Thursday, November 13, 2014

'American Horror Story: Freak Show': S04E06: 'Bullseye' [SPOILERS]

I feel like this was basically the look on  Ryan Murphy's face
when he wrote both Ma-Petit-Gets-Killed-
OR-DOES-SHE-hehehe scenes...

I got news for you, Ryan Murphy: deliberately staging scenes where it appears that characters get killed and then revealing (over and over again) that HEY NOW LOOK WHAT I DID THERE, THEY'RE STILL ALIVE is not clever writing. If anything, it's the opposite. It's a lazy way of manufacturing drama where, currently, there is little to none.

The second Paul volunteered to be strapped into the Wheel of Death, anyone who didn't know exactly what was about to happen hasn't been watching the same show I've been watching. Although, if scheming-ass Elsa Mars DID gut him with the intention of making it seem accidental, I gotta say: hitting his torso, the one part of his body that's essentially spinning in place? Not a great plan if you fancy yourself an expert knife-tosser, who would never throw at that spot. It's a guaranteed hit.

I was really hoping Jimmy and Desiree would get together. It doesn't appear that's the case now. Jimmy's been set up as a fairly smart kid, it's hard to believe that he believes Esmeralda's sudden change of heart.

Common sentiment on the comment boards is that Stanley's as-yet-unseen-but-apparently-gigantic penis is what's ultimately going to end up in the American Morbidity Museum, and that's hard to argue against. What kind of con man's plan includes murder? At that point, it's not a confidence scam... it's murder for profit. The whole idea behind the concept is to get away with no one the wiser, not someone the deader. And forcibly enlisting someone in your bloody confidence scam... really? If Stan is any kind of con man, he should be able to make enough small-scheme money to at least get by. I need some sort of rationale for his urgency.

I'm doing a lot of complaining, especially for an episode that so many people have praised, but this one just didn't do it for me. Even Dandy, who has a world of murderous potential for character development, is getting a little old — although, "There's nothing left but the dust, and the scorpions inside me" is a great piece of dialogue. Props.

Lots of things have been set up that could pay off, though: Desiree's abandonment of Dell and his recruitment by Stanley... Jimmy and Esmeralda's attempt to run away from the circus, which would be a coy little trope reversal... Ethel maybe following through on her threat to kill Elsa... and whatever batshit insanity Elsa undertakes when she finds out there are no plans in the works for her namesake television show.

Once again, though, the loss of Twisty is very apparent. Dandy's descent into empty, raging homicidal insanity has some appeal and as I mentioned earlier, a lot of potential. But did we really need another scene of him getting all petulant and tantrum-y, this time when the Tattler twins wouldn't "play by the rules"? Not really. 

More to come...? Possibly. Re-watching it with the wife later tonight...

Friday, November 7, 2014

'American Horror Story: Freak Show': 'Edward Mordrake, Pts. 1 & 2,' 'Pink Cupcakes' [SPOILERS] which the murdering serial-killer clown somehow
becomes a sympathetic figure — yet remains murderous
and serial-killery...

"Edward Mordrake, Pt. 1" set the stage for a few dark tales of redemption. The second half provided a very unexpected example of those tales, one that managed to turn what we all thought was this season's Big Badguy into a halfway-sympathetic figure and a ghost to boot.

Wes Bentley's bad-but-good accent — which I finally placed: Maid Marian from "Robin Hood: Men in Tights"... I figured it out between episodes and every time he spoke in "Pt. 2," I could only hear, "Oh Robin... I'm so heppay!" — and bad-but-good second face prosthetic were an effective method of exploring multiple characters' backstories, revealing their humanity, frailty and pain.

But Twisty's story was the best of all. My only issue is that, owing to his general demeanor and the dwarves' "Simpleton" nickname for him, Twisty is an intellectually-stunted man-child. The Twisty we were introduced to seemed to convey more intelligence and intent, which is a credit to John Carroll Lynch's ability to emote with only the top half of his face. But screw it, let's not quibble. 

Now it seems the true Big Badguy is dear ol' Dandy Mott, who started out pretty terrifying when he strapped on Twisty's mask (was I the only one expecting his immature side to cut through an otherwise-transformative moment and hear him go, "Oh God, that stinks!"). What wasn't so terrifying was the lazy "American Psycho" homage, which lacked only an overlong explanation of why Kay Starr's "Wheel of Fortune" is the perfect song for their day and age. (That is a fantastic song, by the way. I first heard it on the "L.A. Confidential" soundtrack. Kay Starr's whole catalog is pretty great.)

But even in his butchering of poor Andy — which will surely bring the finger-cracking wrath of Dell Toledo, Closet Strongman Who Has Yet to Perform Any Feat of Strength Onstage — Dandy was more of a morbid curiosity than a terror. He should have left the mask on when he came home to Mother. A blood-drenched Dandy with that cancerous grin would have been the perfect image to end the episode.

