Edward Mordrake: Part 1   (Spoiler Warning)

Last week saw Meep’s dead and broken body being thrown from a truck, courtesy of the sheriff’s department. (You can watch an interesting short video as Meep actor Ben Woolf, who suffers from pituitary dwarfism, talks about his character, here.) We also saw Jimmy blaming himself for Meep’s death, because it was Jimmy who tried to frame Dell for the cops’ disappearance. But of course, it backfired thanks to Dell spotting Jimmy sneaking out of his trailer, resulting in Dell finding the badge, then hiding it in Meep’s trailer for the cops to find. Jimmy now needs help and support more than ever, and because of the news Ethel receives from her doctor near the start of the show, this is what Ethel plans to do for her son.

American Horror Story: Freak Show
Created by
Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk
Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Emma Roberts, Frances Conroy, Lily Rabe
Episode Release Date
22 October 2014
Ed’s Grade: B

We open on Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) and Stanley “Dr. Mansfield” (Denis O’Hare) trying to unsuccessfully palm-off a fake freak embryo to a collector. Although the collector doesn’t fall for the ruse, she does explain to the conning couple that she desperately needs new legitimate exhibits, for which she’ll pay a great deal of money. This sets the pair on a hunt for the ideal specimen; Dot and Bette Tattler.

Maggie arrives at the freakshow pretending to be a clairvoyant, and by using simple observational skills, she easily convinces a high-on-opium Elsa she’s the real deal. Maggie convinces Elsa that she’s about to get a visit from someone who’ll help get her singing career on track, and because this is exactly what Elsa wants to hear, she’s too quick at hiring the young attractive conwoman. It looks as though Jimmy has an eye for Maggie, with a jealous Bette clearly unhappy at the new arrival.

It turns out there’s carny lore that prevents them from performing on Halloween. Ethel tells the tale of Edward Mordrake to Bette and Dot after they ask why no one is performing that night. Edward Mordrake was a freak like them only his disfigurement was exactly like that of “he who shall not be named” in the first Harry Potter film. Remember Professor Quirrell had Lord Voldemort’s face stuck on the back of his noggin? (If you need a refresher you can watch it here.)

Well, that’s what Edward Mordrake has; a face on the back of his head that’s driving him mad because it whispers evil things to him, keeping him awake. After the aristocrat is finally locked up in a loony bin, Mordrake escapes and joins a freakshow, where he’s an instant hit. One night he murders all the freaks then hangs himself, and ever since, if any other freak show plays on Halloween, his ghost returns to claim a freak’s life. Wes Bentley plays Mordrake using a questionable British accent, although, thanks to Bentley camping it up so well, one can forgive him on that score.

Then, there was a particularly touching scene with Ethel and her doctor when she’s given the news she has a year at the very most live, providing she refrains from drinking, which she doesn’t. Ethel starts crying, then explains to the doctor the tears aren’t about her imminent death but because he was the first doctor to ever treat her with respect. There’s a reason Kathy Bates has two nominations and one win at the Academy Awards, and that brilliant scene was just a glimpse of why.

There was also an intriguing scene with Denis O’Hare’s character Stanley, where he hires a male hooker to visit him at his motel room. When the young man removes Stanley’s pants it’s clear there’s something extraordinary between his legs. Could this be the penis-leg that’s on display during the titles? It could also explain Stanley’s odd fascination with freaks. There wasn’t much Twisty the Clown action this week, although Dandy Mott decided to try and emulate Twisty by making a clown suit. When Dandy puts on the mask then sneaks up on Dora, the POV shot as we see through the mask, was very familiar but effective. It looks like Dandy might end up getting the courage to finally kill someone, although I think he’ll end up just another of Twisty’s victims.

A decent episode that felt like it was laying the groundwork for some real action later on.

by Ed Blackadder