Ryan Murphy has said that he's "worried that people are going to have cardiac arrests" because the clown on American Horror Story: Freak Show is too scary. But what about the freak show itself? Do Elsa's "monsters" live up to their title? Yes and no.
While Murphy has cast Jyoti Amge, the world's smallest woman; Amazon Eve, a 6'8" transgender woman; Mat Fraser, who suffers phocomelia of both arms; and Rose Siggins, a legless mother of two in the 1950s "freak show," all of the carnival's big stars are made up of Horror Story alums, severely lowering its freakiness.
See how the Freak Show stars add up when their freakiness is put to the test.
Elsa Mars, Owner and Headliner (Jessica Lange): Much like every character Lange has played on American Horror Story, Elsa is an imposing, commanding matriarch — but this time she has a German accent! And even though Elsa appears physically "normal," not all is as it appears with the expat. Though even this secret isn't what makes Elsa freaky. It's the voraciousness with which she clings to the idea of stardom, using her "monsters" to desperately try and get her that spotlight after so many years, that will leave shivers running up your spine. However, Elsa is so fabulous — at one point in the premiere she sings David Bowie in a powder blue pantsuit with matching eye shadow — that it all kind of balances out and you'll find yourself rooting for her anyways.
Jimmy Darling, Lobster Boy (Evan Peters): Having your fingers fused together to create claw hands might not be the most aesthetically pleasing thing, but it isn't the worst. Having giant claw hands, however, is definitely disturbing. Especially when you find out what you use them for. (Hint: The ladies love him!) And though Peters once again does his troubled-boy-who-just-wants-to-do-good-deep-down routine, there's a violence brewing under the surface of Jimmy that makes him the freakiest of all.
Desiree Dupree, Three-Breasted Woman (Angela Bassett): "Three titties, proper girl parts and a ding-a-ling. I'm a full-blown hermaphrodite. Put that on your banner," Desiree says in her introduction to Elsa (the woman knows how to make a first impression). While there really isn't anything "freaky" about her downstairs situation, the idea of an actual three-breasted woman is a little too much for us to handle outside of Total Recall.
Freak Factor: 3
Ethel Darling, The Bearded Lady (Kathy Bates): We're all familiar with the book Everyone Poops, but where is the follow-up, Everyone Has Facial Hair?Just accept it, men of the world! We have it too! It's just usually not as thick, long and mangy as Ethel's. But Ethel's refusal to properly groom or shave her beard is a sign of her unflinching nerve that one has to respect. She doesn't care whether you find her attractive or not. She cares that you do what she says — and that you stay away from Elsa and her son Jimmy.
Freaky Factor: 2
Dell Toledo, The Strong Man (Michael Chiklis): He's strong! He's aggressive! He's controlling! He's... a bit of a cliché. At least at first glance. Dell's marriage to Desiree and his former relationship with Ethel hint that he isn't the complete macho stereotype that normally befalls strongmen. But still, being strong isn't "freaky" so much as it is a socially accepted thing the human body is capable of.
Bette and Dot Tattler, The Siamese Twins (Sarah Paulson): Paulson does an excellent job demonstrating the nuances between starry-eyed Bette and uptight Dot and it's within this valley of difference that the twins' true freakiness lives. To share one body — one set of arms, one set of legs, one stomach, and yes, one vagina — but never to have full control over them, to always have to battle over every decision with your polar opposite, have left both Bette and Dot a little... off. But at least they always have someone to harmonize with while performing!
American Horror Story: Freak Show premieres Wednesday at 10/9c on FX.VIDEO: Kathy Bates on her personal ties to American Horror Story: Freak Show