Last week’s episode of American Horror Story left the audience wondering who the ghost of Edward Mordrake would take back to the other side with him. Part II begins exactly where Part I left off. Mordrake goes from tent to tent, forcing each character tell him about their “darkest hour.” One by one, the members of Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities tell their story and describe how they ended up in the freak show. Most have very sad stories, and almost all of them were cast aside by society because of their differences. They only found their true families when they met Elsa.
When Mordrake confronts Elsa herself, she once again hides behind her ago, convincing herself he’s there because he was so taken by her performance. But he quickly shatters her dreams when he tells Elsa what he’s really there to do, calling her both delusional and ignorant. Mordrake’s family of freakish ghosts attacks Elsa, removing her fake legs, which have hardly been addressed all season. By doing this, he again puts her in her most vulnerable position. She is forced to tell Mordrake about her sordid past as a high-class dominatrix in tumultuous 1932 Berlin, providing flashbacks of Elsa’s past life and eventually revealing the horrific manner in which she lost both of her legs. Her story is truly captured when she professes that, in life, everyone “trades away [their] humility, trick by trick.”
While Elsa is baring her soul to a ghost, Jimmy and Esmeralda cross paths with Twisty and Dandy’s captives, providing an opportunity for an outcast to become a hero. The two follow Twisty back to his bus but they’re quickly caught and captured. Dandy and Twisty attempt to put on a “freak show” of their own, using Esmeralda as an unwilling magician’s assistant, but the performance draws Mordrake’s ghost away from Elsa and toward Twisty.
Mordrake orders Twisty to take off his mask, revealing a terrifying sight. He’s unable to speak, but Mordrake gives him the ability so he can tell his tale. As it turns out, Twisty wasn’t always so twisted. He used to be a kind children’s clown with some sort of social disability. When he does speak for the first time in the season, it sounds more like the voice of a scared child than a murderer. He explains that the freaks at the carnival tormented him, calling the meek and sheltered clown a pedophile and scaring him away from the camp.
“Word travels around in the carnie circuit,” Twisty explains. He returned home to Jupiter to find that his mother had died, and says he had an idea to “turn the garbage into gold” by continuing to make children smile with his solo clown act. But his towering figure and social disabilities scare children and adults alike.
Twisty was attempting to make his captives happy and save them from their strict parents. His story “caused the demon to weep,” and Mordrake expresses his deep sorrow upon hearing the clown’s story, bringing up the point that out of all the souls he’d met who had done wrong, Twisty was the only one who truly couldn’t recognize his mistakes. Mordrake has finally found a worthy new member for his family.
Cops arrive and interview Jimmy and Esmeralda, but the beautiful fortuneteller explains to them that Jimmy was the real hero. The episode ends on a hopeful note, with members of the town coming to shake Jimmy’s hand and praise him for saving their children. Esmeralda’s partner arrives at the Freak Show, posing as a Hollywood talent scout, and Dandy takes on a completely new persona after the shocking turn of events. This episode carried on its themes of exposure and transformation on Halloween, when the spirit world and the physical world come together. This two-parter may have ended on a happy note, with the townspeople and the freaks all coming together, but given AHS’ track record, the happy ending won’t last long. The writers once again leave the audience both hopeful and terrified for the characters’ futures.
Review by Kendall Harris