Hannah Hunt ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
American Horror Story is in its fourth season now, so audiences have more than likely become accustomed to the first few episodes of a new season, and a new world, taking their time in establishing plot points and introducing new characters.
With Halloween quickly approaching, Freak Show has given its fans a two part Halloween episode. And here’s what we got from the first installment titled “Edward Mordrake: Part 1”: more characters and more plot lines that had us wishing we didn’t have to wait a week for part two.
The con duo Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) and Stanley (Denis O’Hare) have arrived and we quickly learn the two are after Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson) for similar reasons that Elsa (Jessica Lange) was originally. All they see when they look at the twins are dollar signs. Posing as a fortune teller and answering to Stanley, Maggie infiltrates Elsa’s world via false fortune telling powers. Dot already doesn’t like her while the rest of the freaks have been easily fooled by her ways. Since the audience knows what the freaks don’t know about her, its safe to assume they have feelings similar to Dot’s. Stanley however, is still a mystery. Other than keeping tabs on Maggie and one interesting and somewhat misplaced scene involving a viking in the bedroom, not too much has been revealed about him. Considering what has been presented so far though, it will probably be freaky.
It is Halloween in Jupiter, Florida and an unwritten freak show rule gives the freaks a performance night off. This is all thanks to the story of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley). If any freak dares to perform on Halloween, legend has it, Mordrake’s longsuffering spirit will return to earth and take a freak back to hell with him. A summoned spirit out to seek vengeance is a horror staple. What he’s vengeful for stems from the fact the Mordrake himself was a freak who had two faces that lead “normal people” to be scared of him, leaving him in pain and shame. With the arrival of the fear surrounding Mordrake, Twisty the clown (John Carroll Lynch) was rather dormant this episode on his killing spree. He was still up to his horrifying ways though. The opening of the episode showed him stalking trick or treaters like prey before the sun had even set à la Michael Myers from Halloween. A very clever homage to a classic horror tale.
Homages and interesting new characters aside, what really drove this episode was Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates). Ethel has been established as a prominent cast member among the freaks. Previously in the season, she played a large role in integrating Bette and Dot into their new home and is the confidant of Elsa. That said, it came as quite a shock to learn in this episode that due to her past alcoholism, the cirrhosis of her liver gives her less than a year to live. American Horror Story delved into the personal story of one of its freaks set away from Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities.
From the tale of Ethel Darling, the show created an engaging and emotional story. The most human moment thus far came in the form of the scene with Ethel and her doctor. In tears, Ethel reveals this is the first time someone has treated her like a real human being. This is also the first time the show really pulled at its core message of: “freaks are people too”. Before this, the rally cries and shouting of Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters) had been the only other time it was touched on. Seeing one of the freaks really open up and being presented with their full story was captivating. It made this episode powerful, both narratively and overall. Hopefully all of the freaks will get a chance to tell their story in this way.
Just as engaging but also a little twisted, was trying to figure out Bette and Dot. Through a dream sequence we learn the twins also share the same dreams. The dream presented in this episode revealed Dot’s desire to be separated from her sister, even though it will cost Bette her life. Their roles seem to flip each episode. In the beginning, Dot portrayed the more troubled twin when she found herself at Elsa’s unwillingly. Now however, it seems Bette is the one who’s in more trouble when she finds out her sister wouldn’t mind losing her in order to keep their body for herself. This new development changed a lot about Dot. Is she the hero for the freak show with her singing voice? Or is she a villain now? Or both? If this flip flopping continues as the season moves forward, hopefully the audience can keep up. Either way, Dot’s startling aspirations made for another horrifying and interesting plot line.
No Freak Show episode would really be complete without any noise from Twisty the clown. This episode concluded with the killer clown and his new partner Dandy (Finn Wittrock) adding “more fun” to their lives. To them, this fun came in a sick and twisted true American Horror Story fashion: a third prisoner. After this development, “to be continued” was the last thing anyone would want to see on their screen.
More important moments that need to be mentioned from “Edward Mordrake: Part 1” is Elsa’s majestic performance of Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters” (currently number one on iTunes’ top soundtrack singles) and that, thankfully, the body count at the end of the episode was zero (RIP Meep).
Overall Episode Grade: A