American Horror Story: Freak Show Recap: Truth or Scare

In this week’s kickoff of American Horror Story: Freak Show’s Halloween two-parter, most of the superstitious carnies refused to perform on October 31, for fear that doing so would conjure up Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley), a two-faced bogeyman who, based on his description, you’d think would fit right in.

At the same time, a potentially even more terrifying situation was developing: With the arrival of faux fortuneteller Maggie Esmeralda (Emma Roberts), Dot suddenly had competition for Jimmy’s attention.

Here’s your rundown of all the treats (and tricks) that the episode held in store…

SHE’S GOT (CRYSTAL) BALLS | When first we met Maggie and her partner in crime, Stanley (Denis O’Hare), they were passing themselves off as scholars trying to sell a “baby Sasquatch” to the American Morbidity Museum. Though they failed, a curator type suggested they not give up but return with something authentic… perhaps from one of the few remaining freak shows… maybe the one in Florida, for instance.

Certainly, by the time “Miss Esmeralda” arrived with her Veronica Lake curls, Jimmy was in dire need of some distraction: Dot had just gotten their fellow freaks to stop partying long enough to notice the lobster boy’s angst and hold a proper funeral for Meep (chicken heads and all). Though Elsa was skeptical of the fake clairvoyant at first, the grifter picked up enough clues from around the chanteuse’s tent to win her over by suggesting that she’d not only eventually eclipse her nemesis, Marlene Dietrich, she’d also have a tall, dark and handsome Svengali by her side.

Meanwhile, Dot, her ego growing by leaps and bounds, revealed to Bette that her dream about them splitting up wasn’t one of the pipe variety: The rising star would do whatever it took to get the separation operation – no matter which of them lived and which died. (Yikes!) And as soon as she got a gander at Esmeralda, Dot knew she was looking at trouble. Esmeralda attempted to be (psychic) friendly, offering a free reading. But in return, Dot spat, “I’m sure that’s not the only thing you give away for free.”

All the while, Stanley was, ahem, holed up in a hotel room with a hottie (un)dressed as Thor. When his sidekick phoned, the con man seemed to care very little about Maggie’s case of the heebie jeebies and a whole lot about the fact that she’d stumbled upon a jackpot in the form of conjoined twins. After he hung up, we discovered that his lover’s abs weren’t the most noteworthy attribute on display in the room: One look at Stanley’s junk, and all the himbo could say was “Holy Christ.” (Perhaps the boot schlong hinted at in the opening credits?)

LAST CALL | Upon learning that she has cirrhosis of the liver – and less than a year to live – Ethel hit the bottle anew, pushed away Jimmy and (not in a cause-and-effect way, mind you) relayed to the Tattler sisters the legend of Edward Mordrake, an aristocrat driven mad by the devilish murmuring of the second face on the back of his head. How mad was he driven? So mad that he murdered all of the freaks in his freak show before committing suicide himself. Ever since, if a freak performs on Halloween, Mordrake’s spirit is summoned and lingers until he chooses one of the troupe to join his coterie of companions. (This, the bearded lady swore she knew firsthand.)

Later, Ethel chose the unfortunate moment after Dell found himself unable to “perform” for Desiree (for the umpteenth time, it seemed) to reveal to him that she’s dying and ask him to offer Jimmy some parental guidance in life without ever disclosing that he’s the lobster boy’s father. Shockingly, it was a pretty sweet scene, with the strong man showing what for him passes for a sensitive side.

CLOWN AND OUT | In town, while Twisty was out spooking trick-or-treaters, Dandy pitched a fit when his mother gave him a Howdy Doody costume to wear for Halloween, then threatened an unimpressed Dora the Maid, who boldly dared the psycho to kill her. When the two clowns eventually reunited at the end of the episode, the former had abducted a new kid, Mike, to lock up with Corey and Bonnie, and the latter appeared to be growing bored with just poking at their kidnapping victims.

MAN IN BLACK | Back at the freak show, Dot was hell-bent on rehearsing whether or not doing so brought forth Edward Mordrake. She even tried to pull rank on Elsa, who also wanted to practice so that she’d be ready when her mentor showed up. (Like anyone pulls rank on Elsa! As if!) Anyway, the diva was scarcely through a line of Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters” when her vocalizing did, in fact, cause Mordrake to materialize. And, bless her batty heart, Elsa seemed to think that he was the manager Esmeralda had predicted would usher her onto the world stage.

Instead of offer the Fraulein career counseling, however, Mordrake paid a surprise visit to Ethel and, in considering her a possible addition to his collection, insisted upon hearing first the tale of how she went from vaudeville star to sideshow attraction – short version: Dell – then the details of her deeper pain: Her ex had sold tickets to Jimmy’s birth and even charged two bits to hold the monster baby. Finally, Mordrake offered her a handkerchief to dry her tears, but his evil face declared her “not the one.” So who is? Hmm…

OK, your turn. What did you think of the episode? Did Mordrake give you chills? Or did he pale in comparison to Twisty? Hit the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Joey says:

    I get the feeling that Ryan Murphy was getting tired of writing Blaine as the eternal good guy on Glee even though he does terrible things on a pretty much episodic basis, so he inserted him into this season of AHS as Dandy.

