Given that Halloween fell between two episodes of Hotel, it makes sense that two episodes would have a Halloween theme.
The first of them was actually pretty good, blocking out some of the noise of the extraneous storylines. They will presumably need to be revisited this time around, but that’s okay because it finally feels like the series has some clue where it’s going.
Part of American Horror Story‘s unique charm — not limited to Hotel — is that they start filming before they’ve actually finished writing it. So when it seems a bit lost, it sort of is. But then again, that’s what makes it one of the most interesting shows on TV.
Alex adjusts to her new vampirism, having Holden back and the role that the Countess has in mind for her. Donovan and Ramona plot to use Iris as a spy against the Countess, whilst Iris embraces her inner killer. And Liz spills the story of how she came to be at the Hotel Cortez.
So Alex is a vampire now. And Iris. We’re becoming overrun with vampires.
Alex first. Being newly vampified, she’s a bit peckish, whilst trying to focus on saving the anti-vaccination woman’s kid from the measels. Which isn’t going well, by the way. And I do love that they’ve put in a morality tale about the stupidity of the anti-vaccination movement. Naturally, after gorging herself silly on packs of blood in a store cupboard, she reaches for the surefire way to save him: vampirism!
Now, there are obvious problems with this. Namely that now the entitled little sh*t is a vampire. Credit to him, he manages to avoid chowing down on anyone until he snacks on his incredibly irritating parents as he’s heading out the door to school dressed as a pirate. And at the Halloween themed schoolday he manages to infect his crush, kill his teacher, and unleash a wave of vampire children who slaughter the adults.
Which was, to be honest, entirely predictable. And I quite like it as an exploration of what would happen. It’s not clear that Alex even realises what she’s unleashed onto the world, but given that we know the Countess doesn’t like her creations making creations, so one can only imagine how thrilled she’s going to be when she learns of this. And the weird presence of mind of Max, the measels kid, to co-ordinate the lies of his newly-vampified peers, that the carnage was the work of a man in a mask, is a little chilling.
Alex, though, seems blissfully unaware of all of this, as she takes up her role as the new governor for the Countess’ creepy children. There’s the vaguely threatening absolutely loyalty that is demanded, but for that low, low price Alex gets a bigger version of one of those glass coffins for her and Holden to snooze in.
Meanwhile, her poor estranged husband John is continuing on with his tormented mental breakdown. For some unfathomable reason he goes to his superiors with his tale of dining with a cast macabre of dead serial killers. Fair enough, he claims not to believe that they actually were, but thinks that the Ten Commandments Killer is linked to James Patrick March (Which he might well be -Ed) and that it’s all some attempt to break him (Which it is -Ed). Unfortunately for him, his boss reacts as a sensible senior police officer should, and fires him for being off his rocker. John’s response to this latest derailment of his life is to get blind drunk, and wake up in bed with Hypodermic Sally, who he rather cruelly kicks out his room.
Of course, Alex isn’t the only new vampire. A couple of episodes back, Donovan dealt with his mummy issues by using his own infected blood to bring Iris back to life. Now he brings her to Ramona Royal’s door, offering the Hotel Cortez’s overlooked receptionist as the perfect inside man on the Countess’ operation. Ramona is sceptical, but seems strangely easily persuaded that the Countess won’t notice her.
So Iris ends up back at the Hotel Cortez, with Liz Taylor immediately clocking what she is and giving her a stabilising drink of the Countess’ own blood-and-alcohol mix. She explains that Iris will need to drink real blood soon. Luckily, in the nick of time appears some annoying hipsters with a succession of annoying demands. The scene where Liz gives them cat food as gourmet pate is particularly enjoyable.
Naturally they wind her up to the point that she murders them, which is as cathartic for the audience as it is for her. But what it leads onto is the story of how Nick Pryor became Liz Taylor. Now, I do like Denis O’Hare, and Liz has been on of the background joys so far this season. Her backstory only brings that joy to the foreground.
Nick Pryor was a married-with-children pharmaceutical sales rep who used to use his business trips as an opportunity to indulge his cross-dressing. Until an 80s visit to the Hotel Cortez, where the Countess brought out the Liz Taylor inside, even opening the throats of her bigoted colleagues when the find out her secret, and hires her as the bartender. Which is fairly heart-warming, actually.
And when Liz and Iris share a glass of wine over the bodies of the hipsters, it feels like there actually might be a bit of justice in the American Horror Story world.
You know how when your computer isn’t doing what you want it to, you turn it off and on again? That is what it feels like Hotel has done with the two Halloween episodes.
Despite the fact that all of the ingredients were there, it didn’t seem to have quite come together before. It was all very pretty, but lacked both the soul and the direction to bring it together. Now that feels like it is beginning to be solved. There are still a few separate strands of story, but they are more intertwined, and more obviously moving in the right direction.
It has also realised what a treat it has in both Denis O’Hare and Kathy Bates. The more screen time that their characters share, the more watchable Hotel will become. They offer a witty, sincere, moving life that Lady Gaga’s aloof Countess doesn’t quite manage.
Hotel is coming to life, and not a moment too soon.
- Blood and triple sec sounds disgusting. And not, primarily, due to the blood.
- How does Liz even stop that from coagulating?
- Tristan’s outfit looks to be channelling Gary Oldman’s Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or not.
- What about poor Scarlett? Her mother is vamping it up at the Cortez, and her dad is undergoing a rather entertaining breakdown.
- Seriously, if the Countess does not notice that Iris is a vampire, when Holden could smell the change in his mother, then I don’t know how she’s lasted a century.