AHS: Freak show Ep. 7 “Test of Strength” Review
By Rob Jefchak
After the whiny suck fest that was last week’s episode (Bullseye), I wasn’t sure what to expect with this week’s episode; was it going to be another dud or an explosive comeback to its former glory? The result: dark…that’s the best way I can describe this episode; straight up dark. When you have an episode focus almost entirely on the most psychotic, off the rails, wild card character on your show (Dell who I mistakenly have referred to as Dale for past reviews), it’s impossible to predict where things will go. In this episode, Stanley blackmails Dell to give him the body of a freak since he’s frustrated with Maggie’s failures.
Meanwhile, Jimmy rescues the twins from Dandy’s home; only to have them lie about Elsa’s involvement in order to blackmail her for raised box office funds and a Hollywood makeover for Bette. Plus, Paul’s normal girlfriend gets a twisted “send off” from her father before leaving to the freak show and Dell tries to build a relationship with his estranged son Jimmy; while still trying to deliver a freak’s corpse to Stanley. I always suspected a show called “American Horror Story” would naturally produce disturbing and dark content, but I didn’t think they could do anything to top Elsa’s snuff scenes in “Mordrake Part 2.”
Poor Ma Petite, poor Paul and poor Jimmy for having a father who is more monster than all the freaks at Elsa’s cabinet put together. As much as I despise Dell for the sick, inhuman things he’s done (like snapping Ethel’s doctor’s hands and actually contemplate killing his own son); I love the character because he is unpredictable in every sense of the word. You can’t tell if he’s going to truly make a decent, moral choice or continue to savagely lash out and kill someone with his freakish super human strength.
Dell’s scene with Jimmy was absolutely wonderful, a perfect in depth look at the lives of a father and son whose moral compasses couldn’t be farther off from each other. Yet despite all that tenderness, Dell easily slips back into the beast we all know he is. Elsa’s dealings with the twins and Stanley make for interesting developments, everyone seems to have something over someone else and I’m not really sure who is going to end up on top when all this ugly business between them is said and done. The reveal of Morris the tattoo artist and his “gift” to Paul’s girlfriend (wish I could remember her name) was a bit random and out of nowhere, but what he ultimately does to this poor woman is just as horrifying as it is painful to imagine.
Another scene that was out there was hearing yet another modern song performed that pre-date the show’s timeline; this time it was Jimmy singing “Come as you are” by Nirvana. The past two times modern songs were utilized felt more natural and contributed to the mood and emotions of the characters and their current feelings. Here, it just feels forced and a flashy yet hollow means of giving Jimmy the chance to sing his rebellion against Elsa rather the properly expressing it. I also was confused how a doctor with broken fingers was able to kill himself (not a BIG deal but still) and how the Hell Ethel thinks dealing with Dell themselves is smarter than calling the police.
Yeah, I know the cops loathe the freaks and treat them like dirt but Dell lashes out at anyone that pisses him off and has the strength to EASILY kill anyone he wants; I think calling the police is worth a shot. Overall, a few bugs didn’t diminish the sheer weight of this episode’s darkness. Things were intense, grim and continually shocking from beginning til end.
This episode is just like Dell himself: unpredictable, remorseless and crazy enough to pull anything.