|American Horror Story episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4
Episode 3 & 4
|Directed by||Michael Uppendahl (Part 1)
Howard Deutch (Part 2)
|Written by||James Wong (Part 1)
Jennifer Salt (Part 2)
|Featured music||"Road to Utah" by Pere Ubu
"Zwischen heute und morgen" by Greta Keller
"Lazy Daisy" by The Goldtones
"Gods and Monsters" by Lana Del Rey
"Innocence Lost" by Sworn Enemy
|Production code||4ATS03 (Part 1)
4ATS04 (Part 2)
|Original air date||October 22, 2014
October 29, 2014 (Part 2)
|Running time||57 minutes (Part 1)
45 minutes (Part 2)
"Edward Mordrake" is a two-part episode, consisting of the third and fourth episodes of the fourth season of the anthology television series American Horror Story. The first part aired on October 22, 2014, and the second on October 29, 2014 on the cable network FX. The first part was written by James Wong and directed by Michael Uppendahl and the second part was written by Jennifer Salt and directed by Howard Deutch.
The episode's first part introduces the main characters of Stanley (Denis O'Hare) and Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts), it also stars Wes Bentley as the title character of the episode. The second part of the episode deals with the backstories of several characters including Twisty the Clown (John Carroll Lynch).
At the American Morbidity Museum, Stanley (Denis O'Hare), disguised as Dr. Sylvester Mansfield, and his assistant Maggie (Emma Roberts), disguised as a Miss Rothschild, attempt to sell a specimen to the museum. The curator (Celia Weston) runs a background check on Stanley and determines his credentials are fraudulent. The museum guide says that they would pay handsomely for a legitimate specimen, some of which they get from freak shows. Learning that one of the two remaining freak shows is in Florida, the pair set out.
Ethel (Kathy Bates) visits Dr. Myron Bonham (Jerry Leggio), who diagnoses her with cirrhosis of the liver. Her prognosis is dire: six months to a year. Back at the freak show, the carnies explain that they will not be performing on Halloween by telling the twins (Sarah Paulson) about the legend of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley): a noble Englishman with a second, whispering face on the back of his head. His failed attempts to kill the face drove him insane, and his family sent him to Bethlem Royal Hospital. He escaped to a freak show where one Halloween night, he murdered his entire troupe and then hanged himself. The legend says that if they perform on Halloween, he will appear and take a soul. When Jimmy (Evan Peters) criticizes Ethel, she corroborates that it happened to her former troupe. She has been drinking, which will accelerate her demise. Jimmy confronts her, but she waves him off.
Maggie arrives at the freak show claiming to be a fortune teller in need of a job. Jimmy tries to convince Elsa (Jessica Lange) that Maggie is the real deal. Maggie begins a demonstration, using her observations to deduce who Elsa is and what she wants to know. Maggie claims to see a song from Elsa with thunderous applause and that further, a refined man with dark hair will guide Elsa to stardom. Elsa hires her. Later from a payphone, Maggie calls Stanley to tell him about the horror of working with the freaks. Stanley is excited about the prospective gold mine that she has found, though Maggie hedges about murdering them.
In the trailer, Dell (Michael Chiklis) pumps iron while Desiree (Angela Bassett) tries to get his libido going. When she complains, Dell gets violent and demands respect. Desiree tells him to get off her or he will never see her again, then she leaves the trailer. Frustrated, Dell also leaves and passes Ethel. She first questions what the fight was about, then asks him questions about their past. He tells her that the love they had wasn't real, but admits he should have been a better father to Jimmy. She demands that Dell never reveal to Jimmy that Dell is his father. Dell gets curious, and Ethel reveals she is dying. She asks Dell to guide and take care of Jimmy.
