AHS Hotel: Checking In (S5E1) Recap

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Athena:

Hello and welcome to the inaugural post on our brand new TV recapping blog! We’ve previously recapped various episodes of Hannibal and Outlander on my personal blog, and we thought it was about time to combine forces. What better way to start than analyzing one of the most absurd(ly entertaining) shows on right now?

I want to begin by saying that I love American Horror Story. Despite all it’s flaws and wild inconsistencies, I’m so here for a boundary pushing horror series that prioritizes female characters (even if it also fails them sometimes). It’s an experiment. It’s a show that really tries. AHS is definitely a significant part of the horror renaissance that’s been happening on television in the last 10 years. Without a doubt it helped popularize the anthology format that we’re seeing more and more of.  I love the gore, I love the bizarre characters, I love the mystery and the unpredictable storylines even though these sometimes fizzle out.

In case anyone is curious: Murder House is my personal favourite season. Some of it is the novelty and charm of the first season. But everything about it just drew me right in. It’s my favourite to rewatch for sure. However I think Asylum was the best season. It was consistent, scary, and probably the most successful for a variety of reasons. So they both hold a special place in my heart. Which one was your favourite?

Because of it’s track record critics have been hard on this premiere and reluctant to become invested. But I thought they really knocked it out of the park with this one. This opener is full of cliches, tropes, on the nose references, and homages. I think AHS actually does an excellent job of working these to feed that horror craving. It gave me what I was looking for, what I hoped for, and some things I didn’t expect. However to enjoy AHS you really have to expect it to be AHS and not like the horror version of a prestige drama like Mad Men. I think people have lofty expectations for this series and tend to let themselves down. It’s one of those shows where you just have to chill out and enjoy the ride. (Not to say it doesn’t deserve criticism or we shouldn’t strive for better. I just think it’s okay for it to be what it is.)

The first characters we see are of course doomed, as first characters tend to be in this series. Two Swedish girls get out of a cab and quickly realize this “retro” Shining-esque hotel is not the cool fun LA experience they were planning on.

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Heather:

I’ve always been a bit lukewarm when it comes to American Horror Story. Ryan Murphy & Co. always knock it out of the park for the first couple episodes, but then tend to lose me after a bit. And that’s not only true for AHS; I quite liked the first season of Glee and then really stopped caring. Murphy’s really great at creating an interesting world and not so great at sustaining them. Plus, the longer any of his shows go on, the more possibility he squanders. And I guess that’s the beauty of AHS being an anthology; every season I’m hopeful I won’t be disappointed.

I definitely agree that AHS is about going along for the ride. I’ve got Hannibal on my brain (pun intended?) so that’s what I keep inadvertently comparing it to. The thing is, AHS is doing such different things and calling on such different clichés and tropes than Hannibal. It’s a horse of a different color. Hannibal is all blood that looks black in the moonlight whereas AHS is the bright red of cheap stage blood. Which is to say AHS is boundary pushing camp spectacle and sometimes that’s all you need.

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So the first episode of AHS: Hotel opens with the two Swedish women who are checking into the Hotel Cortez. Kathy Bates’ character, Iris, is suitably gruff and has no fucks to give. The women ask about getting their deposit back and she refuses. The women ask about wifi and she flatly explains they don’t have it. Later the women will ask to change rooms and she refuses that as well. I like that over the course of the episode the audience’s understanding of Iris changes as we learn more about her circumstances.

The one helpful thing Iris tells the women is that there is an ice machine and she gives them quick directions to it. So one of the young women goes in search of ice and since this is a horror show, the moment they split up you know something bad is going to happen. The one getting the ice is walking through the hallway and happens upon Miss Evers steam cleaning ridiculously bright red blood out of a sheet. If the over-use of a fisheye lens at the beginning didn’t twig the audience to the deliberately camp nature of the show before, the fact that Miss Evers is cleaning a bloody sheet in a hallway should.

