‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’ aired the first half of a two-parter Halloween episode on Oct. 22. Aptly titled ‘Edward Mordrake: Part 1,’ we meet Emma Roberts’ Esmerelda, Denis O’Hare’s Stanley, and the titular Edward Mordrake played by Wes Bentley — one man with two faces. Bette and Dot, you just got one-upped. Full recap below!
For a show that has already been haunting our nightmares these past few weeks, American Horror Story: Freak Show really outdid itself for Halloween. The first half of a two-parter, “Edward Mordrake: Part 1” saw our freaks in more trouble than ever as the cunning “psychic” Miss Esmerelda (Emma Roberts) invades their camp for nefarious means, and a two-faced ghost threatens their very lives.
Edward Mordrake In ‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Halloween Pt. I Recap
We open in the American Morbidity Museum, where we meet Maggie and Stanley for the first time. (Those are the names listed for Emma Roberts’ and Denis O’Hare’s characters, anyway.)
They’re “scientists,” though the authenticity of Stanley’s credentials is very much in question.
The two are, of course, crooks; they try to pass off to the museum a fetal goat with a cat’s jaw sewed on as a baby sasquatch. Once they learn the worth of real “freaks” (do pardon the terminology), and how few effs the American Morbidity Museum give about where their exhibits come from, they decide to pack their bags and head to Florida in search of some real bounty.
Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson) will likely be their biggest targets; a conjoined liver in a jar was worth $5000 to the museum. (Fun fact: That’s close to 50,000 in 2014 dollars.)
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Twisty The Clown Is Still A-Kidnappin’
It’s Halloween in West Palm Beach, and kids are trick-or-treating like there isn’t a murderer afoot in the nearby Jupiter. Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) is walking around like it’s no big deal and like his is a perfectly normal clown costume that nobody questions. A little girl spots him and freaks the eff out, as she should, and as everybody should. (Sorry, still not over Gloria Mott being like, “Oh hey, you’re a clown! A totally normal-looking clown. Come be my son’s totally normal friend!”)
Later, Twisty invades the home of the little girl and makes off with her bullying big brother. There’s a lesson, here, kids: Don’t be a butthole, or a clown missing the lower half of his face will come for you in the night.
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Ethel Is Ill And Basically Suicidal
Bummer. Ethel (Kathy Bates) is ill; despite her “mother being tough as an old bewt,” (that’s “boot” in a Philly accent), she’s suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. The doctor gives her 6 months to a year to live. “Well, sh*t. Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t.” Indeed.
In a touching moment, she starts to cry, but it’s not because of her illness; it’s because her doctor is the first to ever treat her like a real person.
She is not real bothered by her doctor’s warnings, however; she’s half in the bag for the rest of the episode, drinking liquor like it’s going to get taken away from her.
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: The Story Of Edward Mordrake, Who Was Real, By The Way
Over at the freak show, Jimmy (Evan Peters) is still feeling guilt over Meep’s murder, and Dot shames the freaks for celebrating during the tragedy and implores them to get practicing in order to honor Meep’s memory. However, freaks don’t perform on Halloween. Why? Well, because of Edward Mordrake, of course.
Ethel tells the story of a man with two faces; according to Ethel, his second face whispered things to him, driving him to the point of madness. Edward was committed, but escaped to a freak show where he was the star.
He snapped on Halloween, though, murdering every freak in the troupe. Edward was hanged for hisicrimes, but “Legend has it that even in death, the demon face was smiling.” Creepy.
(By the way, Edward Mordrake was a real person who really existed. Probably. Kind of. His last name was actually “Mordake” and he was indeed a 19th century nobleman who thought the face on the back of his head was demonic; it could not speak nor eat, but it reportedly could laugh and cry. He went on to commit suicide at the age of 23.
Here’s an excerpt from the 1900 book titled Anomalies And Curiosities Of Medicine, published in 1900:
“But upon the back of [Edward’s] head was another face, that of a beautiful girl, ‘lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil’. The female face was a mere mask, ‘occupying only a small portion of the posterior part of the skull, yet exhibiting every sign of intelligence, of a malignant sort, however’. It would be been seen to smile and sneer while Mordake was weeping.”
So, you’re welcome for that nightmare digression.)
That said, the freaks don’t perform on Halloween not out of respect, but out of fear. Even Ethel knows of a freak who was found hanged after her troupe at the time worked on Halloween.
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: The Mott House Is Mad But Dora Is A BAMF
In the Mott house, Dora the maid is dressed as Woody Woodpecker. Yes, Patti Labelle is dressed as Woody Woodpecker. She even did the laugh. What a time to be alive!
Dandy (Finn Wittrock) is not pleased by his Howdy Doody costume, and takes it out on his mother (Frances Conroy) and on Dora. He cuts up his costume in fury, and you know what comes next.
As expected, Dandy has turned his Howdy Doody costume into a clown costume. While not as terrifying as his mentor’s, it does the trick for me but not so much for Dora. When threatened by his knife, she baits him, tells him he doesn’t have the guts.
Oh, Dora. You’re hard like Brooklyn but you do not want to be playing this game. My bet’s on Twisty doing the deed for his new BFF; Dora cannot be long for this world.
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Maggie/Miss Esmerelda Is A Better Cold Reader Than John Edwards; Elsa Loses Her Edge
Maggie pulls up to the freak show during Meep’s funeral and meets Jimmy who, for all his grief, seems fairly besotted by the lovely Miss Esmerelda, a “psychic.” No better job for a hustler, really; she might do quite well at the freak show!
