I was rather prepared for the first installment of American Horror Story’s next chapter – Hotel. Obviously there was a ton of hype and anticipation of Lady Gaga joining the cast and Jessica Lange taking her leave of the pivotal role of on screen female powerhouse. But something else that had been touched on in various interviews (in particular an interview conducted by Entertainment Weekly by Tim Stack with the creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy) was the series “most disturbing scene” between Max Greenfield‘s Gabriel and the shows iconic Addiction Demon that also featured show staple Sarah Paulson‘s character, Sally. If you haven’t watched the premiere yet then go no further as the rest will contain spoilers.
The Addiction Demon, much like the Rubber Man from Season One’s “Murder House” and other tripped out characters is supposed to be a sort of “metaphor” show creator Ryan Murphy has been credited with stating. Enough information was given to know that a sex scene involving Gabriel, Sally and the Addiction Demon with it’s conical drill bit strap on was going to take place. It had also been previously revealed that Gabriel and Sally are addicts. This morning social media was all abuzz about this teased scene and how it truly was the most disturbing scene yet. Oddly enough, and I’m not sure what this says about me, but the scene itself though rightly unsettling, wasn’t horrible for me and here’s why – we don’t know yet if the Addiction Demon is a real entity or simply a drug induced hallucination. Prior to the rape scene, Gabriel had just shot himself up with smack – its a very strong possibility that he was merely having a horrible, ugly and frightening trip. Regardless, however, here is my recap of this seasons first episode:
The Hotel Cortez, present day. Two model types from presumably Sweden arrive in LA to stay at a hotel that they believed was close to all the attractions that the city has to offer. They are upset to find that the hotel does not live up to it’s claims and is seemingly a ghost town. (Pardon the Pun) They meet Iris, played by Kathy Bates, the hotel’s front desk attendant and ask for a refund of their deposit as the hotel doesn’t suit their needs and are promptly told no, welcome to America. They decide to stay and Iris shows them to their room after navigating a hallway full of strange and disconcerting noises from other ‘residents’. The hotel is a proverbially dead zone for cell service, Iris explains, and they do not have Wifi.
Vendela, one of the girls, goes to get ice and passes a maid cleaning a bloody sheet in the hallway. The maid gleefully proclaims that there was a horrible accident in another room and happily goes about tending to the stain. As Vendela rounds the corner, she spots a young blonde boy dressed up like a little Angus Young from AC/DC standing at the end of the hall. He points and she turns to see another child dressed similarly with blonde hair. They both promptly disappear when she turns to look at each again and she goes back the way she came to see the maid, still smiling away at her business as if nothing has happened. Vendela shrugs it off and goes to retrieve ice for the room, but feels a presence as a silver gloved hand reaches out for her and is no longer there when she turns.
After returning to the room, her traveling companion, Agnetha, asks her if she smells the dead animal like smell in the room that even her candles and what not can’t dissipate. When Vendela calls down to Iris at the front desk to ask for a transfer of rooms, Iris rudely proclaims that they are fully booked and the girls are out of luck. Agnetha realizes that the smell is coming from the room’s mattress and when they pull back the sheets they find that the mattress has been sewn up haphazardly. Vendela, getting pissed off at their situation, cuts the twine holding the mattress together and our crawls a rather emaciated, zombie like throw back to old horror vampires.
Iris takes the girls to a new room, after explaining that they can either wait for the police in the room she’s bringing them to, or be arrested for evasion if they leave. The tourists are brought to Room 64 to which Vendela mentions that the hotel was presumably full and Iris tells the girls that this room is one they never rent out.
A few hours go by and the girls are still locked in the room without a working phone and no one has come to speak with them. Vendela falls asleep and at 2:25 am the alarm clock jolts awake with music from the 1930’s when the Hotel Cortez was constructed. This wakes up the sleeping beauty, who goes looking for her friend only to find her sprawled out on the bathroom floor being the smorgasbord for two blonde headed children dressed in school uniforms.
Skip to Detective John Lowe, played by Wes Bentley, arriving at another hotel for what is an active crime scene investigation. This is a VERY active crime scene, as when they pull back the curtains in the overly spacious room to get a little more light in, we see two victims, cowgirl style, with their hands nailed a la’ crucifixion to the headboard and the very long metal rod shoved through the woman on top. The man, under her, is still alive, albeit his eyes and tongue sit next to him on the end table. He keeps mumbling something that no one can quite make out. Det. Lowe looks around the summarizes that the couple were cheating, and that they were married to other people. There are a ton of photos placed around the side of the bed of their families, all with their eyes blackened out and he also explains that their families are in the dark about the affair. One of the other detectives tries to tel the male victim that they will be doing what they can to get him out of there soon, when Det. Lowe realizes that he’s not mumbling about getting him out of there, but getting him out of HER. He spies a bottle of instant glue kicked under the bed and tells the ME that most likely they will find high levels of ED drugs in him and that they’ve been glued together – so they will need to take BOTH victims to the hospital to be separated.
