AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW Review 1.04 “Edward Mordrake Part 2”
Because I have a handsome face. I have the face of a pretty lad. Can you imagine this mug on a normal body? I could have ruled the world!
I think the reason both parts of the "Edward Mordrake" two-episode Halloween special have been so effective is that Mordrake - that extra-faced, ghostly aristocrat played so pleasantly by Wes Bentley ("Never cared for dwarves. Power mad, the lot of them.") - has asked each freak to tell his or her story. It's a simple thing, but as they all reveal the darkest moments of their lives, we begin to understand them better, to know what drives them to live this hard-knock, vagabond life, traveling from town to town to be treated as sideshow entertainment or worse, as a dangerous, disgusting threat. Jimmy says it best when he tells Maggie Esmerelda of the townies: "At best we're tolerated because they're grateful we make them feel normal.
Last week, we heard Ethel's heartbreaking tale, and in "Edward Mordrake Part 2," the most stirring moment was, for me, when Paul the Illustrated Seal told Mordrake that he was afraid to tattoo his face, because it's a handsome mug - a normal face. Mat Fraser, who plays Paul, suffers from phocomelia, and while I'm not certain I trust Ryan Murphy to continue handling with sensitivity the performers in his cast who are differently abled in real life, so far he has.
(An aside: Mat Fraser is a drummer. That is AWESOME.)
And we also hear Elsa's tale of woe, and it's pretty woeful, indeed. It's enough to finally garner some sympathy for this "pernicious disease" pretending to be a "benevolent zookeeper" to the freaks. Elsa was an S&M madame in 1932 Berlin, a time and place that were evidently sexual deviancy heaven. As the madame, of course it seems that she's always in control, but there's something to her words as she murmurs to Mordrake, "You trade away your humanity, trick by trick. In the end, I wasn't Elsa. I was nothing. A ghost, like you." But her tragedy goes deeper than that: one night the mysterious men who watched over her every trick drugged her, and then they filmed her as they chain-sawed off her legs. It's a terrible thing, enough that Mordrake almost takes her away to be his annual victim (and she begs him to), but some distant, tinny circus music catches his attention, and he abruptly appears at the side of Twisty.
Twisty, who has gotten his giant mitts on Jimmy and Esmerelda and is about to kill them both with Dandy's help (or supervision - it's hard to tell with those two who's serving whom). And suddenly, as Mordrake instructs him, Twisty removes his mask and tells his own tale - a tale just as sad as the others. While the sweet, simple Twisty of old - who loved children, and they loved him too - made me feel terribly for what he's become, I have to agree with Mordrake that Twisty's not exactly taking responsibility for the years of evil he's celebrated since he was run out of that circus tent. And finally, with this tale, Mordrake's tiny face tells him that they have found their victim - "one more pure freak to add to an unhappy number." Twisty is dead, and that sucks, but as Dandy puts on the gaping-mawed mask and kills Dora (which also sucks, but at least she got a few more good insults in before he slit her throat), we realize that there's a new Twisty in town. And I have a feeling he'll do Twisty twistier than Twisty ever did.
Finally, Jimmy and Maggie return to the freak camp to be greeted by dozens of townies, there to give their thanks to Jimmy (who is so dreamy, it should be noted) for slaying the clown - and I guess as far as they're concerned, Jimmy might as well have. The father of one of Twisty's would-be victims shakes Jimmy's giant, malformed hand, and the rest of the townies walk around the camp and introduce themselves to the freaks, and it's a nice moment. A very nice moment.
Jimmy tells the cop who is trying to congratulate him, "Somebody's gonna pay for what happened to my friend," and I'm glad that he's not dropping Meep's death.
Thirty seconds of screentime for Angela Bassett and her delivery of "I'm a woman...and then some" is probably my favorite moment of the entire episode.