American Horror Story Freak Show, S4E3: Edward Mordrake Pt. 1
Original Airdate: October 22, 2014
Recap by Sarabeth Pollock
I’m going to go ahead and say that Dandy and Twisty are the Violet and Tate of Season 4. If you don’t know who Violet and Tate are, you need to go back and watch Season 1.
Tonight’s episode is the first part of the two-part Halloween episodes. These two episodes are so super-exclusive that the producers didn’t send out screeners for the media. So…without further ado, may I present Edward Mordrake.
There is a docent talking about the fascination that people have with different physical mutations. She is at the American Morbidity Museum. The docent sees two people and goes to greet them. Welcome to Denis O’Hare as Stanley and Emma Roberts as Maggie Esmeralda. But today these two are Doctor Rothschild and his astute assistant, come to present a baby Sasquatch to the Museum. The docent fetches the curator, who calls this duo out as frauds and says the baby Sasquatch is nothing more than a goat fetus with a cat jaw sewn in. They called Dr. Rothschild’s contacts at Harvard and he’s bogus. The curator storms away, but the docent remains and says that her museum is in trouble unless they get some new specimens. Stanley’s ears perk at the sound of that, and he asks where they typically get their specimens. She says that they have come from all over, but it used to be the case that freak shows would call when one of their own passed away. They only have a few freak shows left-Coney Island and South Florida. Stanley inquires about the conjoined liver in a jar. It belonged to Chang and Eng, and it’s worth $5,000. Coney Island is a bit cold this time of year. Hmm…
It’s Halloween in West Palm Beach and the kids are all out during the daytime trick or treating. A nice and colorful clown walks by. The moms wait while the little angel goes to the door. Her brother dressed as a clown to terrify her. The moms note that there are more kids out because the Jupiter kids are in Palm Beach because of the curfew. The little angel turns and sees a dirty clown behind the bushes. It’s our friend Twisty. He’s all over the place, apparently.
Ethel heads to see Dr. Myron Bonham. Her stomach is tender and she guesses that the biopsy she had done was positive. He reveals that she tested positive for cirrhosis of the liver. Even though she hasn’t had a drink since Jimmy was 18, the doctor says that it could have been there a while. He feels bad that she has had a hard life and has seen the worst in human nature. He gives her six months to a year to live. “Well, shit,” she says. He apologizes and advises her not to eat meat or drink. Ethel starts crying, but it’s because he’s the first doctor who has ever treated her with respect. Her life could have been different had she seen him sooner.
Back at the main tent, there is an apple bobbing contest. It’s mayhem. Jimmy comes in and Dot wonders where he has been. He has been digging a grave for Meep. Dot screams for them all to stop and be respectful to his memory. They should dedicate the show to him. The performers tell the twins that they don’t perform on Halloween. It’s an old superstition dating back to the mid-1800s, and based around the legend of Edward Mordrake. Ethel comes in and pours herself a drink. She explains that he was an aristocrat with tons of titles, but he had been different.
We flash back to the 1800s. Edward Mordrake, played by Wes Bentley, was a scholar, poet, and incomparable musician. “What was wrong with him?” Bette asks. He had a face on the back of his head that spoke to him all the time. It said evil things to him. He tried to kill it but it wouldn’t die. He ended up going mute, and his family sent him to the crazy house. While there, he wrote poetry and finished an opera. One night Edward escaped the asylum and ended up at the local freak show. He was hailed as the handsome prince, but when he took a bow he’d scare the audience with his alter ego. Edward wasn’t happy, though, and then one Halloween night he went and killed the entire troupe of freaks before hanging himself. His alter ego was smiling even unto death.
Bette wants to know if they aren’t performing out of respect, but that’s not it at all. It’s fear. It is said that if you perform on Halloween he will appear and kill a member of the group. Once he’s appeared you can’t get his voice out of your head. Jimmy thinks it’s all bunk and doesn’t want to scare the twins. Ethel swears it’s true. Back in 1932 when she was with Barnum, they made them perform and the Human Cannonball was found hanging in his trailer.
Ethel finishes her story and then tosses back another drink. Jimmy wants to know why she’s drinking so much after swearing off the alcohol. She tells him that she’s back on the drinking wagon. He asks if Dell’s presence has caused this, but she tells Jimmy that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and that with Dell around it means that Jimmy can finally leave. She knows he has been dying to leave. Jimmy stares in shock at her as she walks away.
