American Horror Story: Hotel Recap: Mother Monster

Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FX

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American Horror Story
Episode Title
Room 33
Editor’s Rating

I don’t know what we saw more of in this episode: man-ass or blood. What about man-ass covered in blood, like Wes Bentley’s very fine form as he stumbled around the Hotel Cortez covered in the gore of two Swedish girls? There was also Cheyenne Jackson’s pert bubble butt in bed with the Countess and Mr. Wu’s delicious, blood-slicked backside. This show is single-handedly trying to balance out the ratio of male-nudity-to-female-nudity on television after Game of Thrones so decidedly tipped the scale in one direction.

Aside from his wonderfully gruesome naked body, there is nothing at all I find interesting about John Lowe. Not one single thing. If you took all of his parts out of this season, I think it would be absolutely perfect. Granted we’re only at the halfway mark of this season, but I just find his alcoholic-going-slowly-insane shtick to be fairly tedious, especially since it’s becoming  clear that he is the Seven Deadly Sins Killer. Oh, sorry, wrong movie. I meant the Ten Commandments Killer.

John wakes up in the Hotel Cortez even though he’s been fired from the police force and ostensibly has no reason to be there. He’s just getting blitzed in the hallway and tells Liz Taylor, “This is my breakdown and I’m gonna have it.” Isn’t the point of a breakdown that you don’t quite know that you’re having it? Chloë Sevigny is certainly helping it along. She enlists Liz help to move the kids’ coffins after John finds them in the basement. When he returns later and they’re gone, he thinks he’s gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Then, she gets the Swedes to have a really weird, bloody three-way with him — seriously, what was going on there? — to further gaslight him.

He’s a certifiable mess by the time he’s packing his bags to go pick up his daughter, who was left at a friend’s house for God knows how long while her parents skeeved around a dirty downtown hotel. It doesn’t help that the Countess’s creepy baby is stowing away in his luggage, either. Still, does that mean he should open fire on the alien-faced squid baby as his daughter sits on the couch eating cereal and watching the Fairly OddParents? No, it does not.

John’s worst scene was when he shows up on the scene of the most recent murder and figures out which commandment the killer is referencing. “See,” he says to the officer in charge, “I can be of help.” Um, yeah, John. I went to Sunday school too, and I know the ten commandments, too. Does that mean I should be deputized to catch this killer?

Oh, it does? Good! You’re the killer, John. Case closed.

I don’t blame Wes Bentley, who is acting the hell out of the material that he’s given, it’s just that his story seems so rote and predictable that I’m not really interested. Everyone else is so quirky, and their desires and hangups have been so ornately teased out that I couldn't care less about this cookie-cutter hard-boiled cop with a drinking problem.

Take the Countess, for example. She was away in Paris with Will Drake for most of the episode, but I was riveted every second she was onscreen. I don’t know if that’s because of her weird bucktoothed grin, or the sumptuous flow of her white cape as she went to see her creepy baby in Room 33, or that darling green turban and asymmetrical matching dress she wore when she returned. Whatever the reason, I can’t take my eyes off of her.

Finally, we've learned how season five is connected to all the previous seasons of American Horror Story, or at least the first one. The Countess, three weeks pregnant, but sporting a “baby bump” that the editors of Us Weekly would drool over, arrived at Murder House to get an abortion from demon doctor Charles Montgomery. Her baby survives, though, after it sucks the blood of the attending nurse. It seems like it has the blood virus, so it can’t age past infancy. Also, it looks like something that spawned out of Mother Brain from Metroid, not Mother Monster.

Now we know, finally, why the Countess keeps living even though she is perpetually bored: She has a family to take care of. She doesn’t keep such close watch on her son Bartholomew, however, leaving him in a room to be terrorized by Ramona Royale while she's off wining and dining Will Drake. Thanks to Chloë Sevigny, who is looking more like a governess every day in her Victorian cut dresses, the baby ends up back in her mother’s care without a scratch. It doesn’t seem very much like Ramona Royale to leave the hotel without killing either the Countess’s biological or adopted children. She doesn’t seem like the type to give up so easily.

The Countess’s best moments were in her final scene with Tristan and Liz Taylor, where she tells Liz that she doesn’t share, then gives her Tristan so she can have her one true love. “You can have him,” she says, seemingly giving her blessing before slashing his throat. “Now bury him.” She’s the absolute cruelest, preferring to keep Liz around with all of her suffering. She’s so calm when dispatching her foes, which is why I think she’s so much better than Jessica Lange.

I have to admit, though, I absolutely hated Liz and Tristan’s affair. It just began this episode, with the two of them rolling around in bed together. Have we even seen then interact before? Have they ever exchanged anything more than niceties? Now we're supposed to believe that they're so deeply in love, they’d risk their lives for each other? This is a classic Ryan Murphy mistake, where he just invents a relationship because it will be handy for the plot. I’m not asking for much — just a few small, shared moments between these two people before they're jammed together like a demon-squid baby jumping out from under the dresser.

Liz is still the best character on the show, as far as I’m concerned. She was so sweet in her scenes with both Chloë Sevigny and Ramona Royale that I was happy to finally see her get some happiness of her own. However, I wanted that happiness to be earned. When Iris showed up with both a cleaver and a pistol to help Ramona slaughter the children, she had earned that transformation. Tristan and Liz didn't. That was just a passing fancy with deadly consequences.

But, as a whole, this season is continuing to shape up nicely. Even the seemingly random bits are serving a larger whole. Think of the Swedes, who were brought back not just to show that they were trapped in the hotel, but also to drive the main story between John and Chloë Sevigny. It reintroduced them as extensions of a cohesive universe, rather than as an excuse for senseless titillation. That's what all the man-ass is for.

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