‘Edward Mordrake (Part 2)’: Recap of ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’

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This episode made me feel like Michael Scott. Season five, episode eight. Toby is back from Costa Rica. And this happens.

And that’s what happened to me during this episode. Fuckin’ Mordrake. He found his freak, all right. He found it in the best, most compelling character American Horror Story has seen in a long time, maybe ever.

Ole two-face Mordrake abandoned Ethel last episode in his search for the perfect freak, and green fogs his way through Legless Suzi, Paul the Illustrated Seal, Pepper and her pinhead companion (brother?) and presumably the rest of our freaks until he gets to Elsa Mars, who is expecting him.

Of course, she’s expecting the wrong dark-haired man. Maggie Esmerelda told her to welcome a man from out of town (though we know it’s Stanley, who hasn’t arrived yet) that will make her famous, and Elsa thinks it’s the man in front of her with a cane, a cape and a top hat. I mean, honestly, Elsa. Your desire for fame is making you totally blind to think that a man from the 50s would be walking around like that. (Though I suppose it is Halloween… MOVING ON.)

Mordrake coaxes Elsa’s deepest and darkest secrets out of her and HOLY COW they’re super dark. Back in the Weinmar Republic in the 30s, Elsa couldn’t get work as an actress (shocker) so she took up as a dominatrix in quite a freaky house. We got a dude in a bra, we got a lady peeing in a bowl to a dude jerking it, we have a pregnant chick and marionettes and I mean really though! All under one dank and dirty roof! Elsa’s been involved in freak shows her whole life, it seems.

So Elsa was paid very well to put men in collars and make them crawl around like dogs and impale their buttcheeks on a nail-laden toilet seat. Then she was super pumped to get her close-up in a solo porn flick, but she was drugged “enough to understand, not enough to dull the pain” aaaand a couple of deviants with pantyhose over their faces cut off her legs below the knee.

It mostly sounds like a really weird dream, but apparently Elsa starred in the first snuff film. Her big screen debut somehow made the rounds of miscreants throughout Europe. (I say somehow because how were copies of film made in the 30s? Certainly couldn’t burn it onto a DVD. Again, moving on.) In the same breath in which Elsa laments the loss of her legs, she whispers, “I was a star.”This bitch really needs to get her priorities straight.

Not surprisingly, Mordrake’s Visage chooses her as the freak most “befouled of soul,” a prospect Elsa freely accepts at this point. While she begs Mordrake to take her, he is distracted by music.

In the glade of Twisty’s corner of the woods, he and Dandy have set up a carnival of their own. But instead of using magic to entertain their captives audience, Dandy is prepared to try what it’s actually like to cut a woman in half. Oh, and that woman he’s going to cut in half is Maggie Esmerelda. She and Jimmy found their way to Twisty’s twisted corner when Twisty ran after followed his lady captive fan as she was trying to run far far away get some concessions, and they decided to help.

In short order Jimmy saves the day, and the captives audience members escape get some cotton candy. (I’m done now, I promise.) He himself is not saved, however, as Twisty captures him and moments before he is going to impale the Lobster Boy, Edward Mordrake green fogs into his creepy trailer. Mordrake then commands Twisty to take off his mask and tell him his freaky story.

Twisty’s backstory wasn’t very surprising to me, but it was still rather sad to watch. I said from the beginning that all he wanted was an audience, and that was more or less correct. Twisty’s sole objective was to make the children happy. Some weird pedophile carnies were jealous of how the kids played with him (leave it to AHS, right?) so they drove Twisty out when he was at the height of his career. Word spread that Twisty himself was the pedophile and no one would hire him. So he moved from the bourgeois West Chester, New York and back home to Jupiter, Florida with a new money-making venture for his penniless self, and he pitched homemade toys to a toy store owner. SURPRISE! It is the same store owner that he beheaded earlier in the season.

Now, Twisty confirmed he was dropped on his head as a baby by his drunken mother. So of course, he’s a little slow, but he’s not a threat by nature. When he arrived back in Jupiter, he found our friends at Fraulein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities and was, yet again, cast out by the freaks. The freak show was actually getting a steady audience, and Twisty thought the freaks were stealing the children from him again.

So he went out on the rampage. Killing, kidnapping, imprisoning. But all in the effort of stealing back the children and making them happy. So of course, the tragedy that is Twisty the Clown could not elude Mordrake’s vile visage, and the demon wept for Twisty to join their afterlife freak show. Cue Michael Scott.

I’m not sure that anyone but John Carroll Lynch would’ve wrenched my heart the way he did in that scene. I’m also not sure if I feel that way because I have a soft spot for Norm Gunderson, but regardless his performance was moving, tragic and overall appropriate. Twisty is like Lennie Small in a clown mask: he has the physical presence to be intimidating, but a solid gold heart at his core. I am glad that the show gave us a character with such depth, but I’m infuriated that the show took away that character so quickly.

At the same time, if their plan was to reveal Twisty’s past and keep him alive, I would have been even more infuriated. The whole reason Twisty was the most compelling character in this season was because we knew very little about him. His silence WAS utterly provocative! Given the circumstances, I’m glad he died after he told his story. But otherwise, I’m mostly disappointed.

The one ray of sunshiny intrigue here is that Dandy is now going to rise to the occasion and fill Twisty’s shoes, just never in the way that Twisty would have intended. The unfortunate part of Twisty’s silence is that Dandy never knew his motives, so weirdo Dandy just assumed that Twisty liked to kill like he did. Using Twisty’s mask as an alter-ego, Dandy can finally fulfill his desire to murder and free himself from a boring life. See ya, Dora. We barely knew ye.

The town now thinks that Jimmy Darling killed Twisty, and they all came out to thank him. They shook his lobster hand and gave the pinheads a bundt cake and all is well and good. WHAT.

Another infuriating moment: THE SEASON CAN NOW END. It feels like all the major plot points of this show has been fulfilled. The freak show’s major conflicts are taken care of, since they’re no longer ostracized by the town and are selling tickets now. And even though the episode ended with a creepy shot of Dandy’s murderous glee, it could really serve as a great “Oh shit what’s gonna happen to the town?!” conclusion. American Horror Story never seems to know how to pace itself, and this is another example. And now with its most interesting character gone, I’m not sure how I feel about watching these overt plot lines and misguided musical numbers. This was probably the best episode of the season so far, and at the exact same time it was by far the most annoying. If this is any indication of the rest of the season, we’re in for a bumpy ride.

RANDOM NOTES:

– For all my cynicism, Dandy is really great to watch, mainly because Finn Wittrock is playing him beautifully.

– What was the point of having Patti LaBelle as Dora? It could have been anyone. I mean, she was great, but that casting choice was entirely unnecessary.

– I really hope the writers bring more tension in these stories soon. This Elsa vs. Bette and Dot stuff is really not doing it for me the way it seems they want it to.

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