Photo: Suzanne Tenner/FX
Last week, one of the writers for Golden Derby got murdered for worshipping false idols. This week, the entire staff of a gossip website got killed and their tongues nailed to their desks for bearing false witness. Damn, it sure is a really dangerous time to be a blogger!
These insignificant crimes doled out by the Ten Commandments Killer sure didn’t get a whole lot of airtime last night, and it only managed to underscore the point that I don’t care a lick about this whole serial-killer thing. There are a lot of interesting stories going on here, perhaps too many, but the one that I don’t give two Toblerones from the hotel minibar about is the stupid killer.
One of the reasons I thought last season was so weak was because there was no central mystery akin to “Who is the guy in the gimp suit?” or “Who will be the next Supreme?” Last year, Twisty the clown was dispensed with after only a few short episodes, and we were left with no mystery at all, other than exactly where all of the accents the actors attempted came from. This season, there is a mystery that is so tangential to each episode that every time John Lowe visits a crime scene, I have to remind myself he is a cop investigating these hokey mysteries that strain so badly under the weight of their self-imposed themes that they’re like the kids’ rooms on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Right now, this seems to be a good thing, oddly enough. The stories are holding together without that mystery binding them. In fact, there is not much mystery at all. We know all about James Patrick Marsh and how he built his hotel like a torture chamber. The Countess had the decency to explain the ins and outs of her “blood disease” last week, so we know all the rules about the V.A.M.P.I.R.E.s. After Sally’s comments to Iris in this episode, confirming that she is a ghost who can’t leave the premises, the exact nature of the non-vampire supernatural in the building is taking shape. Sure, there are details left to be uncovered and plenty of surprises in store, but it doesn’t seem like the truth is being purposefully obfuscated so that we’ll keep tuning in this week. AHS: Hotel is too classy for that, and I like it.
Instead of trying to creep everyone out — and I don’t care what you say, but Naomi Campbell, looking stunning at 45, getting strangled from inside her hotel bed, is going to give me nightmares for a week — this episode was all about the relationships between mothers and sons.
Obviously, the correlation is thanks to Alex and Holden, who is being held captive in Lady Gaga’s Tetris Room of Death (patent pending). Thanks to a handy dandy voice-over, we learn that Alex was destroyed when Holden disappeared. Seriously, the only thing worse than your son being kidnapped is your son being kidnapped while you’re wearing a really stupid floppy hat. Alex was so upset, she tried to kill herself, and now only muddles through because of her daughter, whom she doesn’t really love all that much. By the end of the episode, she’s face to face with her creepy kid once more in the hallways of the Cortese. Now that he’s back, what will she do?
We find out a bit more about Iris and Donovan’s previous relationship, mostly that he hates her because she was a really bad mother. What did she do? Well, the only concrete example we got is that she joined a vegetarian cult that made him poop his pants. Yeah, that’s pretty bad, but not wishing-your-mother-would-kill-herself bad. Once he tells her that he would rather see her dead than live with her again, she enlists Sally to kill her. I loved that Sally (who seems more and more like Sarah Paulson playing Jessica Lange playing Courtney Love) made her promise she didn’t have any unfinished business so that after she dies she wouldn’t stick around and haunt her ass for eternity.
After his run-in with Ramona Royale, Donovan returns, and Elizabeth Taylor convinces him that when he has nothing, he still has his mother’s love. That’s when he discovers her dead in her room. But just like she had the Countess bring him back when he wanted to die of a drug overdose, he brings her back when she wanted to die of one, too. Now it’s the two of them who are going to be trapped together for eternity. Smooth move there, Donovan.
Speaking of Ramona Royale, even that story seemed to be a little bit about parents and children. She tells Donovan that she met the Countess when she was a blaxploitation star in the ‘70s, and they immediately fell in love and spent decades together. However, when Ramona turned her super-dreamy rapper lover into a vampire, the Countess freaked out and killed him. As Ramona said, the queen didn’t want any more heirs to her throne. She hated that her vampire child, Ramona, had become a parent of her own. It layers maternal jealousy with romantic jealousy in a way that is complicated and wonderfully twisted. It’s everything AHS should be.
Once Ramona discovers that Donovan isn’t the Countess’s boyfriend anymore, she decides that instead, she is going to kill those creepy children the Countess keeps in the Lady Gaga Nintendo Den of Horrors (patent pending). But it always seemed to me more like the Countess needs them rather than loves them, so I’m not entirely sure what Ramona hopes to accomplish.
The Countess’s current lover, Tristan, with hair inspired by a British dowager’s Easter bonnet with a fake cardinal atop it, is getting a little uncontrollable, too. He was about to kill new hotel owner Will Drake so that he doesn’t rip up the sixth floor where March lives. Okay, fine. Where March “lives.” Whatever. At the last minute, the Countess stops him because she has other plans. She’s going to seduce a gay guy into marrying her so that she can steal all of his money because Bernie Madoff ran off with hers. We knew from last week that she was having money trouble, so I’m not going to make fun of the Madoff thing because we need to praise the writers for sneaking in some meaningful foreshadowing. They aren’t really well-known for sticking to a story all that long.
Say what you will, Lady Gaga continues to surprise me with her understated performance. Yeah, I know lots of you think she’s disaffected and wooden, but I’m telling you that is a conscious choice that she is making for the character, and I think it is absolutely perfect for this brittle, self-obsessed, constantly bored character that she’s playing. However, there is something going on with her eye makeup so that when she is shot in partial profile, it looks like one of her eyes is a different shape than the other one. I’m finding myself continuously distracted by it. Of all the answers I really want this season, the biggest one is why does Gaga’s face look so lopsided all of the time?