Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel”
Confusion is at an all-time high in the fourth episode of “American Horror Story: Hotel” as the show struggles to balance time between the various characters and explain what exactly is going on inside the Hotel Cortez. Much of the confusion lies in the fact that it is incredibly difficult at times to distinguish who is alive and who is dead. Storylines are established at the beginning of the episode, but receive little to no attention as the episode progresses. Amidst the confusion, the acting in this episode was exceptional. The episode itself, however, is a definite step down from last week’s season high.
At first, the main story for this episode appears to be centered on Alex Lowe as she attempts to figure out what has happened to her son, Holden. Alex has brought Holden back home where he is introduced to the family dog, who was given to Scarlett to combat the loneliness she felt after her brother’s disappearance. Alex begins to perform a checkup on Holden and begins to fully realize that something is very different about him; he is weary around bright lights and has an abnormally low temperature. She goes to retrieve him a glass of juice and returns to find him feeding on the blood of the dog. Completely shocked, Alex takes him back to the hotel where he shows her his coffin. The Countess appears and promises to explain everything to Alex. The Countess explains that she has saved Holden and all of the other children that she has taken under her wing from neglect by their parents. She points to John as being the primary cause of this neglect, referring to the day that Holden was taken on the Santa Monica pier. She offers to turn Alex, which would allow her to spend eternity with her son; Alex initially refuses, but accepts in the final few minutes of the episode. This is where many of the problems begin to form as the explanation is limited to just a few scenes and the story begins to move over to John. The “vampire” virus was far more interesting than the scenes later in the episode, which take up far more time.
The rest of the story revolves around John, who is an absolutely terrible excuse for a detective. Rather than doing his assigned job of finding the “Ten Commandments” killer, he gets drunk at the bar and becomes caught up in the sinister activities of the hotel. He completely ignores the numerous signs of murder that he witnesses; he also doesn’t think to check in with his soon-to-be ex-wife who is searching for answers about their son. At the bar, Liz Taylor introduces him to long-time hotel resident and serial killer, Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe) who manages to seduce and lead him back to her room, where she attempts to kill him. After realizing that she may really be the infamous Florida killer, John tries only one time to phone the police, but is stopped by Liz Taylor. Lily Rabe is one of the stand out actresses of this episode as she portrays a freakish cutthroat.
John receives a mysterious invitation to Mr. March’s annual “Devil’s Night,” to which he decides to attend. Also in attendance at this dinner are several infamous serial killers from throughout history including Aileen Wuornos, Jeffrey Dahmer (Seth Gabel), John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Richard Ramirez (Anthony Ruivivar) and the Zodiac Killer. Lowe obviously knows who everyone is, but is severely confused as to how they are all in attendance. The question of why Lowe was invited to this gathering of mass murders is brought up; does he have some other dark aspect of his past that viewers are unaware of? Again, not much explanation is given as to why or how the dead are seemingly returning to the hotel. By this episode, viewers should be receiving clear and concise information as to the ghost aspect of the story. Does everyone who dies in the hotel return to haunt the premises? John is suddenly awoken and finds himself with Sally, who denies any knowledge of Mr. March’s dinner, claiming that he was simply hallucinating.
This episode overall shows this series’ difficulty in maintaining balance on all levels. The various storylines that emerged last week were essentially ignored this episode; Donovan, Iris and Ramona were all absent. The more interesting story arcs were replaced by somewhat boring and endless scenes that felt like they were simply meant to fill time. Alex’s search for answers was the only real story that managed to advance the plot. I am very much intrigued to see how Alex is able to function as a doctor now that she is a “vampire.” This season will only be able to get back on track if it stays focused on the plot and eliminates the unnecessary filler. Will next week’s episode be a step in the right direction? Be sure to tune in to “American Horror Story: Hotel” next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on FX.