Anyway, the Swedish woman also comes across a creepy pale kid at the end of a hallway who points behind her. She turns around and sees yet another creepy pale kid. Then they disappear, because of course they do. At which point she tries to chase one of them down, because of course she does. But it doesn’t work, so she returns to the room. While the first Swedish woman was out getting ice, the second was setting up scented candles because the room is rank. Together they locate the source of the rankness to the bed. They see that the bed has a huge gash down the center that’s been roughly stitched together so one of them has the bright idea of ripping open the stitching.

It’s such a bad idea! If you locate the source of a horrible smell in a creepy hotel with weird disappearing children and housekeeping steam cleaning bloody sheets in the hallway, you don’t take a closer look. You get the hell out of there! But, this is a horror show so they open it up. And out crawls and creature naked and covered in sores which reaches for them and screams. So they scream. And then it’s the opening credits.

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Athena:

Just looking at that abject terror crawling out of the bed and screaming, I can easily imagine what the room smells like. While the opening scene was pretty campy, I loved that weird creature. I hope we’ll be seeing it again. But as you say Murphy loves to squander so we’ll see how that goes.

As always I love the credits. I love how creepy and disjointed they are. They’re a good indicator of what to expect in a series like this. I wonder what the brief flashes of the 10 commandments in neon signs were about. That’s different from anything we’ve seen in the credits before. Everyone seems to be guessing it has to do with the blatant Se7en homage/rip off this season is doing. It makes the most sense for now, but I hope there’s more to it than that.

The next scene features Iris taking the girls to their new room. At first she’s apologizing and saying she’s surprised. But then she mutters some weird nonsense about police arresting them for evasion and they look rightfully confused and wary. She leads them to room 64, one that they apparently never rent out. They wait bored in the room for police that never come. One girl says she’s going to give them a bad review on Yelp. It’s a line that’s trying hard to be funny, but it is kind of silly to imagine a place like the Cortez online. There’s a time jump and one of the girls is woken up at 2:25 by old timey music and static from the radio turning on by itself. She finds her friend passed out in the bathroom and the baby vamps are feeding on her. This is where we discover Lady Gaga has a weird obsession with making little blonde vampire kids. I wonder if we’re going to find out whether or not there’s a particular reason for that.

Someone mentioned to me on Facebook how weird it is that they wouldn’t immediately run out of the hotel screaming. I have to agree. The subplot with the Swedish girls was the most contrived, unrealistic (even in a show with vampires and rape demons), and unnecessary plot point. I know it’s just the introductory horror/death scenes to help us get a feel for the bizarre nature of the hotel, but it would have been better with more sympathetic characters who made real decisions. I can forgive AHS of this particular thread, since the other plot lines in this episode are so much more interesting.

Like when we are introduced to the kid from American Beauty all grown up as Mr. Sexy Detective. Here’s our Se7en homage. What would AHS be without a serial killer? Detective John Lowe is investigating a sex murder and mutilation. The murder victim is a woman straddling a man, her hands nailed to the headboard and something like a spear driven through her. The man beneath is still alive, also with his hands nailed to the headboard. His eyes and tongue are in an ashtray next to the bed. John finds superglue beneath the bed and realizes he’s glued inside the dead woman. There’s like a little photo shrine next to the bed with all the eyes cut out. This and potentially the ashtray is supposed to signify that the families are blind to the vices of the cheating spouses. It’s definitely one of the more fucked up murder scenes in AHS if only because one person is still alive to suffer though it. John says something about cutting him loose which may or may not mean removing his penis?!? That’s not how I saw it in the moment but other people have read it that way.

Personally I am super into this Se7en tribute. It’s one of my favourite films, and one of the only good horror movies to come out of the 90s. I think some critics might be annoyed with how much this episode is lifting from the film but I am glad to see this concept getting revived for a new decade and probably some new audiences. As I said before, I’m okay with the campiness and appropriation that AHS (and much other horror) does as long as it’s done well. I’m excited to see how this develops. Though I hope (GINORMOUS SPOILER ALERT) his wife’s head doesn’t end up in a box.

