I can honestly say I have never seen an episode of any television show quote as perfect as last night's American Horror Story. It was a triumph of atrocity, and somehow it managed to have a happy ending on top of it.
It's the conclusion of the Edward Mordrake saga. Mordrake was an English gentleman with a second evil face that has since become the Death of Carnies. This allows him to guide us through some exposition on the lives of those in this Freak Show.
First things first; Mat Fraser should be in everything. What Peter Dinklage has done for little people Fraser is doing for the severely physically disabled. He owns every inch of scenery he is in, breaking the hearts of everyone that viewed as he recounts his life and the sad turns that brought him to the Freak Show. It was captivating television.
Rose Siggins as Legless Suzi also turned in a brief but unforgettable performance that would melt the coldest heart. All of these little back stories should feel sad and forced like they would in any other show, but here they throb and breathe and live. This is in no small part to the sheer brilliance of the cast of real human oddities that appear this season. Fraser and Siggins combine the classic figures of open-mouthed gawking of old with a 21st century attitude. I cannot possibly hope to see more from them.
All this is guided by the stately figure of Wes Bentley as Mordrake. He conjures a cloud of elegance all around him that takes his essentially corny premise and transmogrifies it into something almost Lugosi-esque. It's silly, but unbelievably compelling.
I've been a little hard on Jessica Lange this season. She's as brilliant and sexy as every, but Elsa offers little that she hasn't thrown out before. Until tonight that is. Here we see her past laid bare in a gruesome, bald portrayal that will leave even the most hardened weak at the knees.
I like what Elsa's story says. She'd cobbled her skill as a dominatrix to the point where she had become a unique draw and star. Then, she finds herself as the main lead in a snuff film that leaves her crippled, weak, and broken. Show creators Murphy and Falchuk have always been the masters of subtle commentary on the state of women in modern society, and boy do they take a razor to the subject this week. It's beautiful in the way only the most awful things can be.
Even Elsa is upstaged by Twisty the Clown, though.
He started out as a one-dimensional scare, but through the powers of Mordrake we finally see the terrible tragedy that led us to this murderous jokester. His story is terrible and heartbreaking. I'm reminded of the local film Jacob when it came down to examine Twisty's path. Was he evil? It's hard to say. What is evil anyway? That's the question of Freak Show, and it's something we should be keen to ask ourselves. Why would the most kind and benevolent of men turn to monsters?
On the other hand, to quote Alex of A Clockwork Orange, "No one questions what it means to be good." There are a lot of deep questions being asked her. In a way, they are more terrifying than anything else.
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