What Is The Point Of Penny & Her Face Tattoo on 'AHS'? The New Plot Could Be The Entire Point Of 'Freak Show'

If there's one thing that we have all come to expect from American Horror Story, it's to expect the unexpected. But I'm not sure anyone could have predicted the bizarre turn of events that occurred on last Wednesday's episode of the FX drama — least of all the characters involved. On Wednesday's episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, titled "Test of Strength," Paul's girlfriend Penny got face tattoos — without her consent. It was an appropriately freaky scene, but it begged the question: Why did AHS bring Penny back?

Well, point one is to have Penny's dad tattoo her face. OK. But why did he do that?

Let's start with this dad. We know he is:

  1. An electrician
  2. An asshole

So, he was so angry at his daughter for running off with Paul (a "freak") that he decided to take some very sinister vengeance on his own flesh and blood by hiring tattoo artist "Morris" to tattoo Penny's face and fork her tongue. It was his way of cutting her out of the family. Penny's face is now almost as illustrated as her boyfriend's body, and Penny is not too happy about that. OK, but I'm still not sure why AHS brought Penny back.

Well, Penny was content leaving home for a life in the freak show with Paul, but I'm not so sure how Penny will cope with knowing that her own appearance could be considered "freaky" — that was clear from the moment she reunited with Paul. Penny looked so broken and violated, that it was hard not to feel for her.

Yes, body modification is not the same as being born with an atypical feature, disorder, or outwardly visible disability, but the fact that Penny didn't have a choice in the matter is pretty damn horrifying. In some ways, Penny's story is similar to Elsa's, whose legs were removed during the making of a snuff film. But while Penny's attack may be less violent, it's also far more obvious to the world around her — and unlike Elsa, Penny won't be able to "pass" in a society that isn't so accepting of outsiders.

Maybe that's the point of Penny's latest character arc: it's an easy in for the show to explore just what makes someone a so-called "freak." Penny is from a well off family and was born beautiful (she is played by Meryl Streep's daughter, after all), but she naturally gravitated towards people who were deemed less-than-worthy in the society in which she lived. Now, she fits in with the people in the freak show, and how she copes with that change will be very telling of who she is as a person.

Right now she doesn't have too many options. She can try the Elsa Mars route, and attempt to hide her "freaky" nature from the rest of the world — though I'm not sure if they made coverup thick enough to hide the tattoos on Penny's face. She could, of course, embrace the new look and take it as a sign that she's truly meant to be with Paul and his friends — it might even help her fit in amongst the band of outsiders who otherwise may have been skeptical of her place within their camp. Perhaps Penny could even take a part in the freak show in place of some of the sadly deceased cast members. (RIP, Ma Petite!)

These options are all possible, but the last one is by far the darkest: If Penny can't adapt to her new reality, she may fall into depression, or feel so hellbent on revenge that it completely destroys her. If the promo for next Wednesday's episode "Bloodbath" is any indication, she'll at least get a touch of revenge on dear ole' daddy (which is totally deserved, of course):


Penny may not have been born with the same outsider status as the rest of the people in Elsa's show, but she will have to cope with the same reality that many of them face on a daily basis. I hope she's up for it.

Images: Michele K. Short/FX; Giphy