Television Review: AHS – Hotel
What more could you ask for in a show that has Lady Gaga, a creepy hotel, and sex? American Horror Story: Hotel premiered Wednesday with an hour and a half show filled with the horrors of The Hotel Cortez.
Hotel is the fifth season of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story series. Welcoming back favorites from past seasons such as Dennis O’Hare, Kathy Bates, Sara Paulson, and many more scheduled to appear, Hotel is as disturbing as ever. Unlike the past couple seasons, it seems that this one promises to go back to the true AHS nature and is reminiscent of the first season, Murder House. In fact, we are thrown back to Los Angeles, in the current year, and have a very similar situation as season one. A band of misfits, from vampire-esque Lady Gaga to the thing in room 33, are bound to a hotel where murders are not shocking at all. And coming full circle to season one, we see the reappearance of the Murder House realtor Marcy (Christine Estabrook) when the hotel is shown to a potential new buyer.
Starting out in Hotel, we follow two young women from Sweden checking into the Hotel Cortez, amidst a warning that there is no cell service or Wi-Fi. This season the set is an old elaborate Hollywood hotel filled with secrets at every turn. One of the guests leaves to get ice, is pointed at by two alabaster white creepy children (“The Shining,” anyone?) and returns to the room. After that, another guest complains of a smell, and when they cut his mattress apart a nude, decomposing man crawls out. Cue Kathy Bates’ character, Iris the front desk attendant, to come and “take care of the situation” and essentially keep the girls locked up in a strange neon glowing cage to cleanse their body of drugs so The Countess will like the way they taste. Never underestimate AHS to start out simple.
Continuing on with the episode, we are introduced to the “hero” of the season, John Lowe (Wes Bently). Lowe is a detective and devoted family man who is currently investigating a chain of gruesome, sexual, murders in Los Angeles. He receives a tip from the “murderer” that leads him to the front desk of The Hotel Cortez and then to the mysterious room 64. After an unusual nap in the room, Lowe soon finds he has a personal connection to the hotel.
It isn’t until half way through the episode that we meet The Countess Elizabeth (Gaga) and her boy toy lover Donovan (Matt Bomer). Amidst hypnotizing an innocent couple at a night showing of the classic Nosferatu, the two take the unaware couple into the hotel, up to the penthouse, and during a sensual scene, kill them and drink their blood. Completely normal.
I’ll admit, during the build-up and promotion of this season, I was skeptical about Gaga being given such a large and important role in Hotel. I think I may have been wrong in my skepticism. Although no one will be able to replace the fabulous Jessica Lange from all the past seasons, Gaga’s character is clearly made to refresh and reboot the season. She brings a certain regal feeling to the show and definitely plays to the frightening themes of sex, fame, fortune, and consumerism that seem to be under the surface in this new season. Gaga’s character is important to the show and brings a little something extra. Matt Bomer’s character, Donovan is another great addition. His brooding character is one that has been missed in the past seasons, and I for one am excited to see Bomer in what appears to be a main character spot rather than a quick murdered victim such as in last season.
Directed by Murphy, the premiere of Hotel, entitled “Checking In,” has dropped the melodrama and shows a series of character introductions and teased background stories that have yet to be investigated. The premiere hints at the forward plot with detective Lowe moving into the hotel at the very end, and thus the season has officially kicked into gear.