‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ Review: “Edward Mordrake, Part 2″
The first few episodes of 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' have largely placed the lesser-known supporting characters on the periphery, perhaps to the show's detriment, as the Curiosities in Fraulein Elsa's Cabinet appear to offer much of interest. The ghastly Edward Mordrake gets it, as does Elsa, on some level; if only the people of Jupiter, Florida would give them a chance, they would see it -- how compelling and relatable they truly are. Every bit as deserving at a chance in the spotlight as Kathy Bates' Ethel or Sarah Paulson's Dot and Bette. "Edward Mordrake, Part 2" begins by giving at least a couple of them a chance to shine. It's not much, but it's a step in the right direction.
For a season centered around characters who carry with them the distinct physical differences that would have society mark them as "freaks," 'Freak Show' hasn't spent quite enough time with the actual actors who bear these traits. But tonight Edward Mordrake's first visits are paid to Mat Fraser's Paul and Rose Siggins' Suzi to hear the stories of how they came to join the freak show, and both actors give fine performances indeed.
It's no coincidence that tonight begins with Edward's visit begins with these two (pausing briefly to marvel at the innocence of Pepper and Salty), as it punctuates his visit with Elsa, a woman who is not a "freak" in the traditional carnival sense -- at least not by outward appearances. She obscures her disfigurement, and while those she claims as her wards nurse their shame with pride, Elsa refuses to acknowledge that she has any shame at all. In her mind she has never been one of them. Elsa's origin story, if we're calling it that, is just as shattering as the story of Ethel and Jimmy, but what sets her apart from the others is that, even in her darkest hour, she won't admit to the darkness within.
Good thing for Elsa she's saved at the 11th hour by the chimes of Twisty, whose own darkness calls to Edward's demon face much louder than Elsa's own. And thanks to a bit of smalltown maneuvering and Jimmy's motorcycle breaking down (again), Jimmy and Esmerelda find themselves crossing paths with our favorite killer clown, just in time to tie everything together quite nicely. Edward's visit with Twisty gives John Carroll Lynch more of a showcase as we get his appropriate sad clown origin story. Lynch has done some pretty intense work each week, acting mostly through his eyes, shoulders, and unsettling grunts and groans as the killer clown, but here he gives the real Twisty a unique voice and character. The result is much more affecting than expected, making me a little sad to see Twisty go, but with the villain count so high already, this season needed a little breathing room.
Twisty's death and Jimmy's hand in helping to rescue the kids is just the drastic event that the citizens of Jupiter needed to see the freak show performers for the human beings they really are. Never one to miss an opportunity, Elsa opens the box office. Did her visit with Edward Mordrake teach her anything? When Dot and Bette ask if they're opening for Elsa, she tells them no -- they're opening for Pepper and Salty, instead. Maybe things are changing. Maybe Elsa Mars doesn't need to always be the star. After all, it was a young woman named Elsa who once found an audience and literally bled for the chance at fame.
But then Stanley walks in posing as the Hollywood impresario Esmerelda foretold, and maybe no one ever really changes.
- "Clown stuff."
- I had a thought last week, based on her interactions with Dot, that maybe Elsa was once conjoined at the shins to another twin (as in, neither of them would have feet), hence why she is missing the bottom of her legs -- you know because she cut the other twin free and murdered her at some point, and it had something to do with her wacky Marlene Dietrich story. I still think that would be an amazing origin story.
- For this week's episode, Ryan Murphy's inspiration went something like, "It's 'A Serbian Film,' but German, so like, 'A German Film.'"
- I didn't fit this in above but: you've gotta be kidding me! Dandy killed Dora?! Patti LaBelle wasn't even having any of his nonsense, though! And she didn't even get to sing yet. How do you hire Patti LaBelle, make her do a full-on Woody Woodpecker imitation IN COSTUME, and don't even let the diva sing? Ryan Murphy, you are testing me.