'American Horror Story' recap, 'Edward Mordrake, Part 2'
By Lacy Baugher
For The Baltimore Sun|
Oct 30, 2014 at 10:50 AM
"American Horror Story's" Halloween two-parter wraps this week with the conclusion to the carny cautionary tale of Edward Mordrake, a Victorian-era man purported to have a second evil face (because, of course it'd be evil) on the back of his head, whose restless spirit could be summoned by performing on Halloween night. (Thanks a lot, Elsa and your Lana Del Rey song last week.)
All we know is, after a heart-to-heart with Ethel, Mordrake's not interested in her. But someone's supposed to get dragged to Hell this week. Who will it be?
The heart-to-heart tour continues. Edward Mordrake and his weird green smoke cloud accessory is still touring around the freak show, casually having lengthy heart-to-hearts with characters we barely know in an attempt to ascertain who's getting a fast track back to Hell with him. He chats with Pepper, Legless Suzy and Paul the Illustrated Seal before arriving at someone we're actually interested in: Elsa Mars herself.
Elsa assumes he's there to make her a star – of course she does – and it takes her a few to figure out the whole he's-a-soul-sucking-zombie-hell-fiend thing. When Mordrake discovers the secret of Elsa's prosthetic legs, he's furious – he's been very moved thus far by the various sob stories of the other carnival residents, but he's legit enraged over the idea that Elsa's pretending to mother this troupe while carefully hiding that she's just a big a freak as any of them.
Elsa's commanded to tell the story of her darkest secret, and the Jessica Lange Serious Acting Hour begins.
If you were waiting for "Coven" 2.0, you might want to give up now. It's no secret that "American Horror Story" won a lot of new converts last season with its sassy, contemporary "Coven" installment. The thing is – that was actually the least "AHS"-ish season the show's ever done, and I kind of feel sorry for the folks that don't have the experience of "Asylum" to prepare them for everything insane that's gone down this year.
This is "Asylum" on steroids, and there's none of the camp of "Coven" to cut the darkness. Elsa's flashback takes us to Berlin in 1932, where she's a famous performer -- sort of. A well known dominatrix in a particularly kinky bordello, Elsa has both a reputation for being innovative in her work and a functional pair of legs.
But what we really care about is that Jessica Lange walks a German officer around on a leash like a dog. This is why this woman is an Emmy-winner, y'all.
Eventually, a client wants her to be in an adult movie for him. It turns out to be a snuff film, wherein Elsa gets her legs cut off by way of a chainsaw. She lives through it only because one of her clients stalks her on the regular, and her new-found "fame" is the most notorious kind.
Mordrake's hidden demon face is pretty happy with the selection of Elsa as Hellbait, and she's surprisingly cool with it too, actually begging him to take her soul with him. Until Mordrake hears a jingle in the woods.
Meanwhile, back at the murder van. Mordrake must have some seriously exceptional hearing, because the ringing bells are happening back at Twisty's Murder Van Fun House, where a special clown show is taking place.
Dandy's managed to kidnap Jimmy and Esmeralda while they were on their trip home from that phone call she had to make to her manfriend Denis O'Hare last week. Proudly sporting his homemade nightmare-clown suit, Dandy decides to try and saw Esmeralda in half as part of their show.
Jimmy manages to get free and rescue her, as well as the other kidnapped kids. They all run off with Dandy in pursuit. Dandy, somewhat-less-than thrilled that his perfect Halloween plans are being spoiled, throws a tantrum in the middle of the woods.
This show bever stops surprising. What happens next is something that probably should not work at all, but it does.
Mordrake appears before Twisty can head off to help Dandy round up the escaped prisoners and wants a heart-to -heart. Mordrake makes him take off his mask and tell his story. Twisty is reluctant; since his lower jaw is missing, he can't really talk. But that's OK, because Mordrake is also down with telepathic communication. He'll know what Twisty means.
And that's how a 15-minute segment on the Life and Times of Twisty the Clown begins – and it's horrifying, and gut wrenching, and actually moving. Yes, really. Prepare to feel sorry for your nightmare -- even though the show includes about 17 shots of Twisty with his mask off and his gruesome face is entirely the opposite of sympathetic.
The facts are these: Twisty used to be a children's clown, back when he was mostly normal. He loved kids and only wanted to make them laugh.
He hated the dwarfs who worked in his carnival with him. They called him names because he was dropped on his head as a child, and started rumors that he was molesting kids during his show. This got Twisty fired and his life went downhill from there.
He came home to Jupiter only to find that his mother had died. He apparently only had the one clown outfit, which started getting ragged and gross. He discovered he did not have a future in artisanal toy making. Finally, Twisty decided he couldn't take it anymore and put a shotgun in his mouth.
He survived the suicide attempt, but lost his entire lower jaw. This is where the horror mask came from, though it turns out Twisty actually intended the thing to look happy. Not kidding about Twisty being terrible at crafts, just FYI.
And what of the Murder Van? Twisty actually meant the thing to be a "reward," not a torture experiment. He says he took kids whose parents were mean to them, protected them from the local freaks who'd tried to hurt them, gave them toys, candy and a perpetual clown show. He even stole them a pretty babysitter!
Mordrake is extremely moved by this saga and his demon head decrees Twisty to be their One True Freak. This earns Twisty a brutal stabbing and a one-way ticket to Hell with Mordrake's crew of freak ghosts. Surprise!
Jimmy, who has been hiding nearby watching the whole thing, knows Twisty's death is Mordrake's doing, but doesn't explain the carnival myth to the cops. Instead, he gets lauded as a hero by the locals for getting their kids home safely. Seriously, a bunch of townies drive out and bring Jimmy and the whole freak show assorted homemade baked goods. It's a really happy ending to the episode, especially when Elsa manages to sell all of them tickets to the show that night.
Or…it is until Dandy comes back to the Murder Van encampment and finds Twisty dead. He immediately takes up his horrifying smile face mask and starts wearing it around, proving that no matter how old some kids get, you really just cannot teach them about hygiene. Yikes.
1) After Dandy tries on his new personal bio-hazard, he heads home, where he runs into Dora and kills her. So that's an epic waste of Patti LaBelle, if you ask me.
2) There was no musical number this week, and weirdly the absence of that is noticeable, though who knows what kind of song they could have picked to cover all the various emotions in this episode.
3) Denis O'Hare's character, Stanley, finally arrives in Jupiter, so the gang's all here at last. Or as far as the main cast goes, anyway.
4) Neither Kathy Bates nor Frances Conroy appeared at all in this episode and several regulars – Sarah Paulson, Angela Bassett and Michael Chiklis – only show up at the very end. The episode itself didn't really suffer for it. Here's hoping "AHS" has finally cracked the nut of cast balance that plagued "Coven" last year.