“American Horror Story” delivered an early Halloween treat on Wednesday. Episode 3 of “Freak Show” was set on Halloween in 1952 and introduced a whole new set of characters … and threats.
Episode 3, “Edward Mordrake, Pt. 1,” kicked off at the American Morbidity Museum – a place that housed oddities like a liver belonging to conjoined twins. It was there that “American Horror Story” viewers met Stanley (Denis O’Hare). But Stanley wasn’t a patron or curator at the museum – he was a con artist posing as a doctor with a double degree from Harvard. Stanley was intent on selling the museum an “authentic baby sasquatch,” but his so-called specimen turned out to be a fetal goat with a cat jaw sewed on.
Stanley and his assistant, Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts), were unsuccessful in passing off their creation, but the woman working at the museum said the business was in trouble without new exhibits and would pay handsomely for something authentic. How handsome would the reward be? The liver of a conjoined twin could fetch $5,000. The potential paycheck put Stanley and Maggie Esmerelda on a new mission – to go to Jupiter, Florida, and collect their own specimen from a real live freak show.
As Stanley and Esmerelda plotted to get their hands on their fortune, episode 3 cut to West Palm Beach, a town close to Jupiter that was unaffected by the curfew. The children were out trick-or-treating … and so was Twisty the Clown (John Carol Lynch).
Meanwhile, Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates) got some grim news from a local doctor. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and given six months to a year to live. But Ethel Darling’s condition wasn’t the biggest concern in episode 3 of “American Horror Story: Freak Show.” The troupe of freaks were worrying about Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley) – a spirit rumored to haunt freak shows should they perform on Halloween night.
According to Ethel, Edward Mordrake was an Englishman of noble birth. He was a scholar, poet, musician and more – but the second face he had on the back of his head overshadowed that. The second face would whisper to Edward, and he was the only one who could hear it.
Legend has it that Mordrake tried to kill his second face but it wouldn’t die. Eventually he was committed into an institution by his family. But despite his best efforts to take his mind off of the second face, it kept telling him to do things – like cut the throat of one of the attendants and escape the asylum.
It was after he escaped that Mordrake joined a freak show. He was billed as the “Two-Faced Prince,” but even then he wasn’t happy. One Halloween night, Mordrake completely snapped. He murdered every freak in his group and then hanged himself. Ethel concluded the story by explaining that even in death the demon face on Edward Mordrake was smiling.
The story has it that if a freak show performs on Halloween night they will summon the Mordrake's spirit – and he won’t leave until he brings one more freak back to hell with them.
Needless to say, newcomers Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson) didn’t believe the tale. But Ethel insisted that it was true because she had seen it herself when she was in her 20s.
As the freaks took the night off, Dandy (Finn Wittrock) was only getting started on his. He excitedly tore into the box that the family maid, Nora (Patti LaBelle), put together for his Halloween costume. But Dandy was upset to find a Howdy Doody costume. He immediately threw a temper tantrum – something that Nora wouldn’t put up with – but his mother, Gloria, promised that she’d find him a new costume in time. Dandy didn’t want any old costume, though – he wanted to be a clown just like his new friend, Twisty.
Meanwhile, Maggie Esmerelda took on a new identity for her employer Stanley. She previously played Stanley’s research assistant, but this time her role required her to be a bit of a “freak” – a fortune teller from Philadelphia. Maggie Esmerelda immediately won over Jimmy Darling (Evan Peters), but Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) was a little suspicious of Maggie Esmerelda’s act. However any doubts about Maggie Esmerelda’s credibility was thrown to the wind when she began to speak about a “grave injustice” that Elsa suffered in the past. When Maggie Esmerelda began speaking about Elsa’s future, she told the freak show leader that an “elegant refined stranger” would appear shortly and that under his guidance would turn her into a star. That was all Elsa needed to hire Maggie Esmerelda.
Jimmy Darling was immediately fond of Maggie Esmerelda, but the con artist confided to Stanley that the freaks were giving her the “heebie-jeebies.” Unfortunately for her, Stanley told her she had to stay put until they could make their fortune. But Maggie Esmerelda didn’t realize that Stanley’s plan involved murder.
Someone else was planning murder inside the freak show camp – Dot. Tired of being attached to Bette, Dot dreamed of living a normal life and having her sister chopped off. The idea terrified Bette – especially since a surgery guaranteed that one of them would die. Despite Dot’s wishes, the good news is that no doctor has ever agreed to perform such a difficult surgery.
Just because a doctor won’t separate Bette and Dot Doesn’t mean that they’re safe. Dot continued to push Elsa’s buttons in episode 3. Excited to pursue her role on stage, Dot wanted to practice singing on Halloween night. The other freaks warned her not to for fear of summoning Edward Mordrake, but Dot didn’t care. Dot never got the chance to belt out a tune though, because Elsa kicked her off the stage. With Maggie Esmerelda’s words in her ear, Elsa explained that she needed to rehearse because she was expecting a man to arrive to help her career. Maggie Esmerelda was simply trying to set up Stanley’s arrival – but Elsa accidentally called up on Edward Mordrake when she began to sing “Gods & Monsters,” a Lana Del Ray cover. Elsa didn’t know any better, and believed Edward Mordrake to be the man she was waiting for. But she realized that something was up when he disappeared into thin air when she briefly turned away from him.
Elsa may have dodged a bullet, but Ethel wasn’t so lucky. Mordrake appeared before her and confirmed that he couldn’t leave without taking a freak with him. Ethel immediately began to prepare for the worst, but Mordrake simply asked her a few questions first about her pain. It was then that “American Horror Story” viewers learned Ethel’s backstory. She was a successful performer until she met Del Toledo (Michael Chiklis) and fell in love with him. Ethel believed that Del loved her too, and allowed him to take over as her manager. He ruined her career – but that wasn’t the worst part. When money became tight and Ethel became pregnant, Del made her perform even though she was unable to. Instead of putting on her normal show, Del charged people for a “Live Freak Birth.” Ethel allowed Del to let people watch her give birth to Jimmy in a field. When Jimmy was born Del called him a monster and tried to get people to pay to hold him … but no one would.
Edward Mordrake thanked her for her painful tale, and Ethel readied herself to get taken to hell. However the second face simply whispered, “not the one,” and Edward Mordrake disappeared.
As for the Twisty the Clown update in episode 3 of “American Horror Story”? Twisty broke into a house belonging to a little girl afraid of clowns and her older brother, who used her fears to torture her. While it seemed like Twisty was going to kidnap the young girl, he actually knocked her brother out and dragged him out of her bedroom window.
Twisty the Clown didn’t murder anyone, but it appeared like his progeny, Dandy, was going to murder Nora. He approached her with a butter knife, but couldn’t bring himself to stab the maid. “Go on, do it,” Nora told him while lecturing him for killing the animals behind the shed. “You don’t have the guts.”
And he truly didn’t. “I hate you, Nora,” he yelled at her. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.”
But Dandy got the courage later on when he paid Twisty the Clown’s victims a visit at the abandoned school bus. Playing “trick or treat” with them, Dandy offered them candy … and then tried to stab them when they went for it. When he realized that the blade was too short to slice them, he tried to attach it to a long stick. But Dandy never got a chance to see if his new weapon would work because Twisty the Clown arrived with his new victim.
Twisty the Clown didn’t appear happy to see Dandy. But Dandy was happy to see Twisty.
“More fun,” Dandy said joyfully as he looked at the unconscious boy.