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American Horror Story - Hotel: Season 5, Episode 3 "Mommy"

This episode closely examines the theme of death through the scope that not all killing is murder, nor all murder is bad, while introducing Angela Bassett as the foxiest blaxploitation star, ever.

American Horror Story: Hotel

Airtime: Wednesdays, 10pm
Cast: Wes Bentley, Chloe Sevigny, Kathy Bates, Lady Gaga, Angela Bassett, Matthew Bomer
Subtitle: Season 5, Episode 3 "Mommy"
Network: FX
Air date: 2015-10-21

Poor Detective Lowe (Wes Bentley). He can't catch a break with his murder case, his daughter is all, "I see dead brother," and to top it all off, Mrs. Detective Lowe (Chloe Sevigny) wants a divorce. As he frantically kisses and paws at his wife, we see the true death in their family: their marriage. After their son got kidnapped, things were never quite the same, and Sevigny's point-of-view narration clarifies exactly how much her son's disappearance killed them. They stuck it out for the daughter, but at what point can you finally stop beating that dead horse?

It's an episode for all the ones cast aside as the Countess (Lady Gaga) gives her boy-toy Donovan (Matthew Bomer) the boot and he in turn, finally tells his mother, Iris (Kathy Bates), exactly how much he wants her to die and leave him alone. When Iris seeks out Sally (Sarah Paulson) to give her the junkie's kiss goodnight, she asks, "It's not why choose to die but why continue to live?" Well, misery likes company, which seems to be why this hotel is purgatory. Once you check in, you will suffer grave emotional upheaval. Oh, and never check out.

Everyone in the hotel exists in this twilight between life and death, whether literally or metaphorically, and the real question is: can you make that ultimate decision? Iris feels there's nothing to live for if she can't take care of her son, and he quite plainly told her to just roll out that mortal coil. But when Sally gives her enough smack to "bring down a marching band" and she still doesn't die, could there be a bigger reason why? Sally tries choking her with a plastic bag as a last resort, only to have Donovan walk in. Iris is gone but he brings her back with his magic vampire blood. Ironic, as that's how he was saved from an overdose when his mother got the Countess to turn him. The double irony of Iris shoving Sally out the window to her death before vampire reincarnation is not lost, either. She goes seeking death from the one she killed, and now exists with in this half-life. In this Sartre-ian world of “people are hell”, no one can completely sever that umbilical cord from mommy.

In essence, the detective's marriage is just another death that won't stick. We find out that Alex Lowe attempted suicide when she just couldn't deal with her son's disappearance, but the good detective saved her in the nick (no pun intended) of time. Her resolve to end her marriage is a way to kill something that's been dragging her down for years now. Both of them are miserable; wouldn't it be better if she did? Her resolve lasts until she sees her little blond angel just hanging out in the hotel corridor. Guess her daughter wasn't crazy after all, and the Lowes’ marriage lives to die another day. But who has the right to make that decision? Her husband obviously doesn't want to let her go, but he chose this place to live, of all places, during their separation.

The star of "Mommy" is clearly Angela Bassett as she bursts on the scene, cheekbones blazing. She kidnaps Donovan after he's been dumped and reveals her tragic backstory. Hers and the Countess' love spanned the decades, after 1970s-era Lady Gagiva saved her from a bleak future as Ramona Royale, kicking bitch asses to the curb in various Blaxploitation films. You see, she wanted to be taken seriously as an artist. But when Ramona dared turn the love her life into a vampire, she crossed the Countess, leaving lover boy dead and their relationship ruined. Ramona is here for payback, except Donovan is no longer the dilated apple of the Countess's eye. But those little blonde baby vamps are...

"Why do you bother with us? Junkies only hurt themselves," teases Sally as Detective Lowe corners her in the Hotel Cortez elevator. But is that really true? Each death may be a pebble in the water, but eventually the ripples will overlap. They're too scattered. Despite a serial killer exacting his revenge on blasphemers and the ghost of a perverse hotel owner trying to keep his murder rooms intact, the line that separates good and evil is blurry. Don't bad people deserve to die? The episode seems to argue that: “Your mama brought you into this world, and she can take you out of it”.


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