American Horror Story | Freak Show, Episode 4 RHAP-up

Last week, we learned about Edward Mordrake, a dead carnival legend who is summoned when carnival folk perform on Halloween. To appease his demon face, he takes someone back with him to the underworld (or Bermuda or Westeros or wherever people go when they die).


Edward listened to Ethel’s life story, judged her as too pathetic and angst-ridden to be chosen to die, and left her alone. His search continues tonight in the second half of a two-part episode.


Our other big stories were the arrival of a pair of grifters (played by Denis O’Hare and Emma Roberts), Twisty the Clown’s continued mentoring of the equally deranged Dandy, and Elsa’s increasing jealousy of a very talented Dot, who is ready to be separated from her sister Bette.


Now that we’re re-acquainted, let’s get to the main attraction!


Sit Right Back & Tell Me A Depressing Tale – We open on the green mist continuing to move through the carnival. Looks like Ryan Murphy is trying to make a point here: if we continue to pollute the world with greenhouse gases, evil spirits will come for our souls. Ironically, even if that were true, it would still be better than the last three and a half seasons of Glee.


Mordrake visits a number of the troupe’s members, trying to find one more pure freak to add to his personal collection. His next stops are to Legless Suzi and Phil the Illustrated Seal, where he demands to hear their backstories. He just loves backstories, okay? He’s obviously going to be a massive Lost fan in fifty years.


Suzi’s story begins with her spinal condition and being abandoned by her parents. But that’s not enough for Mordrake; he wants to be moved. This is how American Idol producers must talk the contestants into developing sob stories. So Suzi reveals that she used to go around stabbing people in the legs. I know I’m supposed to feel bad, but… this was a little funny.


Phil, on the other hand, was never tough enough because of his flabby arms. He details his arrival to the US during the Depression, where he admits that he tattooed himself to make people fear him. But he never tattooed his face because he thought it was so pretty. Um, whatever you think, Phil. I don’t have the heart to tell you otherwise.


Naturally, neither of these guys are the one that the demon face wants to keep. Mordrake has another visit to make. And, of course, it’s to our main star, Elsa.


She’s been expecting him. “Can I see it?” he asks. Perv. Don’t do it, Elsa. Mordrake is clearly a sex offender!


Elsa is mistaken about the ghostly presence, believing him to be a talent scout of some sort. But when he reveals the true intent of his visit, she’s instantly frightened. Mordrake’s band of evil spirits removes her legs, allowing him to reprimand her for lying to everyone about her true self. He calls her the worst kind of freak. So not the good kind that Brice Johnston sings about, I guess.


Elsa tells Mordrake about her true darkness. Her story begins in 1932 in Germany, pre-Hitler. She was a dominatrix sex kitten. Unable to find stage work, she worked in sex clubs, dominating a bunch of men, never touching or sleeping with them. Her reputation allowed her to build a client base and an audience.


She then details being drugged while filming some sort of porno. Two dudes chained her up and sawed her legs off for no reason. Is that a thing people did back then? See, Jennifer Lawrence, at least the porn they released of you hasn’t left you without limbs. Apparently, she was saved by a soldier boy (who I imagine was Soulja Boy). I guess saving Elsa is literally how you Superman a ho?


The second face concludes that Elsa is the one. She’s ready to go, demanding to be taken. But, obviously, it’s only episode four and Jessica Lange is our star. She isn’t going anywhere.


Clowning Around – Esmeralda and Jimmy are on their way back to the carnival on when they run out of gas. In order to make their curfew, they start walking by foot.


Meanwhile, on the magic school bus (not that one) where Twisty is holding his prisoners, a couple of them are discussing their captor. Apparently he just starves them and makes them watch him do “clown stuff.” The blonde girl he kidnapped weeps ago convinces a new arrival to untie her knots. Her timing is seriously the wrost, because Twisty comes by for a visit. The dumb girl just takes off, sending Twisty to chase after her.


Hidden, Esmeralda and Jimmy watch as Twisty catches the girl and drags her back to the bus. They follow him back, figuring out that he’s the town murderer. But just as they’re about to go get the police, Dandy knocks them both out. Ugh, this dude is literally the worst.


When Jimmy wakes up, he’s in the middle of Dandy’s premiere show. This variety show can’t be worse than The Maya Rudolph Show, so I’m game to watch. Dandy has Esmeralda in the middle of a box, calling her his assistant. And that means he’s going to actually saw her in half. Like, for real.


Using his lobster hands to make quick work of his knots, Jimmy gets free and saves Esmeralda (and everyone else). But Dandy and Twisty are not thrilled, tussling with Jimmy and kidnapping him. Dandy goes after the others, as Esmeralda sends them off to the road to call for help. She, meanwhile, distracts Dandy. “You ruined my Halloween! I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!” he yells into the night.


Just as Twisty is ready to kill Jimmy, he sees something eerie. Green mist.


“Don’t stop now, we came for a show,” Mordrake says.


Drag Me To Hell – Mordrake demands that Twisty take off his mask. He obliges, revealing his true mouth – warped, bloody, destroyed. I really don’t have the words to describe this thing. It’s just gross.