There’s another time jump and he goes from investigating a violent rape and murder to reading a bedtime story to his daughter via skype on his cell. It’s kind of sweet that he makes the time for her, but also weird to see him switch gears so quickly. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be a testament to what a family man he is/wants to be or if it’s about how fucked up he is. The killer he’s investigating calls to ruin his night. In a disjointed voice he says he’s at the Cortez in room 64 and he’s going to do it again. DUN DUN DUN.

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Heather:

I agree the subplot with the Swedish girls was contrived, but not nearly as contrived as the introductory scene to Mr. Sexy Detective guy. I mean for starters we’ve got the EMTs arriving at the crime scene the same time as the detectives. That does not happen that way. EMTs are first responders and detectives (particularly in a huge city like L.A.) really really aren’t. Then there’s the fact that once they all get upstairs Other Sexy Detective dude says something about the whole scene having already been documented. So we’re meant to believe that the uniformed officers and forensics folks arrived and documented a crime scene before the EMTs? And then the icing on that ridiculous cake is that one of the victims is still alive! So the uniformed officers and forensics folks apparently arrived (before EMTs) and just left a still-breathing victim at the scene waiting for Mr. Sexy Detective to have a look at the scene? And because apparently everyone just stood there with their hands in their pockets until Mr. Sexy Detective arrived, no one figured out that the two victims are glued together until Mr. Sexy Detective found a bottle of super glue on the floor? I don’t think so, Athena. I do not think so.

I don’t know if the intention of the “cut him loose” line was meant to imply they’re going to have to cut off his penis, but that’s not the first thing that came to my mind. I mean, I know hospitals have solvents they use when folks unintentionally glue bits of their body to their body. And if they couldn’t use a solvent because his penis is stuck inside the dead woman I’d assume they’d cut off the dead woman before they’d cut off his penis.

I do get that the point of all that was to crank the shock and horror up to eleven. The thing is, for me it was all so outside the realm of possibility it ceased being horrifying. Also it’s been forever since I’ve seen Se7en so I can’t remember if certain bits of all that are meant to be an homage to the movie. Either way, though, that entire scene totally broke my suspension of disbelief.

Okay, rant over, let’s move on in the episode. After Mr. Sexy Detective (named John Lowe) gets the call from the guy claiming to be the killer, we cut to a nearly unrecognizable Max Greenfield in huge glasses and a very worn coat at the front desk of the Cortez. He’s clearly strung out on something and he taps the bell to summon Kathy Bates’ character (Iris) a couple times. She comes out to the front desk and recognizes that Greenfield’s character (Gabriel) is a junky right away. She seems extremely annoyed and put upon at having to rent out a room to him. The sign says rooms are $30 but she charges him $150; she gives him the key to room 64 (DUN DUN DUN) and she also lies to him and tells him the elevator is out of service.

So we get a bit more layered onto Iris as a character. At first she comes across as the stereotypical service industry employee with no customer service skills, but here we see there’s something more. We now know that she knows what horrific shit happens at the hotel and that she knows room 64 is the worst. And now we see her deliberately send Gabriel to that room after overcharging him and making him walk up six flights of stairs. She goes out of her way to make Gabriel’s time at the Cortez miserable.

So as Gabriel is walking up the stairs we see Sarah Paulson’s character (Sally) appear in the lobby and tell Iris, “I’ve got dibs on this one, Iris. I haven’t seen one that sweet in awhile.” And by the end of the episode we find out exactly what she’s talking about. It’s interesting, actually, that Gabriel’s character in this episode is less a character and more a plot device to reveal more about Sally and Iris’ characters and relationship.  I say interesting because that’s rarely something that’s done with straight cis white guy characters. Usually it’s a young women who becomes a stand-in for a lost daughter not (as in this case) a young man being used as a stand-in for a lost son. More on that later, though.

