American Horror Story Freak Show Episode 7 Review: “Test of Strength”
During any particular television season, which has transformed from 2 defined seasons into a year round thing, I watch anywhere from 15-25 television shows. Some of these are consistently fantastic, Brooklyn Nine Nine for example. Some are incredibly scattershot, The Walking Dead, I’m looking at you! Some are rocks, sturdy and unmoving like The Big Bang Theory, and others are constantly trying to better themselves, which is where I think American Horror Story tends to fall. I actually ended up watch “Test of Strength” a couple of times since its release. Partly because other members of my household watch it, and partly because I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about “Test of Strength” as a whole.
For the most part, the episode works quite well, even though I’ve read several reviews pointing to it as a low point in this season. Much of the episode focused on Jimmy this week, a welcome change of pace. Jimmy is one of the season’s most interesting and fleshed out characters. The de facto leader of this troupe who struggles with not being a particularly strong person physically. Things start off well enough with Jimmy going to retrieve Dot and Bette from the presumed nightmare of Dandy’s mansion. We all know they went of their own free will, but Elsa’s scheming coupled with basically every characters propensity towards lying makes this something of a fool’s errand. The twins do leave with him, but for reasons other than Jimmy’s intended nobility. I liked that Jimmy made the connection almost immediately that Dandy was the second clown from the kidnapped children. Even though I find Dandy minute compared to Twisty’s evil carnage, I still want to see how his story winds up playing out.
Much of the remainder of the episode was spent on two aspects. Dell trying to capture and kill freak, and Jimmy’s developing relationship with Dell. The Dell scenes at the beginning are pretty ridiculous. Sure, it was hilarious seeing him get his ass kicked by Amazon Eve, but for a guy whose supposed to be the carnival strong man it was slightly hard to believe. This went even further when everyone finds out what happens but just takes a sort of relaxed attitude towards it. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to buy into the fact that these people would just continue to let Dell walk in and out of the camp willy nilly when they tend to be so defensive towards just about everyone in town. This of course leads to the miniature bombshell of (SPOILER WARNING IF YOU HAVENT SEEN THE EPISODE YET) Ma Petite biting the dust. After “Bullseye’s” fantasy deaths this didn’t come as the major shock the writers intended. If you were going to kill someone off, let’s face it, Ma Petite is a pretty easy character to do it to. She was a fun actress to have around, but she didn’t do much past look adorable and give fellow members of the carnival hugs. She was more of an idea than an actual character so no real loss in that way.
I think the parts of the episode that threw the majority of my fellow reviewers were the scenes between Jimmy and Dell at the bar. Jimmy originally wants to tell Dell to kick off, but the two wind up getting drunk and having a specifically strange shift from angry to melodramatic father son reunion. Even though I get why people might find this off putting, it was actually quite different from what I expected to happen during that scene, not to mention Chiklis and Peters make for compelling actors when playing off one another. Their battle for power has been one of the more interesting aspects for me this season so I didn’t have the same issue with it as some did.
In the end, “Test of Strength” isn’t the strongest episode this season, but I don’t think it’s the worst either. It’s the kind of episode meant to build up storylines and connect loose ends, preparing for what I’m sure will be a killer episode tomorrow. Unfortunately, we only get 3 more episode before the show goes on a couple weeks break for the Christmas holiday. I plan on re watching the episodes already aired so when we come back in January I’ll be refreshed and hopefully have some new perspectives.