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American Horror Story: Freak Show – S4E3 – Edward Mordrake, Pt. 1

Previously on American Horror Story: Freak Show, ‘Massacres and Matinees’

All right, AHS. I’m ready for some fun stuff. I’m actually looking forward to whatever twisted shit Mr. Clown and Dandy are going to get into (is that weird?) and I am always happy to get some triple-breasted Angela Bassett in my life. So let’s do this.

This week’s episode opens up at a “freaks of nature” museum. Is this real? Because I would love to visit one of these. The tour guide offers the visitors some candy as Emma Roberts strolls in with a man in a white coat. He’s got a “specimen” he is trying to sell. But the appraiser isn’t buying. White Coat is a fraud and what he’s trying to pawn off as a baby sasquatch fetus is just the fetus of a goat with the jaw of a cat sewn on. Emma Roberts is getting twitchy but White Coat feigns outrage and storms out. The tour guide stops them and says that if they were to bring her a real specimen, she wouldn’t ask any questions. Her business is failing and she needs “fresh meat” – pun intended. The shared liver of conjoined twins is worth $5,000 (what I assume is somewhere around $500,000 in present day money) and this piques White Coat’s interest. He scuttles away with Emma Roberts and says they’re going to Florida.

Good luck. These two don’t stand a chance against the freak show. But it ought to be fun to watch them try.

After commercial break, we find ourselves on a suburban street on Halloween. And children are trick-or-treating in broad daylight. Doesn’t this usually occur after sundown? Which, during the fall, isn’t even very late? It’s gotta be 2 in the afternoon. Why are they already out? A mom declares her daughter is afraid of clowns and had to drag her out to trick or treat. (Maybe cuz it was too damn early) This can only mean one thing: Mr. Clown is coming, and he’s coming for the sweet little ballerina with the clown phobia.

The little girl gets her candy and the moms walk off. Without the child. Without even noticing she wasn’t with them. Can’t even keep track of one whole child in the middle of the afternoon. Are they serious? And there’s Mr. Clown. Ballerina goes running off and mommy convinces her there’s “clowns everywhere” and she shouldn’t be scared. Oh, yes she should. Sometimes you really should listen to your children, people.

Ethel is visiting a doctor – full on beard and walking around in the middle of the day. It’s Halloween, but come on. Does she seriously not have a razor of any kind? But she’s not there to see him about her beard. She’s had a biopsy done and she’s got cirrhosis of the liver. That’s from being an alcoholic, right? Maybe that’s what that weird accent is. She’s just drunk all the time. But she says she hasn’t had a drink since Jimmy’s 18th birthday, so I guess the accent will remain a mystery to me. She wants to fix her liver up, but doc says no-can-do (but he does not once mention the beard, like it’s just okay for her to have a nest of pubic hair on her chin). He won’t tell her she’s going to die soon because “hope is the best medicine.” But Ethel pushes him for a real answer: she’s got six months to a year. She says, “Well, shit.” You can say “shit” on TV? She says it again about five times. Well, shit. I guess so. Doc tells her stay away from meat and don’t take a single drop of alcohol. Damn.

Back at the freak show, torso lady is bobbing for apples. Lizard guy asks Bette and Dot to play; they could win in one turn. They decline because they just washed their hair. Jimmy enters after having dug a grave for Meep. He declares that he failed them. Dot says he shouldn’t blame himself, but he should because this was literally his fault. He walks away and Dot flips out on everyone. Says they should be ashamed and mourning Meep. That the show that night should be dedicated to his memory. Ethel enters and says no freak performs on Halloween. There’s a superstition about Edward Mordrake. Ethel takes a gulp of what I think is wine or beer (it came from a tall glass bottle and was poured into a goblet, it’s gotta be liquor) and tells the tale.

American Horror Story Freak Show Paul

Edward was an aristocrat, intelligent and talented. But he had a second face on the back of his head that nobody else could hear but him. This is straight from Harry Potter, when Voldemort was attached to the back of Professor Quirrel’s head. This should be creepy but it came across as comical to me. The head whispers terrible things to Edward and drives him crazy. So he tries to kill it (she says many times and many ways, but we only see him try to drown it) and it doesn’t work. Edward’s family has him committed but Edward escapes and ends up performing at a freak show.

One Halloween night, Edward snapped and murdered every freak in his troop before he hung himself. But even after Edward was dead, his demon head was still smiling and alive. The music and dramatic way Edith tells the story makes it seem like it should be scary or something, but it was kind of just ridiculous and funny to me.