So Gabriel goes up to his room and injects what looks to be morphine or heroin or some sort of opioid. Miss Evers suddenly appears in his room talking about cleaning out stains. Then he sees a weird faceless demon thing who throws him face-down on the bed, strips off his pants and promptly rapes him with a drill bit. What the actual fuck?!

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Athena:

I agree, the crime introduction in this episode was asking for a major suspension of belief. It also irked me a little to see how many people were there and how poorly they would fit. I also found it hard to believe the investigation would be prioritized over the living victim’s wellbeing. But the macabre absurdity still won me over. It was one of my favourite scenes despite the obvious flaws.

I also agree that it’s refreshing to have the cis white male character as the throwaway character here for the plot. But of course I could have done without the very graphic rape scene (also part of the Se7en homage). It was terrible but unsurprising, considering AHS is a show of shock and exploitation at heart.

Did you notice the weird guy looking like the most suspicious serial killer leaving his room to watch Gabriel get to his? I wonder if we’re going to see some followup there. Another thing I noticed was Gabriel was curiously bloodless when the demon thing disappeared. It makes me suspect it was all in his head and somehow Sally’s doing. Does she feed off of pain? We learn later in the episode that she’s supernatural in some capacity (or at least undead), so maybe this is related to how she survived.

After Gabriel says he loves Sally to be saved (how creepy is she for being so casual about rape?!?) John shows up and demands to be taken to room 64. Iris immediately recognizes him for the cop he is, but isn’t phased. She tells her wary coworker, Liz Taylor, to lead him there.

This scene is particularly interesting to me because it introduces the enigmatic Liz Taylor. It’s unclear whether or not Liz Taylor is a trans woman (which would be transmisogynist because of the cis man playing this character) or nonbinary. I’m hoping for the latter because it would be slightly (only slightly) less problematic? There are plenty of trans and nonbinary actors out there they easily could have cast. They’ve been unclear about Liz’s gender identity so far which I think is wise.

Liz plays the stereotypical role of the sees-right-through-you easily written off background character. But the way Denis O’Hare plays them (gender neutral pronouns for the time being) provides this character with so much energy and mystery that they steal the scene. O’Hare has been a pretty regular cast member (appearing in every season except Asylum) since Murder House. He’s been consistently and enjoyably weird in each of the roles he’s given.

They take their leave and John goes into the room alone with his gun drawn. There’s no sign of Gabriel, or the Swedes. John falls asleep on the bed because reasons??? and then he wakes up to the music and static of the radio at 2:25. He chases around a little vampire kid he calls “Holden” who becomes very relevant later. At first I thought this scene was very confusing because of the lack of context, but just shrugged it off as usual AHS stuff. On second watch it makes more sense, but that’s the benefit of hindsight.

Then finally we are introduced to Lady Gaga’s character, currently unnamed in the episode though we know she is the Countess. Which is presumably an Elizabeth Bathory reference. This is the best scene of the whole episode, and one of the best scenes this series has ever done. In no small part it’s because the scene has no dialogue until the very end. Instead one of my favourite songs plays. It’s a very sexy scene, between the music, the visuals, and the actual intimacy. The violence is highly sexualized as well, but works because men and women are equals in this scene.

There’s a back and forth between the Countess and Donovan (whose name we learn later) getting ready to go out. It’s very seductive and dramatic. They’re far too glamorous just to sit in the graveyard and watch a screening of Nosferatu. I’m sure they love the movie for what becomes obvious reasons, but they’re there to hunt. They get the attention of an adventurous couple sitting across from them. This is juxtaposed with Nosferatu creeping around. It’s a little obvious but it’s still fun to watch.

They return to the hotel and the Countess trades her funeral hat for a long veil and some shiny nipple pasties. Everyone starts making out and we almost get our first group sex scene on cable. Instead the Countess and Donovan raise their gloved hands and in unison bring the sharp nails down on their victims so they can drink blood from their throats. Afterward they cuddle between the corpses and Donovan says he hates the cleanup. It’s a very effective introduction to AHS‘s first vampires.

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Gaga looks like a giver.

