American Horror Story, Freakshow – S4, E3: “Edward Mordrake”

Both Elsa’s Freakshow and the American Morbidity Museum are losing business because people would rather stay in and watch television. Ironically, I would far rather watch Freakshow from the comfort of my couch than go out into the world to seek actual entertainment. So, while I’m sitting here thinking about the sad plight of the freaks and their suffering business, I myself am contributing to that very problem. Touché, Ryan Murphy, touché.

Social commentary aside, “Edward Mordrake” is somehow simultaneously disturbing and genuine. Twisty remains profoundly bothersome, and we are introduced to the dual-faced Edward Mordrake. Mordrake is allegedly based on an actual man of the same name who was afflicted with diprosopus, or “craniofacial duplication. According to Wikipedia (which is rarely a reliable source), it is “an extremely rare congenital disorder whereby parts (accessories) or all of the face are duplicated on the head” ( First of all, what constitutes a facial “accessory”? Is my nose merely an accessory? My eyebrows? I always thought of facial features as necessities, but apparently they are simply ornamental supplements to my head. Anyway, Wikipedia led to my googling of “diporsopus,”which led to Google Images. Do not search for this. Ever. Ever, ever. Some things can never be unseen.

Freakshow‘s fictionalized version of Mordrake is a sympathetic figure. Born into wealth and aristocracy, Mordrake is incapable of living up to his family name due to the demon head that torments him day and night. He kill people, true, but it is the will of his own personal Mr. Hyde. Plus, his ghost is just so damned polite, it is impossible not to like him. There’s a moment when he forces Ethel to recount some terrible moments from her past, bringing her to tears. He hands her his handkerchief, and something about that gesture forces viewers to empathize with this poor guy. What he became was beyond his control.

Speaking of Ethel, though, Kathy Bates really put her acting chops on full display this week. I still think that her accent is off-putting, but the woman is a wonderful actress. The circumstances surrounding Jimmy’s birth have clearly haunted her for years, and Bates conveys that pain and heartbreak with every aspect of her countenance. She better win an Emmy for this; not many actresses are successfully able to convey a lifetime of hurt in her eyes alone.

It is Saturday, and American Horror Story airs on Wednesdays. It has taken me a long time to write this because it is difficult for me to write positive remarks. This is very hard to say, but I like this season. I like it very much. The acting is incredible (minus the abhorrently talentless Emma Roberts). Wes Bentley is superb. Finn Wittrock is terrifying. Frances Conroy can play anyone. Kathy Bates is the shit. Elsa should quit singing, but I guess I can deal with it. For the first time in a long time, I can’t wait to see what next week will bring.


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