Edward Mordrake

The freaks don’t perform in case it summons the spirit of Edward Mordrake. The demon face will always bring one soul back with him to hell. Jimmy calls it a “bunch of bunk” and Ethel says it isn’t. At an old circus she performed on Halloween and their human cannonball hung himself with a smile on his face just like Edward Mordrake’s second face. Jimmy slaps her drink away and she walks out. He chases after her and asks if she’s drinking again because Dell is there. She says no, she’s happy to have a man around now and Jimmy can go. Ouch.

At the Mott home, Gloria is lighting candles and has a table full of Halloween-themed food. She calls to Nora to help her because it’s almost sundown. At least one person on this show knows Halloween stuff should happen at night. Nora comes in complaining about having to dress like a bird. But Woody Woodpecker is Dandy’s favorite cartoon. Nora does the impression (fairly spot on) and Gloria says she’ll “do in a pinch.” Dandy enters and declares he can’t wait to terrorize the neighborhood. Gloria reminds him there’s a curfew and he says, “curfews are for poor people.” Gloria says they can have their own Halloween fun at home and have a costume contest. There’s all of 3 people in that house. Not much of a contest. No wonder this guy is bored. She beckons Nora to bring Dandy his costume. It’s Howdy Doody and Dandy throws a fit of epic proportions. Gloria tells Nora to make a new costume and Dandy says there’s no time and starts breaking things. Nora says she’s not afraid of Dandy and Dandy orders her to clean up the mess he made. She reminds him she works for his mother and storms out. Oh, you go, girl. But that right there could get you gruesomely killed cuz you should be afraid of Dandy. That boy is not right in the head.

Dandy is in his room cutting out red circles and gluing them onto a white sheet. The makings of a clown costume, I’m sure. Now this is getting interesting.

Jimmy is giving a eulogy for Meep as they bury him along with the heads of some of the animals he’s bitten off. (Okay, I know they’re just random birds and stuff, but that is pretty sick and demented to kill an animal at all, let alone by biting its head off. And it’s really weird to bury the heads with the dude who bit them off. Not to mention the fact that they still have the heads. It was just weird and wrong and made me shiver.) Jimmy takes a sip from a flask, then pours one for his homies, and they start to cover up the casket with dirt.

A taxi pulls up and Jimmy tells them they’re closed. Emma Roberts steps out and says her name is “Esmeralda” and she’s a fortune teller looking for work. He smiles and I think she’s got herself a job.

Esmerelda

Bette and Dot are on an operating table and Dot is having Bette’s head removed. Bette is freaking out but Dot is happy as can be. Obviously, it’s a dream. Bette smacks Dot awake and Dot is upset she was woken from such a lovely dream. Bette was trapped in the same dream and reminds Dot that she really did try to kill her once. Then asks Dot if she’d would miss her. Dot doesn’t answer but Bette says that she would miss Dot. Dot declares that she’s going to do what it takes – work hard and save her money and find a doctor who would do that surgery. Uh, hello, even cutting off Bette’s head would not make her “normal.” She has extra organs and a torso wider than an NFL linebacker. But Bette doesn’t know that and she just cries. Congrats, Sarah Paulson, you are BOTH of my least favorite characters this season. One of you is a whiny, sappy, wimp. And the other is a heinous bitch. Bravo.

Bette and Dot

Elsa is in her tent smoking and Jimmy is declaring Esmeralda “the real thing.” Elsa says she will be the judge of that and Jimmy sends her in. Esmeralda comes in declaring that she didn’t choose the gift, the gift chose her, and sets her crystal ball down. She glances around the room (gathering information to “read her fortune” I’m sure) and sits down.

She sees that Elsa has been wronged all because of jealousy. Elsa says yes and Esmeralda continues. She sees a woman who looks like Elsa who is singing and receives a standing ovation – but it’s not Elsa. She asks if the name is Marlena. Elsa says “that bitch stole my career” and asks for more. Esmeralda says she’s seeing the future now – Elsa’s song and everyone cheering. Yeah, no. That’s not remotely possible. But she sees more – a handsome stranger who will guide Elsa to becoming a star. And then she faints and Elsa tells her she’s hired.

Dell is lifting weights in his RV and Desiree comes over in a French maid costume. Even with an extra cleavage, this woman is radiant. They start to fool around and she gives him what looks to be a legit handjob (not just a trick of the camera to make it look like it, her hand is, like, actually rubbing his junk!) but he can’t get it up. Blames it on the weight lifting making his blood rush to “other places.” Desiree is not pleased (ha, ha) and is tired of his excuses. He throws her against the wall and says if it weren’t for him she’d be in the gutter. She orders him to take his (abnormally small) hands off of her. Like a good little (small-handed) man, he obliges. Seriously, have his hands always been this tiny?