Heather:

The rape scene, and the fact that when we come back to it we get a really graphic depiction of the demon guy thrusting up against Gabriel, really bothered me. It’s such a blatant use of rape to shock the audience, which is unacceptable. I read in an interview with Murphy that the demon with the drill bit is the Addiction Demon so it sounds like it’ll be around for future episodes. I’m hopeful that it’s handled better. I mean we know Gabriel is returning so maybe there’ll be something that’ll make that rape something other than shocking exploitation. Within the context of the episode on it’s own, though, it was sexual violence without purpose.

On to less contentious scenes…my second favorite scene is when detective John Lowe goes to the hotel and Iris spots him. It’s great because not only does Iris figure out he’s a cop right away, she is kind of flirtatious with him. I mean her first word to him is, “Woof.” It’s great too because you never see an older woman semi-flirting with a young guy on television where it isn’t some big joke or turned into some cougar thing. While first watching this scene I had the same reaction as Liz Taylor when Iris asked Liz to show the cop to room 64. And I’m still not sure if she was setting John up to be attacked by the hotel or if she sent him up because part of her wants him to figure it out and bring the place down.

I’m also wary of the Liz Taylor character. Denis O’Hare is great and will certainly continue to be great. However, as you mentioned, if Liz ends up being yet another trans woman played by a cis gay dude I will explode into rainbows. I’m crossing my fingers that’s not the case.

And though you talked about it, I also have to talk about the whole sequence of Countess/Donovan scenes. I loved it. This was my favorite part of the whole thing. I could watch a show about only them, to be honest. I loved how there was little to no speaking throughout the sequence, which made the whole bit about Nosferatu even more applicable. I also loved the foursome bit, though I didn’t really find it all that sexy. I think there was just too much missionary making out and not much else, but it was still a great scene! At first I was a bit miffed Donovan and the guy don’t make out while the Countess and the chick do. Like, what’s that about? But then on second viewing I realized that it’s because during the entire sequence the Countess is the focal point. Even while she’s making out with that woman, Donovan and the other guy are focused on her. And throughout the scene, Donovan is constantly looking to her to see what their next move it. Also, interestingly, the Countess is the most clothed during the sex scene.

What makes the sexual violence in this scene unoffensive, I think, is (as you pointed out) there’s an equality of gender that you don’t usually see. A man and a woman have sex with (more or less) and then kill another man and another woman. More than that, though, the sex and the violence are rather separate. There is a turning point in the scene were the audience is meant to go from “oo sexy” to “omg disgusting!” And that turning point where it becomes disgusting is when it becomes violent. I mean, obviously, the violence is still sexual for the Countess and Donovan, but it’s not meant to be for the audience.

So after that awesome sequence, we see John sitting in his car outside his house not wanting to go inside. But he does and we learn that his wife, who is played by Chloë Sevigny, is a doctor who makes house calls. Also, it becomes clear everything is not happy in their marriage. There’s tension an they have a little argument about him coming home late, though you get the feeling there’s more to it than that. A nice little touch is that Sevigny’s character can’t find her keys and John finds them for her. Yet another little reversal of the usual gender norms that I appreciate. But then the next bit is of the most common gender norms which is the cool dad deciding to take his kid out to dinner instead of eating what the mother cooked.

Speaking of dinner, Kathy Bates’ Iris is wheeling a room service cart down a hallway and I was sure there must be something horrific in it. I mean, it’s a horror show and there’s a covered room service tray, there’s got to be something terrifying under it. Turns out the horrifying bit isn’t really what’s under the tray but rather who the tray is for. The two Swedish girls are caged in neon lights (for some reason?) and it’s Iris’ job to feed them. Without a hint of irony, Iris accuses them of being junkies because they have some prescription medication in their bags and then proceeds to try to force one to drink wine. It’s not just wine and it’s only a glass, but still. I thought that rather hilarious.

And then Sally appears!

Boo!

Athena:

I agree, the foursome wasn’t my usual vibe but it totally worked. This could definitely be the Countess & Donovan Show and I would be 100% on board.

