This review contains spoilers.
One of the show’s better visual moments this season involves the classic sideshow stunt, the wheel of death. You strap someone in, spin the wheel, and then you throw knives at that person, usually getting close to the head and genitals, but never actually injuring the person. Since this is American Horror Story, that wheel becomes more than just a show. It’s a warning, and when the knife thrower is an enraged Elsa Mars, well… accidents happen. Expected accidents happen, that is.
However, just because the knifing of Paul is foreshadowed well—he’s Elsa’s secret lover, he doesn’t trust her as far as the twins go, he’s got a girlfriend back in town—doesn’t mean it’s still not effective when it’s actually executed. It’s a dizzyingly brilliant series of shots from Howard Deutch and the show’s visual crew, with an emphasis on dizzy thanks to the wheel-eye-view of Elsa and her throwing daggers. It adds a little more punch to Paul’s accident, and Mat Fraser’s been awesome on the show. He squares off with Jessica Lange in some very heated scenes this week, both romantic and enraged, and he holds his own.
Paul’s trip on the wheel is a great bit of show, and it’s a very tense scene, but not as tense as the scenes involving Maggie and Ma Petite. Jyoti Amge is the most adorable cast member on any show in the history of television, with her big smile and her tiny, tiny person, and the idea of Ma Petite in some sort of trouble is really unsettling, particularly with how well those scenes have been staged. From Maggie’s plan, spelled out for the viewer in disturbing detail, the very threat of turning Ma Petite into a human butterfly is disturbing to behold. Maggie is just conflicted enough, and just trapped enough, that Ma Petite feels like she’s in legitimate danger. It’s kind of worse than threatening a child, because she’s an adult woman who is both trusting and powerless against the world, because even children are bigger and stronger than she is. She’s the perfect potential victim on a show like this, and putting her in danger creates amazing tension, even if Maggie’s pesky humanity prevents the situation from getting out of hand.
Humanity isn’t much of a problem for Elsa or Dandy Mott, and this week further cements that. Elsa is slowly completing her turn to straight villain in grand fashion, with loud tirades and heaps of distaste for her monsters. She treats Paul like dirt to his face (after sex, no less) and she uses Ma Petite as a way to satisfy her own needs, rather than considering Petite’s needs as a person (I believe she was still in her water bottle outfit and in the room when Elsa and Paul were having sex). Elsa and Dandy share that trait in common; if something isn’t there for their gratification, it’s discarded. Elsa sells the twins off to Dandy, and when Dot shows her manipulative side via the diary, it’s all Dandy can do to keep from splitting the two in half himself.
And boy howdy, does Dandy work as a bisecting maniac with a Nazi SS dagger in his toy box. Finn Wittrock is awesome at this role, and throughout his great monologue about how being a sociopath is like being in a desert (great work by writer John J. Gray), he’s able to both betray the rejection Dandy is feeling and not have Dandy feel too much. He’s got tears in his dead eyes, but it’s played as if he’s more disappointed to be right about himself than he is actually heartbroken at rejection. It’s great work, and it’s a reminder that great actors can do a lot with great material—he’s been a very unexpected bright point as far as performances go, second only to Mat Fraser in the surprise category and second to Jessica Lange in the diva category. He’s both dangerous and petulant, which is a great combination for a bad guy.
The fourth season of AHS has been a slower affair, perhaps a bit too slow for some, and comparatively low on the camp by the show’s lofty standards. Bullseye reverses both of those trends, putting characters in danger and giving actors great stuff to work with. It’s a fun show and it seems to be picking up momentum. Elsa’s betraying her people, Jimmy and Maggie are falling in love, and Stanley’s got some Ma Petite-sized aquaria that need to be filled with the most interesting parts of the Cabinet of Curiosities.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is a little petrified of being trapped in a small, enclosed space, be it elevator or jar. Still, it’s a lot better to be trapped and drowned in a bottle than to have knives hurled at your face. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.