Ethel is out in the grass drinking and catches Dell storming off in a rage. She teases him and then offers up some booze. He takes it and she asks if they were fighting over Dell not being able to get it up. Then asks why he couldn’t get it up with her either. He blames it on her beard. But a light goes on for me: no wonder this dude is so aggressive and angry – he hasn’t had proper hard-ons for like twenty-five years. I’d be wound up pretty tight, too. Ethel asks if he loved her when they conceived Jimmy. He says no, but admits he could’ve been a better dad. She says that Jimmy is never to know that Dell is his father and that she’s dying. She asks Dell to help guide him through life. Dell ruminates on what it would’ve been like if he’d stuck around to watch Jimmy grow up and asks what he would dress up as when he was a boy. Ethel says he always wanted to be a soldier.

American Horror Story Freak Show S4E3 Dell and Ethel

Giant Lady is heading to her trailer when the Tiny Girl pops out of a pumpkin. I swear, I nearly dropped my laptop. That scared the hell out of me, and Giant Lady, too, but Tiny Girl just giggles. If you are a small person, or know someone who is, this could be a hilarious trick to pull on someone. Just don’t do it to me.

American-Horror-Story-4.03

It’s now Halloween night and Dandy clearly has his costume finished. He snaps on a clown mask and heads downstairs. He grabs a butter knife from the table and heads to the dining room. Nora is in there cleaning. He raises the knife and Nora says again that she’s not scared of him. She knows he killed the animals and if he does it again she’ll call the police. She also knows he didn’t kill the people in town because he couldn’t do it. He tells her to shut her pie hole or he will kill her, so she eggs him on and gets right in his face, and the knife is raised, but he doesn’t do it. He just drops it and declares how much he hates her. She just saunters away and says, “believe me, boy, I hate you, too.” Damn! I thought he was going to kill her! I was all nervous because he had some sad, little knife and it would’ve taken a hell of a lot to actually kill her with it, but it would hurt while he tried, and I was braced for some brutal, gory scene with a lot of gushing and splashing of blood, but I got nothing. Not that I want her to die, but still.

Esmeralda is on the payphone talking to White Coat (not sure what his name is just yet) and says she can’t do it anymore. The freaks are everywhere and they give her the heebie jeebies. She’d met Dot and Bette and offered them a free reading. Dot, clearly threatened by a pretty one-headed face says, “I’m sure that’s not the only thing you give away for free.” I hate this character, but that was a damn good line. White Coat is ecstatic there’s conjoined twins and wants to know how big of a jar he needs to buy for them. Esmeralda says she will have nothing to do with murder and White Coat says that nobody cares what happens to a freak. His only concern is how to display the body. He says he will be there when he’s done with his “business.” This business involves a handsome, strapping young fellow dressed as a viking. My kind of business meeting.

Esmeralda hangs up the phone and goes to rejoin Jimmy on his motorcycle but a police car pulls up. He reminds them about the curfew and Esmeralda charms him with her smile. Jimmy gets smart with the cop but Esmeralda tells him to “cool it” and they ride off into the night.

Back at the hotel, White Coat and Thor are talking about hammers and swords and we got a shot of Thor’s bare ass. It wasn’t bad. White Coat orders Thor to take off his pants and Thor says, “holy Christ.” I know they’re not gonna show full male frontal, but come on. What is it? Is it enormous? Is it shaped funny? Are there two of them? I wanna see!

In the suburbs, we’re at the home of the world’s most unobservant mom of the ballerina with a clown phobia. Yup, Mr. Clown is coming. And there he is. Walks right past her, in full costume, with the lights on, and she doesn’t even notice. Idiot. Ballerina is innocently playing in her room when her jerk older brother comes in holding her Halloween candy hostage. He’ll give it back if she does his chores for a week. This little girl is about seven. What is she supposed to do? Roll the garbage cans out to the street? Mow the lawn? Come on. Then he says she should call him “Master Mike” from now on. Mr. Clown comes up behind him and Ballerina gets scared and backs away. Mr. Clown holds up the “shh” sign and, because her brother is a giant asshole, she doesn’t say a word. Does he not feel this entire human being RIGHT BEHIND HIM? Nope, because when he turns around to see Mr. Clown, he screams bloody murder. This the unobservant moms actually notices and comes running. But it’s too late. Mr. Clown is long gone with “Master Mike.”

