Farewell Twisty, we barely knew ye before you joined top-hatted Professor Quirrell’s gang of undead crones. Your toothy mask, bowling pin rampages, and toy store beheadings will all seem so buoyant and whimsical—charming, even—compared to the terrors that undoubtedly lie ahead now that a new, even more twisted monster has taken your place.
Just as American Horror Story decided to properly unite the freak show and clown storylines and finally reveal Twisty's tragic history, the clown was gone forever. Wednesday's episode “Edward Mordrake Pt. 2” fulfilled its destiny as a true-to-form AHS Halloween special, with the requisite blood spatter, BDSM-filled flashbacks, spooky ghosts, handful of murders, and suicide-attempt-gone-wrong, but the episode didn't shy away from the pathos either.
The episode’s titular, sideburned ghoul (Wes Bentley) served as a useful narrative tool for getting different characters to tell their sad life stories—Rusty the Illustrated Seal (Matt Fraser) cried, "I have a handsome face," when Mordrake asked him why he tattooed every inch of his body but his mug; Legless Suzi (Rose Siggins) confessed that she fatally stabbed a man in the thigh out of jealousy for the limbs she lost as a child. And Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange) revealed in a shocking flashback how she lost her legs to a chainsaw after being drugged and trapped into starring in a snuff film back in Weimar Germany.
But the darkest story came from the darkest, and formerly most silent, character. Once known as a sweet "simpleton," pre-murderous Twisty's singular joy in life was making children laugh. After being run out of the carnival circuit by a band of hostile freaks spreading false molestation rumors, Twisty took a shotgun to his mouth, but survived with a gaping, fleshy tongue-cave. He committed the rest of his life to making children happy—killing mean parents, procuring baby sitters, making balloon animals—and through this new lens, terrifying Twisty somehow absolved himself.
"I'm a good person," a weeping Twisty insisted to Mordrake moments before the face on the back of his head whispered "He's the one." And in just one scene, Freak Show executed a total reversal, taking the clown from evil trope to misunderstood innocent. A deluded angel in dirty ruffles trying to turn junk into treasure, albeit in a stabby way.
But American Horror Story would never dispatch a villain mid-season without introducing a more insidious incarnation to replace him (or her, or it). With Twisty's exit came Dandy (Finn Wittrock) who represents a far more unhinged and potentially more devastating force in the town of Jupiter.
Both clowns seem to suffer from a kind of madness-inducing form of arrested development, with the key difference being that where Twisty was childlike; Dandy is childish. He's also far less scary looking, in the conventional sense, even when he puts on Twisty's mask. Not that that mattered much when Dandy finally sliced open Dora's (Patti Labelle) throat—when he removed the mask, his face transformed from a look of initial horror, to unbridled joy, to dead-eyed menace in one of the most unsettling sequences the show has offered yet.
With Twisty gone and Dandy prepared to unleash a whole new reign of costumed depravity on the town, the show has partly evacuated the totemic clown-as-monster notion. Twisty had all the surface signifiers of a Scary Clown: freaky grin, carved out face, animalistic grunting, a decrepit caravan-prison. But what's that compared to the unimaginable horrors that dwell in the mind of a psychopath who's beautiful, sheltered, wealthy, soulless, and—worst of all—bored?