Twisty begins retelling his story. He was a clown and he loved working with children. But he always found other freaks (particularly midgets) to be mean and condescending. When a bunch of them went a little too far with their bullying, going as far as to start a rumor that he’s a pedophile, Twisty is unable to find work as a clown.


Always the optimist, Twisty began to consider himself a modern Rumplestiltskin, turning old junk into new toys. But his ideas are rejected and he is, again, accused of being a pedophile.


Driven mad by his anger and loneliness, Twisty attempted to commit suicide by taking a shotgun to the mouth. But to no avail. It seems like, to Twisty, there’s nothing more depressing than a failed suicide attempt.


So Twisty’s solution was to create a new persona for himself by joining Elsa’s troupe. But everyone was just afraid. I mean, it doesn’t help that he literally looks like the scariest clown on the planet Earth.


Mordrake questions Twisty about what he did to the children he kidnapped. Turns out, he was just murdering their parents so that they could live with him forever and never do chores. He took that blonde girl hostage so she could be their pretty babysitter. And he just wanted to put on nice shows to keep them all entertained. His intentions, while twisted by mental illness, were actually pure. He’s kind of like a real-life version of Peter Pan. He may be a murderous, evil clown, but he’s a murderous evil clown with good intentions. And that’s all that counts! J


Unsurprisingly, Mordrake chooses Twisty, stabbing him repeatedly in the stomach. Jimmy watches from inside the bus as the evil spirits crowd around and take our beloved evil clown with them into the afterlife. Weirdly enough, this is kind of a happy ending for Twisty. He’s finally with others like him, repenting for his deranged sins into eternity.


Later, Dandy returns to Twisty’s dead body and takes his mouthpiece. Looks like we have a new crazy killer on the loose. This is all kinds of wrong.


Sold Out Show – The next day, a couple of cops recount with Esmeralda exactly what happened with the clowns. She and Jimmy aren’t able to describe Dandy in any detail.


The detectives are quick to shower praise onto Jimmy and Esmeralda, but Jimmy isn’t willing to be nice to any authorities. He still feels like they’re responsible for Meep’s demise a few weeks back. Instead, they simply force him to lift the curfew.


A mob soon arrives at the carnival. Elsa thinks they’re there to run them out of town. But they’re really there to thank Jimmy and the rest of the freaks. Handshakes all around! Everyone loves Pepper now!


“Ladies and gentlemen, one and all, we would like to invite you to our grand performance tonight,” Elsa says, ushering everyone to buy tickets at the box office.


For the first time in this increasingly bleak season, we have a happy ending. Ish.


Elsa uses the increased interest in the show to bump the twins down to a warm-up act. And it looks like she’s regained the starring role at the right time – a talent scout from Hollywood has just arrived. Although she doesn’t know that it’s Stanley (Denis O’Hare). And he’s a grifter, there to kill the twins and sell their skeleton.


The First Cut is the Deepest – Complete with his new mouthpiece, Dandy returns to his mansion, attempting to intimidate Nora. When she insults him again (this time accusing him of pooping his pants a lot, which made me giggle), he slits her throat.


As she slinks to the ground, Dandy’s face morphs from fearful to sinister. I may not be the best at predicting how this show will go, but I don’t think this will be his last kill.


I take back what I said about this episode having a happy ending.


Overall – Good episode; probably the best yet. I really liked getting the backstory on Twisty. I think there was a little bit of revisionist history here though. Set up as a terrifying villain for three episodes, Twisty turned out to have good intentions all along. And that feels like a cheat. He seemed to be so calculated, so perfectly malicious… it doesn’t feel right to chalk it all up to mental illness and some mean bullying.


The great thing that we get out of wrapping up Twisty’s storyline is a re-birth of sorts for Dandy. He’s a full-tilt serial killer now. And I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff to do with him.


One disappointment for me was Elsa’s backstory. The way she lost her legs – really introduced as the climax of the pilot – was a letdown. But I suppose there’s still a lot of story left to churn out for Elsa, so I’ll reserve judgment until further into the season.


Overall Grade: B+



  • Now that Elsa’s back to being the star of the troupe, is it too on the nose for her to perform “Let It Go” in the next few weeks? They must have named her Elsa for this exact reason.
  • A bunch of news broke today in the AHS world. First, Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka are joining the cast close to the end of the season. But more importantly, Lily Rabe is returning as Sister Mary Eunice! She’ll reportedly make her way down to the carnival to pick-up Pepper and take her back to the asylum. I suggest they re-name this season American Horror Story: Origins – Pepper. She is a true star in every sense of the word.
  • Patti Labelle: RIP. You cleaned up Dandy’s poop, now he’ll clean up your blood. A serial killer’s version of the circle of life.
  • Watching Twisty’s tongue dart back and forth reminded me of the worm things from The Strain. Crossover episode, please?
  • I’m too lazy to actually look, but I assume that the toy store Twisty went to in his flashback is the same one where he murdered the owner a few weeks back? Continuity FTW!
  • Has anyone picked up on any clues for season five yet? I’m still stumped.









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