Dot and Bette are on stage and Dot is angry with Giant Lady, Tiny Girl and Lizard Man because they’re late. But they’re all afraid of the Mordrake story. Dot declares it a myth. Elsa enters in an emerald green gown and white bow and says she is the only myth around here. No, sweetie, the myth is that you can sing. Please don’t do it anymore. But she wants to send Dot and Bette away so that she can rehearse some new numbers so she’ll be ready when her mysterious gentlemen comes along to revive her career. Thankfully, Dot says no, that Elsa can rehearse whenever they’re done, because they are the headliners now. I still hate Dot, but whatever keeps Elsa from singing is fine by me. Dot says they should discuss their salary since they’re the stars now. Elsa says she’s been the star for decades now and that they’re nothing but a two-headed freak squeaking out tunes. In all fairness, there’s no way Elsa was a star (not with singing at least) and Dot’s singing was miles better (though still pretty awful) than Elsa’s. Can we just have no singing on this show? This isn’t Glee for God’s sake. Elsa orders Dot and Bette out again and the others to be her accompaniment. Ugh, no.

But actually, this performance isn’t hideous. It’s heavily doctored and not quite auto-tuned, but definitely studio enhanced, and it doesn’t sound that bad. But once again, they’re using present day music, stuff that wouldn’t come out for sixty years after this is supposed to be taking place. Even the music book that Elsa knocked down clearly said “Fiona Apple.” Why are they doing this? Am I the only one this irritates?

As Elsa sings, we see Edward Mordrake walking through the grass. He enters the tent with a gust of green smoke and a top hat, looking like the Wizard of Oz or something. The other freaks seem to know who he is, but Elsa keeps singing. When she takes her bow, he disappears.

Edward Mordrake AHS Freak Show

Ethel is in her trailer and sees a man behind her in the mirror. When she turns around, he’s gone. She checks the mirror again, sees nothing and carries on. But now there’s a dead fat lady with a sliced neck beside her. This time, when she turns around, it’s still there. I’m not sure who or what it’s supposed to be other than a random corpse, but as she backs away, she sees the Wizard of Oz…er…Edward Mordrake’s green smoke. When she turns around again, the corpse is gone but Edward is there. He apologizes that his “companion” startled her. He bows and turns his head so she can see the second face and I just start laughing and think, “it’s Voldemort.” This should be scary or creepy, but I just find it hilarious.

Ethel pleads with him not to take her because she has “so much left to do.” Like drink her liver into oblivion for the next 3 or 4 months. He tells her there are questions to be answered and to be honest or “it” (his second head, I assume) will know. Mordrake is played by Wes Bentley, otherwise known as Seneca Crane from Hunger Games. While he looks very different, I just keep wanting to belt out, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Sorry, I have a very short attention span and this storyline is not holding it much.

They take a seat and Ethel waxes on about her sob story of falling for Dell and believing in him and becoming a joke and blah, blah, blah. But “it” knows her story is even sadder. So she continues on about how she was pregnant and they were broke and they couldn’t find work. So Dell created a spectacle of Jimmy’s birth and charged people to watch him be born. Then he charged them to hold the “monster baby.” It’s a sad story but I’m kind of bored at this point. The scene feels pointless and Edward is a silly character and even the normally flawless Kathy Bates feels contrived. Not loving it.

Edward hands her a handkerchief and thanks her for the story and apologizes for her having to relive it. There are some creepy ass corpses behind him and Ethel just nods and says she’s ready to go to hell with them. But there’s nothing but a weird whisper of, “Not the one” and they’re all gone. Well, geeze, why make the woman tell you the sorrows of her past and feel like she’s worthy of going to hell if you’re just gonna walk out like that?

Dandy has broken curfew to venture off to Mr. Clown’s bus prison where the kids are still locked up inside. He taunts them with candy and then slashes at them with his knife when they reach for it. They back away to the far side of the cage so he can’t reach them through the bars. He finds a stick and attaches the knife to the end of it – the better to slash them with, of course. But he hears a sound outside that distract him before he can do it. It’s Mr. Clown, dragging in “Master Mike.” Dandy declares it to be “more fun” and we are met with a “TO BE CONTINUED.”

I have mixed feelings about this episode. I don’t care for the entire Edward Mordrake concept and the way it’s portrayed by Wes Bentley just feels comical. I do like how they’re developing storylines and characters, but the episode fell flat for me. Nothing really scary or creepy, though I think parts were intended to be. Lackluster writing here and there. It felt like a build up for whatever happens in part two and I’m hoping that’s where the real fun begins. I’m not sure why every episode is almost 90 minutes long, but it feels like they’re too long now. Some scenes are drawn out or gratuitous or just unnecessary and it makes the show drag. It could be – but has a lot of room to become – much better. This episode wasn’t a winner for me, but I still love the show and look forward to what should be an epic Halloween episode next week.

Until then…

About Maya Maldonado (43 Articles)
Maya Maldanado is the author of the Lust (The Immortal Shadows Trilogy).

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