American Horror Story: Hotel: “Checking In”

Somehow I was unaware that American Horror Story was starting until my incredibly straight Dandy-obsessed sister/roommate started yelling on Tuesday that Finn Winnick was going to be in this season. I hadn’t thought much about the show because all the stuff about Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe was announced a while ago. So, come Wednesday night my sister, her boyfriend and I sat down to watch the premiere of AHS: Hotel, hoping it would be better than Freak Show but knowing it is unlikely it will be as good as Asylum. I mean, the show is missing a main aspect of its success:

We start at the Hotel Cortez in modern day LA as two Swedish girls check into the hotel that is not what they expected and is creeping them out. They want to leave but the desk clerk Iris (Kathy Bates) tells them there are no refunds.

They are put in Room 64. One was murdered possibly by Lady Gaga, I think, in the hallway but returns to the room. She and the other smell something coming from the mattress. They cut it opened and a monster-y, corpse-y guy crawls out.

And credits, which have the 10 commandments in them. Is the Hotel supposed to be Hell?

Weirdly, I am not as annoyed by Lady Gaga swooping in and taking Jessica Lange’s vacant lead role from Sarah Paulson or Evan Peters (where was he?!) or another well established member of the series as I thought I would be. As my sister and I decided Lady Gaga is an eccentric, creepy weirdo and so is her character the Countess. Also, she hasn’t had too much dialogue so it is working so far.

One thing that is not working is the season’s gaggle of rather similar looking pretty white men. I mean:
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Wes Bentley plays detective John Lowe. We watch him go through a gruesome and disturbing crime scene that seems completely unrelated to the plot and then look at some equally disturbing crime scene photos back at his office. He is rather uninteresting until he gets a FaceTime from his daughter Scarlet (Shree Crooks). Actually, that scene wasn’t what made him interesting because I was distracted by how bad the dialogue was. I actually started to care about him when he gets home to watch his daughter as his doctor wife Alex (Chloe Sevigny, welcome back) has to go out to make house calls for rich people. Because you know, LA.

The show does a good job slowly revealing what the Lowe family’s big secret is. In 2010, the family was at the Santa Monica pier when Scarlet’s twin bother Holden was abducted off a merry-go-round, why is that a TV cliche? Anyway, the guy who supposedly did it has started calling and texting John from a cloned version of Alex’s phone. John agrees to move out because he is afraid the guy is going to come after him and it would be safer for Alex and Scarlet if he wasn’t near them. He goes to the hotel, because he was there earlier and saw the Vampire Twins. They look a whole lot like his kids five years ago. Also, they killed the other Swedish girl.

Matt Bomer plays Donovan, who is Lady Gaga’s lover and Kathy Bate’s son. He was drawn to the hotel by Sarah Paulson’s character Sally in 1994 to do heroin. He OD’ed and died in Sally’s room. Iris was following them and finds him while an indifferent Sally walks out. She is still high out of her mind and stands by an open window for too long. Iris pushes her and she falls about 12 stories to her death.

But, since she is still hanging around the hotel in the present, murdering a junkie played by another pretty white man in her room with the help of a skin demon with a dagger for a dick (?) and releasing one of the Swedish girls from Iris’ detox cages (?) so they could be murdered in the lobby by Lady Gaga, the theory from my viewing party was that most of the main characters/long-term residents of the hotel are dead.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- "Checking In" Episode 501 (Airs Wednesday, October 7, 10:00 pm/ep) Pictured: Sarah Paulson as Sally. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Donovan and the Countess aren’t in the episode too much, but they go to a movie in the park night to watch Nosferatu, but end up picking up another couple instead. The four of them go back to the hotel. The couples partner swap (straightly) with a whole lot of no-naughty bits nudity and then Donovan and the Countess really violently kill them and drink their blood as the sexy music continues to play.

So with all that I know most people are not going to focus on the LGBTQ representation of the scene. But, from what I have read The Countess and Donovan are both bisexual. So yeah that scene was sexy and violent and weird, which I am sure is what the show was going for but it also seemed to be playing into the “all bisexuals are sluts” stereotype. Also, Lady Gaga and the chick kissed for like a split second with their hair covering their faces and Matt Bomer and the guy didn’t kiss. I, my super-ally sister and her bisexual boyfriend were a little annoyed by this. Hopefully, the queer representation displays itself better in the coming episodes.

Cheyenne Jackson is the last pretty white man who plays Will Drake, a fashion designer and new owner of the hotel who moved in with his son Lachlan, who looks like a member of an emo-rock boy band from 2007. Will quickly pisses off Donovan by bursting into his room and talking about how the building and LA sing to him. The Countess seems to get along with him better. Iris is convinced they are all going to be out on the streets soon.

Other returning cast members that made it into this episode were Denis O’Hare, who is playing Liz Taylor, a wig-less, always in drag (?) drag queen who seems to share Iris’ duties. Also the show made an excellent subtle callback and connected this season to the first season by having Marcy (Christine Estabrook), the realtor who was hopeless trying to sell the Murder House, return as the realtor showing Will and Lachlan around the hotel.

Overall, I am liking this season so far. It seems to be making a whole lot of The Shining references. There have also been a lot of Silent Hill similarities, especially to Silent Hill: The Room. Not sure if that is intentional or not. I am intrigued by the possibility of the hotel being Hell and if the vampire seeming characters are actually vampires or just murderous humans who like to drink blood. Though the basic framework of the story, a building inhabited mostly by dead people tormenting the living residents, is the same as season one, I think the show has introduced enough elements to make it different, good and interesting.

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