees to perform on Halloween to kill herself. Well, at least they brought demonic Wes Bentley around for a final spin. Wait, isn’t a gossip columnist about to ruin her career by releasing images from her snuff film? Why would the network pay money to have her film this Halloween special knowing that she is going to be ruined by the time it airs, or shortly thereafter? It makes no sense. But we know how Jimmy got in the house, so that’s all that really matters.
But when Wes Bentley kills Elsa, she doesn’t die; she goes to the great freak show in the sky, and all of her old friends are there waiting for her and are as happy as clams to see her. This scene makes this finale similar to the finales in both Asylum and Coven. In Asylum, the final episode is about a woman who gets everything she wants and is still hollow on the inside, though in that case it was Sarah Paulson’s Lana. In Coven we see Jessica Lange die, but she goes to a knotty-pine hell hole. This finale is about a woman who gets what she wants, is empty inside, then dies and goes to heaven. See, all the seasons are the same!
I don’t quite get why Elsa deserves to go to heaven. Because she suffered in this life? I’m sorry, no. Let me break it down for you: Elsa is kind of an asshole. I do not like Elsa. She didn’t do one nice thing. Any nice thing she did, like give the freaks a home, was for her own benefit. Without the freaks, would she have a stage to perform on? No. If she had no stage, how could she continue her delusion that she was a star? She couldn’t. See, it’s all about Elsa doing Elsa. Sure, what happened to her in Germany was horrible, but does that excuse her from being an awful boss, killing Ethel, selling the twins into sex slavery, and leaving all of her freaks behind with Dandy, who goes and slaughters them all? Apparently, it does.
The worst part about Elsa’s benediction is that the writers knew it would be a problem. That’s why Ethel has to say, “You were a horrible friend and an awful boss, but we forgive you!” or some nonsense like that. Um, say what now? Do any of the freaks remember that the last time they saw her, they all tried to kill her? Elsa shouldn’t get to have a happy ending. She was as much a villain this season as anyone else. Even if she did go to heaven, she needed to go through the purging fires of hell first and pay for all of her many sins. Now we’re supposed to be happy for Elsa? Sorry, I don’t think so.
Yes, this was a bad end to a truly awful season, by far AHS’s worst. I should be thinking about what they’re going to be doing for next season or thinking about just how all of these seasons are connected. But I’m not. The only thing I can think right now is how grateful I am that this stewpot of misery is over.