Jul 12, 2017

[TV] American Horror Story: Season 5 (Hotel) Review

So Freak Show got some pretty good reviews even though it wasn't quite my cup of tea. But then American Horror Story: Hotel came along and I was surprised with how much I enjoyed this season. Maybe I've learned to accept the usual level of craziness that sort of defines the tone of this show. And this reason really pushed things to a rather extreme level.

It is notable that this is the first American Horror Story without Jessica Lange, which is a bit of a shame since her involvement was always a sort of guilty pleasure that came with the show. But this is also that season that managed to rope in the one and only Lady Gaga into the cast, which is not exactly something that I had expected to happen.

The result was taking the show to new heights of the strange and the bizarre with a narrative that is at times all over the place but then later quite brilliant. And how it all pans out makes a fair amount of sense and yet is also quite confusing as unnerving as well.

Synopsis: American Horror Story is an anthology horror drama series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk with each season telling its own story in a unique setting. The season was nominated for several awards including eight Emmy Awards.

This season is set at the Hotel Cortez in Downtown Los Angeles. The aging hotel is said to be haunted and has just been purchased by fashion designer Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). But the rumors are true - the hotel has actual ghosts including the man who first created it James Patrick Marsh (Evan Peters), a junkie named Sally (Sarah Paulson), among others.

But one of the central figures of the hotel The Countess (Lady Gaga), a 111 year old vampire of sorts. He latest paramour, Donovan (Matt Bomer). The season progresses as we learn more about the various characters of the hotel and their history. In the modern day we follow Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley), who is investigating a series  of murders patterned after violations of the Ten  Commandments.

What I Liked: Lady Gaga obviously had a lot of fun with this show and that came through in her performance. They made sure to dress her to the nines whenever possible and yet they also made her creepy and intimidating. She's a times terrifying but forever elegant and she killed it with this role. Another standout story is that of the cross-dressing Liz Taylor (Denis O'Hare). Not only did he act well, but the back story craft for this character was really deep and quite involving.

The last season of AHS already laid the seeds for the various anthologies being tied together and this season continues that practice in a great way. And that just lends credit to the quality of the writing as a whole and a great plan in place to connect the stories. Plus the number of notable guest starts continues to boggle the mind and I'm glad that they figured out how to leverage them effectively to support the story.

What Could Have Been Better: The sheer number of stories involved is pretty tricky and quite daunting at times as we are dealing with the living and undead folks who live at the hotel and all the more casual folks who just check in or visit the hotel for this or that reason. And they really try to give most of them a decent story, which is a noble goal but still quite a lot to handle within 12 episodes.

And thus not all of those stories end well or have a sensible ending. I still like the stories of characters like Liz Taylor and how so many lives were affected by The Countess. Donovan got old real fast for me but the I understand why focus had to remain on him. Even Peters had his great moments but a lot of strange ones as well.

TL;DR: American Horror Story: Hotel is still a compelling story of love and loss and all the good things that go into the best dramas. It has some amazing talent despite the occasional crazy plot twist like those weird creepy kids. The season still gets a great 4 moments of Lady Gaga fan service woven into the show out of a possible 5.

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