american horror story freak show premiere episode 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' sells Twisty the Clown's sensitive side (but he's probably still a psycho killer)“American Horror Story,” subtitled “Freak Show” and set in 1950s Jupiter, Fla. at Elsa Mars’ (Jessica Lange) Cabinet of Curiosities, returned Wednesday (Oct. 8) with “Monsters Among Us,” which is definitely the most unsettling premiere episode yet.

It wasn’t “scary,” per se. However, the show’s writers, set dressers, casting directors, costumers, composers and actors must be commended because instead of straight-up scares, the show went for goosebumps, spine-tingles and an overall feeling of unease, with a handful of gore thrown in for good measure. That atmosphere coupled with the overwhelming sadness at the characters’ situations was more effective than 20 make-you-jump scares would have been.

The most intriguing aspect of the premiere is definitely Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch). On the surface, he seems like a psycho clown serial killer (and that may be all there is to him). But by episode’s end, it felt like the there is much more than meets the eye with Twisty.

Sure, he’s super scary to look at and he did kill some people. But he didn’t kill indiscriminately. Instead, it seems as though Twisty is assembling himself an (ahem) twisted little family. The young woman and the little boy weren’t killed, they were kidnapped. And while their situation is obviously less than ideal, they aren’t being hurt. In fact, Twisty tried, in his own twisted way, to entertain them with balloon animals.

It would not come as a surprise at all to learn in later episodes that Twisty once lost his wife and child in a tragic accident and now is trying to reassemble the family he once had.

In addition to his nuclear family, Twisty also appears to be looking for a place to belong, just like the rest of the “freaks.” In the episode’s final frames, he ends up watching wistfully, longingly, from the shadows as the troupe disposes of the man Jimmy killed in a fit of rage.

This interpretation might be way off base. Maybe Twisty is just some lunatic out for kicks. But Ryan Murphy’s past “AHS” iterations generally have more going on with the characters than viewers initially think. If this theory is indeed correct, it will be interesting to watch the show navigate the storyline of making the audience sympathize with a serial killer. If anyone can do it, “American Horror Story” can. Tate Langdon, anyone?

Regardless of what is up with Twisty, “Monsters Among Us” sets the table beautifully for the season. It definitely felt like a prologue to the real action, as it introduced all the main characters, in some cases providing insight into both their background and current situations, and (once again) established “AHS” grand dame Jessica Lange as a complex, nuanced leader who is herself a “freak,” missing both of her legs below the knees.

As more is revealed about all the characters — including next week’s arrival of Michael Chiklis’ strongman and Angela Bassett’s three-breasted woman — we expect to be eagerly buying a weekly ticket to Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

What did you think of the “American Horror Story: Freak Show” premiere? Do you think there’s more going on with Twisty than meets the eye?

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."