Gloria Mott calls for Nora to help her. There is a huge Halloween feast being prepared, complete with a black cat cake. It’s almost sundown. Nora doesn’t want to be a bird. In fact, she is dressed as Woody Woodpecker because that’s Dandy’s favorite cartoon. Gloria orders her to do the famous laugh, which she does. (Seeing Patti LaBelle do Woody Woodpecker is shocking!!) Dandy enters, looking chipper after his nap. He goes straight for the snacks. He’s ready to go out to terrorize the neighborhood. Gloria informs him that there is no trick or treating because of the curfew. Dandy thought the curfew was just for poor people. She presents him with his costume. Howdy Doody. Dandy screams in a rage and throws the brightly colored costume to the floor. He shatters a few crystal bowls as well. Gloria rushes out to buy him a better costume. Dandy orders Nora to clean the mess, but Nora isn’t afraid of Dandy and says she only works for his mother.
Upstairs, Dandy takes a pair of scissors to the red fabric. He looks a bit like Michelle Pfeiffer from Batman Returns as he works. He’s making his own costume. A clown.
Jimmy and the gang gather to celebrate Meep and his life. A small wooden coffin lies at the bottom of a big hole. He loved Halloween and used to toss a chicken head into the kids’ bags. He was a better man than any of the people who came to their shows. The group says goodbye to their friend and they toss in some meat and take a drink from Paul’s flask to celebrate him.
As soon as they finish, a taxi pulls up. Jimmy tells the woman that there’s no show today, but she’s there looking for a job. Her name is Mystic Esmeralda.
There are bright lights. Bette and Dot are on an operating table and a doctor and nurse bustle around preparing for surgery. Dot is peaceful while Bette looks terrified. Dot says that there is a man who loves her and wants to have babies with her, bit that means Bette has to go. The plan, according to the doctor, is to use the new bone saw to separate Bette from Dot’s body. They give ether to Bette and the doctor starts to make the cut. He gets splattered with blood. That’s when Bette wakes up and tells Dot to wake up as well. Dot had been in the middle of the best dream, she says. Bette reminds her that the dream wasn’t so nice for her. She can’t understand why her sister would want to do something that like to her, given that it would mean certain death for one of them. Bette calls Dot mean, but she still loves her, even though she has already tried to kill her. Dot vows to save her money and find a doctor who will do the surgery.
Elsa is in her tent smoking opium. She tells Jimmy that most fortune tellers are fake, but he says she isn’t a gypsy. Esmeralda walks in and says her gift chose her. Elsa asks for her fortune. Esmeralda quickly glances at the clues around the room, then she settles in front of her crystal ball and tells Elsa to open her mind. Esmeralda tells Elsa that she was wronged. There was a woman who is receiving much applause from her performance. Marlena? Marlena Dietrich stole her career, Elsa says. Esmeralda says that the future shows that she is singing and the crowd is going crazy for her. There is a man in the wings, an impresario who helps her reach new heights. She’s about to say more, but Esmeralda collapses to the ground. “You’re hired!” Elsa cries.
Dell is lifting weights when Desiree walks into the trailer’s living room, dressed in a cute black and white dress. It’s a French maid costume. She takes a drink and says that he did well, moving in and taking over. He kisses her while she grabs his manhood and gives him a hand job. However, his manhood has other plans. He goes soft and she complains that it’s always something. She can’t take this anymore. Apparently the ED is a bigger problem for the couple. Desiree says she can be happier with a doorknob…which sends Dell into a mad rage. He throws her up against the wall and says that he deserves her respect. Desiree doesn’t back down, though, and she says that she doesn’t have to put up with him, either. She storms off, leaving Dell alone with a look on his face that suggests that he knows how close he is to losing everything.
Ethel is sitting outside drinking when Dell stomps past the trailer. She asks if he’s having trouble with “triple tits.” He doesn’t like that nickname for his wife. Ethel offers him some of her hooch. She says she has been meaning to talk to him. She needs a favor. He laughs, which makes her ask if he had trouble “getting it up.” She wonders if he was ever happy with her. Dell tries to be tough, but clearly he has feelings for Ethel. He listens as she tells him that he can never tell Jimmy that he is his father, but she asks him to be a good role model for him. He needs guidance now that he has one foot in the freak show and one foot outside in the other world. Dell wonders why she’s being so sentimental, and why she needs his help given that Jimmy always listens to her. Ethel reveals that she’s dying, which hits Dell hard. He says that he woke up wondering what it would be like to have been there while Jimmy was growing up. He asks what Jimmy used to be for Halloween. Ethel says he was always the same thing: a soldier.
Amazon Eve returns to her trailer. Ma Petite jumps out of a pumpkin and scares the crap out of her. This might be the last moment of levity we get to see…
It’s Halloween Night.