    • sammyfinbar says:

      What are you talking about? Dandy is nothing like Blaine! The actors don’t even look alike.

      • Joey says:

        If by that you mean that they look almost identical in ridiculous clothing and they’re both incredibly spoiled man-children, then I guess you’re right.

        • sammyfinbar says:

          Totally different clothing styles! Blaine is an angel. Sounds to me like you have a lot of Blaine-hate going on, so you’re just trying to force a Blaine-bitching session onto a totally different show.

          • Joey says:

            Even I were to concede that their clothing styles differ slightly, they’re both still spoiled man-children who whine when they don’t get their way, and occasionally still do even when they get exactly what they want.

  2. Kait says:

    All I see when I see Mordrake is Johnny Depp’s version of Sweeney Todd and I want him to burst into song and whip out a straight razor.
    …I guess I’m kinda bored by this season

  3. CK says:

    I really hope all this build up pays off. I’m becoming desensitized to Twisty and frankly, I’m kind of bored. The performances are amazing, but this show is just moving incredibly slow at this point. I mean at this point, Lange has been reduced to a side player. Only trotted out to lament on the fact that she is old or jealous of some younger woman. Everything, from the separation drama/”don’t call us freaks”/dandy is crazy, is really starting to wear thin And there doesn’t seem to be any thing that the show is building toward.

    • Kevin says:

      um this season is character-driven, and I’m not sure what you’re watching, but the dandy/twisty storyline is very clearly building. Each episode so far has focused on one specific character, ep 1 was bette/dot along with elsa, ep 2 was jimmy, ep3 was clearly ethel. so ofc jessica lange is a side player in this ep, and she’s absolutely wonderful, but it’s good to let other amazing actors take the spotlight too.

    • alistaircrane says:

      I agree. Three episodes in and Freak Show is easily the worst season ever. Sooooo boring. At least last night they finally started introducing elements of the supernatural.

      • Joey says:

        Coven far outshines anything Freak Show has done in making it the worst season of AHS. While the season opener was a little slow, it’s been getting better and better each week. And you are aware that horror and supernatural aren’t mutually inclusive, right?

      • Sally says:

        Don’t agree..coven was the worst season ever!

    • DaJanae says:

      True. Twisty was the one who acctually got attention, well he got mines. The show is great but it’s moving way to slow.

  4. Anne Berbling says:

    He definitely pales…he’s pretty interesting!
    Could you please tell me who the older actress is who plays the docent in the American Morbidity Museum? It’s driving me crazy!

  5. Andrew says:

    It should be noted in your recap that Dell forced Ethel to give birth to Jimmy prematurely, which likely caused the defect with his hands. It wasn’t a regular birth. Had she not gone along with it, Jimmy probably would’ve been fine.

    • Kait says:

      Maybe I missed something but I disagree. He made people pay for Ethel, as a “freak” a pregnant woman with a beard, to give birth in an unconventional, embarrassing way, but I don’t think she, or even he, knew her/their son would be born with hands like his, and upon seeing was an “extra” to make even more money exploiting

      • Andrew says:

        Maybe it’s just my interpretation. She told Mordrake that it was a “command performance,” which – to me – suggested that she wasn’t ready to deliver, but had to because they were penniless and needed money. Later, she says, “I cursed my own child.” To me, it was like she was admitting that she knew she caused the defect by delivering early – when Jimmy’s fingers were still webbed together because he wasn’t fully developed.

        I don’t know. Maybe I’m reading too far into it, but that’s what I thought the whole scene was really about.

        • Kait says:

          Maybe you’re right but I don’t think so, so who knows lol. I think she meant she cursed her child because the first thing he experienced when he came into the world wasn’t love, it was exploitation, and she thinks she cursed him into a life of that. I think she blames herself for the life he lives because of her and his hands but not necessarily for the hands themself, I’m bad making points succinctly

          • Andrew says:

            I could see how it might be interpreted that way, too. It’s probably something that won’t ever be explained or elaborated on, though – especially considering how many other subplots are in play (or will be soon).

          • Kait says:

            @Andrew. Yeah, it won’t be answered, I guess it’s up to interpretation, I feel like I’m in high school English again with this. I hope this season gets more interesting, and while I enjoy the subplots and am glad it slowed down compared to past seasons, I’m thankful for side plots/back stories and time hopping because I’m kind of bored this season so far

    • DeJa says:

      WoW…I missed that one…gonna have to catch it again!