Cut back to the hotel where a new patron has walked in looking for a room. Though we’re not given his name yet, Gabriel is looking for a room and is obviously in a rush for a room for the night. Iris tells him it’ll be $150 and he points out the framed room rates on the desk that say otherwise. Those rates are out of date, he’s told, and he plunks down as much as he has. “Lucky for you mama’s feel magnanimous tonight” and hands him the key to Room 64 while also telling him that the elevator is out of order. As we scan down the stairway to the lobby, we see Sally standing front and center, telling Iris that this one is hers and she’s not seen one that sweet in quite some time.
(lots of things are going on around Room 64 – undoubtedly it’s a room number I will never want to stay in during my own travels!)
As Gabriel walks through the halls, we’re given some glimpses into more of the sounds of the hotel as well as our first look at Liz Taylor played by Denis O’Hare and and this guy, who I’m really curious about and who I think might be the hotel’s original owners, Mr. James March.
Once Gabriel gets into the room, we find that the Swedish tourists are no longer occupying the space and he settles in for a rager. After shooting up, of course, he starts to see odd things. Primarily the Addiction Demon, who very quickly and horrifically gets to work on Gabriel in a very, very painful way. (All this while Sisters of Mercy’s “Never Land” plays in the background…any show willing to use the Sisters is ace by the way.)
Now we’re in the police department where Det. Lowe is asking for a report – but not from the case earlier in the day – from the case last week. As he sits down and plugs into the medical examiners dictation of their findings, we are told about a man, bludgeoned to death with signs of gold flakes where gold flakes shouldn’t be and that the weapon used for the bludgeoning was likely also used in the sexual assault. Det. Lowe gets a phone call from his daughter, Scarlet and quickly turns off the dictation as well as closes the case file. She asks if her mom wants to say hi to him and you hear her off screen (Chloe Sevigny as Alex Lowe) say no. There is obviously something going on there, but he brushes it aside and asks Scarlet if she’s ready to read for the night. They are interrupted by the announcement that Det. Lowe has a phone call and he tells them to take a message. When he’s told that the caller was rather adamant, he replies that he is as well and Scarlet and he begin to take turns reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
As Det. Lowe leaves for the night to return home, obviously late, he tells another officer to cross reference last months case with the murder this morning and receives a phone call. It’s the killer from the hotel case and he’s apparently staying in Room 64 at the Hotel Cortez, and he’s going to do it again.
Speaking of the Hotel, we’re back as Sally saunters into Room 64 while this is on all going on and pulls up a chair to tell Gabriel to stop screaming, as that only makes him keep going. She also tells Gabriel that if he wants it to stop, he needs to say “I love you Sally”. He does, and she tells him to say it again, while beginning to cry as the bed stops shaking and this time, Gabriel does so with a sigh of relief.
Det. Lowe arrives and makes small talk with Iris, who calls out Liz Taylor to help Det. Lowe to Room 64. (This starts me wondering, as well, how does Iris keep track of what’s going on in there to know what may or may not happen?) On the way up, Liz asks Det. Lowe who he’s looking for, as his eyes hold a painful sorrow. When they get to the room, Liz puts his hand out for a tip and is told that Det. Lowe has no cash on him. “Money isn’t everything, honey” Liz scoffs as he walks off.
Det. Lowe enters the room cautiously to clear it (remember, he believes that the killer from the other hotel is in there) and finds….nothing. He sits on the bed and lays down for a moment to close his eyes (which, can you blame him!? This truly has been a weird day after all.) As he falls asleep, we’re shown Gabriel, passed out in puke under the bed coming to. Det. Lowe wakes up at 2:25 am when the alarm goes off on the radio with music from the 1930’s. There also happens to be one of the little Angus Young boys standing by his side of the bed, but his eyesight hasn’t adjusted just yet and all he sees is a blur of bright blonde hair on top of dark colored clothes. Confused, he asks if the little boy is Holden and the child runs off. Det. Lowe gives chase, only for the little boy to vanish. Frazzled and exhausted, Det. Lowe heads home.