Dandy is in his costume. All we can see is what he sees through the eye holes in his clown mask. He chooses a knife and goes into the dining room where Nora is cleaning up. We get to see his brightly colored clown costume. Dandy is wearing a plastic mask and he holds the knife up. Nora laughs and challenges him to hurt her. She says she raised him and knows what he is—and isn’t—capable of. She says she told his mother about the animal parts. What she really wants to know is whether Dandy had anything to do with the murders. When he can’t kill her, she laughs and said that she knew he didn’t have it in him. He rips the mask off and screams how much he hates her. After he storms out, Nora mutters that she hates him more.
Esmeralda calls home to Stanley. She’s at a payphone and Jimmy is waiting for her on his bike. She says she’s in, but she’s surrounded by freaks. She can’t take it anymore. She tells Stanley about running into the twins. Dot sees Jimmy with Esmeralda and asks why she’s there. Customers aren’t allowed in their living quarters. Jimmy introduces her as their new spiritualist. Esmeralda offers them a free reading, to which Dot replies that readings probably aren’t the only things she gives away for free. Stanley doesn’t care about any of that. He needs to know how big of a jar he needs for their body. And how many arms and legs do they have? Esmeralda didn’t sign on for murder. Stanley assures her that he will take care of everything. That’s when a police car pulls up and Esmeralda has to go. The police officer tells Jimmy and Esmeralda about the curfew, but Jimmy points out that they have ten minutes. The officer thinks Esmeralda should stay away from people like Jimmy, but Jimmy reminds him about what they did to Meep. Esmeralda calms the men down and they get on Jimmy’s bike and ride away.
Stanley, in the meantime, is watching the naked Viking in his hotel room. He says the naked Viking is missing a sword. He invites him to take his pants off. It turns out that Stanley has a thirteen inch sword…
The moms in Palm Beach are drinking while they wait for Halloween to be over. The little angel is in bed playing with her dolls. Her brother comes in, having stolen her candy. He taunts her and tells her that he’ll give it back provided that she calls him Master Mike and does his chores for a week. She’s not listening. She’s watching Twisty approach behind him. Twisty puts a finger to his mouth to keep her quiet. Mike sees his sister’s terrified look. When he turns around, he screams. The moms come rushing in and ask where her brother is. “The clown took him,” she says, pointing out the window.
Bette and Dot chide Paul and Eve for being superstitious about doing a rehearsal on Halloween. Elsa walks in and says that she’s willing to take the risk because the mystic says that an important man is coming to help her career and she needs to be ready. Dot says Elsa can rehearse when they’re done, because they’re the headliners now. Elsa threatens to take them out to the swamps. She is a professional and has been performing for decades, and they are nothing but freaks. Dot and Bette storm away from the stage. Elsa calls upon Paul and Eve to play for her so she can practice.
The music comes up and Elsa starts singing Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters.” As she sings, the band gets into the song. So does Edward Mordrake, who rises from the great beyond to wreak havoc on the freak show. Elsa sees him and beckons to him, thinking him to be her salvation. She takes a bow…but he has disappeared. She looks around in terror.
Night has fallen at the freak show. Ethel is in her trailer and she starts to hear voices. She looks around and sees nothing, but then she looks again and sees the ghost of a woman whose throat has been cut open. A green fog is rising from the doorway. When she turns back again, Edward Mordrake is there. He apologizes for scaring her, but he blames his alter ego. Edward argues with his violent familiar. Ethel tells him that she didn’t summon him and she doesn’t want to die, but Edward says he can’t grant a reprieve. She has been chosen to join their group of freaks. He says there are questions that must be asked, and his familiar will know if she lies. He notes that she wasn’t always in such a bad way. Edward wants to hear the story of Ethel’s fall. She says it’s true, that she has fallen more than once. She used to have an act where she was surrounded by pretty girls and the audience loved her. She had Dell with her, and he became her manager. He gave her advice and told her that she shouldn’t go for laughs, but should perform the classics. That didn’t work out so well, and this time she was the joke. Edward’s familiar says that he knows that she has a darker pain. He asks what happened when they returned to the stage. Ethel said they were poor and she was carrying Jimmy at the time. She couldn’t perform like that, so instead Dell made a show of her giving birth. Dell grabbed the newborn and tried to get money from people who wanted to hold him. She’s upset that Jimmy had been exploited from the start.
Edward thanks her for sharing her pain. When Ethel looks up, she sees the ghosts of the other freaks that have died. Ethel says she’s ready to go. Edward listens and hears his familiar say “Not the one.” It looks like Ethel has earned a reprieve.
Back at Twisty’s van, the boy and girl hear a noise. It’s Dandy, and he’s singing the trick or treat song. He has candy for them, which he holds out in his hand. When they grab for it, he calls trick and tries to stab them. He pokes at the duo with a stick, but then he hears Twisty arriving. Dandy goes outside to see Twisty dragging poor Mike. “More fun!” Dandy exclaims with glee.
To be continued….