Bette has a nightmare of surgical separation from Dot, who seems to relish the idea. Dot tells Bette she will find a doctor to separate them, even if one dies just so the other can have a shot at happiness. The girls go to rehearse, unafraid of the Mordrake legend. Paul (Mat Fraser) and Eve (Erika Ervin) try to stop them when Elsa enters, refusing to believe in superstitions. Dot asks Elsa to wait so they can rehearse first, but Elsa demands that the carnies get to their instruments. She sings Lana Del Rey's "Gods and Monsters". As she sings, Edward Mordrake emerges in a green mist on the freak show grounds and, entranced by the music, enters the tent to watch Elsa.
In Ethel's trailer, Mordrake appears. He confirms the superstition is true. He says the second face is a lie detector, and asks for the story of how she ended up in her current predicament. In flashback, Ethel (Kathy Deitch) once had a popular burlesque show with Dell (Edward Gelhaus). When he told her to go solo as a classical actor, the show failed miserably. Mordrake's whispering face tells of a darker, deeper shame: Ethel admits that, in order to make money, Dell charged tickets for admission to the birth of Jimmy and, as soon as Jimmy was born, Dell started charging people to hold the "freak" baby. Mordrake is moved by her story. Ethel bows her head, saying she is ready to be taken, but Mordrake disappears.
At Mott Manor, Dora (Patti LaBelle) is dressed in costume as Woody Woodpecker, Dandy (Finn Wittrock) throws a tantrum after Gloria (Frances Conroy) gives him a box containing a Howdy Doody costume. Dandy decides to craft the pieces into a clown costume. Later, Dandy dressed in the costume, threatens Dora with a knife. She tells him that she is aware of his animal kills, and that he does not "have the guts" to kill a human. He tells her to mind her own business and that he hates her, he runs away and she mutters that the feeling is mutual. In a Palm Beach neighborhood, Jessie (Lauren Gobuzzi), is teased by her older brother Mike (Dalton E. Gray). Twisty (John Carroll Lynch) approaches from behind him. Mike screams, causing their mother to run upstairs. She asks where Mike went – Jessie points to her bedroom's open window.
Dandy visits the bus captives and tries to lure them with candy so that he can stab them, but is interrupted when Twisty brings an unconscious Mike.
Mordrake continues to seek a "pure freak" for his spirit troupe. He visits Suzi (Rose Siggins) and Paul, who tell their respective stories. Suzi reveals she had a spinal condition which required doctors to remove her legs at age two. Her parents gave up hope soon after her operation and left her on the doorstep of a children's home. She later stabbed a man she was street-begging with due to frustration. Paul was born with his condition, and reveals that he planned to have his entire body tattooed, but insisted on stopping before his face was covered - he has a handsome face that "could have ruled the world" with a normal body. Mordrake passes on each one. He eventually reaches Elsa, who assumes he was awestruck by her singing performance, and insists that she needs "a new arranger" for her music. Mordrake becomes frustrated, and has his spirit troupe forcefully remove her prosthetic legs while she pleads that she is "not one of them". Elsa eventually tells her story. She worked as a dominatrix in a German brothel that catered to extreme and violent fetishes. She was eventually abducted and drugged to participate in a snuff film, in which she had her legs amputated; she was rescued by one of her clients afterwards. Mordrake's other face whispers that Elsa is "the one", and he prepares to kill her, but stops as he hears music.
Meanwhile, Jimmy and Maggie venture into the woods in the dark to avoid being arrested for a curfew violation, and they witness Twisty chasing one of his captives, who has escaped. Twisty catches her and carries her back into the woods. Jimmy insists on following, to Maggie's dismay. They spy upon Twisty until they are beaten from behind by Dandy, dressed in the clown costume. They awaken to Dandy giving Twisty's earlier captives a show, with Twisty excitedly playing a toy piano. Dandy puts Maggie in a box and prepares to saw her in half when Jimmy breaks free and knocks Dandy away. Jimmy yells for the captives to run for safety as Dandy angrily rises.