Now, we’re finally introduced to Lady Gaga as The Countess Elizabeth and Matt Bomer as Donovan. The pair are getting ready for a night out and seductively so – “Tear you Apart” By She Wants Revenge is suitable background music. Impeccably dressed (for a gala or a night out at at goth club) they head out….to a movie in the park showing….of all things…Nosferatu. (Which, by the way, if you claim yourself a true lover of all things bloodsucking and you HAVEN”T seen Max Schreck’s classic from 1922 then you’re dead to me.) Pulling up a blanket and some grass, looking totally out of place and avant garde among the seemingly 20-somethings enjoying the side wall cinema, they seduce a beautiful young couple back to their penthouse at the Cortez for what is completely a nod to ANOTHER great vampire flick (And David Bowe’s first turn as an actor) – The Hunger. Again, if you haven’t watched The Hunger, and you consider yourself a vampire lover, you’re dead to me. Interestingly enough there is also a second subtle reference to The Hunger later in the show.
Side Note: I have this weird, odd, magnetic attraction to the character and historical figure of Elizabeth Bathory. It can NOT be coincidence that this happens to be Gaga’s character name in the show. Particularly given the fact that Murphy doesn’t want to refer to the character as a vampire, but having a rare blood disorder. Yet he backtracks that some in today’s released interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Back at the hotel, the beautiful couple enjoys playful four-way action with The Countess and Donovan only to meet their demise in a rather blood spewn and exceptionally messy way. Post-Coital bliss and smokes aside, The Countess purrs to Donovan that he “didn’t even want to go out tonight” and he replies that “its not the getting ready, it’s the clean up” and she tells him point blank to call housekeeping.
Now, I’m wondering, what happened to the Swedish imports? We come to find out that Iris has them in full body cages (complete with trendy neon – something that The Countess seems to prefer in her interior design among the art deco facade) with the intent to force feed them a wonderful concoction of things meant to cleanse out the toxins in their systems from the various drugs they’d brought with them as well as boost their red blood cell count. She’s interrupted by Sally and the two have a verbal row with one another about what to do with the girls and their seemingly tied together history with one another. Iris gets fed up and leaves Sally with the blondes saying that she can explain why the girls take like crap to Her while she goes and feeds the thing in room 33. Sally provides a little history about the room – that it was originally created as a theater for marionettes by the original owner and that now the girls get to be her entertainment. She unlocks Vendela from her cage and tells her to move her with her tears. Vendela, oblivious, doesn’t know what to do and Sally screams at her to RUN, which of course the svelte little thing does like a deer unfrozen from the headlights.
Seeing Vendela running through the lobby, Iris is non too pleased and gives modest chase, only for both to be stopped by The Countess before Vendela can reach the door. Looking like Mommy Dearest in her white gown and turban, The Countess raises her red opera gloved hand, flashes the diamond sharp claw on her index finger and slices Vendela’s throat before wiping off and licking the single droplet of blood she got on her face. Iris back-peddles and tries to explain that she doesn’t know how this happened and is informed, sternly, that it shall never happen again.
Det. Lowe has returned home to his wife and daughter and his wife’s upset that he’s running late. She’s made dinner, but has patients she needs to get to – yet she can’t find her keys. Lowe finds them for her, and she leaves her family to fend for themselves. Both father and daughter, however, prefer sushi over the prepared meal and they head out as well. At the restaurant, Scarlet tells her dad that she’s had another dream about him and that she’s having a hard time remembering his face, maybe they could put the pictures up again? This sends us into a flashback to a few years ago when the Lowe’s, all four of them, are out at the carnival to enjoy an afternoon of good family fun. While Alex and Scarlet try to win some prizes at the games, John takes their son Holden to ride the carousel. Even before it’s first go-round, Lowe receives a text that has him stepping away from the ride for a moment to reply, and smiles. When he turns around though, his son is missing from the special horse he placed him on with the yellow feet. Panicked, he’s frantically searching the crowd for his child.
Back at the restaurant, Lowe receives a worrisome text from his wife with an address and asking him to come for help. He calls the line (cause, yeah, if his wife’s in trouble she’ll be able to pick up the phone when she texted in the first place?) and he loads up Scarlet (ALSO a bad idea) to go to the address. When he gets there, there is a single officer on scene with the residences alarm blaring. He tells the officer to watch his girl and runs inside. While in, he gets a call from his wife – but it’s not his wife, its the admitted killer from the other day who tells him that he was going to do it again. Outside, there is a rustle in the bushes and while the officer goes to clear the area, Scarlet slips out of the car and into the home. While John looks for Alex, Scarlet makes a discovery in the bedroom and screams. John finds her and then we are whisked to Casa Lowe where Alex and John are arguing about him leaving. She’s obviously concerned for their safety, as is John but is also upset that she’s HAPPY to see him leave – not because she doesn’t love him or because she finds him at fault for either the events of the night OR the disappearance of Holdin – but BECAUSE she loves him so much and the one person who understands what she’s going through she cant look at because he reminds her so much of her missing son.
