Monday 21 – Tuesday 22 December 2015
Here in Australia, we’ve just hit the last episode of American Horror Story: Hotel before the New Year. We’ve got two more episodes to go, which apparently will be broadcast in January 2016, and then it’s goodbye for another season. Now, I may be a bit pre-emptive in writing this but what the eff were Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk thinking when they came up with this season? I’ll just give those of you who’ve been following this season of AHS a lil time to think about that question before I move on. *Insert thinking music here*
Initially, I never really got into the first season of American Horror Story, or American Horror Story: Murder House as it is known in the US. Nope, I caught a few minutes of the first episode and made a quick decision that it wasn’t a show that was worth my time . . . that and the fact that the local TV channel broadcast it at some absurd time of night, and I had to work the next morning, so sleep was more important that AHS. Following on from that, I didn’t worry about watching AHS: Asylum or Coven.
I did, however, get right into AHS: Freak Show. This was the season that kinda set fans minds, I believe, for the reception that I think most people have regarding Hotel. I’ve read reviews, blog, and Social Media posts concerning AHS: Freak Show, and it seems that it was generally panned across the board. Very few people actually liked the premise of this chapter of AHS. Not having seen the first season gave me an advantage over others in how I received Freak Show. As I mentioned at the start of the paragraph, I got right into it, and watched the whole season, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The characters, plot, and sub-plots really worked for me, and I figured I’d buy the previous seasons, and give them a go. As it turns out, I really liked the original, Asylum (despite the bizarre alien references), and Coven. These seasons had a certain creep factor about them. Then along came Freak Show which had more of an ‘oooh, gross’ factor, unless you’re afraid of clowns in which case Twisty would have put the sh!ts up you!
Freak Show had some great characters with interesting back stories – Elsa Mars and her dream of being globally famous, and how she fit into the concept of a freak show; Edward Mordrake; Twisty the clown; Ethel Darling the bearded woman, and the tenuous relationship with her freak son, Jimmy; Dot and Bette Tattler the conjoined twins. I liked the fact that many of the actors playing main roles carried over from season to season. Frances Conroy was fantastic in the small but integral roles each season. Jessica Lange really was the focal point for me for each season. Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe – wow, ladies, there’s not a role in any of these seasons that you’ve played that I haven’t liked.
But AHS: Hotel . . . now that’s another story. Realising that public interest in the seasons had decreased, Murphy and Falchuk returned to what made the first season of AHS so intriguing. The location of the story was the main character. In Hotel that is the Hotel Cortez, possibly gorgeous in its heyday, but now simply an old hotel primarily used by junkies, whores, and adulterers. That is, aside from its permanent residents
Right from the beginning, I think this particular season was up against it. Jessica Lange, so integral to the previous seasons of AHS announced that she would not be returning for Hotel. There goes the main drawcard for a lot of people. This was countered by the announcement that Lady Gaga would play a main role. For me, this was not something that I found particularly exciting. Just another musician edging their way into the acting world, taking a role away from a trained actor, or from someone who has paid their dues in the acting industry. I felt as though she was simply a big name star that Murphy and Falchuk brought in to distract viewers/fans from the fact that Jessica Lange was absent.
Of course, we still have the likes of the fabulous Kathy Bates, and equally as fabulous Angela Bassett, and cast regular Evan Peters. Joining the main cast in a large role than Freak Show’s Edward Mordrake, is Wes Bentley, and I think he does a pretty good job with what he has to work with. My favourite scene in this season is when Peters’ character, James Patrick March, invites a few otherworldly friends around for an annual dinner – Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch, formerly Twisty in Freak Show), Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar), and the Zodiac killer. It’s a strange scene, and we certainly pick up on that when Wes Bentley’s character, Detective John Lowe, is introduced into the mix. We’ve already suspended our disbelief regarding the appearance of these historic serial killers, so I suspect all we really want to know is why an apparently upstanding homicide detective is dining with these killers.
Unfortunately though, I had figured out the big secrets with this story within the first episode. Yep, I figured out who the Ten Commandments killer was. In. The. First. Episode. There seemed little point in watching the rest of the season but, never the less, I watched on.
I’ve read quite a few Social Media posts where viewers express their disappointment with this season. Actually, almost everyone I know who watches AHS: Hotel has said how much this season sucks. Unreservedly.
This is a huge shame to me because I initially thought that there was so much potential with the concept of this season. When Murphy and Falchuk released a few snippets here and there about the season, and the fact that it was centred around a bleak hotel, I immediately thought of H. H. Holmes, and his hideous ‘murder castle’. For those who are blissfully unaware of Holmes’ reputation, he was considered one of the first documented serial killers in the modern sense of the label. Holmes lured victims to a hotel designed and built by him for the express intent of committing murder. He confessed to twenty seven murders, nine of which were confirmed. However, it is believed that his victim count could have numbered two hundred.
The character of James Patrick March touches on the hideous nature of H. H. Holmes, but it never really explores his particular penchant for murder in any decent depth. Oh sure, we’re shown the gory details of some of March’s kills, and we see where they end up, but there’s so much more that could have been written into the Hotel plot. March’s story is a missed opportunity. The Countess is horribly predictable, and she has quite an uninteresting back story. More interesting to me are March’s maid, Hazel Evers, played by Mare Winningham, and Denis O’Hare’s Liz Taylor.
This season of AHS screamed potential. It could have been a brilliant piece of television, but instead is an insipid look at murderers, and spirits, who have taken up residence in a dodgy, run-down, cr@ppy hotel. A season that promised so much has fallen flat, and to use the TV idioms, has jumped the shark, and nuked the fridge. Still, when it’s released on DVD or Blu-Ray, I’ll buy my copy in order to keep my American Horror Story collection complete. And maybe one day, I’ll sit down and watch it from beginning to end in the hope that perhaps I missed something, and it really wasn’t as bad as what I currently think it is.
If you happen to like AHS: Hotel, tell my why in the comment section. Equally, if you too think the season lacks everything that made AHS great in the beginning, share your thoughts with me.