Netflix UK TV review: American Horror Story: Freak Show Episode 3 (Edward Mordrake Part 1)
Things in jars7
Wes Bentley’s Sideburns8
Alice Slater | On 04, Nov 2014
The Halloween episode of Freak Show is upon us, which means – if history is doomed to repeat itself – a wind of change is about to blow through the carnival. Previous Halloween specials (Season 1’s two-parter Halloween, Season 2’s Tricks and Treats and Season 3’s Fearful Pranks Ensue) have all introduced a turn or dropped a truth bomb onto proceedings that altered the direction of the narrative.
In the American Horror Story universe, Halloween has traditionally been a night of increased activity in the form of spectral roaming: the dead walk, the devil comes out to play, and ghosts are untethered from their usual haunts. For the carnies, quite the opposite is true, as Ethel (Kathy Bates) explains to freak show ingénues Bette and Dot Tattler (Sarah Paulson) that “no freak performs on Halloween”.
Instead, we’re told the tale of Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley), the two-faced spectre of a dead performer, which has become the stuff of carnival urban legend. It’s a creepy little ditty to introduce series newbie Bentley. Despite carrying a slight Voldemort vibe, Bentley’s entrance amid a rolling cloak of green mist is an absolute horrorgasm to behold.
Episode 3 also introduces con artists Stanley (Denis O’Hare) and Maggie Esmerelda (Emma Roberts), who appear to be an approximate ode to Burke and Hare, although the jury’s still out on whether or not their gruesome plan will come to pass. John Carpenter’s Halloween, meanwhile, finally gets its own homage in the form of cheeky chappy Twisty (John Carroll Lynch), who stands next to a hedge in a sinister fashion (perhaps because everything Twisty does is sinister by default, but it’s still a welcome nod to an iconic moment).
There’s also a Michael Myers flavour to spoilt man-child Dandy (Finn Wittrock), as he shows the family’s maid, Dora (Patti LaBelle), his homemade costume. There’s a fantastic moment as Dandy indulges in some Halloween crafts: while stitching his clothes, his image is caught between mirrors and multiplied into a mise-en-abyme. It’s a beautiful, creepy shot that reflects the refraction of Dandy’s character – but we’re still waiting for Frances Conroy to break through her frankly two-dimensional mollycoddling role and into something spicier to match.
American Horror Story: Freak Show is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription. Seasons 1, 2 and 3 are also available.