Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Kathy Bates as Iris. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Kathy Bates as Iris. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

“American Horror Story” is back, along with all the blood, guts, mystery and of course, horror, that fans crave. Confusion can be added to that list, because nothing seems to make sense in this premiere episode. With a new story each season, viewers are constantly kept guessing as to what and who will come next. Although not perfect, “Checking In” sets the stage for a very exciting and disturbing season.

The Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles, an enigmatic and retro-styled maze of curiosity is where the season sets its story. Iris (Kathy Bates) welcomes guests into the hotel, but also caters to the needs of the bloodthirsty owner, The Countess (Lady Gaga). Iris checks certain guests into Room 64, where absolute terror await them. Hotel guest Gabriel (Max Greenfield) becomes involved in an incredibly disturbing scene with a faceless demon-like entity and Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson), a resident at the hotel.

L.A.P.D. Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is also drawn to the hotel after he begins receiving phone calls from a puzzling and anonymous killer alerting Lowe that he will strike again in Room 64. Lowe has an unfortunate backstory that haunts him and leads to a rift in his marriage with his wife, Alex (Chloë Sevigny). Their young son, Holden (Lennon Henry), has been missing for several years, but John suddenly begins to see him while at the hotel. At first, it seems as though Lowe is simply hallucinating, however, viewers are let in on the secret that The Countess has taken young Holden under her wing. This revelation sets up a very intriguing storyline for the season, as John is shown checking himself into the hotel as a guest at the end of the episode.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY -- Pictured: Wes Bentley as John Lowe. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
AMERICAN HORROR STORY — Wes Bentley as John Lowe. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Iris and Sally have a rather complex relationship that is slowly revealed throughout the episode with the help of flashbacks. In 1994, Iris became involved in the affairs of the hotel after she followed her son, Donovan (Matt Bomer) to a drug-infused date with Sally. Donovan overdoses on heroin, which leads Iris to push Sally out of a high-story window. This particular flashback introduces a still unclear mystery to the viewers. Are the staff and residents of The Hotel Cortez simply ghosts that haunt the premises and lure in new victims? This harkens back to the major plot of the series’ first season, “Murder House.” Whatever the case may be, present-day Iris and Sally still feud over their murderous ways of providing victims for The Countess.

The connection to Season One is furthered when “Murder House” real estate agent, Marcy (Christine Estabrook), returns to the series. Marcy is helping fashion designer, Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson), in his purchase of the hotel. Drake meets with The Countess, but it seems as though there may be different plans for Drake and his son. She appears to have a desire to collect children and turn them into her own creepy pets that run through the halls and feast on unsuspecting guests. This is just one of the numerous unsettling qualities that The Countess has. Her relationship with Donovan is also explored in a very disturbing way. The Countess and Donovan, lure unsuspecting couples into their hotel suite where a sex-fueled bloodbath ensues. Are these characters vampires, cannibals or just plain psychotic? 

Overall, the season is off to an impressive start; however, the main problem lies within the plot. The gore and horror are brought out in full force, while the plot takes a backseat. Some seasons of the show find the perfect balance of story and horror, while other seasons have neglected one for the other. Last year’s “Freak Show” started off strong, but failed to keep an interesting story for the full duration of the season. Hopefully “Hotel” can establish a clear and gripping storyline for the season, while maintaining the scares and fear that fans love. This season is also missing former series lead, Jessica Lange, who always managed to stand out. This episode proved that the show can stand on its own without Lange, but her absence is noted. A major highlight of the episode was the use of the song “Hotel California” to end the episode leaving a final and telltale message “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

What other mysteries will the Hotel Cortez reveal to the viewers? With 13 episodes to go, the questions and bodies will surely keep piling up. Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.


Jeffrey Kopp is the Community Editor of the Niner Times. He is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead."