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American Horror Story Freak Show Review: “Magical Thinking”

AHS Freak Show Cast
AHS Freak Show Cast
AHS Freak Show Cast

Posted January 6, 2015 by

It’s a bit late in the game, but American Horror Story: Freak Show may yet turn out to be a good season after all.

Now, at first I thought “Magical Thinking” was going to devolve back to the quality of episode 7-9, passable but uninteresting. To my surprise after a kind of stupid opening sequence that showed us Jimmy’s claw removal we get introduced to a new character, Chester. In a lot of ways I think it’s odd to introduce a character like this so late in the season. With only 3 episodes left we aren’t going to get a lot out of Chester but at least AHS had the good sense to devote basically the entire episode to his storyline.

Oh, did I forget to mention? Chester is played by none other than Neil Patrick Harris. Initially, I thought this would just be a play on his usual character type. I was pleasantly surprised to find him an oddly charismatic choice for a man haunted by WWII that has a strange, ambiguous relationship with a talking ventriloquist doll. I don’t know what it is about old timey dolls, but they always have such a creepy way about them. Chester also performs classic magic tricks such as sawing a woman in half. A nice, albeit unsubtle nod to Bette and Dot’s past desire to be separated.

Speaking of Bette and Dot, they had a fun and sort of random plotline this week involving their desire to finally get “deflowered”. The sexual nature this season has either been on the forefront during episodes or completely shuffled to the background, but tonight didn’t do much to hide it’s sexual innuendos and cleverly edited lesbian sex scenes. Normally the unnecessary sexual overtones get on my nerves but tonight they worked in a weirdly dreamy kind of way. Maybe thats because some of the scenes happened in hazy flashbacks or maybe it’s just the dreamlike quality of this whole season but tonight’s imagery worked well.

As I stated above it seems a little late in the game to introduce a brand new character but having the majority of the episode focus on Chester was the right decision. In a short amount of time they established his personality, his struggles with hallucinations and PTSD and his genuinely kind nature considering he’s likely a murderer. The idea of him struggling with PTSD might be one of the more interesting aspects this season has taken. Back during WWII it simply wasn’t as established as it is now, and most people back then were simply labeled crazy.

Now this episode definitely wasn’t perfect. While I love that it focused heavily on character I’m starting to feel like many of the established characters are being pushed to the back, or just making decisions that don’t fit their previous actions. Esmerelda is a prime example of a character who only pops up at the writers convenience, but Jimmy is the person I’ve been most frustrated with lately. Not only is it hard for me to believe he would trust Stanley but I think it’s a little ridiculous how afraid he was about being in jail. Sure Meep was killed there but Jimmy has been mostly able to handle himself throughout the season. His mother dying obviously had a profound effect on him but it seems a little too easy to use that as an excuse to create unneeded drama. It’s not that Jimmy couldn’t be written as increasingly desperate, but he seems to be making massive leaps in these last few episodes that feel far to rushed.

In addition Dandy is being pushed sort of into the background. For someone who started as a viable main villain he’s become something of a caricature of the typical “psychopathic murderer”. Don’t even get me started on the police force, whose antics are reminding me frequently of the dumb-ass police in The Following. It’s hard for me to believe Jimmy could effectively escape jail twice in the same episode. Aside from those relatively small qualms “Magical Thinking” was a good episode. I’m not sure how well this will actually carry into the final two episodes, but here’s hoping they are at least this good if not better.


Grade = B