As per usual, the classic American Horror Story mid-season slump is underway.
American Horror Story: Hotel
Season 5, Episode 5 - "Room Service"
Angela Bassett, Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Wes Bentley, Chloe Sevigny
Regular airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm
First of all, this is not a bad episode. Not in the slightest. It has childish revenge plots, with kitty food posing as pate; tender moments that show us the Countess (Lady Gaga) has something beating her blood around despite a dead heart; and murder fantasies vicariously enjoyed via the ultimate Coachella Couple getting disposed of down the laundry chute. But the madness of Detective Lowe (Wes Bentley) is getting tiresome. Waking up in bed next to junkie Sally (Sarah Paulson) and acting horrified and ordering her out? Like everyone hadn’t seen that coming? Come on, man. Have some bedside etiquette. He got fired from the case, his wife is divorcing him (and choosing to live forever in some undead Oedipal complex), and he’s still at the Hotel Cortez. You brought this on yourself, Detective and we need to see you get it together or just really go for broke and insane because this purgatory of guilt versus inaction is quickly turning your story, the seemingly main story arc, into an incredibly boring slog.
But branching off from that main story we have Dr. Alex Lowe (Chloe Sevigny) attempting to bridge the gap between her vampiric instincts and her Hippocratic Oath by replacing a dying kid’s serum with her own blood. He can’t control his boyish urges and of course, eats his parents before giving the power to his girlfriend and then the rest of his class. The school is bathed in (grown-up) blood, and in a funny twist of irony that actually isn’t funny at all, we see a pretty fantastic resolution to all those school shootings: save your kids, make them undead. If we remember, Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) was given the boot for turning her love into a vampire. Which begs the question, did Alex find a loophole, or will she be punished? The Countess was pretty firm about her following the rules, hinting that even their sort can be destroyed with a warning slice of her talon across little Holden’s (Lennon Henry) neck.
In the constantly intertwining themes of life and death, this episode focuses on how death doesn’t have to be final. Death is a rebirth, for the children, for concierge Iris (Kathy Bates) who finally stands up for herself after a lifetime of being beaten down, and shows some guests exactly what rudeness will get them. It is a rebirth for Alex, as she finally has the life with her son she’s been pining for.
But death doesn’t have to be physical to be real. Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), the trusty and sassy barkeep, reveals how he came to reside in Heartbreak Hotel. His wife married him because she needed to get married, and that’s what you do at a certain age in Topeka, Kansas, and he married her because they wore the same size. On a business trip to Los Angeles in which he stayed at the Hotel Cortez, the Countess interrupted his private cross-dressing date with himself to tease out his inner goddess. After giving him a Betty Davis-eyed makeover and killing his jerk business associates who caught him in his (Venus in) furs, Liz stayed on and never looked back. Brought to life by the Countess’ gentle and confident encouragement, it is probably no coincidence he originally hailed from Kansas, home of the most famous accidental killer who can never really return home.
Despite the impending vampire child apocalypse, and epiphanies of various characters, episode five hits that familiar American Horror Story mid-season slump, where there is so much going on that none of the previously established plots can make any headway in the time allotted. The murder case is slowly losing interest despite the serial killer bonanza from the last episode, the Countess still hasn’t enacted her black widow plan to save the hotel, and who even remembers that sodomy rape demon of intrigue from the first episode anymore? To quote the hipster girl before she was stabbed to death, writers of American Horror Story: Hotel: are you Alzheimer’s? Yes, the main detective story is still what grounds the rest of the subplots, and it hasn’t petered out yet. However, there’s little satisfaction in watching the man fall deeper and deeper into his doom, unless he’ll somehow rise again? Could there be a blood-sucking phoenix in store for Detective Lowe, too? It would make sense.
Iris remarks that she never truly lived until she died. James Patrick March (Evan Peters) kills to feel alive. This constant cycle of extinguishing one light for another is what keeps the characters of American Horror Story: Hotel going, but it’s one not everyone is strong enough to sustain, especially not Lowe. A blackout is inevitable.