American Horror Story: Freak Show is not about freaks, it’s about people. People with two heads, people missing torsos, people with lobster hands or lady-beards, and people who bite off live chicken heads, but people nonetheless. Elsa Mars’s (Jessica Lange) collection of misfits may fly under the “freak” banner onstage before paying customers at night, but after the curtains close and in the mouths of the “normal” world, the word becomes a slur. The refrain “them vs. us,” however paranoid and unsavory, is a necessary mode of survival.
In last night’s episode “Edward Mordrake, Part 1,” Freak Show laid bare an idea it had only been riffing on during the first two episodes: The most insidious threat to freaks comes not from the outside world, but from other freaks.
The two-part episode focuses on an old freak community superstition about Edward Mordrake (Wes Bentley), a tortured 19th-century performer with a malevolent face on the back of his skull whose spirit is summoned every time a freak show performs on Halloween. And Mordrake, remembered for murdering his entire troupe before hanging himself, won’t return to the spectral ether whence he came until the Voldemort face under his hair claims the life of a single freak.