  6. abz says:

    Okay episode. Found it a bit slow, but still looking forward to the next one. All I’m looking forward to most right now is seeing who Matt Bomer will be playing and more Twisty.
    The Twisty, Dandy, Gloria, and Dora scenes are my favorite. LOL Dandy, I look forward to each and every one of his tantrums.
    I’m kind of over all the singing. I really think they should cut back on it. One or two songs during a season if they have to fine, but its been almost every episode now and I really think it just stalls the show and I found myself just sitting there waiting for it to end.

  7. Greg says:

    If the mini-series/movie categories were judges at the Emmy awards by tapes like the other categories, Kathy Bates would have her second consecutive supporting actress trophy. That was an amazing episode for her. I was in awe. Just perfection. I pretty much loved the whole episode from start to finish (and this is turning out to be a fave season of mine) but I just had to comment on Kathy. Brilliance.

  8. sammyfinbar says:

    What’s happened to this show? I was on the edge of my seat for the first 2 seasons. This one, like Coven is soooo boring! A waste of some really good actors!

    • alistaircrane says:

      I didn’t think Coven was boring, but Freak Show is dreadfully dull. Other than the serial killer clown, I’m not sure where the “horror” part fits in.

  9. alistaircrane says:

    Emma Roberts sucks. I can’t believe we’re going to have to suffer through another season of her. I miss Taissa. :-/

  10. Amy says:

    Did anyone get the Halloween/Michael Meyers references? The clown stepping out behind the hedge, Dandy putting on the mask–the breathing and then the view from the mask? I liked this episode the best so far.

  11. DeJa says:

    I liked this ep..Modrake has a different type of scare factor…his is more subtle..Twisty is unpredictable. But I do like them both! I also loved how the maid, Dora (Pattie) stood up to that spoiled brat…OMG…she should have whooped his tale!!! LOL

  12. mia says:

    This is just like season 2 nothing like the amazing first and coven series. Out just doesn’t gel together with the storylines

  13. Jax&Juice's Girl says:

    I LOVE the song ”Gods and Monsters” Jessica Lange was singing last night. Also I enjoyed the episode and the season overall so far. That’s just my opinion tho.

  14. Stefan says:

    It’s funny how some people prefer Coven to that. Best season so far by my account. If you don’t want horror, then just choose another show. This seems horror-y enough to me. Twisty and Dandy all the way. The freak show itself isn’t as scary, but I find it interesting – there’s enough conflict going on. What was frightening about Coven? The hundreds of revivals? And what exactly made sense about its story?

  15. ScottJ says:

    There’s plenty of horror here, and I don’t see how viewers can miss it. Twisty freaks me out, but I suspect he has one more episode, and then we might get Dandy taking over the Twisty mask. Dandy is one of the most horrific creations I’ve ever seen on TV. He’s nuts, he’s unpredictable and the character could do ANYTHING. Even his mother is quite a horrific creature. Now we have the two-faced demon and Denis O’Hare’s character wanting to kill and bottle some of the Freak Show and we’re only three episodes in. That’s not even considering the various murders (6 or 7 by my count) , the psychological horrors (almost every main character) and the mean-ness and cruelty of the random townspeople.

  16. Indash1502 says:

    I was very excited about this season and it still has my attention. I think this show can go so many directions and I love the mystery. It’s disapointing to see that so many people have so many negative things about this season. I think people are bored because the show is still setting the story up and every one is impacient. JMO

  17. dee123 says:

    Thank god for Dandy, mother, the maid & Twisty cause without them i would of stopped watching by now.

  18. Thor says:

    Hello all !
    I would know who is the actor that played the “God viking” Thor in this episode please can anyone help me?? Thank you !

  19. Sally says:

    I’m really enjoying this season of AHS. Freak show and the first season are by far the best!! Coven was the only season that I didn’t like, what a disappointment!

  20. DaJanae says:

    Twisty was my favorite. I just wish he killed Dandy before he died. Dandy was annoying!!

  21. Denver303 says:

    American horror story has been part of my top 5 favorite TV shows of all time till now. (IMO) This season is terrible. I can’t believe how bad it is. I am so disappointed. Hopefully the season takes a turn for the better. I won’t know though. I done with this season. I can only hope that next season is better.

  22. Joey in Spokane says:

    So….we have one final episode now, and….I really hope all of this has been leading up to one heck of a finale. I’ve enjoyed the performances the most this season. It has been a great season when I look back on it as a whole, but, definitely slow. Please tell me that Neil Patrick Harris coming on has some kind of purpose that I don’t get yet. Out of everything, I found his storyline and character just, did not work for me. It seems like week after week, I’m saying, this is the episode…this is the week….and indeed, some weeks definitely delivered, but it has not held me at the edge of my seat like Coven or Asylum. I’ve watched Coven 3 times and it’s finale, easily 5 times. Coven is my favorite because nothing was predictable. Asylum was my favorite because it was so dark. Murder House has a very unexpected ending and was great. Freak show has had the best performances. It must end in a way that makes the entire season worth it, and I think it will! Can’t wait for Operation Top Hat!!! Enjoy the finale!! :). AHS will forever be the best show ever put on television.