And the show is back with something of a revamp. Hey, we've lived in the Murder House, escaped the Asylum, dabbled with the Coven and were enthralled by the Freak Show and now it's time to check into the Hotel where I might keep the puns to a minimum or not. We'll see.
Written by Ryan Murphy And Brad Falchuk
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Countess & Jawline Boy: Well, the one really unexpected thing about this episode was that Lady Gaga had less screen time than expected but the time she was on the screen, she was neither wasted nor terrible in the role of vampiric Countess Elizabeth (Bathory maybe?). I'm not going to heap praise on Gaga just yet but she made a good first impression with Elizabeth exuding degrees of allure (her relationship with pretty boy, Donovan, charming both Will Drake and that couple) and plenty of danger (killing the couple/drinking their blood, killing one of the Swedish girls) and it does seem like Murphy wrote the character to Gaga's abilities so far. As for Donovan - he's a bit delicious, isn't he? Even the bloody orgy foursome exuded a certain sexiness before it got extremely messy too.
Mad Mother: After playing a more sympathetic character last season, Kathy Bates is back to playing a more brutal one this season, though perhaps not quite as brutal as her first role in this franchise. Iris is the manager of Hotel Cortez (which the Countess or is it Will Drake who owns it?) and she's certainly a cruel bitch and a half. The way she terrorised the Swedish tourists (who should've gotten the hell out of there when they learned it was a wifi dead zone) did indicate to me that she takes a certain pleasure in torturing people whom she considers unworthy. However in flashbacks we did discover that she's Donovan's mother and murdered a junkie named Sally responsible for her son's death. Well, almost death seeing as it's obvious the Countess gave Donovan a new vigour at life. The Countess also seems to be the only person that Iris has shown any fear towards as well.
Say You Love Me: It isn't just Kathy Bates playing a darker character this season. For the first time in five seasons, Sarah Paulson managed to achieve two firsts - a) she's gotten to play a rather nasty junkie named Sally and b) she got killed during a flashback in 1994, which means present day wise, she's a ghost that Iris and others can see or maybe a vampire, going by some of the previews for the upcoming season. Either way, there's a sadism to Sally that none of Paulson's previous characters had and Sarah herself is certainly playing the character with relish. The faux concern she displayed when washed up junkie Gabriel (Max Greenfield looking very different here) was getting raped by a drillbit dildo demon and even the mocking she had with the Swedish girls by trying to get one of them to run to her doom. Sally might be awful in many, many ways but once again, Paulson commands your attention whenever she's on screen.
Straight Man Entering The Chaos: It is me or does it feel like this show is channelling it's first season? Aside from the specific setting, an allusion to a first season character and the return of another, it does actually feel like John and Alex Lowe are the Harmons of this season. They're a couple divided by the loss of their son, Holden (who is actually one of the Countess's creepy vampiric kids in the hotel). The main focus though was on Bentley's detective John who was investigating another murder - the Ten Commandments Killer and when the killer wasn't taunting him Saw style, he ended up checking into the Hotel Cortez where it seems pretty inevitable that he won't be checking out anytime soon either.
Fashionistas Unite: With the threat of a new owner (as well as a brief cameo of realtor Marcy from Murder House) in fashion guy, Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson adding to the impressive totty list this season), it was interesting to see how quickly the Countess was able to get the guy on side while Donovan looked like he wanted to tear his throat out in the background. For a first episode, even with an extended run, there was a lot to cover here - the superb use of music (She Wants Revenge more than the obvious Eagles choice here) two killers, the curse of the Hotel, whatever the hell is being kept in Room 33, bodies in the mattresses, creepy children as well as other colourful characters like Denis O'Hare's Liz Taylor and Mare Winningham's Miss Ever the blood cleaning laundress. Not to mention the fact that Evan Peters, Angela Bassett and Finn Wittrock still have to show up but either way, this season has started off intriguingly enough.
Next week, a few more residents check into the Cortez as Elizabeth continues to charm Will.