Review: AHS Hotel: Episode 5

Episode five of American Horror Story: Hotel, Room Service, begins shortly after the end of episode four when the Countess (Lady Gaga) turned Alex (Chloe Sevigny) into a vampire. Before the credits roll, we see fruition of one of the show’s long games. The scene demonstrates that nothing is insignificant; every little thing can come back in the end, so you have to pay attention.

Several episodes of the season, if not all, have included Alex either giving advice about or taking care of a friend’s son who has measles. I originally thought these scenes were to show us something about her character. Instead of a frame of reference for that time, these scenes were actually setting the stage for her big turning (pun intended) point. Room Service begins with Max hospitalized and lying on his deathbed.

Looking terrible and in a daze from her experience at the Hotel Cortez, Alex apparently gives Max some of her blood, which causes him a miraculous recovery. The little shit starts an epidemic, biting his mother before hopping on the school bus, then feeding on various classmates, encouraging them to do the same. “Drink, it will make you feel awesome!” Before you know it, the school is in lockdown and S.W.A.T. arrives.

A handful of little vampires survives and tells police the story of a man dressed in black wearing a mask who attacked them. It’s a scary little subplot, but with American Horror Story, I wonder when, or if, we’ll see anything more about it; we certainly didn’t after about a third of the way through the episode. It’s another example of the show’s inconsistency in storytelling: little bits from several weeks culminate for major screen time, then end up having no lasting impact.

2.AMERICAN HORROR STORY HOTEL AHS GAGA REVIEW BATES IRIS

Meanwhile, speaking of little screen time for subplots, Donovan (Matt Bomer) drags his infected mother, Iris (Kathy Bates), to see Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett). He offers her a unique opportunity, “You want to take down the Countess, so do I. She promised you that life, then took it away from you, just like me.” Iris is going to be their inside man, even though she objects, “She’ll know the minute she see’s me.”

Her son sadly reminds her, “She never looks at you.” Iris stumbles into the hotel and the rest of the episode becomes hers as she comes to grips with her new state of being and transitions from a quivering sad sack to an assertive killer. Along the way, she gets unexpected tutelage from someone to whom she’s barely spoken in 20 years: Liz Taylor (Dennis O’Hare). Upon seeing her, he says, “It looks like momma needs a little hair of the dog to help her sleep it off.”

Iris keeps talking about irony, “I’m damned to eternity in this body… when it’s never been worse.”  Liz advises, “You might try a little violet eye shadow; it works for me every time.” As we learned more about Liz in this episode, I came to care deeply about him. He knows from experience that “you see everything when the world doesn’t see you.” Iris tells him that she’s not homophobic. He replies, “I’m not gay.”

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How does a married man from Topeka end up as Liz Taylor in the Hotel Cortez? A flashback to 1984 tells us. All you really need to know is that he married his wife, Tracy, because they wore the same dress size. On business trips, he would find freedom by putting them on in his hotel room. On one fateful night, the Countess appears. “You smell like a woman… not your skin, your blood.” She tells him, “You don’t lack beauty, you lack commitment.

Although she never turned him, he became her “living doll.” Much like he will give Iris mentorship in the present, the Countess gives him mentorship in the past. “Oh, honey, goddesses don’t speak in whispers, they scream” and “We have two selves: one that the world needs us to be, compliant, and the shadow. Ignore it and life is forever suffering.” As crazy as it sounds in a show like American Horror Story, I thought it was very touching.

John (Wes Bentley) appears near the end of the episode when reveals to his superior the experience with the serial killers. “It must be some kind of copycat cult.” He provides a valid theory that the guy “acting like” James Patrick March is the Ten Commandments killer, but is fired for his effort. It must have been his psychotic demeanor that did it. Later, he wakes up in bed with Sally (Sarah Paulson) and no memory of how he got there.

Alex raises concern with the Countess about the fact that John is living in the hotel and might see her. The Countess responds with something cryptic about the wonderful things that can begin with a simple “hello.” Alex is going to be the new governess for the children in the hotel. The Countess makes sure she doesn’t misunderstand, “You and Holden will have… forever.” Forever begins with them both climbing into his glass coffin to rest until next week’s episode.

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