American Horror Story: “Edward Mordrake, Part 1” Review

It’s Halloween. It’s American Horror Story. It’s a two-parter. Let’s do this.

Spoilers ahead!

Shame on me for hoping to see a continuation of the Elsa/Bette conspiracy from the previous episode. Shame on me.

Instead, tonight’s episode, the first part of “Edward Mordrake” (to be continued next week), was… pretty lame. Now, don’t get me wrong, Freak Show continues to throw new elements at us: we’ve got a pair of con artists, a wannabe clown killer, and a re-appropriated historical figure (an inevitability, really). But what we didn’t get was the same momentum Freak Show gave us in its first two episodes, a significant problem for a season that’s already slowed the pace that AHS fans are accustomed to.

In part, I blame the pacing issues on the decision to make “Edward Mordrake, Part 1” yet another extra-long installment. Perhaps seeing the content of tonight’s episode truncated into typical broadcast length would have fixed the fact that the episode really wasn’t that exciting.

The episode opens with new characters Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and Maggie (Emma Roberts) attempting to con the curator of the American Morbidity Museum (not a real thing, I checked) with their fake baby-Sasquatch. When their plan fails and they learn how valuable a “real freak” is to the museum’s shady curator, Stanley sends Maggie to Jupiter to con her way into the freak show. One simple exploitation of Elsa’s insecurities later, Maggie becomes the freak show’s fortune teller, in position to kill/kidnap one of the “real freaks.” Though I don’t know why Stanley can’t just sell himself to the museum, because if the implications in the Viking god same-sex foreplay scene mean what I think they mean, Stanley’s got an enormous (ahem). I also can’t believe I just typed that sentence.

Maggie (Emma Roberts) joins the Freak Show.

Maggie (Emma Roberts) joins the Freak Show.

It’s regrettable that the episode doesn’t spend as much time with the con artists as it does with the bearded Ethel. A significant portion of the episode is spent exploring Ethel’s backstory, and though the flashbacks were amusing, last week’s episode gave us enough insight into Ethel’s past (at least until the show fills in its other characters). Meanwhile, Dandy is still throwing tantrums and masquerading as the clown-sidekick to Twisty – nothing new to report there.

Regarding the title character of the episode: Edward Mordrake. Throughout the episode, characters reference the evil spirit that rises on Halloween night to take the life of a freak. Based off of the purportedly true case of Edward Mordrake, Wes Bentley’s depiction of the two-faced phantom isn’t nearly as scary as the Wikipedia entry on Mordrake would lead one to believe it would be. His arrival at the end of the already long episode is underscored by Elsa’s Lana Del Ray cover (3 for 3 on musical numbers) and capped with an unbearably expository scene with Ethel. I hope something inside the character snaps next week, because if a ghost were going to visit me and reap my soul, Mordrake would be my number one choice. What a fine, young gentlemen.

Less scary than that moment  when you think there's one more step and there's not.

Less scary than that moment when you think there’s one more stair and there’s not.

Here’s hoping that next week picks up this week’s slack, or else I’ll be wishing for LESSdrake. Get it?

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

  • I really don’t think a child’s confused imagination could possibly create the image of Twisty the Clown. Silly parents.
  • There’s no better way to send off Meep then by showering his casket with chicken heads.
  • Jyoti Amge’s character popping out of the pumpkin to scare Eve steals the prize for best moment in the episode.

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