Edward Mordrake may have two episodes of American Horror Story: Freak Show named after him, but all he really does is pump the episodes, and especially “Edward Mordrake (Part 2),” full of exposition. It’s a noticeably heavy-handed manner of delivering backstory and a bit of a waste of what could have been a creepy, threatening character, but it works well enough because most of that backstory is necessary, highly engaging and also gives some supporting characters the screen time they deserve. Hit the jump to find out who were Edward Mordrake’s hits and misses in my American Horror Story: Freak Show recap.
“Edward Mordrake (Part 2)” starts off strong. I said it in my recap of “Monsters Among Us” and I’ll say it again; Mat Fraser has one heck of an on-screen presence and Freak Show needs more of him. It was a nice little treat to get that peek at Paul’s past, but that’s not enough anymore. The story of a man who’s essentially tortured into covering his body in tattoos is heart-wrenching in and of itself, but Fraser takes the moment to another level. That scene doesn’t stick with you because of gory visuals or obscene behavior, but rather because of the humanity Fraser brings to it. He’s definitely the scene-stealer, but Rose Siggins holds her own as Legless Suzi as well. It’s great that a man who really has Phocomelia and a woman who actually lost her legs as a child scored these roles, but if this episode proves anything it’s that it’s time to stop looking at them as supporting players; their work is as exemplary as any famous name on the Freak Show roster.
And speaking of famous names, let’s talk Jessica Lange. Something isn’t working with her character, but it’s still tough to pinpoint exactly what it is. On the one hand, I’m thinking there might be something about her work in this series that’s getting old. Constance, Sister Jude, Fiona Goode and Elsa are all completely different people living in different towns and eras, but there’s definitely some glaring personality crossover. Plus, it certainly doesn’t help that Elsa’s become completely impossible to track. The first episode sold her as a loving mother figure who would do anything for her monsters, but then in the second, she’s trying to convince Bette to stab Dot in her sleep. Then, in “Edward Mordrake (Part 1),” any strength and authority she had is completely washed away when she falls for Maggie Esmeralda’s tricks without batting an eye. And now in “Edward Mordrake (Part 2),” she’s nearly killed due to her “delusional ignorance” and selfishness yet she still insists on punishing Bette and Dot for being better singers than her and is completely enamored by Richard Spencer (Denis O’Hare), the fake Hollywood talent scout.
What happened to Elsa back in the 1930s is unfortunate and upsetting, but it still doesn’t justify her current behavior. If anything, I’d think having her legs sawed off while unknowingly making a snuff film would make her distrustful of anyone promising to make her a star.
The fourth backstory Mordrake conjures up is that of our mouthless killer clown, Twisty. It was a little disappointing that the writers opted to sidestep a promising challenge and just give Twisty the ability to talk during his flashback, but the material was riveting enough to support it. Ever since the first episode it’s been fairly obvious that a pitiful backstory was coming for the character, but this is where Mordrake really proves his worth. Whereas I was anticipating a flashback with an “aw, it’s not really his fault” type of conclusion, Mordrake gives us the exact opposite, establishing a particularly intriguing new rule for this world; it’s one thing to do something terrible, but it’s another if you’re unable to recognize it. It was a bit of a disappointment to see Twisty go so soon, but Mordrake gives a surprisingly rational and satisfying explanation for it. Plus, we’ve still got Dandy.
The temper tantrums are becoming a bit repetitive, but at least Dandy takes a major step forward at the end of the episode. Dora’s sass and her hatred for Dandy resulted in one of the best scenes of the season in “Edward Mordrake (Part 1),” but if Dandy didn’t kill someone after Mordrake took Twisty, Dandy may have run the risk of hitting a dead end and also leaving the show with a gaping hole in it. But thankfully, that’s not the case and Dandy is essentially our new Twisty. Finn Wittrock has been delivering some electrifying material, so there’s no doubt he can handle it.
Lastly, we’ve got some big changes for Jimmy. His rather coarse demeanor took a little getting used to, but as soon as it became clear that he’s the most dedicated protector and leader the freaks have, it was only natural to start rooting for him. Jimmy was like a big brother to Meep, but it was essentially his fault Meep wound up in prison. Meep’s been gone for two episodes now, but that’s not something you can shake off and move on from, and the show is doing an excellent job of respecting that. Freak Show has firmly established Jimmy as a good person who cares for his fellow freaks deeply and because of that, the “Edward Mordrake (Part 2)” big finish is especially uplifting and satisfying.
Episode Rating: B
- “I didn’t think of those legs as part of him, just the things that I would never have.” – Suzi
- “They wanted a monster. I decided to give ’em one.” – Paul
- “Can you imagine this mug on a normal body? I could have ruled the world.” – Paul
- “It is not your talent that renders me speechless, it is your delusional ignorance.” – Mordrake to Elsa
- “They said I made men ejaculate gold.” – Elsa
- Who is this solider that saved Elsa after her legs were sawed off? I’d like to bet he pops up at some point in Jupiter.
- Go Maggie! Who knew she’d wind up being such a badass?
- “You have caused the demon to weep.” – Mordrake
- Dandy probably should have disinfected that mask before putting it on his face.
- Did anyone else notice the black top hat on the coffee cup the cop hands to Maggie? It was oddly prominent in the shot. Could it mean something?
- Bye bye, Dora. But does this mean Gabourey Sidibe is coming soon?
- Is this a 90-minute or 60-minute show? Make up your mind, FX.