Sally is one of the best characters this season. I think she also does a good job of challenging gender norms if only because she doesn’t adhere to any feminine stereotypes. She doesn’t care about making nice with Iris, she shows no glimmer of maternal nature towards anyone in this episode, and there’s no remorse. Sally is no feminist hero, but it’s refreshing to see a female character not bogged down by the fact that she’s a woman. This is the type of writing we usually see reserved for male characters.

Speaking of making nice, it’s something she really couldn’t care less about. There’s nothing but bickering and bad history between her and Iris.  She says Sally is the beginning and ending of all her suffering, a very intense declaration which makes sense later.  Iris leaves her to deal with the problem of making them taste good (which is why they were about to be force fed oysters, livers, and vino). But Sally isn’t interested in keeping the Countess happy. She releases one of the girls from their weird neon prison and yells at her to run. Sally wants to be “moved by her tears” which reinforces my idea that maybe she’s some kind of succubus for pain (or just a bit of a sadist).

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The Swedish woman runs through the hotel, passed a surprised Iris, and is stopped right at the entrance by the Countess herself.  The only thing she says to Iris is “This can never happen again”. Gotdamn Gaga is commanding the shit out of this room. That’s the end of the Swedish storyline for this episode, for this episode at least. Unfortunately one of the pair is still alive, so time will tell if Murphy can give her something worthwhile to do.

Then we’re back to John and his daughter. She talks about having a hard time remembering “him” and wonders if they should put the pictures back up. We’re getting closer to the revelation of this deep, dark pain Liz saw in him. Then he receives a ~~mysterious~ text from Alex with an address asking for help. So of course he takes his daughter with him.

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Foreshadowing methinks

Heather:

So John’s called for backup, which makes sense. Apparently that backup consists of one uniformed cop who’s been sat in front of the house just waiting for Mr. Sexy Detective to show up. I guess no one at the LAPD can do anything without John Lowe there to hold their hands?

Anyway, he tells his daughter to stay in the car (as if that’s going to happen) and the patrol officer to watch his daughter. He then he goes into the house where he thinks his wife is being killed alone. He searches the seemingly empty house. The daughter ends up getting out of the car and going into the house to look for John. She sees something that makes her scream and John comes running after her. What she saw was two men stripped to their underwear, gutted, and strung up on display on their bedposts. Oddly there are two double beds in the room which I’m guessing is meant to be an indicator they were gay and in the glass closet, so to speak. Otherwise the two full size beds in the same room doesn’t really make much sense.

It cuts to commercial and when we come back it’s a flash back to the pier at Santa Monica in 2010. John’s there with his wife and daughter and his son named Holden. Ah ha! Now we’re getting some pieces of the story that better explains what’s going on with John. Basically Holden got on a carousel, John got a phone call and looked away for a second and when he turned back around Holden was missing. So that’s the root of the problem between John and Alex (his wife).

We cut back to present day where John and Alex are arguing at the dinner table. It turns out the killer somehow cloned Alex’s phone and used it to send John a fake text. Alex is actually fine except that she’s terrified now, as well she should be. She’s basically the most reasonable person on this show right now. John’s like “Don’t worry, I can protect you.” Alex is having none of it. She says that she doesn’t blame John for what happened to Holden and that the reason she’s been so distant from him is that he reminds her of Holden too much. She says she needs to take a break from it all meaning, we assume, that she wants a temporary separation from John.

Next scene is the realtor from Murder House (Marcy) who walks up to greet Cheyenne Jackson’s character (Will Drake) and Will’s son as they get out of a car. Will Drake is some high end clothing designer who’s looking to buy the Cortez. The first lines out of Marcy’s mouth are a call back to Murder House: “Welcome. The rain may have stopped but it’s still a gloomy day. I had to put my dog down. He came to me through very unfortunate circumstances, but you don’t need to hear about that.” The music behind this bit is a weird ambient electronic lick and the camera is basically right below her torso looking up. It follows her as she walks from the curb to the door of the Cortez. She’s wearing this bright blue skirt suit and Will’s wearing a jacket like a cloak and a freaking neck scarf. This is one of those moments where all the weird pieces of the scene really come together for me. It was surreal in the good way.