Back to Mordrake for a few moments. The cheesiness of the green fog aside, I have a few observations about his, and his gang's, brief run:

• Tall Skinny Black Dude is super-creepy.
• Mordrake's grainy-film-stock backstory was great.
• The rest of the gang has their gruesome injuries and retains their freak qualities — why does Twisty get his jaw back?
• Say it with me: I'm so heppay.

"Pink Cupcakes" was all about fantasy. In fact, it was SO much about fantasy that until I re-watched it, I wasn't really sure that Dandy killed Andy. I'm actually STILL not sure, because who the hell could 1) survive being stabbed in the chest and lungs several times, and in the heart at least twice, by my count... 2) then take another baker's dozen stabs in the back... 3) THEN, IF BY SOME NIGHTMARISH MEDICAL MIRACLE YOU'RE STILL ALIVE, NOT WAKE UP when the first of your arms gets sawed off? I mean, Dandy is shown coming home to Gloria at the end of the episode, so I presume the whole thing really happened. But this is Ryan Murphy, so... who knows?

Speaking of Ryan Murphy, is anyone else kind of surprised that all of the villains this season are basically closeted homosexuals? I'm taking a leap with Dandy — he may be asexual, for all I know — but Dell, Stanley... what's up with that? 

One thing I really liked is Elsa's realization that her talent — which is not all that great in the first place — is being wasted on south-Florida townies. Without the novelty and anachronism of its debut, her "Life on Mars" performance got revealed for what it was: an aging torch singer who's just kind of okay.

And I don't care what anyone says: Dandy is not as frightening as Twisty. Not now that he's essentially Patrick Bateman with a mask and a doting mother. But I don't think I'll ever get tired of Gloria Mott's grand acceptance of the perils of wealth. ("Cousins marry cousins to protect the money" ... "It becomes rite of passage to have a psychopath or two in the line... Jack the Ripper was a Windsor, for God's sake"... never change, Gloria).

I tire of Jimmy's self-loathing. Do something to avenge Meep or don't, Sonny Jim. What you probably don't need to do is finger-bang Angela Bassett right into the doc's office. That's not gonna end well. Desiree's discover of herself as 100% woman, her desire to "feel something" combined with her moving into Ethel's caravan is gonna drive her right into Jimmy's arms. 

And right into Dell's misplaced rage when he inevitably discovers that Andy is dead. I really, really hope Dandy dissolved the whole corpse, as horrible as that sounds.... I truly shudder to think what Dell might do if he finds it.

The denouement of the Mordrake episodes was surprisingly emotional. This week's episode picks up the tone the early installments established. But Twisty's absence was very noticeable, and most of the supporting cast, who have been woven rather well into all the episodes, were largely relegated to the background this week. I'm interested to see the Mott's plot to keep Dandy's habit under wraps ... I've learned not to put any stock in the teasers, so it's pretty hard for me to believe that all with all this talk of inbreeding, Gloria would want a two-headed daughter-in-law to have her grandbabies. 

Then again, the sixth episode is right about the time "Coven" started to run off the rails. Some of the hectic fantasy/reality editing and general weirdness of "Pink Cupcakes" had me feeling like this season may be starting to tilt and wobble. Time will tell.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Last Night's Setlist: 10/31/14 Club Café, Pgh., Pa.

'Can you picture that?'

Best costume idea we've ever had. Easily.

[In case you're under the age of about 28 or so, that's Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem, the house band from "The Muppet Show" back in the day.]

Our drummer and his fiancee literally put 10 hours of work into what is a Jim-Henson-Creature-Workshop-quality Animal head. We even had the Swedish Chef and Camilla the Chicken to introduce us during the second set, which is regrettably the only one we got on tape (and the quality is not fantastic). But we're starting to really crank up a new Allman Bros. cover, "Les Brers in A Minor," mixing a Coltrane tune into the jam and, in honor of the season, a "Spooky" jam!

Early set:
Sympathy for the Devil (Stones)
New Mexican Shuffle*
Mother's Meth Head Blues*
Friend of the Devil (Dead) >
Run Through the Jungle (CCR) >
Friend of the Devil
Good Mornin' Lil' Schoolgirl** (J. Lee Williamson) >
Jam** >
Spoonful** (C. Patton) >
Schoolgirl Reprise**
Quite a Night*
Rain (Lennon/McCartney) >
China Cat Sunflower (Dead) >
Feelin' Blue (CCR)

Late set:
Can You Picture That? (D. Teeth/F. Pepper)
Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya (M. Rebennack)
Slow Train (T. Bruno) >
Les Brers in A Minor (Allman/Betts) >
Equinox (Coltrane) >
'Spooky' Jam >
Les Brers Reprise
Dock of the Bay** (O. Redding) >
Werewolves of London** (W. Zevon) >
Viola Lee Blues** (N. Cannon, Dead arr.)

**with Kyle Lawson as Zoot