What more could you expect from a Ryan Murphy-authored AHS episode called “Bloodbath”? The cast dwindles down considerably this week, and by the end of the episode, one of them is taking the title in the literal sense.
Thank You for Being a Friend
Bates and Lange actressed all over each other in a 15-minute scene this week, pitting Ethel’s heartbroken disenchantment against Elsa’s ego-driven dog-eat-dog tactics in a tearful showdown. “Do you understand the pain of being rejected by your own mother? Of course you do! That’s how you sucked us all in here,” cries Ethel.
Ever since Ethel overheard Stanley and Elsa plotting to kill off the twins, she figures Elsa would sacrifice anything and anyone to win her fame — like murdering “God’s sliver of light” Ma Petite. Ethel wants to end Elsa’s terrible reign once and for all.
"Sorry you won't be going to Hollywood, Elsa," says Ethel, pointing a gun at her back-turned “savior” pouring schnaaps for the road. "Sorry you won't be there with me," says Elsa, caressing a knife. Just as Ethel’s about to shoot her, Elsa whips around and sends her knife straight into Ethel’s face. Damn.
And of course Elsa gets away with it again, staging, with Stanley’s help, Ethel’s death as a suicide-by-car crash like a movie set.
“Let my legs carry you.”
At one point in their argument, Ethel shoots, to her utter surprise, Elsa’s wooden prosthetic leg, cuing a flashback to when Elsa got amputated by Nazi sadists. The kind young soldier who saved her that night brought her to a prosthetics / movie props maker named Massimo. He’s played by Dad-hot Danny Huston, whose AHS Coven incarnation Axeman harbored an infatuation with Lange’s Supreme. That relationship gets an update here. Not only did Massimo craft new prosthetic legs for her, he also sculpted her a new sense of self-esteem with reassurances that she will always be beautiful in his eyes. Hopefully we’ll see more of Massimo this season.
"You weren't nobody, Ma," he says at Ethel’s funeral, before stumbling off to drown his sorrows at the bar. That entire speech really hurt me.
“What you done to your little girl? That was chickenshit. We gonna make sure you look the part.”
Four women remain: Desiree, Penny “The Astounding Lizard Girl”, Amazon Eve and Legless Suzi. Desiree’s mourning for her friend eventually morphs into a battle cry for vengeance; the women make a pact over Ethel’s grave to make all misogynistic men pay, starting with Penny’s father. So they break into his home and kidnap him for an old fashioned tar-and-feathering; just as Penny’s about to slice off her father’s man bits, Esmeralda / Maggie storms in and gives a virtuous speech on what’s moral, and gelding your Pa ain’t moral. Eyeroll.
The Definition of Irony
Just before Freakshow dames steal him away, we get a shot of Penny’s dad getting ready to settle down for the night; he’s got a song on the radio crooning, “Don’t you dare call me Daddy again.”
Speaking of Chimerical Paternal Roles: Imma Wiggles
Skipping out on Ethel’s funeral, Elsa heads down to a fat reduction spa in Miami to recruit a Fat Lady act for the show: Barbara a.k.a. Imma Wiggles. Rejected by her mother for being a “bit fat pig,” Barbara confesses to Elsa that her mom used to tell people she was knocked-up instead of just morbidly obese; Elsa assures her that she is just a “hedonist. Lover of the physical world.”
Elsa brings her home, and she sickly suggests to Jimmy that he takes comfort in her maternal fat folds…and when Jimmy and Esmeralda have a fight over her pretty skinny white girl life behind rose glasses, he does.
And Dandy? He’s Just Dandy
Turns out Gloria has been consulting a faceless psychiatrist about her anxieties with Dandy. Flashbacks reveal that Dandy has had a psychopathic history of killing cats and a fellow playmate as a wee lad. Thinking he needs institutionalized help, Gloria tricks Dandy into visiting her psychiatrist under the pretense that he’s having his IQ measured.
No, Dandy, that Rorschach inkblot is NOT “a man with his arm torn off, his insides outside for all the world to see.” No, Dandy, that is NOT “blood spilled all over the wall.” Dandy then tells a story about a tribe in Papua New Guinea who believed you could usurp someone’s power by eating their flesh or bathing in their blood. Lector would be proud.
Back home, he calls Gloria’s bluff and says she has to kill Regina (Gabourey Sidibe as the murdered Dora’s daughter threatening to go to the police) or to sit on his lap in the electric chair. Gloria tries to plan their escape, but Dandy presses on, claiming that he knows he was the product of sinful incest between Gloria and her second cousin. "Your father wasn't the love of my life," she says. "You were."
Dandy attempts suicide, holding up a gun to his temple. Gloria begs him not to, which he takes as permission to kill her instead. By the end of the episode, we see him bathing in a tub of his mother’s blood.