Will Penny the Candy Striper Return To 'AHS: Freak Show'? Her Storyline Was Left Hanging
AHS: Freak Show, the fourth iteration of FX's anthology series American Horror Story , separates itself from its brethren in one particular way: its surprisingly streamlined plot. Past seasons of AHS have been notorious for their scattered storylines — just think of Season 2's Asylum and its masked serial killers, Nazi doctors, possessed nuns, and alien abductions. In its first five episodes, Season 4 has been relatively economic in its storytelling, but there is one specific plotline that this streamlined Freak Show has left dangling. What happened to Penny the Candy Striper (played by Grace Gummer a.k.a. Meryl Streep's daughter)? She appeared in the premiere episode "Monsters Among Us" as an employee at the hospital where Elsa Mars discovered Bette and Dot Tattler, and we later saw her horrified after a drug-fueled orgy with Elsa's freaks — before she disappeared completely. So what gives?
There are a couple of reasons I'd love to see her back on the show. First of all, she's a talented actress (you've probably seen her in films like Frances Ha or TV shows like The Newsroom), so it would be great to see Ryan Murphy put her to further use. But on a deeper level, I just really need the show to address her character again. Penny's appearance was the most problematic aspect of the AHS premiere, one that left a sour taste in many viewers' mouths . Sure, the scene was probably supposed to be about lowering your inhibitions and finding pleasure in unexpected places, but the image of a coked-up Penny half-passed out while people performed lewd acts around and with her sure read as rape onscreen. Just because she said she liked it while she was incapacitated doesn't mean she gave proper consent — that's classic victim-blaming right there.
It's like the AHS writers knew this scene was going to be controversial, because Penny's plot was dropped like a hot potato immediately afterwards, and we haven't seen her since. But if Gummer's IMDb page is any indication, that's finally about to change. The 28 year old actress has five episodes currently listed under her American Horror Story credit: Coven's "The Axman Cometh" (in which she appeared as Mellie, the witch that rallied her peers to take out the eponymous serial killer), Freak Show's "Monsters Among Us" and the next three episodes in a row: "Bullseye," "Test Of Strength," and "Blood Bath."
Now, keep in mind that, like Wikipedia, anyone can edit an actor's IMDb page. Just because someone has listed Gummer as appearing in these three upcoming episodes doesn't mean that she actually will. But we have another clue that Penny is, in fact, coming back. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly after the Season 4 premiere, Ryan Murphy directly addressed Gummer's status on the show. Here's what he had to say when asked if she would recur throughout Freak Show:
Oh yes. I love her. She’s very talented. The Peppermint Girl comes back. I’m not going to say for good or for bad. But I think the world of her. She’s really talented and really funny. What happens to her might be the scariest thing that happens all season but she was game.
Whether Gummer comes back for the rest of the season, or just the episodes listed on her IMDb page, or even just one more scene, at least we can be certain that she is, in fact, returning at some point. And it sounds like her comeback won't be too pleasant for poor Penny.
So what's going to happen to our favorite candy striper? Will she return to Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities, desperate for another night of loose morals and uninhibited pleasure, only to become a craven drug addict? Will she catch the murderous eye of Dandy Mott? Will she fall victim to one of Stanley's poisonous pink cupcakes, intended for one of Elsa's freaks? Whatever the Peppermint Girl's fate, I just hope it involves fewer "blurred lines" and more stellar acting from the House of Streep.