American Horror Story: Freak Show –
Edward Mordrake Pt. 1 (4×03)
Synopsis: Halloween is just around the corner and the freaks settle in for a weekend break- after all, no one performs on Halloween in fear that Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) will come and snatch you. The appearance of con artists Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and Maggie “Esmeralda” (Emma Roberts) throw a wrench in that though, since Maggie is hired by the freak show as a mind reader and they decide to have an impromptu rehearsal. Meanwhile, Ethel learns a horrifying fact about her future and Halloween suddenly becomes a whole lot more spooky than the freaks were betting on originally.
I think I realized what’s really bothering me about this season – the run time of each episode. By moving to an hour and a half long time spot, the show is really dragging its feet in terms of propelling the story and giving the viewers a well paced show. The extra time isn’t being used effectively at all, and we’re left waiting for the end of each episode not in anticipation, but exasperation.
Well, that’s just one of the things I’m realizing that is lessening my enjoyment of the show. This episode didn’t really do much of anything else to pique my interest, even with the intro of two new characters and the fact that it’s the first part of a two-part Halloween special.
It’s Halloween time in Jupiter, and the carnies are getting ready to take a well deserved break after all the action that’s been going on. According to urban legend, Edward Mordrake, a fancy British gentleman with another head on the back of his head, basically went and murdered an entire band of freaks and if you perform on Halloween, you’ll summon him, and he’ll steal you for his collection. The freaks don’t really like the idea of that (although aren’t they just a part of Elsa’s collection now?) and refuse to perform or rehearse. Frankly, the majority of the camp is being smart about that- with all that has been happening, it’s a good idea to just sit back and lay low for a moment.
But nah, cause you know, a new girl shows up to the show and wants to join in on the fun.
The beautiful, and most important to the plot- normal, Maggie “Esmeralda” (Emma Roberts) shows up to the show wanting to join. Everyone kind of scoffs at her at first, but Jimmy is attracted instantaneously and begs Elsa to let her join. Elsa, perpetually suspicious, but even more always searching for fame, listens to Maggie’s demonstration of her skills and instantly falls for the prediction she was given. Want to sweeten Elsa up and get her on your side? Tell her she will be famous like none other and then she’ll fall at your feet.
Maggie is given the job, but we all know why she’s really there. Her partner Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and her are con artists in search of their next big scam, and you know what pays really well? Cadavers of freak show spectacles. Maggie already seems opposed to murdering one of the freaks, but we all know what happens to those who lie in the camp, or who hide their true selves. While Jimmy is smitten, Dot and Bette aren’t happy about this new “Normal” girl, and the problems for those two are constantly rising.
So with the new girl in town, the sisters feeling their fame is threatened, and Elsa feeling even more threatened, what happens?
A rehearsal of course! And you know what that means for the freaks- Edward’s here!
(Don’t get me started on the rendition of Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters”. Please don’t.)
The other majority of the episode focused on Ethel, and on how her life led her to this place. At the beginning of the episode she is given a fatal diagnosis, but even after feeling respected by the doctor, she brushes off his advice and keeps drinking. Jimmy gets angry about this as always, but she brushes him off and goes to have a talk with Dell, who isn’t doing too well himself.
I said last week that I really liked Chiklis’ portrayal of Dell, and I do, but I don’t know if I like the way that they are writing him. When Ethel and him sit down and talk about their past he seems to show real regret about never being there for his son, but just last week he had been beating him into the dirt. Ethel’s character also took an “out of character” turn this week when she asks Dell to guide Jimmy, but still never reveal who he really is to him. She tells Dell that she has less than a year to live, and Dell promises to take care of their son, which seems really jarring after they discuss that their love wasn’t real and he just roughed up Desiree (anyone else agree that Angela Bassett is severely underused this season?) a few minutes ago.
Ethel is also the first person that Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) approaches, and man was he underwhelming. Do you all remember the first Halloween special during Murder House? That was a pivotal moment in the season as a whole, but in a season that has so far lacked in supernatural phenomena, Edward seems sorely out of place- in the third episode. Edward was calm, polite, and listened to Ethel’s tales of her young life before, during (seriously so sad to hear), and after Jimmy’s birth. When she seems resigned to her fate as the newest addition to Mordrake’s collection, he disappears into the night.
BUT LET’S TALK ABOUT THE ONLY FREAK THAT MATTERS: Dandy.
Man, I can’t get over this creepy killer-in-the-making. After his mother forces Nora (poor Patti LaBelle) to dress as Dandy’s favorite cartoon character, Woody the Woodpecker, he still goes off on her and screams that she’s ruined his Halloween by giving him a Howdy Doody costume. After Gloria runs off to cry, Dandy decides to take matters into his own hands and begins to craft a costume after his new friend- Twisty.
Nora isn’t putting up with any of Dandy’s emotional trauma though, and when he threatens her with a knife in the kitchen she just calls him out on the spot and reminds him that he’s a coward. While I love her strength now, I have a sad idea about what future will befall dear Nora after Dandy’s decision to go to Twisty’s bus and let out his frustrations there.
Twisty arrives in the nick of time with a new victim though- a young boy who was teasing his younger sister. What made Twisty go and take him while leaving the girl alive and as a witness? Next week we are promised a glimpse into the making of Twisty, and I want to see what makes this killer clown tick.
“Part 2” is next week, and I know we’re all excited for Twisty’s backstory and to find out which freak will be taken by Edward. Until then, stay safe and don’t upset anyone about their costume this year!