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TV Review: American Horror Story Hotel (Season 5, Episode 5)

EPISODE: ROOM SERVICE

THE SCOOP: Alex reckons with becoming an eternally kindred spirit with Holden. Iris, meanwhile, serves a cathartic plate of carnage to a pair of annoying new guests.

THE SKINNY: Bon appetit motherf*ckers! Riding the heels of a rather disheartening "Devil's Night" last time out, episode 5 of American Horror Story Hotel lifts the cloche to reveal quite the redemptive deleterious dish in "Room Service." The story propels forward with Alex, now transmuting into a full-fledged nocturnal ghoul, caught in a moral quandary when a terminal child is admitted to her hospital ward. Blearily, Alex decides to sate the kid's poor mom and grant the tyke immortal life. Yup, she turns the kid into a fellow bloodsucking fiend. This leads to probably the most eruptive bout of butchery in the entire frame, as the young kid goes to his Halloween decorated school and not only infects two other young kiddies, but animalistically slaughters two teachers - throat gouging, flesh shredding, blood slurping - one of which is gang-marauded by entire class of aggressive blood-parched progeny. Shite's gnarly! Granted, it has very little to do with the rest of the various strands of the Hotel Cortez itself, but hey, it was one hell of a way to open the first half of the show.

Per the Cortez, it seems Donovan is fixing to use his mama Iris as an "inside man" to infiltrate The Countess' lair and help Ramona Royale serve her icy ass just desserts. But Iris is weak, pallid, sickly, herself slowly morphing into an eternally damned blood-sipper. She ain't up to the task. She even quakes a bit under the pressure, hoping not to get caught, when The Countess and Tristan smell a different scent on the now anti-aging concierge. The smell of immortality! There's some good acting here by Kathy Bates, particularly when trading the woeful laments of feeling invisible with Liz Taylor (Denis O'Hare, who's also great). Speaking of whom, we get a pretty fun throwback to 1984, when Liz Taylor (aka Nick Pryor) first made his way into the Cortez. As a married man and bad father, an airline pilot to boot, we learn The Countess looked after him from jump street, never turning him into a vampire, but rather encouraging him to express his damn self, to fly his inner-freak flag if he/she damn well chooses. The flashback culminates in a fulfilling flay-job of a pair of jock-straps who give Liz Taylor shit about her new makeover. The Countess quickly slits their throats and watches them bleed out over the Cortez halls. Nice!

As for Iris, she too gets to temper her midlife crisis by ferociously felling a pair of anti-Halloween hipsters that check into the Hotel. After serving cat food as pâté, Iris pulls out a corkscrew and butcher's blade to nastily slash both throats, stab the dude repeatedly in the back while delivering a disturbing trancelike speech. Shades of Bates in MISERY ring loud and alarming. It's good to see her take on the heavy lifting left behind in the departure of the equally great Jessica Lange. As for the end of "Room Service," we come full circle to find Alex in the hotel with her purgatorially moribund young son Holden, wondering how she's going to break the news to John that the two of them are heinous undead creatures of the night. The Countess compassionately offers advice, and soon it's decided that Alex will stay in the hotel with Holden, at least for one night, well out of John's sight, and sleep in the cold dead crypt that we've seen all the creepy little kiddies retire in. As for John, he's likely too damn f*cked up to even notice anyway. After getting laughed at by the cops when telling them about James March and his annual grue-gala, he has another seedy exchange with Hypo-Sally, in which he realized he had torrid sex with the diseased, soul-decaying hooker. Hell, screwing his wife might actually be preferable!

What's not to like about all that, right? Really, this should have been the Halloween episode to properly honor the holiday in the way most fans want. With hardcore carnage! Of course, diegetically, none of this could happen until Alex became infected, so it's likely just a case of poor timing or ill planning that yielded this episode as a post-Halloween one. Still, either way you chop it, this to me was a solid return to the big boy's table after, regardless of the lack of All Hallows Eve spirit, a pretty unimpressive last episode. Here the inimical stints were highly intense, a hearty feast of punctured necklines and gorily sliced tracheas. Pretty much every return from commercial featured one grisly gouging of some kind. Beyond that, I thought that the level of acting in this episode - Bates, O'Hare, Sevigny in specific - really served as effective counterweight to the aforementioned moments of chaotic violence. And I really liked the final image of Alex and Holden coldly holding hands as they enter their subterranean coffin to rest. Eerie shite!

KILL OF THE WEEK: Of little consequence in the context of the show as a whole, but damn that teacher was given the business! My man got gang-hacked-slashed-ripped-chewed-and-swallowed by a clan of hungry little homunculi. Sheesh!

BLOOD & GORE:

  • A blood bank which Alex feasts upon.
  • Pools of blood on kitchen floor, throat gouging.
  • A brutally slashed throat, blood dumping everywhere.
  • A knife stabbing to the naval, another gnarly throat slitting, fountains of red syrup seeping all over a schoolroom floor.
  • Two trachea slayings by the countess, a rain of red comes down.
  • A corkscrew to the throat and butcher knife to the back on repeated stabbings...buckets of blood.

WTF CHARACTER MOMENT: What's with the Countess? I thought she was a cold and calculating predator of the night, now she's giving compassionate makeovers and playing purgatorial midwife to Alex? Please.

MOST BIZARRE SCENE: Since I can't even tell if John Lowe's storyline is real or part of his warped altered perception, I'll say that filthy crack-bathroom sex-scene with he and Sally was pretty f*cking odd. Longtime DP Michael Goi has great fun actually directing this episode, rotating the camera quite often and here, in this scene, uses stylized filters and crazy lighting to create a surreal effect. Bizarre!

Extra Tidbit: How did Room Service taste to you?
Source: AITH

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