The mommy issues are in full bloom in the third episode of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series American Horror Story: Hotel. Aptly titled “Mommy”, we delve a little deeper into the stories of the mothers on this show, chiefly: Alex Lowe, Iris, and The Countess (Lady Gaga).
The episode begins with James P. March (Evan Peters) describing the mazes of torture chambers that lie throughout the hotel. Tristan (Finn Wittrock), the newly turned vampire / male model, has discovered that he could call on March from his old office. Remember, March and his Laundress killed themselves back in the 1930s. This gives us a first impression of what the Hotel might actually be: a purgatory for evil. With a mix of dead characters still lingering and new ones checking in, we might be in for a treat to what Ryan Murphy actually intends for the show’s namesake.
In an attempt to renovate and modernize the Hotel Cortez, new owner Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) plans on creating a new fashion haven on several of the floors. March and his Laundress enlist Tristan to help thwart those plans. Last episode, we saw Tristan use his looks to his advantage, and this mission is no different. He seduces Will Drake in order to gain his trust, and information on his renovation plans, but stops short from killing him at The Countess’ behest. She has some plans of her own. We learn that although The Countess was filthy rich over the last several decades, the Bernie Madoff financial scandal did not leave her unscathed. She lost all of her money, investments, and even the Hotel. She intends to seduce Will Drake (although he’s explicitly told her he’s gay), marry him, and take him for all he’s worth. In true Countess fashion, she has her way with him and leaves him wanting more.
The Countess has been around for over one hundred years. Surely, Tristan and Donovan (Matt Bomer) are not the first lovers that she’s turned. Introducing the great, 1970’s, B-list actress Ramona Royale (played by the wickedly talented Angela Bassett). Ramona is a vampire with a romantic vengeance. When she kidnaps Donovan, in true villain form, she tells us all her plans and why she’s making it her life’s mission to destroy The Countess. In the 70s, Ramona and The Countess fell in love. Not to be confused for a short-lived, lesbian fling, they were together into the early 90s until Ramona fell in love with an up-and-coming rapper. To spite Ramona for her betrayal, The Countess murders the rapper and his entire entourage and banishes Ramona. She now vows to take everything The Countess holds dear: her vampiric children. I’m usually on the fence about Bassett’s characters on AHS. I thought she was magnificently cast as the Voodoo Queen in Coven but terribly miscast as the three-breasted woman in Freak Show. I hope we get to see more of her ferocity and screen presence this season.
The next mother we deal with is Alex Lowe (Chloe Sevigny). We dig into her past, her first chance at motherhood (with the now-taken-by-The-Countess, vampire baby Holden), and the consequences of that loss. She never truly wanted to be a mother. Instead, her dream was to help others by becoming the best pediatrician in town. However, when she had Holden, she honestly learned what true love was like. Once Holden was taken, time could not heal all and she, ultimately, attempted suicide. Her cop husband John (Wes Bentley) saved her from an untimely death. After all, she had another child to take care of, Scarlett. However, John could not save their marriage and when she serves him with divorce papers, he breaks down. I don’t know what it is about adult men crying on screen but they’re not very good it at. I would have preferred to see John have an anxiety or panic attack about losing his family but instead he starts to cry. He lost me. Unfortunately, Bentley cannot hold the scene and should keep to delivering lines with his stoic stare. Alex attempts to console John by kissing and sleeping with him, but the moment is ruined when he brings up trying to have another baby. As Alex runs out and is trying to leave the Hotel, she runs into vampire Holden, her son, in the hallway. Cut to black.
Ok, so the episode didn’t end there. We have one more mother to deal with. Iris and Donovan’s relationship is explored when he returns to the Hotel to get his things. Decent writing and strong acting ability by both Bomer and Bates make this one of the better scenes of the episode. Donovan is fueled by a deep hatred for his mother and she feels that she’s been looking after him in vain all of these years. He very convincingly tells her that she should just kill herself because he doesn’t want to be her son anymore. Oooof. Dramaaaaaa. Of course, upon Donovan’s departure, she takes his advice and enlists Sally (Sarah Paulson) to assist with her suicide. Since Sally’s addiction of choice is heroin, she preps Iris and the materials needed for the job: bed, rubber tourniquet, and needle. This scene is important because we learn a bit more about the state of the Hotel and its residents. Remember, Iris pushed Sally out of a window and killed her 20 years ago. How is it that Sally still walks these halls? She asks Iris if she has any unfinished business because she doesn’t want her “miserable, old ass” haunting her. This looks like the second clue this episode to the Hotel’s true relevance to the story. Donovan arrives just in time and ends up “turning” his mother.
I almost forgot to mention: Naomi Campbell’s character is killed. Early on. Finally. That’s it on that.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk succeeded this episode in providing history and context at a decent pace and within the characters’ stories. They didn’t throw in unnecessary, cheap thrills and left me hungry for more.
Check out the next episode of American Horror Story: Hotel Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.