American Horror Story

American Horror Story Hotel 5×02 – Chutes & Ladders

"If this building has a heart, it's black as the ace of spades, and you're sleeping in it."

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I know it’s still early, but I’m extremely disappointed in American Horror Story this season.

It feels like the show still hasn’t learned its lesson, because it continues to overstuff the narrative by throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in hopes that something will stick. There just doesn’t seem to be a clear direction, with a ton of aimless subplots and a multitude of supporting characters vying for attention. Why writers, why?

Chutes and Ladders tries to give our lead John Lowe some backstory with the whole alcoholism shtick, but I’m afraid his story is far from fresh or engrossing. In addition, it was far too contrived to have him not believe his daughter (who claimed to have seen Holden) after he HIMSELF had spotted his missing son in the Hotel Cortez several times. When storytelling is this lazy, I get tremendously irritated.

In addition, while Lady Gaga may look the part, she has zero screen presence as far as I’m concerned. It’s unfair to compare her to Jessica Lange, but Gaga feels like an emotionless vacuum who struggles at emoting even the most basic feelings. The problem is that she’s getting a whole lot of screen-time, and I find myself completely detached when she starts strutting about trying to look photogenic and imposing. On the other hand, Finn Wittrock (who was probably the only highlight of last season’s Freak Show), is outstanding as Tristan, the unstable model who soon finds himself infected with Gaga’s “virus”. Let’s be clear, the virus is just another word for vampirism, and nothing about The Countess’ “rules” are creative in the slightest.

I was also bored by the story of the hotel’s sadistic owner, James March (played by Evan Peter). It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen countless times before, and the only fun part for me was the introduction of his maid Miss Evers – a delightfully evil creation with a demented penchant for cleaning up murder scenes. Can we see more of her instead please?

Frightful Bits

– Did anyone else get nauseous at the sight of that dead couple screwing in the bathroom? Yuck.

– Naomi Campbell! Sadly, there wasn’t enough time to judge if she was any good.

– That worm sandwich…. Can you say ew?

– That visual of Sally’s teeth falling out was HORRIFYING. I loved it.

– How useless was the flashback of The Countess entering the nightclub on a horse?

– So does Kathy Bates exist solely to deliver exposition this year? And I’m already bored of Sarah Paulson’s junkie persona.

– I admittedly laughed when March and Evens took turns deciding who would die first. Perversely funny!

– Was The Countess masturbating at the end there while Tristan had his first kill?

Spooky Slurs

Sally: Getting high used to be like how you imagine heaven. Pure light. The perfection of it all. Even in me. Then I got lost.

Tristan Can a bullet take me out? A silver bullet or a stake?
Countess: Bitch please, of course it can.

Man: As long as there is a God, men like you can kill thousands, millions, but you will never find peace.
James: Well then, I guess I’m just going to have to kill God.

Conclusion
A disappointing second outing that lacked both originality and intrigue. I think it’s safe to say I’m officially worried about the season.

Nad Rating
C

2 comments

  1. Props for crafting such a good review because, 2 episodes in, I already feel like this is a very tough show to write about!

    Agree on everything, especially the generous C rating because this was all too confusing, weird and GROSS (too gross sometimes). I do think it was entertaining though and I can honestly say I wasn't bored for the entire 60+ minutes. Maybe it's because I had very low expectations? I don't know, really, because for once I'm actually at a loss of words. This was an entertaining hour but so, so, so messy and confusing.

    I still really hate Gaga here though. And agreed on Bates' character being here solely to provide exposition. And that horse!! Hahahaha oh god, I don't know what to say except I actually want to see more of this crazy show!

  2. Yeah, I've never been a fan of the show's everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach to storytelling either. It's like they're afraid a less-is-more approach would hinder the show. I was hoping that approach would be used this season after the mess it made last season.

    I think Lady Gaga pulls off the creepy, scary side of her character and that the moment when she was telling Tristan about how she yearned for the past gave us a peak into the Countess's underlying despair. But, outside of that, she is very limited when it comes to the emotional range of her role so far. That may or may not change in future episodes.

    I do like how the Countess is being portrayed as the source of the hotel's darkness from the beginning since I assume she was March's wife, encouraging him to indulge in his twisted fantasies. It only shows more than before that the only way this ends is with the Countess's downfall which pushing away her former mate, Donovan, could plant one of the seeds for. I wonder how Iris will react once she finds out her son, the reason why she stays at this god awful hotel, is no longer a resident.

    The John Lowe character hasn't been a very compelling protagonist. If you know Buffy (I know you do, Nad), so far, he's been the Riley Finn of American Horror Story. And just like Riley, I suspect, by the way they've been pushing his drinking problem and the temptation of relapse, Lowe is in for a downward spiral.

    I noticed how Miss Evers is dressed very similar to the maid in Season 1 who can switch between being young and old. She even has the same color of hair. Is that just a coincidence or there's a special meaning behind it?

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