American Horror Story: Freak Show ~ Season Review

Hit shows have greats odds against them. They have to maintain a fresh appeal, keep fans happy, find new audiences, and explore new territory. American Horror Story reboots each season with a self-contained story and new characters so the fresh part is easy. But dealing with fans is not. Since the brilliant first season viewer expectations seem to have spiraled out of control. It doesn’t help that months of internet speculation, hidden clues in episodes, and unofficial fan art fuel the fire. When it was announced that Season 4 would have a carnival theme, I immediately thought of scary clowns in the sewer, Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and the endless haunted carnival attractions at Halloween. I admit that I had a difficult time keeping my own expectations in check, so perhaps that's why Freak Show seems like an overall disappointment. Or maybe it was the hodgepodge approach of throwing everything on the wall to see what sticks. There were so many characters, so many stories, so much going on, and only 13 episodes – the storytelling got lost. And so did the horror. Instead of being scary, thrilling and fun, it was morose, humorless, and depressing. The Pepper episode was the most sorrowful hour of TV in years. From the technical standpoint, the production this season was absolutely astounding: the circus sets were grand, colorful and gorgeous; the costumes and makeup effects were perfect and disgusting; and the digital wizardry that gave one actor two heads was almost mind-bogglingly seamless. Maybe now that the season is over and expectations have been put to rest, this chapter can be put back on the shelf to revisit later. Maybe time will bring a new perspective and reveal details lost in the first viewing. This does seems to be a pattern with AHS. The third season Coven definitely improved after a second viewing. However, one thing is certain: no matter how “disappointing” this season of AHS seemed, it’s still better than most of the genre shows on TV, and is filled with the best actors on TV – regardless of whether they have three breasts, distracting accents, or musical numbers.


  1. Completely agree with this review.
    Every detail of it.


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