American Horror Story recap: Freak Show' recap: 'Orphans'
Pepper provides a bridge between American Horror Story seasons past and present.
“The death of a beloved monster is always a sore one, but never a surprise,” says Jessica Lange’s Elsa at the beginning of American Horror Story: Freak Show‘s fall finale. In reality, the line should read the death of any character on American Horror Story, as it’s never a surprise, but then we’d be entering some real meta craziness, and we have much more time for that later in the episode. Sadly, there wasn’t as much death as there was a lot of talk in Freak Show‘s fall finale, but there was enough intriguing bits to make us impatient for new episodes in 2015.
As I am filling in for you regular AHS recapper, Darren, I hope you’ll all appreciate with me how very Batman-like “Orphans” was with its freak show origin stories, one of which involves the sale of Ma Petite in exchange for three cases of Dr. Pepper. Who would have thought my fellow Indians would love Dr. Pepper so much? I guess Thums Up had yet to be invented in the ’50s. (Look it up Americans, it tastes so weird and good.)
The episode began with an end. Salty had finally succumbed to his pinhead fate and died, supposedly of a stroke according to Mama Mars, though his surprising death had a bit of a Stanley-esque ominousness to it. But that might have just been thanks to Stanley later chopping Salty’s head off of his stinking body and displaying it for the morbid museum. Just another day in the life of a fake talent scout, I presume? In the midst of the clean up, Desiree is acting mighty motherly with Pepper, reading her stories and sassing it up when Pepper throws a fit. She later learns from Elsa about Pepper’s past—which is about as depressing as the time when Matt Bomer died on Freak Show. Remember that? Low blow, AHS writers, low blow.
Pepper’s life was always unfortunate: Her sister couldn’t handle her and dropped her off at an orphanage, where she lived until she was 18. She was rescued by Elsa, who was looking to begin her freak show wrangling career. She simply walked out of the orphanage with Pepper in hand; no one there was too worried about losing Pepper to the outside world. Back in Jupiter, Elsa and Pepper continued to grow their freak show with the addition of Ma Petite, who should receive a lifetime supply of Dr. Pepper for having to be imprisoned by a royal dummy for as long as she was his “pet.” Ma Petite ended up being a kind of child to Pepper, and later Pepper received a mate in the form of Salty, who came to the freak show after Elsa wrote letters for someone to fill Pepper’s romantic loneliness. The first iteration of Match.com, people!
Meanwhile back in the present day, Desiree forgives Dell for his overall horribleness, and somehow so do I because as Darren says #BecauseChiklis. Later Desiree and Angus visit Maggie/Esmeralda to get a reading on their hopefully white-picket future. The reading starts out alright with happiness, rainbows, and sunshine, but ends with a black pit of tar much like one Desiree has experience with and much like the soul inside Maggie herself. The fake psychic, who seems to be using Shawn Spencer/Psych-like techniques to draw up visions of her employers, has clearly been spending too much time with Jimmy as his drunk is rubbing off on her.
Desiree confronts Maggie on the merry-go-round (almost always a staple in creepy shows and movies), Maggie reveals that she and Stanley are fakes but doesn’t seem to care about doing anything to make up for her sins, yet. When Desiree tries to interrogate out their reason for coming to Jupiter, Maggie plays dumb and says it’s to pickpocket freak show customers, which might be the lamest and worst lie I’ve ever heard. Desiree agrees, “I wasn’t born on a farm, but I do know bullshit when I smell it.” (Is Desiree a relative of Drake? Because their lines are very similar: “Look just understand that I’m on the roll like Cottonelle.” I’m pretty sure Desiree came up with this for the rapper.)
NEXT: Freak show, you in danger girl.
Eventually Maggie decides to make amends thanks to a swift kick in the ass by Dot (not so much by Bette), and she tells Desiree that everyone is in danger of dying soon. Everyone say it with me now: “Duh.” Thanks Whoopi Goldberg, now stop saying ominous crap and do something about it. Thankfully she tries to do just that as she takes Desiree over to nobody’s favorite museum and sees Salty’s head, Ma Petite’s body, and surprise surprise! Jimmy’s hands?
Now we know Stanley visits Jimmy and offers to get him a fancy lawyer, but Jimmy hasn’t got two nickels to rub together. But thanks to Stanley, perhaps those days are over? We don’t know for sure when Jimmy’s hands were taken from him and whether it was done voluntarily thanks to time shifts galore in this fall finale. But if the promos for January’s newest episode, AHS history, and Ryan Murphy mentality tell us anything, the remaining housewives in Jupiter will surely be less, ahem… satisfied… in the future.
Back to Pepper’s depressing life. Stanley reveals that Elsa’s time in the spotlight will start soon enough, so she deems it necessary to find Pepper’s sister and reunite the two so that Pepper won’t feel abandoned by another person whom she loved dearly. It would be quite the sweet thought if it wasn’t precipitated by an insatiable need to be famous and loved and all of that hogwash that’s important to Elsa and Elsa alone.
Elsa convinces Pepper’s sister Rita, a.k.a. the most horrible person alive, to take little Pepper back, and the result is terrible. Despite Rita having good taste in cocktails, she is clearly the worst human being ever—she has no other likable traits. She dumps her newborn son on Pepper’s lap to be a proper mother and then accuses her of lusting after her equally terrible husband. They then pull a plot straight out of a Lifetime original movie (before it started taking on biopics and stories about incest) by killing their child and pinning the murder on Pepper.
Pepper hears Rita’s husband kill her makeshift son through a closed door and then possibly kills him, which sends her to Briarcliff in 1962—because all of this is a flash-forward. Surprise! And bigger surprise, who was at Briarcliff mental institution? A not-yet possessed by the devil Sister Mary Eunice! Lily Rabe has returned like Eminem, D’Angelo, and many others before her to hear Rita’s twisted version of the murderous events in her life and to learn the reason for Pepper’s admittance to Briarcliff. Ryan Murphy’s genius plan is starting to come into focus.
Pepper is condemned to solitary for a while until Mary Eunice sees “real remorse” in her eyes. And you know the best way to truly repent? Librarian work of course. Mary Eunice has Pepper sort magazines and other reading paraphernalia until Pepper spots an issue of Life magazine with none other than Elsa Mars on the cover. Guess someone finally made it big on TV on Friday nights. Considering what shows are on Friday night’s in our time period, Elsa is starring in either a show about serial killers, cops, or the last season of Glee. Considering AHS‘ creators, it’s probably the last one. You know how Ryan Murphy loves interconnectivity.
American Horror Story
An anthology series that centers on different characters and locations, including a haunted house, an insane asylum, a witch coven, a freak show, and a hotel.