There’s a new act in town: Two-Faced Mordrake and the Green Haze Experience, a hip new rockabilly duet out of whatever corner of England produces whatever accent Wes Bentley’s going for. Edward and the handsome face that lives on the back of his head are on the prowl for a new addition to their undead menagerie. It’s never made clear what, precisely, Our Edward does with all his murdered freak-ghosts. Does the Mordrake Circus perform for audiences in far-flung dimensions? Is the Mordrake Menagerie a frequent presence in hell, or Valhalla, or Narnia, or the pit at the center of the universe where lurks the almighty Cthulhu? Or is Mordrake some kind of collector, like that guy in Guardians of the Galaxy who was a collector who collected collectibles for his collection? (I think his name was The Guy Who Likes Stuff.)
Mordrake’s method for collecting involves requiring all applicants to reveal their life story, which doubles as a nice way to get to know our characters. The entire fifth episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show gets stolen at the top by Paul and Legless Suzy, who both get quiet-tough-emotional moments as they reveal the sad lives that led them to this sad circus. Suzy had a spinal condition; the doctors took her legs; her parents left her on the doorstep of a children’s home. Yadda yadda yadda, The Depression; yadda yadda yadda, she killed a man just because she got jealous of his legs. Paul’s story is less murderous, but no less tragic.
His only escape from a life of shame was in the dark of the movie theater; like so many other people who populate American Horror Story’s dramatis personae, he’s someone whose dreams were shaped by Hollywood. I’m not sure I’ve been so moved by anything on American Horror Story as I was by the kicker of Paul’s story. He tattooed his whole body, but left his face clean: “I have a handsome face. I have the face of a pretty man. Can you imagine this mug on a normal body? I could’ve ruled the world.”
Mordrake leaves them behind, seeking bigger fish to fry eternally. He finds his way to Elsa, still buzzing from the aftermath of an opium binge and from the fortune-teller’s promise that there was still time to be a star. “My talent has been known to render men speechless,” she says. “You’ll have to get over it if we’re going to work together.” Mordrake makes his mission clear: “I am here to take someone with me to the other side. Perhaps you.” She screams that she doesn’t belong here, that she is a normal person, not a freak like the rest of them. The phantoms attack her, grab her prosthetic legs.
And then we finally get it: The Origin of Elsa Mars. Weimar, 1932, not long before the Hitler became chancellor. Elsa was a dominatrix, although she has a better word for it. “In that world,” she says, “I was a star.” She wasn’t like the rest of the whores, she declares; she never let her clients touch her. They said she made men ejaculate gold, which sounds horrifically painful, but Germany.
Things trended downward from there. One evening, Elsa tells us, she went to a very dark room with some very strange men. Drugs; semi-consciousness; a memory of a chainsaw, a memory of legs that weren’t there anymore. They passed the film around Berlin, Munich. “I hear a copy even made it to Vienna,” says Elsa, with just a bit of pride. (Starring in a snuff film is still starring in a film.)
Two-Faced Mordrake likes this quite a bit. The Visage—who’s sort of like the Edge to Edward’s Bono—declares that this, this is the one who shall join their group of merry dead performers.
But then, in the distance: Could that be music?
NEXT: The Origin of Twisty