Warning – contains spoilers for previous episodes!
Following last week’s bloodbath – in both metaphorical and literal senses – there’s a slight change of pace this week as the focus turns to Salty and Pepper, and one of the few characters to link to any prior season of American Horror Story. But as the season comes to the sharp end, is that an indication of yet another character for the chop?
There’s a really Moffat-esque level of time (and space) jumping in this episode, with only a minority happening in 1952 Florida, but changing up the look means it’s not a confusing watch. Even when there’s flashbacks during flashforwards, it’s always straightforward without feeling like it’s simplifying for viewer benefit, and it’s a testament to clever production that the description sounds more complicated than it feels when you see it!
This series keeps making me eat my words, as again my predictions for the way the “main” plot would go has been scuppered now Jimmy is in jail and going to be reliant on others to even get out let alone become a challenge to Dandy, but in the face of being embarrassed yet again it does look like this week sees a final setup for at least one of the plot threads to lead to the final. That said, it also feels a bit forced in a sense at times, with some slightly out-of-character behaviour used to get the right people in the right place at the crucial time. That may of course all change next week, so I’m still reserving judgement, and it’s a pretty minor niggle considering the rest of this episode.
One thing in common with last week is the emotional strength of the episode, it’s not like the first half of the series was particularly lacking but the last couple of episodes have really ramped it up. Particular note is due for Naomi Grossman who is fantastic as Pepper; at one point Elsa notes how she doesn’t need Pepper to say anything to know how she is feeling and it’s the same for the viewer thanks to the excellence of the performance.
Ultimately there’s a bit of a sense in some ways of the calm before the storm in the direction taken for Orphans, with the recent deaths in the sideshow coming to the fore and truths bubbling to the surface. There’s a couple of weeks break now before the next episode – Magical Thinking – will air, but it’s looking like we’re heading for a hell of a final act!