As Twisty is about to kill Jimmy, Jimmy's body disappears and Mordrake appears. Twisty is asked to tell his story, but first, he is ordered to remove his mask, to which he uncomfortably complies. He speaks slowly, and tells a story of how he was a regular clown in a traveling carnival entertaining children, but was constantly bullied by the carnies, who referred to him as "simpleton" and accused him of sexually abusing young patrons. Twisty flees the circus and began crafting toys out of garbage. Upon trying to sell the toys, he had a run-in with a shop owner, who inadvertently triggers memories of Twisty's abuse at the circus. Twisty attempted to commit suicide with a shotgun, but it is shown that he failed and mutilated his lower jaw. He later works at Elsa's freak show, now wearing his signature grinning mask to cover his grotesque jaw. Twisty says all of the children forgot how much they loved him, so he had the idea to create his own audience. The girl was abducted to be a babysitter for the children he intended to collect. He justifies his actions to Mordrake by claiming he saved the children from their "mean" parents, and calls himself a "good clown".
Mordrake decides that Twisty is the one he wants, and stabs him to death as Jimmy watches while hiding. Twisty's spirit awakens surrounded by Mordrake's spirit troupe, who put their hands on him in acceptance. It is shown that Twisty's jaw is now normal again. Dandy stumbles across Twisty's dead body and dons his mask, implying that he plans to continue Twisty's murderous spree. Jimmy and Maggie have escaped and notified the police, who call them heroes for saving the captives. Jimmy tell the officers that Meep was a hero, and says that someone will pay for his death.
Back at the freak show, Jimmy tells Elsa that Mordrake has claimed his victim, though he doesn't say who, and announces that the curfew has been lifted. A crowd has gathered to thank Jimmy for finding the children, and Elsa invites them to buy tickets to that evening's show, to which they comply, selling out the show. Elsa tells Dot and Bette that their act has been demoted as Stanley introduces himself as Richard Spencer to Elsa.
Dandy arrives home, still dressed in the clown outfit and wearing Twisty's mask. Dora yells at him for still being dressed up, and he slashes her throat.
"Edward Mordrake" received positive reviews from critics. Reviewers praised Elsa and Twisty's backstories and particularly John Carroll Lynch's performance. Erik Adams of The A.V. Club gave the first part a B- rating, writing: "The love of a good shock often stands in for American Horror Story's inability to scare: It's much easier to fleetingly startle than suggest that any of the primary characters are in mortal danger. "Edward Mordrake (Part 1)" reinforces that difficulty... Freak Show is succeeding at making us care for these people; if only it could make us fear for them as well." He gave the second part a C+ rating, criticising the idea to make Twisty the Clown into a origin story for Dandy, however he did praise the acting, particularly Finn Wittrock's. Matt Fowler of IGN gave "Edward Mordrake (Part 2)" a positive review, writing: "Freak Show, by dropping a few characters (like Dot/Bette, Dell, and Ethel), losing the obligatory song, and tightening its belt, got good this week. Mordrake wasn't frightening but the backstories he brought out of both Elsa and Twisty were haunting and ghoulish."
"Edward Mordrake (Part 1)" was watched by 4.44 million viewers and was the highest rated cable broadcast of the night. The episode received a 2.2 ratings share among adults 18–49, down 0.1 from the previous week's episode. "Edward Mordrake (Part 2)" was watched by 4.51 million viewers, a slight increase from the first part. Like the previous half, the episode was also the highest rated cable program for the night, with a 2.3 ratings share among adults 18–49.
- "American Horror Story: Freak Show: "Edward Mordrake, Part 1"". The A.V. Club. October 23, 2014.
- "American Horror Story: "Edward Mordrake, Part 2"". The A.V. Club. October 30, 2014.
- "American Horror Story: Freak Show - "Edward Mordrake, Pt 2" Review". IGN. October 29, 2014.
- Kondolojy, Amanda (October 23, 2014). "Wednesday Cable Ratings: 'American Horror Story' Tops Night + 'Key & Peele', 'Melissa & Joey' & More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on October 25, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
- Bibel, Sara (October 30, 2014). "Wednesday Cable Ratings: 'American Horror Story' Wins Night, 'South Park', 'Key & Peele', 'Ghost Hunters', 'Top Chef' & More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on November 17, 2014. Retrieved October 30, 2014.