Once again we return to the biggest horror show of the year, and unfortunately, this episode just does not live up to expectation. Titled “Edward Mordrake (Part 1)” of a two-part episode, this time, as it the Halloween instalment, I imagined we would get a super scary and suspenseful 60 minutes, but the unfortunate truth is that we just got some more info about our freaks’ past.
Warning: Spoilers follow!
Until now, we have come to expect two scary but reliable things from Freak Show: horror that bubbles in our arteries, and of course a death in an episode. Episode 3 just doesn’t deliver, opting instead for something that equates to half melodramatic telenovela and half suspense thriller rather than horror.
We learn a little more about Ethel, Jamie’s mother. We understand that her love story was the reason for her downfall, and it becomes obvious that no freak can attain true love. When she was young she fell in love with Dell, the strong man, and was blind to his real nature. He only saw Ethel as a money making machine and wanted to use her to make a profit, just as he uses his current wife. Even their baby was a means to an end: getting more money. Now, when she knows she is dying, she regrets everything even more.
The main problem with “Edward Mordrake (Part 1)” was its focus on the ordinary, not-so-interesting people in Jupiter, rather than the more exciting freaks and our enigmatically creepy clown. When we are finally presented with the freaks, the series takes a turn in attempting to humanise them. While it may seem important to display them as more than carnival caricatures, the absence of horror and threat throws the objective of the series to scare off course.
This season, we have a really good premise centered around the freaks, and we want to get as freaky as possible. One of the things I love is the representation of the Siamese sisters Bette and Dot. The cinematography shows us the difference between the sisters with varying angles, as we’re offered a visually different perspective for each sister. These clever nuances illustrate to us who is the stronger sister is, but unfortunately we only got a glimpse of this in this episode.
We also have some new characters that get into the mix, including Esmeralda who claims to be a fortune teller. The truth is that she is an imposter, she only came to snatch a freak or the body of one in order to sell them and make money. She manages to get her place in the freak show by fooling Elsa, making the rift between her and the Siamese twins even bigger.
The plot and character-driven emphasis over the absent but usually welcoming foregrounding of fright in “Edward Mordrake (Part 1)” made for a jarring episode. I couldn’t understand why the episode deviated so greatly from the first two of Freak Show. My only prediction is that the slow pace in “Part 1” will only pave the way for something big in “Part 2”, where there will hopefully be more memorable and notable things to discuss.
Watch American Horror Story on FOX, Tuesdays at 10pm in the UK.