Back to the hotel and we’re introduced to two new characters and Marcy from Season Ones Murder House. Apparently, Marcy has facilitated the sale of the Hotel Cortez to a Will Drake (played by Cheyenne Jackson) who has come for the walk through with his son Lachlan. Iris is none too happy about this, and Liz is obviously concerned as well. Worse, Marcy is starting the walk through from the top down and how are Donovan and the Countess going to react? (This is also where the next The Hunger reference lays, as Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” plays – this was the first track used in The Hunger during the club scene) Note: Lachlan gets a glimpse of the Addiction Demon under glass – curious what this boys addiction may be)
Donovan is none too happy as he lays, naked and sleeping, on the couch in the living room only to be rudely awoken when Marcy throws open the curtains to allow the bright light to come streaming in. (Apparently, vamps in this universe have a sensitivity to light) When Marcy explains the situation, Donovan comes storming into her quarters demanding to know what’s going on and why someone is talking about buying the Hotel. When Marcy and crew follow, The Countess is a most hospitable hostess, welcoming Drake and his son and complimenting Drake on the dress he’d made for Michelle Obama at a recent event. Lachlan, curious as ever, is scolded for touching priceless art, but The Countess reassures that dirty can always be forgiven….the first time. Drake explains that NYC has lost it’s song to him and he’s excited about the energy at the Hotel Cortez, and Elizabeth trusts that he’ll maintain the character of the hotel as much as they have.
Honestly, I’m quite impressed with Gaga so far and am glad that there is a different level of diva now spearheading the show – she feels really comfortable in this role so far and I’m excited for where she’s going with it. (Dont get me wrong, Ms. Lange is AMAZING, but it was getting bothersome seeming the same sort of feminine strength season after seasons – I felt like all her characters were reincarnations of a single entity.)
While everyone goes off to finish the walk through, Lachlan, who has found The Countess’s record collection, asks if he can stay and look through it some more. She agrees, but first she wants to show him something and walks him down the hall to a seemingly unobtrusive wall. Confused, Lachlan asks what’s going on, and The Countess knocks, then pushes against the wall to reveal its a fake wall and there is a hidden room beyond. A hidden playroom for the little monsters (see what I did there?!) that are a part of her brood – all the little blond headed AC/DC guitarists playing video games and munching on candy. She walks Lachlan through to the very last boy and asks Holden where his manners are – to which he looks up and asks Lachlan if he’d like to play. What kid doesnt want to sit in an awesome retro teched out game room for a while?
Donovan, meanwhile, goes to leave and is confronted by Iris who happens to be his mother. She’s obviously worried about them being turned out and Donovan could really care less as he feels they should have deserted the old girl quite some time ago. When he asks why she cares, she tells him she has to see him every day. He tells her it’s time to let go.
We cut to a flashback of 1994 with Iris sitting inside a car outside of the Hotel Cortez watching as Sally enters and Donovan follows behind her. Liz Taylor is working the desk and gets them a room key where they go up to get higher than a kite. Sally offers Donovan her used needle, and hard up for the juice, he accepts it. Meanwhile Iris storms the front desk, a frantic mother trying to protect her (adult) son and demands to know what room they are in. Liz wont tell her, so she tries to pay him off but eventually he acquiesces. Iris runs up to Room 64 to find Sally high but functioning and her son passed out on the bed. She asked what he was given and Sally tells her she had the same China White he did, but that she warned him that he couldn’t keep up with her. Sally leaves and Iris cries after her that she cant – but Sally pays no heed. A curtain fluttering in an opened window catches High Sally’s eye and she goes to touch it, only to be pushed out the window by Iris. Eyup folks, Sally is a ghost! Iris returns to the room to see her son’s head cradled by The Countess, and we’re left to figure out how Donovan ‘survived’.
Meanwhile, we see Det. Lowe packing up as The Eagles iconic (and annoying) Hotel California plays. Granted, I should have expected that but really? I guess it was a requirement. He says goodbye to Alex and then kisses Scarlets head while she sleeps. We end with him checking in the the Hotel Cortez.
Some of the things I noted were some obvious references to previous vampire genre type movies which is nice to see when you’re putting your own spin on an iconic character type.
Its been well noted that this season focuses on addiction, and not just drugs – but all types and how those addictions affect those closest to us. We’re already seeing that Donovan was a druggie, as was Sally and Gabriel also is (was – he may very well be dead for all we know). Iris’s addiction is her child I think – she just cant cut the umbilical cord even after all these years. The Countess was seen snorting coke before they left for their orgy recruitment – but I doubt that traditional drugs are her addiction – hers seems to be family and possibly sex.
This certainly will be an interesting season – and I cant wait to see more. It feels more like the Murder House season and that had me utterly enthralled until the end. The concept of blood drinkers, marred with addiction and this wonderful character of the hotel is just too delicious – I can even understand the disturbing scenes for what they are meant to be.