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It’s also at this point that I realized all the young men in this show look eerily alike. According to Ryan Murphy there’s some reason behind this. Something to do with the Countess having a thing for young fit white guys with dark hair.

Anyway, as they go into the Cortez we find out that Will’s bought the hotel. Turns out Iris and Liz both had no idea the place was even for sale. Marcy says she knows it was a “whisper listing,” but she assumed the owner would have told them something. Iris says that no one tells her shit, which is true, and that she’s never met the owner, which is not true. As Marcy, Will and his son take the elevator up to the penthouse, Iris says  to Liz that they’re going to be “turned out onto the streets.” This feels very similar to the Freak Show story where Jessica Lang’s character sold off the business.

So then they get up to the penthouse and we’re treated to Matt Bomer’s butt again. Also this lovely image:

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Athena:

Matt Bomer is truly a vision to behold. Can I also add that it’s really important to see a gay man cast in a role where women are supposed to find him sexually appealing? There was a minor scandal way back when they were casting for Fifty Shades Of Misogyny and Bret Easton Ellis said Bomer was too gay for the role and that Hollywood would never cast a gay man when the role ‘called’ for a straight one. He didn’t initially put it that way and people were outraged at Ellis (who I should note is bisexual with a male partner), probably in part because he is known for his foot-in-mouthness online. But I think he pointed out an uncomfortable truth about casting. How often do we see hetero actors in queer roles, and then queer actors relegated to small parts where they are nonsexualized and therefore nonthreatening? Bomer’s casting as Donovan is a small victory for queer actors given more diverse and starring roles.

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Just take a moment to appreciate

I was glad to see Marcy back! Murphy has continually said that these seasons are connected, and I think we are going to see more of what he means soon! I for one am dying to know what’s going on with the weird satan baby from the end of Murder House.

Donovan is equally surprised and upset by the arrival of Will Drake and his son, but the Countess doesn’t seem to be particularly concerned. In fact she knows his designs and is a fan of his work. Could the Countess be the owner of the hotel? That’s the vibe I’m getting. She very pointedly tells Donovan to show them something in another room while Will’s son stays behind to look at records.

This brings us to one of the coolest and most bizarre parts of the episode. She leads him to a secret room that looks like something on a weird spaceship. This all white room is filled with candy, retro video games, and a bunch of little baby vamps that look identical. Including John’s son Holden. So now we know where he disappeared to, but we still don’t know why.

Then we have our second flashback of the episode. Back in 1994 Sally and Donovan grab a room from Liz Taylor to shoot up. Iris anxiously follows her son to try to stop his addiction. Liz hilariously forces her to go to an ATM and pay up because it’s a “no tell motel”. By the time she gets up to the room it’s too late. The pair have shared a needle and while Sally’s happily smearing lipstick on her face Donovan is down for the count. They don’t make it totally clear whether or not he’s dead.

Sally isn’t phased. She says he shouldn’t have tried to keep up with him and stumbles out of the room and down the hall. Down the hall to a conveniently open window. Iris channels all her feelings and takes them out on Sally by pushing her out the window. It’s not a fate that Sally deserves, but it’s also not one that will keep her down. She appears to survive the fall, or is somehow revived later. When Iris returns to her son she finds the Countess over him, ad libbing one of the best lines in the episode.

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“Hotel California” starts playing because Murphy cannot resist camp if his life depended on it. But I still found the song fit well and I enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for cliches sometimes.  Speaking of cliches, the sad detective checks into the sad hotel alone and sad. Room 64 of course, because what better place to be alone and sad than where you saw your dead son?! And with that deus ex machina of an episode, John is in the hotel and things are gonna happen.

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Same Sally, same.

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One thought on “AHS Hotel: Checking In (S5E1) Recap

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