As if the “freaks” didn’t have enough to deal with!
This week American Horror Story aired the first of its two-part Halloween episode, “Edward Mordrake” which appeared to plant a lot of seeds not only for the storyline’s conclusion next week, but also for the rest of the season. Kathy Bates’ Ethel Darling took center stage here as we learned a lot about her past, present and future. First, she is terminally ill and only has 6-12 months to live. In an emotional scene, Ethel is delivered the news by a doctor who, as she explains, has “treated me with respect.” She continues, telling the doctor that maybe her life would have gone differently if she had met him sooner.
Ethel returns to the grounds and joins the group in the tent and tells them the legend of Edward Mordrake (played by Wes Bentley) in response to the suggestion that they do a show on Halloween night. She explains the history of Mordrake and that if any freaks decide to perform on Halloween, the ghost of Mordrake will return from the grave and take one of them back to hell with him.
Meanwhile, Dandy has lost his marbles and is creating his own costume for Halloween — a clown. He ventures downstairs in his new getup and confronts Patti LaBelle’s Nora with a knife but she, unsurprisingly, is not scared. She dares him to kill her, which he cannot, and instead throws a hissy fit and runs away to Twisty’s school bus out in the woods where he then decides to poke and prod at the children that the menacing clown is holding captive. Twisty arrives before Dandy can do any real damage with a new child in tow.
Earlier in the episode we meet Dennis O’Hare and Emma Roberts characters — two con artists who are in search of the corpse of a real “freak” to sell to the museum and make a few bucks. It is then that they decide to visit Jupiter instead of Coney Island (ooh — could season five be taking place in Coney Island?) and Roberts’ Maggie Esmerelda approaches Elsa Mars looking for a job. She looks into her crystal ball (but really takes a quick peek around the tent) and gives a spot on “reading” for Mars, playing into her anger over never becoming the star she thinks she should have been. This moment rang a little untrue for me as so far Mars has proved herself to be a pretty savvy business woman. However, I’m assuming we’re to believe 1) her hubris may be her downfall and 2) she was smoking something out of that pipe and I don’t think it was tobacco, so perhaps her judgement was impaired?
In any case, this lead to Mars performing the third song of the season (according to Ryan Murphy, they will be used as needed), a cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters” which summons the ghost of Edward Mordrake. Mordrake confronts Ethel and of course she thinks she’s the soul who will be taken back to hell. She tells Mordrake and the ghosts of the freaks who accompany him of her history with Del (Michael Chiklis), something that was elaborated on earlier in the episode. The story is one of utter heartbreak and abuse, culminating with Del forcing her to give birth to Jimmy (Evan Peters) as part of their own makeshift freak show because they were broke and needed to do something for money. My heart broke for Ethel throughout this entire episode and it would appear that Bates is going to be a real contender for the Best Supporting Actress Emmy race yet again in 2015.
Mordrake’s vengeful demon declares that Ethel is not the one they will be taking with them and Mordrake offers her his handkerchief to dry her tears. And with that, he’s gone. To be continued…
I loved this episode of American Horror Story. It would seem that the tragedy is on full display this season and I’ve found myself wondering if this is because Murphy and company can relate to the material more. As I’ve expressed before, I believe the strongest season of the anthology series to be the first, Murder House, because it seemed to be coming from a place that was rather sincere, no matter how messed up. Perhaps the team behind this season feels the “freak” allegory a little deeper in their bones than they did in the previous two seasons.
In any case, “Edward Mordrake” concludes next Wednesday, just in time for Halloween, on FX.