However, in order to get the gig, she has to pass the Elsa (Jessica Lange) test. You can see Maggie/Esmerelda look around Elsa’s room and spot photographs, sheet music, and other tchotchkes; she’s a crafty girl, and you know she’s about to do one hell of a cold read.
Esmerelda tells Elsa that she once suffered a terrible injustice; that she was once wronged but that, of course, she will one day make beautiful music and receive a standing ovation. Most appealing of all, to Elsa, is that a beautiful man will be there by her side. Usually savvier than this, Elsa eats it up because it’s all she’s ever wanted to hear.
Esmerelda is hired!
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: The Divide Grows Between Bette & Dot
Bette and Dot wake from a dream in which a doctor is about to take a bone saw down their middle. To Bette, it’s a nightmare, but to Dot, it was a beautiful dream.
Given that Dot has tried to kill Bette before, it’s pretty obvious that she’s keen to get rid of the dead weight and begin a life of her own. Bette doesn’t like their odds if they get split down the middle, but Dot would rather have a life of her own or die trying.
Later, when the girls meet Esmerelda, Dot is the only one who is rightfully suspicious. Of course, her suspicion is due in part to jealousy — there’s no way Jimmy and Esmerelda won’t be getting it on at some point this season and Dot has been sweet on Jimmy since moment one.
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Desiree & Dell Give Me The Creeps; Ethel & Dell Have A Heart-To-Heart
If you’ve ever wanted to see Angela Bassett give Michael Chiklis an over-the-boxers handie, today is your day. Dell can’t, er, perform, however, blaming the weight-lifting for rushing blood away from his downstairs. Desiree is well annoyed, telling him she’s tired of his excuses. When Dell throws her up against a wall, she threatens to leave him, and he storms out.
Dell lands upon Ethel, and they share a heart-to-heart over some hooch; he insists that he never loved her, that she was just available. She begs him to take care of Jimmy after her death, but to never reveal that he’s Jimmy’s father. (Basically guaranteeing that Jimmy will find out that Dell is his father.)
Dell does feel some regret over his failure as a father, and asks Ethel what Jimmy dressed up as for Halloween. As a child, Jimmy only ever wanted to dress up as a soldier. That’s kind of sad. As the de facto protector of the freaks, you can tell that protecting his country would be a great honor to him. However, his deformity has no doubt kept him from the ranks. Poor Jimmy!
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Esmerelda Is The Most Naïve; Stanley Has The D
On a phone call with Stanley, Esmerelda tells him that she wants out. When she tells him about Bette and Dot, he insists she stay there so that they can kill the girls and put them in a jar. Esmerelda is like, um, actually, I’m not about that life, but Stanley wants his payday.
(What, exactly, did Esmerelda think she would be doing at the freak show, anyway, if not putting freaks in jars?)
Oh, and à propos of nothing, Stanley is in a motel room during their call and entertaining a gentleman of the night. Also, Stanley is apparently packing. You know, in his pants. If you get my drift. Why do we know these things? Well, why can only Jimmy Darling’s lobster hands best pleasure the housewives of suburban Florida? Why do we know anything?
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Elsa Puts On A Performance; Edward Mordrake Appears
Success has gotten to Dot’s head; she and Elsa get into it a little over Bette and Dot’s headlining status, but Elsa’s not too interested in her games; she’s got bigger fish to fry. She decides, at the protestation of everyone in her vicinity, to get practicing for her upcoming standing ovation.
Ryan Murphy continues to give fewer effs about historical accuracy than the people at the American Morbidity Museum give about ethics; Elsa puts on a majestic performance of Lana Del Rey‘s “Gods & Monsters.”
Because she chooses to perform, we see Wes Bentley as Edward amble through the grounds and make his way to Elsa. She thinks it’s her mystery man come to save her from mediocrity as Esmerelda “predicted”; however, once the song wraps, Edward disappears into the shadows.
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: More On Ethel’s Tragic Past, Dell, And Jimmy’s ‘Freak Birth’; Edward Lets Her Live
Elsa’s little performance haunted the entire grounds; either the drink has made Ethel gone mad, or a dead lady appeared in her quarters before Edward himself.
Edward and his coterie can’t leave until he has another victim to take with him to the other side, so he and Ethel get to reminiscing. In her prime, she was quite successful; however, Dell convinced her that reciting Shakespeare onstage would get them more cash than dancing. People were not receptive, duh, and Dell and Ethel were left destitute.
So, Dell started selling tickets to her “freak birth.” Aw. Dell was thrilled by Jimmy’s lobster hands, asking his captive audience for “two bits” to hold the “freak baby.” Double aw. Ethel is despondent that all Jimmy has ever known is exploitation.
After revealing her story, she says she’s ready to go and to repent for her sins. We hear Edward’s demon face whisper that she’s “not the one,” and she’s safe until the cirrhosis gets her.
‘American Horror Story: Freak Show’: Dandy & Twisty Reunite; Friendship Bracelets Forthcoming
In Twisty’s hidey hole, Dandy takes it upon himself to terrorize Twisty’s guests in his absence; when Twisty arrives with his new bounty, Dandy is pumped: “More fun!” Ugh, you creep. End of episode.
So, HollywoodLifers, what did you think of “Edward Mordrake: Part 1”? Was it sufficiently creepy for a Halloween episode, or do you expect that AHS will ramp it up for Halloween proper? Is Esmerelda a do-gooder compared to her partner in crime, or was she a naïve fool to think that Stanley’s endgame wasn’t putting heads and organs in jars? What’s your over-under on how soon Dora is going to meet her death, and at whose hands?
Finally, who is “the one”? Whom will Edward take with him to the other side? Vote above and let us know all of your thoughts below!
— Amanda Michelle Steiner