American Horror Story, Freak Show – S4, E4: “Edward Mordrake: Part 2”

When I was about five years old, I was absolutely terrified of a picture book of dinosaurs. Each night, I would hurl it into my closet and slam the door, only to lay awake waiting for an Allosaurus to emerge from the closet and rip me limp from limb. I have recently been experiencing a similar fear, but it is no longer dinosaurs that keep me up at night – it’s Twisty the clown. I will not watch American Horror Story as it airs because Twisty disturbs me so. This week, I am particularly glad that I waited until the light of day to watch.

Clearly, there are many disquieting moments in “Edward Mordrake: Part 2,” and the brilliant acting this week conveys both horror as well as a haunting, lonely sadness. The latter can be seen merely by looking into the eyes of Paul the Illustrated Seal as he reveals his past to the spirit. When Mordrake inquires as to why Paul did not have tattoos above his neck, the response is a straightforward yet tearful, “Because I have a handsome face.” In that moment, we see lost potential written all over the man’s expression. Mat Fraser is an incredible talent. Wearing nothing but a wife beater and tightie whities, Fraser’s vulnerability is on full display. He is not dominantly featured in the episode, but his heartfelt performance is one of the best of the season thus far. Ryan Murphy would be a total idiot to not bring back Fraser for future seasons.

The second noteworthy characterization of the night was that of John Carroll Lynch’s Twisty. As I have repeatedly mentioned, this character haunts my dreams (and thankfully not my closet),  and yet I found myself sympathizing with the murderous clown upon learning his backstory. I have been desperate to know this guy’s history since the first episode, but I never anticipated that it would elicit any compassion. The fact that Carroll pulls off this audience reaction is amazing. For one thing, Carroll spent the first three episodes communicating solely through his gestures and his eyes. When he does finally speak, the result is disarming. I was prepared to loathe Twisty no matter what; instead I was left feeling drained and devastated. And vaguely disappointed. The one thing that I wanted to know about Twisty was the origins of his head hat. That fact remains a mystery. I guess there’s always next week.

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