Fans of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story have known that in Murphy’s world people are more than strange, even before season four Freak Show premieres the proof existed in the first three iterations of the show. It is a tad disturbing that the same man who created Glee also came up with a verse full of the odd, quirky, scary and deadly with no singing/dancing teens in sight. A show with diverse storylines for each season and the only real constant between each one being the oscar winning actress Jessica Lange and Evan Peters although Frances Conroy and Sarah Paulson have also been in enough episodes to be considered runner up “constants.”
“Gleeks” would no doubt find the shows disturbing, the very idea of a series with no musical elements, except for the odd Sister Jude number in season two episode The Name Game “Banana fanna fo fanna Lana…” This clever little deviation from the overall scary theme that of that season was surrealistic and a lovely touch playing off the show’s setting of insane asylum.
Leaving behind the idea of high school musicals and looking at each season, oh so briefly, of American Horror Story the “people are strange” motif is present in more than just the upcoming Freak Show fourth season. In season one, all of the characters, dead and alive, were odd and decidedly quirky. The murder house itself was, perhaps, the strangest of all and this structure of wood and brick was yet another member of the cast with secrets and a scary backstory.
Season two took place in Briarcliff Manor and involved not just the insane but the Devil and angels of death right alongside serial killers and aliens from outer space. Jessica Lange pulled off a masterful performance as the woman viewers loved to hate at the start of the season and then got the audience to feel for her doomed character later on. Lange proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that her acting chops were big and sharp.
The third season of American Horror Story featured modern day witches in The Coven. This was, perhaps, the quirkiest and most tongue in cheek season yet. Bringing in Oscar winning actress Kathy Bates as the horrid Madame LaLaurie, who also manages to become a sympathetic character after a horrific introduction and Angela Bassett (an Oscar nominee) as her arch nemesis.
That this story of witchcraft was never meant to be taken too seriously was proven with the introduction of Stevie Nicks, playing herself, as witch. Season three ended with a few questions unanswered and the show’s fans were already clamoring for more from Murphy’s twisted pen.
Season four of American Horror Story: Freak Show steps more fully into people are strange in the literal sense by focusing on that part of carnivals and fairs that were very popular “back in the day.” The bearded lady, the pin-head, midgets, and so on will take viewers into a world reminiscent of Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks. The big difference between Browning’s and Murphy’s worlds will be the inclusion of a terrifying clown. One that, according to the actor playing him, John Carroll Lynch, will put Stephen King’s Pennywise the Clown out of business. Fans will have to watch the season four premiere of American Horror Story: Freak Show on October 8 to see if Lynch is right.
By Michael Smith