In general, I think humans have a natural tendency to root for the outcasts, and I’m pretty sure almost everybody has felt like something of an outcast in their lives before. That said, the premise of “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” the fourth season in Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s anthology TV series, really beckoned me.
“Freak Show” gives us a front row seat to witness the dark cloud hovering over Fraulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities—a freak show starring a variety of characters, including a two-headed woman, a boy with lobster claws for hands, the world’s smallest adult, and many more of “nature’s mistakes” as they say in the show. The most fascinating part of this season was, undoubtedly, getting to know the freaks. They all have a tragic, complicated backstory that makes me want to love and protect each one. The “American Horror Story” writers never fail to imbue their characters with an intricate history. This season, the characters are crafted particularly well. Each character has a whole repertoire of flaws and mistakes to draw from, but they are portrayed with such humanity, with complexities and authentic moral battles. The relationships surpass simplicity but the family theme and sense of camaraderie stand unwavering in each episode.
What prevents this season from really shining the way it could, for me, is that a good chunk of it feels like filler. It’s not captivating the same way other seasons have been. It’s not that this season is uneventful or boring. However, most of this season felt like it was missing those shocking events, the big moments that made me desperate to know what would happen next. In a way, it was a quieter season. Not always, especially not in the end, but throughout most of it, the show relies more on the intrigue of the freaks than the intrigue of the plot.
Overall, “Freak Show” is an eccentric and emotionally charged season that could have benefitted from some more imaginative plotting, but I was satisfied in the end.