Two weeks in and American Horror Story: Freak Show is making it real tough for viewers. On one hand, it’s difficult to stomach all the gory murders, killer clowns and visual oddities that the show spotlights every week, but on the other hand, it’s even harder to miss out on the anachronistic musical performances Freak Show doles out each episode. The first episode of Freak Show, which takes place in Jupiter, Florida in 1952, made clever use of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory cut “Life on Mars?” On Wednesday night, the show featured another surprise song choice: Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.”
For the performance, Sarah Paulson’s conjoined twin characters Dot and Bette use the Tidal track to turn a matinee freak show into a midday mosh pit. The song choice works on multiple levels: First, the twins actually are criminals on the lam after killing their domineering mother in the opening episode. The song also drives an emotional wedge between Dot and Bette: The twin who dreams of being a Hollywood star actually has no singing talent – she harmonizes on the performance – while her sister who wants to be left alone by society also has the great pipes that deliver the Apple song. The episode hints at a future rift between the conjoined sisters that might tear them apart… literally.
American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy previously acknowledged that his unlikely song choices are a nod to director Baz Luhrmann, who also appropriates contemporary music and employs it in period pieces. Murphy also revealed that songs by Nirvana and Lana Del Rey might be popping up in upcoming episodes.